Golden Quinoa Cakes with Salsa Fresca

August 26, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes Twelve 3- to 4-inch cakes, or many bite-sized ones
Author Notes

These cakes are the product of an entirely different initial agenda. You see, I’ve been on a Hatch chile mission, scouring my local Whole Foods every August for the past two years. Ever since testing and falling in love with cookinginvictoria’s (Hi Paula!) delicious Huevos Rancheros (Country-Style Eggs Topped with Pork and Green Chile), I’ve wanted to make them with the chiles preferred by the author’s grandmother. I’ve had close encounters and false promises -- once even tweeting with a foodie acquaintance on Maui: she said her WF had them and jested should she bring some over for me? I should have said yes, because I’ve never found them here in Honolulu until last week. When I saw them, I quickly filled a bag, nearly salivating just thinking about cookinginvictoria’s recipe. As I made a mental grocery list of all the other ingredients I’d need for the porky goodness, it occurred to me that quinoa cakes seasoned with the right combination of spices, Hatch chiles, and some cheddar might be tasty. Topping said cakes with a summery raw salsa might make them even tastier. The results did not disappoint. But don’t worry, I’m going to use the rest of my roasted Hatch chiles for Huevos Rancheros. —gingerroot

Test Kitchen Notes

I love quinoa and am always looking for interesting new ways to use this wonderful grain. Gingerroot’s quinoa cakes are packed with flavor, a real treat for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. They have a great crunchy bite on the outside, and the insides are moist with a lovely blend of spices and a gentle kick from the Hatch chile. I had no trouble forming the patties, and they held together very well. The salsa fresca is tasty and keeps the cakes moist. These are definitely my new favorite vegetarian cakes and I look forward to trying them with different cheeses, vegetables, and sauces many times! —Kukla

What You'll Need
  • For golden quinoa cakes
  • 1 Hatch chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour (also labeled "Mochiko")
  • 1 splash canola oil for frying the cakes
  • For the salsa fresca
  • 2 French breakfast radishes, diced (or 4 round radishes, diced)
  • 8 to 10 sweet cherry or pear tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 pinch kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  1. Preheat your broiler and roast the chile (might as well roast a few and then freeze for use in another recipe, like Huevos Rancheros) until wrinkled and blackened, turning once. Place roasted chile in a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap to make it easier to remove the skin. When cool, carefully remove skin (the tip of a sharp knife is helpful), stem, and as much of the membrane and seeds as you'd like -- keeping more will yield a spicier result. Dice chile, using gloves if desired.
  2. While chile is roasting, toast whole coriander and cumin over medium heat, until fragrant, in a Dutch oven or similar pot. Transfer whole spices to a bowl and crush with the back of a spoon or pestle.
  3. Place Dutch oven back onto the burner and melt butter, stirring, until it begins to brown and smells nutty. Add quinoa and stir, constantly, until it begins to get golden and toasty. At this point I always think it smells a little bit like deliciously roasted cheese.
  4. Add two cups of water, crushed whole spices, and a good pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes. Spread hot quinoa out on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the cooled quinoa, the diced Hatch chile, and the remaining ingredients (from egg through sweet rice flour). Stir to thoroughly combine and then let mixture sit for a few minutes to hydrate the flour.
  6. Meanwhile, combine radishes, tomatoes, avocado, and lemon in a bowl. Add salt to taste and let mixture sit until ready to eat.
  7. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Set out a large rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper. If you want to make larger (3- to 4-inch) cakes, scoop quinoa mixture with a quarter cup measure, tap against your open palm to release, and then flatten the cake with the back of the cup measure before placing on the waxed paper. Repeat with remaining cake mixture. For bite-sized cakes, use a tablespoon to scoop and flatten the mixture.
  8. Cook the cakes in the skillet for about 3 minutes per side, until crisp and golden. Transfer to a serving platter. Continue cooking the remaining cakes, using additional oil if necessary.
  9. Right before serving, stir cilantro and sour cream in to salsa fresca. Top cakes with salsa fresca and enjoy.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lindsay Narain
    Lindsay Narain
  • Rebecca Cherry
    Rebecca Cherry
  • procrastibaker
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • CravingSomethingHealthy

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

47 Reviews

Lindsay N. August 18, 2015
Yup! Another winner from Food 52.

