Spicy Chickpea Burgers

melting pot adventures in food

When I first lived away from home, at the tender age of 18, I was more than a little excited to start cooking on my own.  I sometimes flexed my cooking muscles while living at home with my parents, but, even then, I knew that cooking in my parents’ home was far different from cooking in my own home.

And then something curious happened.  Despite my insatiable excitement about whipping up elaborate homemade soups, made-from-scratch cakes, and vegetable-laden pasta dishes, it soon came to pass that 90% of my diet was comprised of Gardenburgers.  Apparently, working fulltime and sharing an apartment with three other people (none of whom cooked, but all of whom had no problem eating food bought and cooked by other people) meant that finding quality time to spend in the kitchen was not as easy as I had anticipated.  So, Gardenburgers it was.

And boy, did I think of a myriad of ways to use those patties.  I chopped them up and ate them with rice in a stir fry; I mixed them with scrambled egg for breakfast; I crumbled them into burritos.  I stopped short of somehow trying to turn them into a beverage, but I am sure that, had my living situation continued, such a thing would have become inevitable.  Now, due to overload in the early years, I have a difficult time even looking at Gardenburgers.  I do, however, still enjoy a nice vegetarian burger, so I decided that it was high time I created my own.

Though these burger patties are vegetarian, they bear little resemblance to the ubiquitous Gardenburger.  Pureed chickpeas give the patties a wonderfully nutty taste, and a hefty pinch (or more, depending on how spicy you’d like your burgers) of red pepper flakes adds a nice kick of spice.  I kept the other spices in the burgers on the safe side—a little garlic, a little cumin, a bit of cilantro—but I think you could find lots of other ways to spice these up.  Next time I might fold in a chopped up roasted poblano pepper, or maybe even add in some chopped, sautéed spinach for a bigger nutritional punch.  As they are, they make a wonderful base for many a meal.  You can stack them on a bun with lots of crisp veggies, or crumble one on top of a salad with a dollop of hummus on top.  They are highly adaptable, and, most importantly, highly delicious.

Spicy Chickpea Burgers

½ medium-sized yellow or red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped or smashed
1 large carrot, coarsely diced
15 ounces cooked chickpeas (drained and rinsed from a can is just fine)
2 tablespoons besan (chickpea) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
juice of ½ a lemon

In the bowl of a food processor, combine onion, garlic, and carrot.  Pulse 3 or 4 times until chopped somewhat finely, then add the chickpeas, besan, baking powder, cilantro, spices, and lemon juice.  Puree until the mixture is chopped, thick, and combined.  Be careful not to puree the mixture into a paste.  It should end up looking more like cookie dough than, say, peanut butter.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator and allow to rest for at least 1 hour.

To cook burgers, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Brush pan with oil, then scoop 1/3 of a cup of chickpea mixture at a time, form the scoop into a patty shape, and place on preheated skillet.  You should be able to cook 3 or 4 patties at a time, depending on the size of your skillet.  Cook until the bottoms of the patties are nicely browned, then brush the tops of the patty lightly with oil, then flip patties over to cook on the other side.  Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the undersides are browned and the patties hold their shape when picked up.

Alternately, you can cook the patties in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly brush a baking sheet with oil, then form 1/3 cup of chickpea mixture at a time into patties.  Place patties on oiled baking sheet, and bake in oven for 20 minutes.  Then, lightly brush tops of patties with oil, flip over, and return to oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Patties will be done when they are dark golden brown all over.

Makes roughly 8 patties, depending on how generous your scoops are.

About the contributor:

Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.