Quinoa Chickpea Burgers with Za’atar Spice and Creamy Tahini Sauce

by Gena on July 19, 2012


Sometimes I think the main reason I find raw foods appealing is sheer laziness. As difficult as many people find raw foods to be, not having to roast, fry, sauté, or boil a thing appeals to my need to get food onto my table quickly at the end of the day. And at the moment, it appeals to my aversion to raising the temperature of my kitchen by a single degree.

Which is why I’ve cooked nearly nothing in the last four weeks. Between time constraints and heat, it’s been all cool food, all the time. Yesterday, however, I was starting to crave some variety, and veggie burgers sounded particularly good. What didn’t sound good was the concept of sautéing onions and garlic, waiting for rice to cook, or roasting anything. And that’s how these burgers were born.

Though you’ll need to cook the quinoa and beans in the recipe, you won’t have to cook any vegetable add-ins, and you have the option of grilling the burgers, which is at least a little faster than baking! In all, I think you’ll find, as I did, that these burgers are pretty quick and easy to make, and I think you’ll be very delighted with the taste.

Believe it or not, veggie burgers are one of the foods I struggle most with as a cook. I’ve got lots of flavors I love, and a few stellar recipes (like my foolproof tofu burgers, homemade sunflower burgers, and edamame ginger lime burgers), but I’ve also had a ton of flops: mushy burgers, crumbly burgers, bland burgers, and salty burgers included. These burgers aren’t perfect, but they’re really tasty, really easy, and I thought the texture was pretty spot on.

As you’ll see, the star of the dish is Za’atar spice, a remarkable blend of sumac, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame, and salt. Sometimes, pine nuts or cumin are mixed in. I’ve long hoped to make my own Za’atar blend, but until I do, I find it at Middle Eastern groceries, online (Penzey’s and The Spice House both carry it, as does Nuts, though be advised that the Nuts spice is not gluten free), which is where you’ll find it, too. If you can’t locate any, try using a blend of 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano, a dash of cumin, and a tsp of sesame seeds instead. If you’re a gluten free eater, take care that the spice blend you choose is GF certified.


Quinoa Chickpea Burgers with Za’atar Spice and Creamy Tahini Sauce (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Makes 4-6 Burgers

1 cup quinoa, dry
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups chickpeas (cooked)
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sundried tomato
1 tbsp za’atar spice
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp chives, snipped into small pieces
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder or 1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)

1. Rinse quinoa and place in a pot with water. Bring water/quinoa to boil. Reduce to a simmer and let quinoa cook till water is absorbed and you can see some of the “ribs” of the grain coming loose. Turn off heat, fluff quinoa, and let sit, covered, for ten minutes or so.

2. Place pumpkin seeds in a food processor and grind to a fine meal. Add chickpeas (either home cooked, or canned) and quinoa and pulse to combine well. Add sundried tomato, tahini, lemon juice, za’atar spice, salt, pepper, garlic, and chives. Pulse continually until mixture has all come together. Add water if necessary to thin the mixture into proper “burger” texture. Stop when it’s still quite firm, but easy to handle and not too sticky.

3. Place mixture into 4-6 patties. Grill or pan fry till crispy and golden brown on each side, or bake at 350 for 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through.


If you like, serve these delectable burgers with some of the tangy tahini sauce, below.

Tangy Tahini Sauce (gluten free, vegan, raw)

1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp agave syrup or 1/2 packet stevia
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp wheat free tamari (or coconut aminos for a soy free recipe)
1 tbsp minced chives

Blend all ingredients in a magic bullet, VitaMix, blender, or food processor until smooth and creamy.

Top each burger with a tablespoon or so of the sauce. Serve on an Ezekiel sprouted grain bun with a big salad:


Or, if you’re a gluten free eater, these burgers are gluten free themselves, so you can serve it on a thick slab of tomato instead:


Beautiful presentation, too.


This meal came together (salad included) in half an hour last night. These days, that’s the best kind of dinner I can think of—cool or hot.

Any fans of Za’atar spice out there? If so, I’d love to hear how you use it, and whether or not you make your own. In the meantime, here’s another recipe to try!

With that, it’s back to listening to the thunder that I’m hoping will cool D.C. down. Goodnight!


I am submitting this recipe to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, July 19-23.

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats July 19, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Yum. These look awesome. Another great sources for spices is Spicely (certified GF too).


Gena July 20, 2012 at 6:24 am

Thanks for the tip, Val!


Averie @ Averie Cooks July 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Great looking burgers, Gena! Love the spices you used and the sauce!


Ali Seiter July 19, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I’ve been on the lookout for a recipe that would give me an excuse to buy a Za’atar spice mix, and this one certainly fits the bill! Besides, how can anyone go wrong with quinoa, chickpeas, and tahini? I can’t wait to try these out. Thanks, Gena!