I'd probably serve the sour cream on the side next time, instead of blending into the salsa. Otherwise it's fab!
Rebecca C. September 3, 2014
I just stuffed a zucchini with this recipe, minus the egg, buttermilk, and rice flour. Amazing!
gingerroot October 28, 2014
What a fantastic idea, Rebecca! Yum. Thanks for letting me know.
edgeofautumn April 1, 2014
My fiance and I have been making these for a few months...they are DELICIOUS. This may be one of my all-time favorite recipes. Thank you!
gingerroot April 2, 2014
Aw, thank you so much, edgeofautumn! Your comment made my day. Glad you are enjoying these!
Sigita December 4, 2013
I agree- I did not have a hatch - and used a jalapeño pepper. These are a delicious main or side dish. I have made them many times already . Glad you tried them.
procrastibaker December 4, 2013
These were fabulous. I didn't have buttermilk, so I substituted 1.5T creme fraiche and 1.5T half-and-half (the fridge is in a weird state right now), which added a nice tang and still helped bind the cakes nicely. I couldn't find a Hatch chile, so I roasted a poblano, which didn't add much heat, but did give the flavors some more dimension. Next time I'd up the spiciness by using a hotter pepper, but it turned out beautifully even without the Hatch.
gingerroot January 9, 2014
Glad you both enjoyed these, procrastibaker and Sigita! Happy New Year!
Michelle October 7, 2013
Do you have to use cheese and if not, is there another equal equivalent? Thank you!
gingerroot October 9, 2013
Hi Michelle,
You can certainly leave the cheese out. I added it for flavor, as well as to help bind the cakes once they were cooked. I think they'd still hold without the cheese (just flip carefully) and taste good. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you give these a try.
Sigita September 30, 2013
So loved these cakes. Had red quinoa and no hatch chilis were available so I used jalapeño. Used sunflower oil to fry them. Delicious with the salsa fresca. Even my husband ate them! For sure a new dish to add to my weekly menus. Thank you Gingerroot!
gingerroot October 1, 2013
Thanks for letting me know, Sigita! I'm so glad you enjoyed them.
TheWimpyVegetarian September 23, 2013
I can't wait to make this gingerroot!! It looks absolutely wonderful. I just wish I'd seen it earlier in the day so I could have made it for dinner tonight.
gingerroot October 1, 2013
Thank you Susan! So sorry for the belated reply...this month is getting away from me. In any case, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and hope you enjoy them if you try this.
Denise M. September 23, 2013
Thanks Gingerroot, we are clearly way behind in the chile department here, but I will try a long green chile and see how that works
gingerroot October 1, 2013
Love to hear what you think!
Julie September 22, 2013
The recipe doesn't ask to rinse the quinoa. From what I read, it's always preferable, to wash the saponin and avoid a bitter taste. But I always wonder what to do, when a recipe asks to toast the quinoa - it doesn't toast s well with wet quinoa. What would you suggest?
gingerroot September 22, 2013
Hi Julie,
I did not rinse my quinoa because just as you suggest, I thought that it would not toast well if I rinsed it. The cooked quinoa was not bitter. Incidentally, the brand of quinoa I used claimed that it had already been rinsed and no rinsing was necessary. If you decide to make this I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you have success rinsing and then toasting. Cheers, Jenny (gingerroot)
Julie September 23, 2013
Hi gingerroot! I tried the recipe last night, with a few mods. I rinsed my quinoa, and added it like that to my pot. It probably took longer than it would have with dry quinoa, but after a while it did toast a bit and smelled very good. I didn't use any chili (I know... but I have young children who wouldn't have appreciated) and I use plain flour instead of rice flour. I don't know if the flour made a difference, but my cakes didn't hold together well, they would crumble apart when I tried to flip them. It was a bit better when I made them small and thick. But we didn't really care about the messy look and thought the flavours were incredible. We ate it with 2 fried eggs over a couple of cakes and some salsa on top. Hmmmm....
CravingSomethingHealthy September 19, 2013
These look absolutely amazing! I love quinoa cakes, but I think this recipe will be my new favorite. Can't wait to try it, and I linked to it on my blog. Posting a whole grains recipe round up next week. Thank you!
gingerroot September 20, 2013
Hi CravingSomething Healthy, Thank you so much! I look forward to hear what you think of them. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did. I'll be sure to check your blog next week. Cheers, Jenny (gingerroot)
Denise M. September 16, 2013
Hello, I am from Australia and love the sound of this recipe, but a hatch chile is not something we know about here. Would an ordinary long green chile do?
gingerroot September 16, 2013
Hi Denise,
