Freekeh Bean Burgers with Harissa Onions

Freekeh Bean Burgers with Harissa Onions
If people have a stereotype about what vegetarians eat, veggie burgers, along with salads and tofu, are probably at the top of the list. I don’t think they’re entirely wrong either. If you go to a restaurant and there’s one vegetarian item on the menu, it’s very likely that the item is a veggie burger. And those veggie burgers vary in quality—sometimes you get a gross frozen processed soy burger that’s full of artificial flavors to make it taste like real meat, while other times you get a homemade patty full of veggies and grains and other good stuff. Those homemade patties are the ones I get excited about. Veggie burgers can be the most boring things we eat as vegetarians, but they can also be the most inventive too. This, my friends, is the paradox of the veggie burger.

I hope that these Freekeh Bean Burgers fall into the inventive category. I kind of think they do. Because: FREEKEH! You don’t see that in veggie burgers everyday, do you? No! When I did the whole summer of veggie burgers thing, I wanted to make these too, but I had more ideas than I could fit in, so they had to wait. And here they are! In addition to freekeh, these have pinto beans, shredded carrots, and green onions in them, then they’re seasoned with a liberal amount of za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend). You can usually find za’atar at specialty grocers and spice shops, but you can make your own za’atar too.

Freekeh Bean Burger Patties
Veggie burgers are about the whole package, though—it’s not just about the patty, but what you put on it and how all those flavors come together. So to top these Freekeh Bean Burgers, I made a batch of harissa onions and whipped up some Smoky Garlic Aioli, which has become a staple in our fridge since I made it to serve with the Cauliflower-Carrot Fritters I posted a few weeks ago. The onions are sweet and spicy, but the aioli tempers the spiciness so it’s not like WHOA OW SPICY HOT. Each bite has the perfect balance of heat and spices and textures.

If you’ve never cooked with harissa or freekeh before, I’ve written about them a little bit more in these posts:

Freekeh, Zucchini & Pistachio Salad

Spicy Chickpea & Spinach Stew

Freekeh Bean Burgers with Harissa Onions

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6 burgers

Freekeh Bean Burgers with Harissa Onions

Middle Eastern-inspired veggie burgers made with cracked freekeh and pinto beans.


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup cracked freekeh, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon za'atar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons harissa
  • 1 batch Smoky Garlic Aioli
  • 4-6 hamburger buns
  • Baby spinach leaves, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place the beans in a large bowl and use a wooden spoon or potato masher to mash them slightly—they shouldn't be completely mashed, but there should be very few left intact when you're finished. Stir in the freekeh, garlic, carrot, and green onions. Season with the za'atar 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting to get the right amount. (Since za'atar mixtures can vary, it's hard to give an exact number, but I ended up using a full tablespoon.) Stir in the cumin and salt and pepper to taste, then fold in the egg.
  3. Form the burger mixture into 4 large patties (for large hamburger buns) or 6 small patties and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, shaping them on the sheet to make sure they're round and well-formed. Spray the tops with an oil mister (or brush them with a small amount of olive oil) and bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly crispy on the edges.
  4. While the burgers are in the oven, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook until browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the harissa, starting with 1 teaspoon (or a half teaspoon if you're not a fan of spicy food) and adding more to taste.
  5. To assemble the burgers, place each patty on a bun and top them with onions, aioli, and spinach leaves.


About Kiersten

Kiersten is the founder and editor of Oh My Veggies. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, daughter, and 4 (yes 4!) cats.   Read more from Kiersten →

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  1. says

    I love that plate! And boy, does this recipe sound gooooooood – I love bean burgers :-) I’m not a vegetarian but I often order or make veggie bean burgers instead of meat because they are just delicious and have a great texture

  2. says

    Get your Freekeh on! ;) lol
    Love this yumminess… but I have to say I haven’t even tried freekeh yet – the whole gluten thing scares me although I’m not Celiac but do avoid wheat…. so I won’t know until I try this to see if I get a reaction.
    But this looks amazing and I would love to take a big bite right now!!

    • Kiersten says

      Well, I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that farro/freekeh/wheat berries are tolerated better because they’re not bred to have more gluten in them like the wheat used in flour is. It DOES have gluten in it, so full-blown celiacs shouldn’t eat it, but people who have mild insensitivities can eat it without the reaction they get from flour…

  3. says

    I have seriously been craving a bean burger lately (and pizza….) and these would most definitely fulfil my demands. Harissa and Za’atar are 2 of my favourite flavours too. Ooooh and garlic aioli sounds yum!

    • Kiersten says

      Yes, it really does add a meaty texture! I have a stuffed cabbage recipe using freekeh in my cookbook and it made the perfect substitute for ground beef.

  4. says

    I love harissa! It’s the best sweet spicy flavor! Though I’ve never used it with caramelized onions – I bet it’s delicious! Definitely a good burger topping!

    • Kiersten says

      Ooh, I can’t wait to see yours! Before this year, I never really made veggie burgers myself, but I noticed so many people were searching my site for veggie burger recipes, so I decided it was time to get over it and start making them! :)

  5. says

    I’ve never heard of Freekeh, but it looks delicious. Veggie burgers have become one of my favourite meals since becoming vegetarian so I’m always looking for new recipes. These look awesome!

  6. says

    Encountering bad, uninspired veggie burgers makes me cry. So yes, you might say that I cry a lot in restaurants. I love making veggie burgers at home though and these are so getting tried!

    • Kiersten says

      Yup, me too. How hard is it to make a burger with real ingredients?! When legit restaurants throw a frozen burger patty on a bun, it’s a sad, sad thing.

  7. Tracy says

    I love this! I never thought of freekeh as ingredient in a veg burger – why do you always beat me to it?? Oh your smartness is blinding!! My fave deli salad atm is freekeh, edamame, green onion and soy/ginger vinaigrette. Now you got me thinking about re-creating that combo as filling for a lettuce wrap – crumbly, burger style. I can’t wait to make and destroy this burger!!

    • Kiersten says

      Ha! I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with the idea too. :) And I want to go to THAT deli for lunch–that salad sounds so good! I’m going to have to see if I can whip it up too…

  8. says

    Interesting… I tend to stay away from most veggie burgers because, like you said, they’re so often a gross fake meat patty. My other issue is how bready they can be, then stick that bready patty between more bread and it’s a dang carb fest. But this is a patty that I can get on board with. I’d probably skip the bun, as I do with most of my home-made patties, but I love the idea of the freekeh and the harissa onions. Yum!

    • Kiersten says

      I love a good carb fest, but I know what you mean! We used to buy potato-based veggie burger patties because my husband really liked them and when I ate them I just felt gross and heavy afterwards.

  9. says

    Everything you said in this post is so true! If a restaurant offers both veggie burger and portobello mushroom options, I’ll choose the mushroom because I don’t like those processed patties. But I love when they offer flavourful, textured veggie burgers made with grains and beans even more! It’s also more fun coming up with toppings for veggie burgers – I never eat them with just ketchup and mustard!

  10. says

    Definitely a creative and inventive veggie burger – I don’t see Middle Eastern inspired versions often and I don’t think I’ve ever seen freekeh .. I actually had to look up what it was (I’ve heard it before but couldn’t remember) and it definitely looks like something I need to try!

  11. says

    I had to revisit your earlier post to remind myself what freekeh is again. But that looks like an amazing burger, and I love the Middle Eastern flavors! I don’t think those restaurant veggie burgers ever look this good.

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