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Get the recipe: Superiority Burgers

WASHINGTON (THE WASHINGTON POST) – In all the work that our engineering, product and other teams have done on Recipes to prepare for launch, one requirement was crucial: Now that readers can more easily find our much older recipes, we knew we needed a way to be quickly notified whenever a reader left a comment. Adding that function has helped us keep up more systematically with your thoughts, opinions and experiences with our recipes. And of all the types of comments we get, the most meaningful are those from readers who have actually cooked it. In addition to answering any substantive questions you ask – unless another smart reader beats us to it, which happens often – we’re also happy to help troubleshoot.

We take our recipe testing seriously, so it is rare that critical comments send us back into the kitchen. But sometimes a problem you experienced will cause us to take a fresh look, and when that happens, we appreciate the chance to set things right – and to increase the odds of success for other readers.

When I first wrote about Brooks Headley’s Superiority Burgers recipe five years ago, I knew veggie burgers could be a little finicky. After all, I’ve spent countless hours developing my own techniques – including staying away from food processors in favour of hand-mashing, and baking them first to help them set before (or instead of) frying. Veggie burger patties can often fail to hold together properly when you pan-fry them, but I thought that through some small adaptations in ingredient amounts and techniques, I had made Headley’s work. They were a little crumbly, but super tasty. There’s a reason they’re the title offering at his New York restaurant.

Not every reader had the same experience, unfortunately. When one wrote a comment describing a disappointing experience (“The issue I had was that they didn’t hold together”), we tried them again in our Food Lab and realised they could use more finessing. In subsequent tests, I ended up decreasing the quinoa by about a third and doubling the potato starch, resulting in sturdier (but no less delicious) patties. I tried pan-frying half the batch and baking the other half, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the fried patties held together nicely, even better than the baked ones, and I (again) loved the crispy texture that resulted.

I made one final tweak: a suggestion to only barely toast the hamburger buns, if at all. That’s because when the bun is heavily toasted, it can compress a veggie patty too much when you take a bite, causing it to squish out. If that happened to a reader, we’d surely hear about it – and would be glad we did.


Superiority Burgers

This is the namesake dish of the wildly popular New York City veggie-burger joint. As chef-owner Brooks Headley writes in his cookbook, “This is not fake, nor is it trying to be.” Serve with your favourite toppings.

Servings: 6 patties

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Make ahead: The patties can be formed and refrigerated for up to 3 days before pan-frying.


2/3 cup red quinoa

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt, divided, plus more as needed

1 cup finely diced carrots (from 2 medium-small carrots, scrubbed but not peeled)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more as needed

1 large yellow onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and ground (see Notes)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup cooked or no-salt-added canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar

1/2 cup panko

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and crushed (see Notes)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot chile sauce

1/4 cup potato starch

6 soft hamburger buns, very lightly toasted (if desired), for serving

Condiments and other toppings of your choice, for serving


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Combine the quinoa, 1 1/2 cups of the water and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until fluffy, 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover, transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, spread the diced carrots on a small baking sheet; roast until dark around the edges and soft, 15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is translucent and deeply browned at the edges, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the ground fennel, chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; cook until the spices are very fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring frequently, until they are warmed through, 1 minute. Pour in the vinegar; use a spatula to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Use a potato masher or large fork to coarsely mash the onion-chickpea mixture.

Scrape the onion-chickpea mixture into the bowl with the quinoa. Add the roasted carrots, breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon juice, parsley, sriracha or other hot chile sauce, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and mix well. Taste and season with more salt, as needed.

Whisk together the potato starch and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to form a thick, smooth slurry. Stir it into the burger mixture, and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.

Rinse off your hands and leave them wet. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions (about a heaping 1/2 cup each). Shape each one into a 3/4-inch-thick disk.

Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add as many patties as will fit without overcrowding. Working in batches, pan-fry the patties until browned, about 3 minutes on each side. Add oil to the pan as needed.

To serve, place each patty on a bun and top with the condiments and other toppings of your choice.


Per burger (without toppings) | Calories: 439; Carbohydrates: 58 g; Fat,: 19 g; Fibre: 8 g; Protein: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Sodium: 744 mg; Sugar: 8 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietician’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from Brooks Headley’s “Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious,” (W.W. Norton, June 2018). – JOE YONAN