Photos by Emily Caruso
I visited Jamaica once, ten or so years ago. I can't say for sure, but based on that experience, I don’t think there’s any authentic item of Jamaican cuisine that would be called a vegetarian Jamaican jerk burger. I actually didn’t have jerk anything when I visited. I ate at some restaurants with ample jerk-seasoned items and entire vegetarian sections to the menu, but never saw the two meet. If fact, I think most of what I ate was pizza and mac and cheese.
Now I get why I couldn’t find any authentic vegetarian jerk seasoned food. Jerk is normally a meat rub, so you wouldn’t expect to find it in something like a veggie burger. That’s not where it’s supposed to go. I never let that stop me in my kitchen.
Jerk seasoning is a sweet, spicy and tangy blend that pretty much tastes like nothing else. Even though I put jerk seasoning in a class by itself, it’s probably safe to say that if you’re a fan of most spicy, super flavorful world cuisine, you’ll be a fan of jerk. To my palate, Jamaican jerk has the tastiest elements of everything from Latin American cooking to Indian curries to Cajun cuisine. Scan the ingredients list below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Cinnamon, ginger, allspice (this one’s key!), super spicy hot peppers…of course you want to put this stuff in veggie burgers! In fact, you probably want to put it in everything.
Since red beans are found in lots of Caribbean dishes, that's what I decided to use as the base for my jerk veggie burgers, along with some quinoa, which I always enjoy for the texture and moisture it lends to burger patties. I went with a tangy ginger lime slaw and avocado slices as toppings here. The slaw adds a nice crunch, a little sweet and sour to compliment the spicy jerk blend in the burgers, and some added bite from ginger. Avocados are my new favorite mayo as of late, and by that I mean they perform mayo’s function of adding some creaminess between your fillings and bread, but also add substance, rich flavor, and are totally vegan.
For the Jamaican Jerk Veggie Burgers:
- ½ cup quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 small onion peeled and quartered
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 15-ounce can or 1 ¾ cups cooked red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 habañero or Scotch bonnet pepper stemmed, seeded and minced
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons molasses not blackstrap
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
For the Ginger Lime Slaw:
- 3 cups shredded cabbage
- 3 scallions chopped
- 1 carrot shredded
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon agave or honey
- 1 teaspoon grape seed oil
- Dash of salt
- 4-6 burger buns
- 1 avocado sliced
To make the burgers:
- Rinse the quinoa well under cold running water. Place the vegetable broth in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stir in the quinoa, lower heat to a simmer and cover. Gently simmer the quinoa until all the liquid is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for another 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- Place the onion and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade. Pulse a few times to chop everything. Add the beans, habañero or Scotch bonnet pepper, oats, lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, thyme, black pepper and nutmeg. Blend for a few seconds, just until everything is well-mixed, stopping to scrape down the sides of bowl as needed. Fold in the quinoa and season with salt if needed.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Shape the burger mixture into 4-6 patties. Working in batches if needed, arrange the patties in the skillet. Use a spatula to gently press down on the tops of patties and pull the sides in, shaping them as they cook. Cook until the mixture has firmed a bit and the patties are browned on the bottoms, about 5 minutes. Gently flip and cook until browned on the opposite sides, about 5 minutes more. Add a bit more oil between batches if skillet becomes dry.
To make the Ginger Lime Slaw:
- Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss until the veggies are mixed and evenly coated.
To assemble the burgers:
- Place a few tablespoons of ginger lime slaw on the top and bottom half of each bun. Place the patties over the bottom halves, top with the avocado slices and top halves of the buns.
Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health says
Wow, these look unbelievably good! I've made Jamaican jerk tofu but never thought to try the flavors in a veggie burger- genius idea!
And I would love to visit Jamaica one day so hopefully by the time I get there they'll have thought to make something vegetarian using jerk seasonings. I mean pizza and mac n' cheese sound good and all but I have a feeling something like this would be much better. 😉
Thanks Sarah! Jamaica is amazing - I hope you get to visit, and have better luck than I did with finding authentic vegetarian food.
You won't get that in the tourist areas. Most Rastafarians are vegetarians, so had you gone to any establishment run by Rastas, you'd have gotten vegetarian fare.
The only word of caution is that many feature Ital cooking, which often consists of no salt!
I just learned about Ital cooking and I've wanted to go back and enjoy it ever since! I didn't know about the no salt thing though - thanks for the warning!!
Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl says
OH YES! I love Jamaican Jerk anything... so these sound fabulous!
It really is an amazing flavor combination, and it worked perfectly in veggie burger form. 🙂
Ummmmmmmmmmm this looks AMAZING!!!! Think I'll make it for my friends soon. Thanks!
Thank you! I hope you and your friends all enjoy them as much as I did!!
Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday says
That burger looks gorgeous! The colors are so enticing!
Thanks Jennifer! They really did turn out pretty - the purple cabbage definitely makes it. Emily did an awesome job with the photos. 🙂
Stephanie Jane says
Do you think normal cous cous would work in place of the quinoa? Or might breadcrumbs be better? I've got a pot of jerk seasoning that my BF bought in Brixton so this recipe would be the ideal chance to open it!