-Love and best wishes,


Gena July 20, 2012 at 6:24 am

Za’atar spice is really one of my favorite things. Glad you are going to experiment!


Ariel July 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm

These look wonderful. I just happen to have all of the ingredients in my kitchen right now, including a neglected jar of za’atar. I love how this is often the case with your recipes. :) I’m looking forward to making them this weekend!


Nikki July 19, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Funny, I was just brainstorming about veggie burger combinations tonight and quinoa came up because a) I always make extra and keep it in the fridge and b) the nutritional value. Love it with the tahini sauce.


Kasandra July 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Seriously, Gena, have you raided my pantry? I’m in the midst of a move and these are exactly the things I have in plethora form.. quinoa.. chickpeas… spices of varied age and ethnicity. Thank you for the quick and easy kitchen-clearing idea!!


Ali July 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm

These look great. I struggle with veggie burgers too, somehow they’re always “not quite right”. I always cook my own beans or chickpeas instead of using canned, and suspect that part of my problem is that home cooked end up a little softer and more hydrated than canned. But I haven’t quite figured out the magic fix!


Lisa @ The Raw Serenity July 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Burgers are something I struggle with to, it also doesn’t help if your a perfectionist..
I don’t want to buy pre made ones but I can’t seem to get the taste and texture perfect. I’ll give these a go!
Thanks for sharing x


Kari @ bite-sized thoughts July 19, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Whilst I tend to think of raw meals as hard, I do find raw desserts far easier to make than cooked / baked ones. Perhaps I should re-think the raw meals side of things too – but in the meantime, these cooked burgers look pretty wonderful :)


Cat @ Cat's Kitchen July 20, 2012 at 1:48 am

I’m with you on the burger problems. Savoury pancakes and fritters too!
And I LOVE za’atar and make my own. I’ve got a recipe from Project Bridget’s zine, Veganistan (http://www.etsy.com/listing/90416859/veganistan-vegan-food-from-the-middle). So simple and I end up putting it in everything! But I like your shortcut version – good for when I run out and haven’t the time to make a new batch.


Carol July 20, 2012 at 6:38 am

The burger looks fabulous. I am always on the lookout for good veggie burger recipes. I make my own za’atar with the help of a recipe posted on the food blog, MyNewRoots ( http://mynewroots.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/fattoush-salad-with-zatar.html ). Wonderful and easy!


Simone July 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

Ooooh thanks for the reminder about za’atar! I haven’t used it for ages but I went through a stage of using it all the time, just sprinkling it on all my salads. I would make it, a simple mix of sumac, sesame seeds, sea salt and thyme. These burgers sound great and I really like that they don’t have onions and having to fry up a whole lot of stuff first! Too easy peasy!


Lauren July 20, 2012 at 7:55 am

These look fantastic, Gena! I’m a big veggie burger fan! Mmm!!


Nadia July 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

They have it in the bulk section of a whole foods for pretty cheap near me. But the way I love it is at my local falafal shop. They put it on a round of flat white bread like fluffy pita/iranian bread and put a ton of zatar and olive oil and bake it up a little bit. far from healthy but definitely a mouth pleaser. I have to come up with a healthier version and maybe sub for healthy crackers or instead of oil make a no oil sauce that is heavy on the zatar. So good!!!!! Cant wait to try this recipe!


Amy July 20, 2012 at 9:07 am

Ooh, I’ve never used za’atar, I’ll have to try it. Also- those plates are such a perfect shape for having a big salad on one side! Makes more sense than a round plate.


Rachel July 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

yum! they look delicious!


Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy July 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

those look faaaaabulous! yum!


Julie July 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

These sound and look great. I’ll add it to my recipe to-make list. Hope things are going well in DC!


Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See July 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm

These look fantastic! I’m on the hunt for the world’s best veggie burger and have still yet to find it. Maybe this will be the one? ;)


Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm

That’s a lot of pressure, but I hope you like them!


Wendy July 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm

These look so delicious Gena! I was planning on making some sort of burger this weekend to go with some grilled veggies and this one looks amazing. I have everything except nama shoyu!


Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Hope you enjoy, Wendy!


Rebecca July 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm

YUM! These look amazing, can’t wait to try! (and thanks for the special gluten-free version, tomato-style :) I made veggie burgers last night using cooked millet and amaranth flour and other veggies, let me know if you want the recipe to tweak à la Choosing Raw for the future :)
Do you happen to have a good Socca recipe by any chance? Or other gluten-free summer tarts or “pizza” recipes using chickpea flour? I’ve been experimenting, but I usually prefer your recipes, so let me know if you have any ideas!


Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm

David Lebovitz’s recipe is great! I haven’t really explored socca much, but I know that one is a winner :)


Janae @ Bring-Joy July 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I love your first line. & totally agree. Nothing like an apple, orange, or banana for a quick bite!


Eileen July 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I love za’atar, and am super excited to try it in these chickpea quinoa burgers! Maybe with some quick sumac red onion pickle…


hannahdoeshealthy July 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Chickpeas -check. Quinoa -check. Za’ataar sounds super exciting. And no need for eggs/breadcrumbs to mess around to bind it? I’m there!

I’ve never had great success with meat-free burgers but I’m inspired to try these :-)


Sara Lake July 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I am a fan of anything that can be made in a food processor (no real dishes) and requires little supervision. This looks great. I am thinking that a spicy mango chutney would be the ideal condiment. I’m gluten-free, and would put this on a slice of rye sourdough.


Helene July 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm

These burgers look great – I can’t wait to make them and see how they hold up in my freezer! Maybe this weekend. I have a crazy week coming up at work and it would be good restock the freezer with some healthy burgers. Zaatar is great on hummus, too. That’s one of my favorites!


Eric July 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Just made a double recipe of these to take to lunch this week! I couldn’t find zaatar so I used your substitution and they turned out great. The “batter” was so tasty I almost didn’t cook them but it was totally worth it. Thanks gena! :)


Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Fantastic! So glad.


Minerva July 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I’ve only used Zataar like my gma showed us: mixed with olive oil, spread on pita, and toasted till hot. But I’ve noticed a lot of blog recipes using it in new ways. I think using it as a seasoning In a chickpea recipe seems like a safe transition for me. Thanks for the recipe!


Elaine July 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Hi Gena,

Do you use the sundried tomatoes dry or are they water or oil soaked?

I absolutely love your blog. A mix of raw and vegan food saved me from multiple food sensitivities and your blog helps to keep me inspired.

Thanks so much!


Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Good question! Soaked.


Rose July 21, 2012 at 8:31 am

I never have sandwiches or burgers anymore since I have gone gluten free. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!!! Thanks again!


Karen July 21, 2012 at 9:42 am

Oh, those look good. And it just so happens that I have some of that spice which has been sitting around, waiting for the perfect recipe! I like all of the ingredients in the patties; can not wait to try it out!


Jami July 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Love the idea of serving the patty on a lovely, thick slice of tomato!! Thanks for thinking of gluten-free folks :)


jane July 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm

This looks delicious. The salad looks awesome, please what is the parmesan cheese looking shreds on top?


Gena July 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Spiralized zucchini :)


Natalya July 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Looks very good,.Cannot wait to try it tomorrow! Thank you very much


Caroline July 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Zaatar is a natural with hummus. Of course it is great with Jerusalem style hot sesame bagels, where zaatar is handed to you in a rolled up newspaper as a condiment. Yum.


Ariel July 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Just stopping by again to say that I made these tonight and they are awesome! We served them with tahini sauce and an avocado and tomato salad. I’m already planning to make your sweet potato chickpea burgers next weekend. :)


JohannaGGG July 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I know what you mean about burgers falling apart – I struggle with getting the balance between crumbling and just a mouthful of stodge! These look lovely – like hummus in a burger.

As for Za’atar – I don’t use it but saw a place opening up called Za’atar and was amused by a friend who thought it was run by the Za’atar family


Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie July 25, 2012 at 7:54 am

I just made these last night for a non-plant based diet eating friend and she LOVED them. Hearty and filling, but still light and healthy. Such a success, I’ll definitely be making them again soon (and munching the leftovers for lunch!) :)


Simone August 17, 2012 at 6:14 am

Just a caution, whether you are eating gluten-free or advertising these as gluten-free, many Za’atar spice mixes have wheat in them as does the one from NUTS, and Namu Shoyu is a soy sauce which despite being called “soy” and despite being considered raw (which it is not, the soy is cooked, as it has to be — it is merely fermented and that will be lost in the cooking of these burgers) is very much a wheat based (therefore gluten) product. This therefore is not a gluten-free recipe. It would not be good for those trying to avoid gluten, and especially not for those trying to make something that is “gluten-free” for a guest (it is why we are so damn picky about what others make us even though we wish to be grateful for their thoughtfulness but it just isn’t worth being sick anymore).

Tamari is a better choice for gluten issues though there are other choices as well.

Also, both the quinoa and the chickpeas could be sprouted for additional nutrient loading up.


Gena August 17, 2012 at 7:27 am


There is actually not much peer reviewed, published scientific research on cooked vs. sprouted grains and legumes, and I personally find the taste of raw grains and beans to be inferior, plus I find them both very hard to digest. But you are absolutely welcome to sprout!

