Quinoa Cakes with Cherry Tomato, Mint and Chick Pea Relish

This is hands-down one of my favorite recipes. I make it often, easily once a week because it’s so simple, fast, tasty and seriously healthy. It is gluten free, vegan and very high in protein. That’s right, you do not need to use eggs to bind the cakes.  If I am feeling particularly lazy, I skip making the cakes out of the quinoa and instead serve the fresh Tomato Chick Pea Relish over warm bed of fluffed quinoa.  Done this way, it can be made in 15 minutes flat.  The recipe shows how to make both versions.  You will feel energized and light after eating it. For these reasons, it is one of our go-to camping meals.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain, or rather, seed, originating from the high altitude regions of the Andean mountains in South America.  Originally grown by the Incas in Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru, it was one of the few crops that could withstand the severe cold of winter and the extreme heat and drought of summer. Because of this, the Inca’s called it the “mother of all grains” and held it sacred. When the Spanish invaded the Andes regions in the 16th century, the Incas were forced to stop growing and consuming quinoa, because the Christians believed it to be sacrilegious. But secretly it was kept alive in the wild and a small amount was able to be saved and cultivated through the ages.

It wasn’t until the late 70’s that we began seeing it here in the states, but rarely. Not until five or ten years ago did it begin to be produced commercially and then we began seeing it in abundance. The reason so many people including myself are in love with quinoa is because it’s gluten free, it’s packed with protein (in fact, it is a complete protein),  and it’s so simple to make. I knew it became mainstream when brides began requesting it for their wedding receptions several years ago.

Last week we drove south and went camping,  or glamping,  in the Grand Canyon.  After seeing Sunset Magazine’s latest issue on camping, inspired, I pointed out this picture to Brian. This is how I want to camp next time, I told him. Next thing I knew we upgraded our tiny tent, bought a super cushy queen sized blowup air mattress, new 400 thread count white sheets, a rug and a cute hanging lantern. In the end, the white sheets were not the best idea.
It was my first visit to the Grand Canyon. I found myself pleasantly in awe. It really does live up to its name. Sitting on the edge of the deep canyon one evening watching the burning sun sink down inch by inch, I was reminded again, how beautiful the real world is, compared to the virtual world I often find myself in these days. It felt so good to disconnect. Being outside really does restore and heal the brain. While camping, I read an interesting article about this very thing in Backpacker Magazine.  Coincidentally, the neuroscientist conducting the research in this article is from Spokane.
When packing for a camping trip, there are several food basics to bring along: kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic, your favorite spices, and quinoa, rice, pasta and tortillas. Throw in some beans (black beans, garbanzos, lentils … whatever you have on hand) and when you arrive close to your destination,  load up with fresh produce.
These days, there are fully stocked grocery stores with organic and even gourmet products practically everywhere. It’s kind of comical to be “roughing it”, cooking on a camp stove, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with a gourmet grocery store right down the road.  Honey, could you go buy some mint?
Cooking quinoa is simple.  It cooks like rice, but is much faster. Start with one part quinoa, two parts water.  Make sure to rinse the quinoa first. This helps to remove most of the bitterness. Rinse well and use your fingers to rub the grains,  until the water runs clear. I like to season the water with salt, spices and a little olive oil to help mask some of its bitterness.  Cover, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand covered for 5 more minutes and then fluff with a fork. Done.

A year ago,  I discovered something by accident.

How to make quinoa cakes by adding nothing more but extra water. It started off with a small kitchen disaster. We were having friends over for dinner, and apparently I miscalculated my measuring. When I went to fluff the quinoa with a fork, it began to stick together and clump. It turned into a big gelatinous ball. I had added too much water. Sadly, I had used the last of the quinoa.
Desperate, I formed cakes after letting it cool down a bit.  It stuck together surprisingly well. Dredged in a little rice flour and then pan seared, they turned out amazing with great texture. I have been making them ever since. It sounds strange, but it actually works. Somehow it binds itself, with no need to add egg or anything else, besides extra water to bind it.

