Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zucchini, Brown Rice, Wheat Germ and Sunflower Seed Burgers

(pictured: zucchini, brown rice, wheat germ and sunflower burger cooking in cast iron)

The Don Lee Burgers we purchased at Costco last week inspired this burger recipe. We liked the inclusion of seeds in the Don Lee burger so I decided to try them in a homemade veggie burger to see how they worked. I included wheat germ to this burger to add more plant phytosterols.

I was reading an article this morning on the role of plant phytosterols in cancer angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth) and apoptosis (cancer cell suicide). Since I didn’t want to buy Take Control or Benecol margarine I decided to find out what foods contained phytosterols. I found a nice table at this site.

So, now that you know what I added wheat germ I will go back to the burger recipe. The zucchini was included to provide moisture so that the gluten would develop without added liquid. The paprika adds vitamin C to the burger. The raw sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E and are anti-inflammatory. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of phytosterols (a nice bonus). Additionally, sunflower seeds are a good source of selenium, another nutrient that is reported to fight cancer.

These burgers are higher in calories and fat than most of my veggie burgers. The wheat germ and sunflower seeds are both calorie dense from fat. The fats they contain are healthy. In order to get back to our 12% fat target I will add a good portion of grain and vegetables to our dinner to get the overall numbers into line.

Zucchini, Brown Rice, Wheat Germ and Sunflower Seed Burgers
Makes 4 large burgers (about 6 or 7 ounces)


2 cups of zucchini, finely shredded
¼ of a red onion, finely shredded
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 ½ cups of brown basmati rice, cooked (cold is fine)
2/3 cup of wheat germ
½ cup of raw sunflower seeds, unsalted
½ tablespoon of garlic powder
½ tablespoon of onion power
½ tablespoon of sweet paprika
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten


Wilt the zucchini, red onion and kosher salt in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook until the volume has reduced by half. Move the zucchini mixture to a wire sieve and allow the excess fluid to drain away. This will happen in 5 or 10 minutes. You want the zucchini to retain some moisture that will be needed for the gluten.

Lightly grease your cast iron pan with canola oil and heat it over medium heat while you mix the burgers.

Move the zucchini mixture to a large bowl big enough to mix all the ingredients. Add the rice, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, kosher salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Now add the vital wheat gluten and knead to develop the gluten. This should only take a few minutes. If the gluten does not fully incorporate add water a tablespoon at a time and continue to knead to develop the gluten. A few minutes of kneading is sufficient.

Form the mixture into four roughly even burgers. Cook the burgers in the cast iron pan over medium heat until brown and crispy on each side. This took approximately 4 minutes per side at my house.

These are good hot or room temperature.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 283.06
Calories From Fat (26%) - 74.88

Total Fat - 8.94g
Saturated Fat - 1.04g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 484.58mg
Potassium - 520.05mg
Total Carbohydrates - 35.5g
Fiber - 6.21g
Sugar - 1.96g
Protein - 18.55g


The taste of these burgers was very good. The texture was much more dense than I expected and I am assuming that is from the wheat germ. However, my husband and both thought the texture was good even though unexpected. My husband did suggest that I make the burgers a little thinner. I will try that next time. These burgers are very filling.

Overall, we both enjoyed these burgers. You can expect to see more variations that include wheat germ and sunflower seeds in the future.


  1. Thank you for the great recipes! I just found your blog today. I wondered if you knew what I could substitute for the vital wheat gluten as I am sure it is needed as "glue". I also won't be able to use wheat germ as I need to stay away from wheat due to severe asthma -- there's a connection.

    Thank you!


  2. Nanny Dee,

    You are correct the vital wheat gluten does help to hold the burgers together and give them a meatlike chew. Since you can't use wheat gluten I would suggest you put half of the rice in your food processor and break it down. That should be enough to hold the burgers together. You could also try a little gluten free flour (brown rice or oat flour). A little cold mashed potato would also work. The texture will be softer but it should hold together. With burgers that don't have gluten I form the burgers into patties and then refrigerate them until they are really cold. That seems to help them stick together when they cook.

    If you have any other questions please let me know.



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