There’s something special about grilling in the summer: the aroma, the familial togetherness, the juicy meal resulting from one’s efforts. Generally, hamburgers and hot dogs can be expected on the menu, as they’re traditional essentials at summertime cookouts. This summer, flip the script.
Trade your beef for a grain that is more beneficial for your health, yet just as tasty: quinoa. The health concerns associated with red meat consumption – like increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality – should be enough to prompt the change. Not to mention, quinoa is packed with nutritional benefits that make it the better choice; it’s an excellent source of fiber, protein, manganese, and more. It’s also gluten-free.
Compared to beef:
- Quinoa is significantly lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, all of which are associated with obesity or other health risks.
- Quinoa offers more fiber and iron — aiding in digestive performance and blood production — than a traditional ground beef patty.
- Quinoa is lower in protein, with 8 grams per pound while beef offers 31 grams per pound.
However, the daily recommended amount of protein for an average, sedentary woman is just 46 grams (56 for a man). Pairing quinoa with other protein-rich foods throughout the day allows one to easily reach the recommended amount.
Environmentally speaking, grains and legumes (such as the great northern beans and chickpeas in the following recipes) win against meat any day. A vegan diet is better for the Earth than one that includes a lot of meat. From growing animal feed to watering and housing livestock to processing and transport, meat production requires abundant amounts of land, water, and fuel. Also, livestock produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and physical waste that must be disposed of properly. Overall, quinoa burgers are a better option than beef burgers.
Greek-style quinoa burgers are a particularly satisfying alternative to beef patties. They assume the same shape and basic consistency as beef patties, but they are better for our bodies and the planet. Plus, they’re bursting with flavor. Enjoy these two recipes on your grill this summer.
Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers
From Martha Stewart
- 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa, any color
- 1 medium carrot, cut into large chunks
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- 15 ounces great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup plain, dried breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Coarse salt
- Ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced diagonally
- Use small saucepan to bring 3/4 cup water to a boil. Add quinoa and cover, reducing heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes.
- Use blender or food processor to chop carrot finely. Add cooked quinoa, about half of the scallions, egg, breadcrumbs, beans, cumin, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Blend until smooth but still a little chunky.
- Make four 3/4-inch-thick patties – prevent sticking by dipping hands in water. If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes. In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook patties until cooked through and browned – 8 to 10 minutes on each side.
- In separate bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, and remaining scallions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve patties with yogurt sauce and cucumber – in 6-inch pitas for added Greek zest. Enjoy.
Greek Quinoa Burgers
From The Healthy Maven
- 2 cups cooked quinoa, any color, cooled completely
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped – not in oil
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook quinoa as per package instructions.
- Add cucumber to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Add sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and feta cheese; pulse/blend multiple times.
- Add chickpeas and process until it blends together, forming a sticky substance.
- Add quinoa, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Process until mixture can easily be rolled into balls – about 40 seconds.
- Divide and make 10 balls.
- Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil.
- Place several balls in pan and flatten slightly.
- Cook and flip until each side is browned, about 3 minutes.
- Serve patties warm on bun, in pita, in salad, or without adornment.
With these two recipes at your fingertips, this summer is the perfect time to make the healthy switch to a plant-based diet. If you’re not ready to give up meat you can still reduce the environmental impact of your diet. Check out this easy strategy to cut your food’s carbon footprint.
Originally published on July 14, 2015, this article was updated in August 2022.