The fresh tomato relish with herbs and any other veggie you can think of (cucumber, sugar peas, radish, bell pepper) together with a balsamic vinaigrette compliments the cakes well. For extra heartiness, add a cup of cooked beans to the fresh relish. In winter, you could add the beans to the quinoa pot, so they are warmed up.  The nice thing about this recipe is its flexible and lends itself to your creativity. Play around with it.
I like serving this with a side of crumbled goat cheese. To me, the balsamic dressing, paired with  everything else and the goat cheese is a perfect combination.
Thanks for reading! For more Feasting at Home … 


Quinoa Cakes with Tomato Chick Pea Relish
makes 4-5 hearty cakes
Basic Quinoa Cake Recipe:
In a medium pot, bring to boil:
2 1/2 C water
1 tsp cumin
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
cracked pepper
1 C very well rinsed quinoa
(optional- for extra flavor play around and try adding sauted onions, fresh herbs, lemon zest, chili flakes, diced garlic, or even curry powder)

Remember to rinse your quinoa well, otherwise you will end up with very bitter cakes.

Bring all ingredients to a boil, cover, simmer on low for 15 min. Turn heat off let stand 5 minutes.
To make cakes: stir quinoa with a fork, repeatedly, for a while until you begin to see the individual grains break apart. This may seem strange, but keep stirring. Eventually It will begin to clump. Let cool down in the pot to where it’s cool enough to handle with your hands. Using your hands, shape into cakes, pressing together. As cake cools down it will become more sturdy. Dredge in rice flour. You could do this ahead, and then refrigerate until ready to use.
Pan sear in oil using heavy bottom skillet, place in oven until ready to plate.
*** If making fluffy quinoa, reduce water to 2 cups.
Follow same directions. After quinoa stands for 5 minutes,  just fluff with fork.
Fresh Tomato, Chic Pea and Mint Relish:
2  C fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4  C chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4  C chopped scallions or 1/8 c slivered red onion
1 T  chopped mint ( optional- or sub a different tender herb….dill, tarragon, cilantro, basil)
1/2  C chopped cucumber (optional)
1  C cooked chic peas (optional)
place in bowl and toss with:
3 T olive oil
2 T balsamic
1/8 tsp salt….or salt to taste
cracked pepper
1 small chopped garlic clove ( optional)
Top with crumbled goat cheese ( optional, but delicious!)
You want the relish to be coated well with the vinaigrette…so the more ingredients you add, you may need add more vinaigrette.
When serving, drizzle extra vinaigrette on and around the cakes.
thanks for sharing!
thanks for sharing!


  1. says

    This is my kind of camping food! We upgraded to an air mattress and one of those huge tents when we started camping with the kids, definitely the way to go! I tried to make quinoa cakes the other night – kept adding eggs, bread crumbs, flour… just wouldn’t stay together, thanks for shedding light on my problem. I am trying this soon!

  2. Karen@rothfus.com says

    I recently had my first quinoa burger in a brewery in Durango and have been trying to copy it ever since adding eggs, etc. but I think yrs in on the right track and can’t wait to try it with feta and spinach. Thanks.

  3. says

    Thank you! No egg quinoa cakes! I’m cooking them now and they look perfect! I added shredded carrot and roasted garlic and thyme!!! Found this on Pinterst! I like exclamation marks!!

  4. says

    I love quinoa patties so much I have blogged about them as well, but I have always made them with cheese and egg. I love the idea of keeping them pure and healthy. I can’t wait to try!!

  5. says

    I enjoy quinoa patties so much I have blogged about them myself. But I always used egg and cheese. I love this idea of keeping them pure and healthy. I cannot wait to try your version. I guess every cookingmistake has its silver lining 😉

  6. Anonymous says

    I tried this recipe for dinner but it didn’t work! Quinoa grains just never clumped together! (I stirred for 10 minutes!!)

  7. says

    I am so sorry. I’ve made this so many times and it always works. I’m wondering…what could have happened? Did you use regular quinoa ( or red or black)? Did you rinse first? and measure the water carefully? If you used less water… or boiled it on too high of heat (it MUST cook on low heat) that would prevent it from clumping together. Basically it will clump together when the grains open up fully (using more water than in traditional recipes). If you have any thoughts or ideas please let me know. It’s such a fast easy recipe, that I make all the time….I want you to have success with it !!!

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