Smoky Chipotle Beet and Quinoa Burgers

Have I found the perfect veggie burger in this smoky chipotle beet and quinoa burger? Quinoa lends a meaty texture, shredded beets give it a beef-like appearance and chipotle chilies add smoke and heat. This hearty burger will have you asking 'where's the beet?' (<--pretty proud of that one)

Indiana Jones had the Holy Grail. Moulder had "the truth." Nemo's dad had Nemo. Me, I'm searching for the perfect veggie burger. And I think I may have found it in this smoky chipotle beet and quinoa burger.

Thanks to Recipe Redux to thank for the inspiration. This month's theme is all about using smoke and spice to flavor dishes. From actual smoking techniques to bold, smoky spices and condiments, it's definitely a trend this year.

This past weekend when I was in Nashville, I had a pretty incredible falafel veggie burger at Pharmacy Burger. It had a great smoky flavor from the spices, something that's often missing from other veggie burgers. That's when I decided to do a burger for this month's challenge. I also wanted to challenge myself to create a veggie burger that was as close to a beef burger as possible.

One of my tricks for getting a ground meat texture in vegetarian dishes is using quinoa, which adds protein as well. Shredded vegetables also add to the texture and keep the burger from drying out. To make it look more like a traditional beef burger, I used beets. Maybe a little too beef like - doesn't it look like beef tartar when you slice into it?

To make it smoky, I used canned chipotles in adobo sauce, an ingredient I always keep on hand to flavor chilies, roast vegetables or sauces. Chipotles are dried jalapenos. You can purchase them canned in the Mexican aisle, packed in adobo, a smoky, spicy sauce made with tomatoes, garlic and vinegar. Since most recipes only need one or two, I store extra in the freezer until ready to use. I used two in this recipe, but if you really like it spicy,try three.

If like me, you prefer foods extra-spicy, get excited because hot foods actually have health benefits. Bring on the sweat napkin!

Spicy foods increase metabolism. I wouldn't, oh I don't know, drown a hot dog and fries in hot sauce in an attempt to undo calories, but heat does have a modest effect. One study found a 10% increase in metabolism for a few hours after eating. Another study found spicy foods increase the amount of brown fat cells, the type of fat that actually burns calories.

Capsaicin, the substance in chilies that lends heat, is also a powerful phytochemical. Although it may burn your mouth, capsaicin is frequently used for pain relief, especially for arthritis pain. In fact, capsaicin cream is frequently used to treat arthritis. The same substance has been found to help lower bad LDL cholesterol and improve blood flow, thereby reducing the risk or heart disease and lowering blood pressure.

For more spicy, smoky creations, check out the link up below. Enjoy!

Smoky Chipotle Beet and Quinoa Burgers

Makes: 8 burgers

For a gluten free version, use a whole grain gluten free bun. If you don't love the flavor of beets, try substituting shredded zucchini or squash, or even using half and half. Instead of quinoa, you could also use brown rice, millet or bulgur.



  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 lb raw beets, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 chopped chipotles in adobo, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, oat flour or other whole grain flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Other ingredients: 

  • 8 100% whole grain burger buns, toasted
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Sliced red onion
  • Lettuce
  • Olive oil or vegan mayo
  • Dijon mustard
  • Pickles (fermented if possible)


  1. Bring water and quinoa to a boil on medium heat. Cover and reduce heat to simmer 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed. Keep covered and let sit 5 minutes. Remove cover, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, shred the beets, carrots and onion with the large grates of a cheese grater or in a food processor. Toss the vegetables together in a large bowl. Add cilantro, soy sauce, chipotles, cumin and season with salt and pepper.Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
  3. Add 4 eggs and combine. Stir in flour and combine until flour is incorporated.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Create 4 balls out of half the vegetable mixture. Drop into the skillet and press to flatten slightly. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook about 5 minutes more. Remove from skillet and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining mixture to make a total of 8 patties.
  5. Because it's difficult to cook veggie burgers all the way through without burning, I microwave mine 2-3 minutes to finish cooking and retain the crisp, browned exterior.
  6. Serve on a toasted bun with toppings and condiments as desired.