Hatch chiles are nice because they have a lovely kick of heat. Can you get poblanos? They would make a good substitute. Otherwise I'd say you could sub any long green chile and if it is mild, could add something like a jalapeño for heat. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you give these a try!
SE September 15, 2013
Can't wait to try these! One question though--I always thoroughly rinse quinoa. Should I rinse it and then dry it (which seems tedious, but I'm willing) before toasting?
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Hi SE, I have to admit I did not rinse my quinoa when I made these cakes. I was worried I would not be able to dry them enough to toast well. I will say the brand I have right now says that the quinoa has already been rinsed and an additional rinse is not necessary. Of course I can't verify that it was really rinsed...
Let me know how it goes if you do rinse and dry (as well as any tips to thoroughly dry rinsed quinoa!).
cwya September 15, 2013
hi all 52ers. just a note to let you know you don't have to grow your own. i live in hatch chile territory. Every market sets up a roaster in the parking lot every fall to roast the fresh green chiles available all over NM. So if anyone wants a bag i would be thrilled to help. we're in the roasting season right now!
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Wow cwya! What a generous offer! I'm almost sure you can't send it to HI with our strict Ag laws but still that's an awesome idea.
Elizabeth P. September 15, 2013
@cwya, Hi! Can you sell/ship to Mississippi? Please let me know if you get a chance. Many thanks for your time!
cwya September 15, 2013
Sure i can ship anywhere that doesnt restrict agricultural products. highly unlikely that mississippi does but i do know they have ag laws in both hawai'i and california.
discriminatingpalate September 17, 2013
cwya, you could be a life saver. Any chance you can have some shipped to me , Florida, ASAP? (I would like to make this recipe for my husband on Friday, upon his return from a business trip to China). I'll cover the cost of expedited shipment. Please
Arrxx September 15, 2013
Thanks. I'll try and let you know...Appreciate your quick responses.
Arrxx September 15, 2013
Would plain rice flour work?
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Hi Arrxx, I think plain rice flour would work just as well. I used the mochiko because I had it on hand - my initial thought was to try plain rice flour but I didn't have any. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you give these a try!
icuqt3.14 September 15, 2013
So excited to read another food obsessed community member here on Oahu! I live at Sunset and am so psyched to drive to Kailua WF this morning to gather the chilies and buttermilk to try these out! Are the chilies in the fresh produce?
Kukla September 15, 2013
Yes they are.
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Hi icuqt3.14, Likewise! I've been on this site for a few years now and it is great to hear from another HI food52er! So glad to hear you are going to try these - hope you enjoy them as much as we did. Cheers, Jenny (gingerroot)
LoisonMaui September 15, 2013
We concur that NM Hatch chiles are definitely the best. We live on Maui and are growing our own. Seeds were purchased through the Univ. of NM to insure authenticity. I'm anxious to try your award winning recipe.
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Hi LoisonMaui, where on Maui? I have relatives in Kula. I just relocated to the windward side of Oahu and look forward to the increased growing possibilities compared to our old neighborhood. What a great idea to order them from UNM. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you try these. Cheers, Jenny (gingerroot)
Arrxx September 15, 2013
I'm always curious about new ingredients that I aren't familiar, go out and buy them for one recipe and then don't have any further use for them. So... any substitutes possible for sweet rice flour (mochiko). Regular rice flour possible? BTW I'm impressed that some members of our community have mochiko in their cupboards.
Kukla September 15, 2013
You can use King Arthur All Purpouse Gluten Free Flour mix or just grind white or brown rice in a Spice grinder.
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Kukla, I've been meaning to thank you for testing these and your thoughtful review. I love your recipes and was happy you enjoyed these!
Kukla September 15, 2013
You are very welcome Jenny and congratulations on a well deserved CP! I loved testing this recipe and had fun cooking your really Golden cakes. BTW I have a portion of the batter in my fridge that is waiting to be fried and this time I am using Queso Fresco instead of cheddar cheese.
gingerroot September 15, 2013
Yum! Queso Fresco!
Beautiful, M. September 15, 2013
This is fantastic! I made this for brunch this morning using leftover cooked quinoa we had in the fridge, with a sunnyside up egg on the side, and we all loved it! I think adding fresh corn kernels would be a great addition, too, which I'll try next time.
gingerroot September 15, 2013
I'm so glad you tried these, Beautiful, Memorable Food! I love your addition of a sunnyside up egg and fresh corn would be wonderful. Thanks for letting me know.