Spinach, Fava Bean and Quinoa Cakes

This is one of those happy stories about necessity, motherhood, and invention. Don’t you love those stories? Last week we arrived home after a couple of weeks away and needed to put together a dinner before we had a chance to go grocery shopping. I said to myself what I always say in these situations (probably out loud, too, since that’s how this crazy lady rolls these days). Helloooooo, pantry and freezer, I said. Helloooooo. I found frozen spinach and fava beans, dry quinoa, some still-totally-edible garlic, and a bevy of ground spices lying in wait. I also found that my mind wanted to wander toward a memory of some delicious little griddle cakes that I’d once made from the extremely memorable cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Twenty minutes later, I found my hands immersed in a perfect storm of some of my favorite healthy foods. Let me tell you, there’s no place my hands would rather be. And yours?

Vegan Spinach, Fava Bean, and Quinoa Cakes
Serves 4
These little green superfood bombs are great with just a squeeze of lemon but would also work well with some jazzed up Greek yogurt as a dipping sauce. And while they're a fitting one-dish dinner for four, they'd also work really well as finger food at a party with, say, a bunch of gluten-free vegans invited. Makes approximately 30 small cakes.
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
15 min
  1. 2 pounds frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  2. 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen fava beans
  3. 4 1/2 cups cooked quinoa*
  4. 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  6. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
  9. 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  10. A few grinds of black pepper
  11. Olive oil for pan-frying
  12. Lemon wedges for serving
  1. Squeeze out as much water from the spinach as possible and place spinach in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the fava beans and cook for two minutes. Drain. Place fava beans (including skins, if you like) in a food processor and pulse until a coarse puree forms. Add the puree to the mixing bowl.
  3. Add the quinoa, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and pepper to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon or with your hands to combine thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.
  4. Form the mixture into small patties, 2 to 3 tablespoons each, and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  5. Coat the bottom of a wide, heavy skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook the cakes in batches, without crowding, until golden brown on the underside, and then flip and cook until the second side is golden as well. Place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon slices.
  1. * To make 4 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, combine 1 1/2 cups well-rinsed raw quinoa with 2 1/4 cups water and a pinch of fine sea salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Let rest for 5 minutes before continuing.
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  • Fiona

    So, I’m guessing the fava beans are canned, since it doesn’t make sense to cook dried beans for two minutes. Why is cooking canned beans necessary?

    This sounds really interesting! Looking forward to trying it.ReplyCancel

  • Hi Fiona, sorry for the confusion. It honestly never occurred to me that there is such a thing as canned fava beans, though I’m not sure why it didn’t. This recipe uses fresh or thawed frozen fava beans, and I’ve just revised the recipe to reflect that.

    Fresh fava beans are abundant in the spring in many areas. Just pop them out of their giant pods. Often you would then blanch and peel them, but in this recipe there is no need to peel them.

    Thanks for pointing out the ambiguity!ReplyCancel

  • These sound absolutely perfect! What a lovely combination of flavours and the colour is just gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • These look amazing – I love the vibrant green. I’ll definitely be making these soon!ReplyCancel

  • This time of year I look for excuses to cook with fava beans – these look delicious. They remind me in appearance of falafel (which my husband is allergic to – chickpeas). I wonder how these would be wrapped in a pita with feta and tzatziki?ReplyCancel

  • These look delicious and healthy! Can’t wait to try them!ReplyCancel

  • I love, love how green and healthy these look. I’ve never attempted a quinoa cake before, but I’m looking forward to these!ReplyCancel

  • p.s. how was blogshop? did you go yet?ReplyCancel

  • Marissa, flavor-wise I think they’d be great substitutes for falafel. They are much softer, though, so you might want to add a bit of crunch. Cucumber? Slivers of red onion? You get the idea…. :)ReplyCancel

  • […] Spinach, Fava, and Quinoa Cakes from Carolyn of Umami Girl […]ReplyCancel

  • Sweet! I want to drizzle some yogurt and tahini on these. They would be great to pack in a lunch, too. Fresh and healthy. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Kt

    Can you use fresh spinach in the recipe?ReplyCancel

  • Hi Kt, thanks for your question. You could use steamed fresh spinach if you have a lot of it! The spinach does help to bind the cakes together. If it’s baby spinach you should be fine on the binding front. If it’s more mature spinach, you’ll want to cut it into longish, thinnish pieces for the best binding action.ReplyCancel

  • This recipe looks fantastic! I am actually hosting a fava bean linky party at http://www.2sisters2cities.com/2012/05/fresh-produce-tuesday-week-7-fava-beans as part of our Fresh Produce Tuesday series. I would love if you submitted this recipe!


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  • Vivian

    These look so good! I am just wondering what can I use as substitute for fava beans. What other things besides legumes would you recommend? My girlfriend can’t eat legumes but she really loves quinoa!ReplyCancel

  • Diana B

    Can these be baked instead of fried?ReplyCancel

    • Hi Diana, I haven’t tried baking them. The taste would be good, but I can’t guarantee they’d hold together as well. Sorry I can’t be more helpful. If you try it, I’d love if you’d report back. Thank you!ReplyCancel

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