Vegetarian “burgers” can be pricey and some have very processed ingredients. These lentil burgers are incredibly cheap and fairly easy to make. You boil lentils until tender, saute onions, and then mix the drained cooked lentils with the sauteed onions, breadcrumbs and some seasonings. Shape, bake and serve.
The only thing to bear in mind is that the recipe is a bit time consuming–mostly hand-off time while you wait for the lentils to cook (about 45 minutes) and then bake (another 45 minutes). The actual preparation of the burger mix goes fairly quickly. Just plan on making this recipe when you have other stuff to do around the house for a couple of hours.
The recipe is adapted from the recipe for Lentil Loaf in The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Austism Cookbook, which in turn adapted it from the Clarksville, Maryland Great Sage Restaurant (the meatloaf doesn’t seem to be on the menu anymore, but here is a review by Richard Gorelick that describes it as follows: “Great Sage’s take on the classic vegan ‘meat loaf’ ($13.99) combines seasoned lentils, walnuts, and grains with a moistening barbecue sauce. Sides of mashed potatoes arrive ladled with homemade onion gravy, and lemon-sautéed broccoli sprinkled with sesame seeds. I liked the dish’s assertively peppery seasoning and the way the loaf held together.”
I’ve made this recipe twice (so far). The first time I cut corners and left out the cooked brown rice and walnuts from the recipe. The second time I added those ingredients. The burgers tasted pretty much the same. Both ways, these burgers were a huge hit at my house.
Vegan Lentil Burgers
This will make two “meat” loaves or 12-16 burgers. The first time I made this recipe, I cheated and left out two main ingredients (walnuts and cooked rice) and lots of seasoning ingredients (bay leaves, sage, thyme, garlic), plus I turned the mixture into burgers instead of meatloaves, and the results were still great. When first cooked the burgers were crisp outside and a bit mushy inside, but when cooled and reheated, the burgers had a much firmer texture.
3 cups, 300g. uncooked lentils
4 bay leaves (I left this out)
2 Tbl. canola oil (I used olive oil and I didn’t measure)
1 1/2 cups onion, diced (I used 4 onions)
1 cup, 100g. walnuts, toasted and chopped (I left this out the first time and put it in the second time I made the recipe–good both ways)
1/2 cup, 60 g. gluten-free breadcrumbs (I used regular bread crumbs)
1 cup, 165 g. cooked brown rice (I left this out the first time I made this and added it in the second time–either way is fine)
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup, 60 ml. soy sauce (I used this plus some Worcestershire sauce, also about 4 Tbl.)
1 1/2 Tbl., 15 g. minced garlic (I left this out and added it in the second time I made the recipe–either way is fine)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbl. dried thyme (I left this out)
1 Tbl. dried sage (I left this out)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
For glazing loaves: 2 cups barbecue sauce (I skipped this)
Put lentils in a large pot with the bay leaves (I skipped the bay leaves). Add water to cover the lentils by 2 inches. Simmer the lentils until tender, about 45 minutes, adding water as necessary to keep the lentils covered with water. Drain the lentils and let cool (the original recipe specifies that you should spread out the lentils on a baking sheet and refrigerate them, presumably to maximize the evaporation and dry out the lentils as much as possible to avoid excess moisture in the final burger–I didn’t do this.).
Remove the bay leaves from the lentils and put the well drained lentils in a mixer bowl (actually, I used a food processor to puree the lentils; this took a few batches).
Meanwhile slowly saute the onions (and garlic if using) in the oil until golden brown. The original recipe calls for adding the onions and the rest of the ingredients to the mixer bowl, but I was using a food processor. I added the sauteed onions to the food processor with some of the already pureed lentil. The resulting onion/lentil puree got mixed in with the lentil mush already in the bowl. To this I added the bread crumbs, ketchup, barbecue sauce, salt, pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and mixed well.
The original recipe calls for putting the mixture into greased and parchment lined loaf pans (6 cup each). The loaves are covered with more greased parchment paper before being baked for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees. The top layer of parchment gets removed at this point, the tops of the loaves get slathered with the extra barbecue sauce, and the loaves bake an additional 6 minutes. The loaves rest for an hour before being unmolded and sliced. The resting time is key to the loaves holding together properly.
I didn’t follow this procedure. I shaped patties and placed them on nonstick foil (this is key, although parchment might work okay, too; if you use well greased regular foil the burger stick a little bit) on a baking sheet and baked the patties at 425 degrees until crispy on the outside (30-45 minutes). They were a bit mushy on the inside straight from the oven. When cooled and reheated the texture was firmer.