Updated on 09.10.14

Dinner With My Family #22: Cooking Out with Healthy Options

Trent Hamm

Healthy Cookout: Black Bean & Quinoa Burgers and Potato Salad

This past weekend, we had several houseguests over for dinner. For these houseguests, we had a very summer-y American meal: we made some potato salad, fired up the grill, and cooked a few things.

The only catch is that my current dietary restrictions keep me from eating meat and dairy products. What can we do to have such a summer meal that I can eat while still pleasing everyone?

Our solution was two-fold: we made a batch of black bean and quinoa burgers for grilling and we made a potato salad that I could easily eat. I’ll talk about both of these today.

What You Need

Our black bean and quinoa burgers are based on a recipe we found in the July-August 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times, modified a bit. We really enjoy the ideas and recipes in this publication because they do a fantastic job of making vegetable-heavy meals really tasty. The potato salad incorporates ideas from all over the place, though there happens to be a somewhat similar potato salad recipe in that same issue of Vegetarian Times.

For eight burgers, you need:
1/2 cup quinoa
2 1/4 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 sun dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
2 garlic cloves
hamburger seasonings, to taste

For the potato salad, you need:
2 lbs. potatoes, diced into 1 inch cubes, and water to boil them in
2/3 cup plain yogurt (we used soy yogurt)
1/2 cup mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced (use whatever color you prefer)
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, sliced
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

The biggest step you’ll need to take in advance is to cut up all of the vegetables you’ll need and store them appropriately. You’ll also need to cook the black beans (if you’re not using canned beans, which many people do for convenience).

Preparing the Meal

First, let’s talk about the burgers.

Cook the quinoa and salt in 1 1/4 cups of water. Raise the water to a boil, then allow it to simmer for 20 minutes. All of the water should be absorbed by the quinoa.

Cooking quinoa-bean mix

Put the onion and the tomatoes in a skillet and cook them for four minutes, then add half of the beans, the garlic, the seasoning, and 1 cup water. Simmer this for five minutes or until virtually all of the liquid has evaporated.

Quinoa bean mix

Add half of the quinoa to the bean mixture, put all of it in a blender, and puree it until it’s a thick paste. Mix the paste together with the remaining beans and quinoa.

Shape the mixture into eight burger shapes, then cook them in the oven for ten minutes – just long enough so that they hold together well.

Prepped burgers

After this, you can grill them to your heart’s content. I find that they were pretty good after about 3 minutes on each side over medium heat on a propane grill.


And there you have it! Top the burgers with whatever burger toppings you like and serve them on a bun. I used brown mustard, rice cheese, tomato slices, onions, and a pickle slice on top.

Finished burgers

What about that potato salad?

Boiling potatoes

The first step is to boil the cubed potatoes. Cover them in water (with an extra inch or so of water on top) in a pot and boil them for about five minutes so that the potato cubes are tender but not so soft they’re falling apart.

Mustard-yogurt mix for potato salad

Mix together the mustard, yogurt, salt, pepper, and olive oil into a liquid mixture. This will effectively be the “dressing” for your salad.

Finished potato salad

Then, mix together your “dressing,” the potatoes, and the remaining vegetables. Toss them so that the vegetables are coated in the dressing, then chill and, when ready, serve.

Optional Ingredients

Whenever you’re grilling, you have a lot of flexibility. Try different seasonings in the burgers. Use hamburger instead of the black beans and quinoa – or mix two parts hamburger with one part black beans and quinoa. Try different toppings on your burgers. No two burgers ever need be the same.

The same goes for the potato salad. Add hard-boiled eggs to the salad for some great texture and flavor. Use mayonnaise as an alternative to the yogurt. Try different herbs and spices. The possibilities are endless.

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  1. mike crosby says:

    Trent, that looks way good. Don’t mean to be a stickler, but yogurt is dairy.

  2. valleycat1 says:

    Mike – He used soy yogurt. And rice cheese.

    I’ve tried fake meat patties of all kinds, including a very similar recipe to this, & they just don’t do anything for me. I’ve about decided if I ever go full-on vegetarian, I’m going to have to face that fact & not try to fake a meat or dairy item (the only alternative product I’ve found that I like is Rice Dream ‘milk’).

