Falafel Tahini Burgers with Tzatziki
Delicious baked falafel burgers that are perfect for satisfying your veggie burger cravings. The patties are made from chickpeas, tahini, herbs and feta. Then slathered with a generous serving of tzatziki to top it all off! Gluten Free.
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Patio season is fast approaching and I couldn't be more excited. Vancouver has been blessed with gorgeous sunny weather for the past couple weeks, and guess who jumped the gun by firing up the barbecue? Me, that's who! Although if I'm being completely honest, here's what actually happened: I had the idea that a barbecue dinner would be so fun, and then decided that a last minute evening yoga class was also necessary. It meant getting back at home in the dark at 8:30pm – sweaty and very hungry. It was only then that I realized my dreams of eating a barbecue dinner were slipping away into the night. Cue sad face. And then when I started thinking about the epic vegetarian patties I'd already prepped in the fridge…cue even sadder face. Fast forward fifteen minutes, and there's Anguel out there in the dark tending to the BBQ. Gosh, he's a keeper. If only I could distract him with heaps of delicious food so that he could forget about my (many) crazy requests…oh wait, that plan is already in action.
Although Anguel and I have pretty similar taste in food, he definitely has a softer spot for 'hefty' foods. Things like hearty pastas, huge sandwiches and chunky chili's. Typical dude stuff. And I get it: sometimes we all just want to sink our teeth into a burger. Especially in the summer months when everyone has their very large meat-y barbecue dishes lined up. Us vegetarians want to take part in the party too, right? Just hold the meat, please. Thankfully, these falafel tahini burgers totally fit the bill. They're filling and protein-packed, thanks to the chickpeas and tahini. And best of all, these burgers are a great option for serving to non-vegetarians…because the last thing you want them to do is wish they had a big steak to entertain them in between bites of veggies. Am I right?
Most falafel recipes I've made before utilize tahini in a dressing. But this time I went one step further and put the tahini directly into the patties! It helps get the mixture to the right consistency so you can shape them into patties. And, having got my tahini fix in, that allowed me to sneak another awesome flavor into the sauce – a little tzatziki anyone?
What I love about this recipe is that there's very minimal active cooking required. I like to quickly brown the onion and toast the garlic prior to chucking everything into the food processor. I think it adds an extra depth of flavor this way, but you could totally skip that step. To make cooking easier, I landed on a recipe that uses the oven to firm up the patties. Prior to serving, you could further crisp them up on a cast iron pan or even throw them on the grill. That part is totally optional though, because you can eat them directly out of the oven - they're delicious that way too.
I toyed with this recipe many times and finally landed on a version that uses pre-cooked chickpeas. There are two camps when it comes to falafel: one swears by using soaked (but uncooked) chickpeas and the other uses pre-cooked chickpeas. The argument for using uncooked chickpeas is that the texture is firmer; but on the flip side, pre-cooked chickpeas make for a more moist falafel. That, and it’s a lot quicker since you can usually crack open a can. I found that the soaked uncooked chickpeas did result in firmer patties - but they were most definitely on the drier side, no matter how much moisture I would try to add in. But for me, the bigger challenge was getting the chickpeas to properly cook in the falafel. Because I don’t know about you, but cooking pre-soaked chickpeas from scratch can take around an hour - and that's in boiling water! After a couple rounds of testing, I figured the oven wouldn't fully cook the beans in any reasonable amount of time. And in my books, eating undercooked beans is a no go, so I decided to scrap that plan. Instead, I went with the pre-cooked chickpeas, but with a key modification to firm up the patty: quinoa flakes. They help add more texture to the patty - so that in the oven they bake up fairly firm, without becoming overly dry. It’s also important to keep some texture in the patty to start with, so don’t completely pulverize the chickpeas in the food processor. And for added moisture and tang, I like to crumble some feta directly into the patties. But for a vegan option, you can omit the cheese. The result is a perfectly moist patty that holds its own against all the toppings.
I'll go so far as to say the tzatziki sauce is essential for this recipe. It adds just the perfect amount of moisture and creaminess to the burger. It's really a match made in heaven. I like to make a big batch of sauce and store it in the fridge for snacking. And if you plan to serve these burgers to a crowd, the tzatziki can double as a starter (e.g. veggie platter) as well as in your main dish. Combine that with patties that can be cooked in advance…and you've got yourself a pretty pain-free meal. Now, let's get this party started!