Here come’s the quinoa again! Yes the International Year of Quinoa, so declared by the goddamn United Nation itself in 2013, stretches on into yet another year as the psuedo-grain’s popularity continues to grow unabated. Case in point, Trader Joe’s surprisingly tasty Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers with Black Beans and Roasted Corn.
What gives you the right to deem something as a “cowboy” food – particularly if that something is a veggie burger made of quinoa? The cowboys were many things, and much falsehood and oversimplification has entered the public consciousnesses regarding these rough riders of the West, but even so it’s safe to say that veggie burgers probably didn’t make up a substantial part of an ol’ cowpuncher’s diet. It seems as far as Trader Joe’s is concerned, if something is spicy and has beans in it it’s a “cowboy” food – case in point Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar Salsa.
Speaking of, Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar Salsa is actually one of the two main ingredients in this burger – the other one being Trader Joe’s Organic Tri Color Quinoa. As the official Trader Joe’s website notes, these two products have been mixed together and shaped into hockey pucks for your unique enjoyment. To my surprise, I actually found myself liking this seemingly slapdash combination more than I had expected.
I’m a bit warm and cold on the whole quinoa craze – it’s a fine seed, eaten in moderation, but when you start putting it in sushi rolls then we have a problem. In this case, however, it seems to work for me – the quinoa lends its unique nutty, nutrient-packed flavor to the toothsome assembly of boiled beans, soft corn kernels and other chopped up veggies (red pepper, onion, tomato and jalapeno).
Tastewise its just right – warm, satisfying, filling and flavorful with a slight spiciness. Burgerwise, it doesn’t quite do as well. Even after preparing it in the oven to the listed specifications, I found the “burger” far more crumbly than you would ever hope to eat on a bun. Compared to Trader Joe’s excellent Veggie Pizza Burger or Veggie Masala Burger, which hold up very nicely, this was a little disappointing. If you tried to cook one on a grill, for instance, it would just crumble through the slats.
I’d actually recommend treating the patty-like form of the burger more as a suggestion than an obligation. Instead of dealing with the hassle of trying to get these onto a bun, just break them up into a salad, or crumble them into a taco. I found the “burgers” worked best with non-traditional condiments as well. Trader Joe’s suggests sliced avocado and salsa, and you might consider adding to that shredded lettuce, hot sauce or sour cream.
This is probably the first heavily quinoa-based dish I’ve ever really liked. The intriguing spiciness, the good mix of roasted veggies, and the crispiness of a good oven-toasting making these quinoa burgers much more than just a dry mouthful. There’s a lot to enjoy in these, jut don’t get hung up on eating them like a burger.
Would I Recommend Them: Yes, just not as burgers.
Would I Buy Them Again: I would – these made me some fine tacos.
Final Synopsis: Toasted quinoa and tasty veggies in an inconvenient burger form.