And I’m sorry for the innacuracies. The dressing recipe is an old one, made well before I started modifying my recipes to be GF for my readers (and educating myself). I’ve modified it to say tamari, and I’ve also noted that soy free eaters should use coconut aminos. I’ve also updated my text to say that GF eaters should seek out a GF za’atar spice, and I’ve noted that the Nuts brand is not GF. I really appreciate your helping me to keep this information accurate. I’m not GF myself, but I do want to offer my many GF readers options, and as someone who is mindful of her food myself, I can understand your very understandable pickiness.



Simone August 17, 2012 at 8:50 am

Gena, I really do appreciate your willingness to hear and to make changes. Big Kudos!

However, not meaning to get all nit-picky on you but…

I’ve rarely seen raw tahini. Most use toasted seeds and then it is jarred or canned under heat. I’ve only seen the raw in co-ops (good) and a couple brands in London (UK), one of which was horribly awful, disgusting, horrendous, close to the worst thing ever, nearly destroyed my dish (a good lesson on always taste-tasting ingredients before adding) which was under the Brand, “RAW” ironically. Also, apple ciders are usually not considered raw either unless specified as unpasteurized and given the pesticide/biocide load of apples, organic is probably best there too.

I don’t think I agree with you on the studies of sprouted. However, given that most so-called “scientific” studies are funded by vested-interests such as corporations or drug companies, it often wouldn’t matter to me what they have to say unless it was to, not just ignore their advice but, do the opposite — especially given that so-called “peers” are just as susceptible to influence such as members from the former ADA being paid consultancy fees to give “free” advice on how to make Hershey’s chocolate part of a good diet — I know from what knowledge there is out there as well as my, and my own peers, experiences that soaked and sprouted seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains are much preferable for many reasons.

However, I do not understand the idea that there is an either/or choice laid out here by me or anywhere else. Yes, they can be eaten sprouted and then no further processing… such as the quinoa which sprouts overnight and makes a great substitute for bulgar in tabouli — but I didn’t specify that above. I personally have found, with chickpeas especially that soaking and then sprouting for two days not only improves the flavor and texture by great amounts (as well as cutting down on the cooking time) it improves the digestibility in numerous ways to the benefit of both the eater and those around him/her. This is because it rids these legumes (and temperate nuts) of the enzyme inhibitors that protect them from trying to grow at the wrong times of year and from being overeaten by predators so there are ones left to sprout up when it gets wet in spring.

For the record, I don’t care for raw sprouted legumes either. However, traditional falafel uses soaked chickpeas or favas which are then ground and then fried, not cooked prior. Many Indian dishes are the same. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that when first learning it because my cooking habits were so socialized.

You may also be interested to know that there are no independent studies really that definitively show dairy is good for bones or overall general health (it’s all just been PR smoke & mirrors), but the calcium in the sesame seeds that make up the tahini is quite high and likely better as there is no animal-based protein to throw off the blood ph causing leaching of calcium from the bones to counteract it. However, the reason raw tahini specifically is preferable is that toasting the seeds causes rancidity of the oils which can be carcinogenic.

Food is complicated… even without the vested-influences. :(

Also, the sesame seeds in the za’atar mixes are most probably also toasted…

Again, super work on making the quick changes, and thanks for providing interesting vegan (therefore low allergenic) recipes and ideas.


Gena August 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

My favorite raw tahini is this one: http://www.livingtreecommunity.com/store2/product.asp?id=10

They’re a lovely company, too.


Simone August 17, 2012 at 6:17 am

Oh, haha, just realized these burgers are being billed as “soy-free” too which also is negated by the Nama Shoyu.

Try coconut aminos if the flavor is that necessary. But otherwise these are NOT gluten- nor soy-free.


Lauren (@poweredbypb) August 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Just made these, they were delicious, loved the texture and spicing! I ended up with 8 rather large burgers though rather than 4-6, not that I am complaining…more for the rest of the week :)


Gena August 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

So glad you enjoyed them!


AntoniaJames October 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I make my own blend, to which I sometimes add sumac and other times not, depending on my mood and the other flavors involved, consists of :
¼ c. sesame seeds, gently toasted in a small skillet over medium heat,
1 T. dried marjoram leaves, crumbled
1 T. dried thyme leaves, crumbled
2 tsp. salt
I rub the herbs between my hands to release the flavor. I don’t often use dried herbs, but they’re essential for this. (I dry my own, so they’re very fresh, though dried.) For a totally non-authentic touch, I sometimes add a bit of freshly grated nutmeg, which gives it a Bavarian twist. ;o)


Alli September 4, 2013 at 2:03 pm

These were delicious! The sundried tomato gave it such a rich flavor! Thanks!


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