    And if you put sausages across the grill instead of parallel to the grid, you don’t risk them falling into the coals – & get that nice stripey effect.

  3. SwingCheese says:

    I have a recipe for chipotle black bean burgers that I just love, and I’ve been wanting to grill them, but I haven’t yet b/c I assumed they would fall apart. The putting them in the oven before grilling them step never occurred to me, but now? Black bean burgers on the fourth! Huzzah! Thanks, Trent!

  4. Johanna says:

    FYI on the rice cheese (Trent probably knows this, but others might not): Rice cheese (and soy cheese, and almond cheese, and other kinds of “veggie” cheese) is not necessarily vegan. It’s not even necessarily almost vegan – many brands contain a milk protein called casein (sometimes listed on the label as “sodium caseinate” or something else “caseinate”) as a major ingredient. Casein is what gives dairy cheese its stretchy texture.

    I believe that the casein-containing “nondairy” cheeses are for people with lactose intolerance. I can’t see that they’re much good for anyone else. If eliminating all dairy from your diet is important to you, for whatever reason, then obviously you want to avoid the casein-containing brands. If you’re just looking to reduce your dairy consumption (again, for any number of reasons), I suspect you’ll be a lot happier using a smaller amount of regular dairy cheese than a larger amount of soy or rice cheese with casein.

    There are several brands of truly nondairy (vegan) cheese out there, and they are all totally different. If you’ve tried one and didn’t like it, don’t assume you won’t like the others. My favorites, as I’ve mentioned before, are Sheese and Daiya. They can be hard to find (although that’s getting better) and a little on the expensive side. But the way I see it, the whole point of cheese is for it to taste good, so I’d rather spend more money on stuff that tastes good than any money at all on stuff that doesn’t.

  5. David says:

    If you expect black beans to taste like meat, you are going to be disappointed. Black beans taste like boiled newspapers. Do not despair, though – nowadays there are a great many “mock meat” products such that if you ever go full-on vegetarian, you wouldn’t miss the real thing.

    But, without a single exception I can recall in the great many years I have been alive (and I was born and bred in the land of the braaivleis), nothing that anyone anywhere has ever cooked on a barbecue has even come close to being edible. This is not surprising, because 5-10% of barbecued food is ash and the rest is raw. The “nice stripy effect” that you mention with respect to sausages is a helpful guide: the black stripes will choke you and the pink stripes will give you trichinosis.

    In truth, barbecues are one of the most powerful weapons that evangelical vegetarians possess: the only thing at a barbecue that anyone who comes hungry ever actually eats is the salad.

    It is important not to evangelize overmuch, though – at the most recent barbecue I attended, the host had placed some potatoes wrapped in tinfoil to bake at the bottom of the barbecue. After about five hours these were pronounced ready to eat, but by then the starving company were sufficiently intoxicated that some of them omitted to remove the tinfoil, and perished on the spot in horrible agonies.

    A note to hard scientists: of course this foil was not really made of tin. But the question of whether it was made of aluminum or aluminium is one that I am ill disposed to discuss, having been invited to a barbecue on the morrow.

  6. kristine says:

    Veggie burgers- I have found boca burgers to taste like cardbord, and be mostly starch.

    Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers are fantastic. But they cost too much retail. I will only buy them by the case at Costco, and have just recently tracked down Costo’s local supplier for them, and will be buying the same case (the larger restaurant size burgers- not the grocery store size), for much, much less. So happy to cancel Costco- that place is a zoo!

  7. Susie says:

    Trent, these look fantastic. Over the past year I’ve really been able to cut down on meat by incorporating quinoa. It is the only non meat protein that I feel good on and and that will give me energy. I will be trying these for sure. Thanks!

  8. SwingCheese says:

    @5: Of course black beans don’t taste like meat. They taste like black beans. Why would you think they would taste like meat?

  9. Wren says:

    @ #5, David – Now I need to get the husband to start the grill, and toss some chops and ‘taters on. nom nom nom :D

  10. Dave says:

    Trent have you tried making those burgers in advance and freezing them before grilling? if so did you bake them, then freeze them?

  11. Tanya says:

    These recipes sound delicious. Thanks especially for the potato salad idea; I hate mayonnaise and so I avoid potato salad most of the time. What a nice alternative this recipe is!

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