I've never used couscous in a veggie burger, and it's quite a bit dryer than quinoa, so I'm not sure if it would work. I have used breadcrumbs in combination with beans, and they usually work out pretty well. You might need to play around with the amount a little bit, but I usually find somewhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of breadcrumbs works for recipes calling for a 15 ounce can of beans. Enjoy! 🙂
I love that you took the path least expected with these burgers! Jerk spices are so good and we vegetarians deserve to eat them also!
Thanks Joanne! So good is right - and they really went nicely in veggie burgers! 🙂
Do you have a substitute for oats? I'm allergic 🙁 would wheat flour or chick pea flour work?
The oats absorb some of the moisture - I can't say for sure, as I haven't tried the recipe with wheat or chickpea flour, but I think they would work. You could also try bread crumbs. Keep in mind that whichever substitution you choose might have a slightly different absorbency than oats, so the amount may vary. I'd suggest adding a little at a time until it feels about right. 🙂
Kate Farrow says
I made this and it did not turn out. Did not form into a patty and was a mushy mess. Had to do a ton of adjusting which was way too much work and not that great.
Sorry they didn't work out for you! The mixture is very moist, but you should be able to form patties - I included a note in the recipe to place the patties right into the skillet, rather than to a plate first, as they'll stick to the plate (and no longer be patties by the time they get to the skillet). You could also add a bit more oats, but be careful and don't add too much, as this might make the burgers overly dry in the end. I hope that helps!
I made these last night, and what I found worked was forming them into patties and letting them firm up in the fridge, then cooking them. They were also way firmer after cooking and cooling. The next day they were as firm as store bought burgers.
Sounds like a good idea to me. I'm thinking chilling the mixture before forming patties might work too. Thanks for the tip!
Is there any difference using white red or black quinoa in this recipe - or even generally?
The differences are pretty subtle - red and black quinoa cook up just a tad bit firmer than golden, but you can use any variety for this recipe. 🙂
These burgers are AMAZING! They have just the right amount of heat. 🙂
Thanks Rebecca! Glad you enjoyed them! 🙂
Can these be frozen? Do you suggest cooking them first and then freezing?
I'd suggest just cooking the quinoa and mixing up the burger base, then freezing it before cooking or forming patties. When your ready for the burgers just thaw it out, shape the patties and cook. I've done this with similar quinoa/bean burger mixtures and it works great. 🙂
I only have blackstrap molasses. Do you have any ideas as to what I could use to substitute the regular molasses? I've never actually tasted anything BUT blackstrap so I'm not sure what flavor I'm looking for. . .Do you think a mix of a liquid sweetener and brown sugar would work? Or just brown sugar? Thanks (in advance) for any tips or suggestions you can offer. 🙂
Hi Liz! Blackstrap is essentially a highly concentrated version of regular molasses, so you might be able to get away with using a mixture of blackstrap and another liquid sweetener like maple syrup or agave. I can't say exactly what ratio to use, but I'd suggest you start by adding a small amount of each directly to your burger mixture and taste test until you like the flavor balance. I hope that helps! I'm a big blackstrap fan myself, but haven't done nearly enough experimenting with substituting it for regular molasses.
Made these for dinner tonight.....amazing surprise. I let the beans drain very well,made the patties and let them firm in the fridge for an hour before cooking. The whole habanero pepper freaked me out a bit so I cut it in half. Ended up putting sriracha sauce on top for a little kick and it was great.
I left out the agave/honey from the slaw (not a big fan of sweet stuff). When I tasted the raw pattie mixture I was dubious of how this would turn out but the ginger lime slaw really makes it great.
So glad to hear you enjoyed them! 🙂
I'd grown fond of the blend of allspice, hot peppers and the other ingredients of jerk while I shared a dorm with a caribbean exchange student, we'd have communal cooking and he'd whip up different jerk dishes. It was years and years ago and I've since gone vegetarian (aside from the once-in-a-blue-moon fish dish), so this felt like a natural thing to try out 🙂
I had to improvise, since I was out of quinoa (I used spelt instead and mushed it up a bit to make the "grain" smaller), and I had to substitute molasses for honey and oats for breadcrumbs, but it ended up perfect. The consistency of the patties is just right when you've got most of the beans squashed, but with rougher bits (+ the skins) here and there. They held together well, and the taste is all I remembered - hot, slightly tangy 🙂
An instant add to my recipe book, I'll try it with the 'slaw next time (maybe I'll dice in some fresh mango)
Awesome! Glad you enjoyed them, and I LOVE the idea of adding some mango - I'll be trying that myself next time. 🙂
Just made this; they are delicious. The only problem I had was that they were too moist so I added a little flour and some more oats and then baked them for 22 min and then flipped them for 6 more min. Oven on bake at 400 degrees. Awesome recipe and thank you so much for sharing!!
Glad you enjoyed them! And thanks for the tips! 🙂
I wish I read through the comments first... these were so crumbly and hard to flip, especially the last two as they were the wettest at the bottom of the bowl. I would add more oats, let the quinoa dry and stick them in the fridge for awhile. I wish this was included in the directions. I was prepared for them to be moist and put the patty directly from the bowl into the pan, but it didn't help. But the flavor and the heat is amazing. I'll definitely have to try these again with some adjustments.
Made this yesterday with chickpeas and 3/4 c breadcrumbs. They were great. Loved the flavor. I will definitely make these again!