Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with Cilantro Chutney

Family-FriendlyBudgetIndianVegetarianLentilVeggie Burger

Elevate your basic veggie burger with the bold flavors of ginger, turmeric, coriander, and cumin. Top these Indian-inspired lentil burgers with cilantro chutney and you’ll want them on your weekly rotation forever!

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

We are meat-eaters in my household, but I like the idea of expanding my repertoire of vegetarian dishes so we can eat a few meatless meals every week.

Some of my favorite dishes are from Indian cuisine (Indian spiced dishes are like comfort food for me) and these vegetarian lentil burgers are packed with ginger, coriander, turmeric, and cumin. When the craving for Indian flavors strikes, these burgers hit the spot.

For this recipe, I broil the patties but you can also fry them. Either approach will yield a burger that is crisp on the outside and soft inside. 

HOW TO PICK THE BEST LENTILS

Most lentils cook quickly, and these red lentils (which are more yellow than red after cooking) are done in a flash. 

You could actually use any lentil you prefer—green, brown, or yellow—except perhaps small green French Puy lentils, which do not break down as well as others when cooked.

You can find red lentils at stores that stock Indian spices, or order them online.

The best lentil burger is served on a plate with halved grape tomatoes and a spoon of green chutney is resting on the plate next to the burger. A patterned napkin is to the right of the plate and small glass containers of yogurt and chutney are visible above.

TIPS FOR VEGGIE BURGERS THAT STICK TOGETHER

To make the best lentil burgers that stick together without being mushy, follow a few simple rules. 

  • Use the right lentil. I prefer red lentils, but you could also use brown lentils.
  • Try not to overcook the lentils. 
  • Cook lentils as you would cook pasta, using plenty of boiling salted water. When they are soft but still hold their shape, drain them really well, and let them continue to drain while you cook the vegetables and spices.
  • Eggs and breadcrumbs bind the burgers together.
  • Refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes before cooking them.

The best part about these burgers (in my humble opinion) is that the burger mix is made entirely in the skillet, so you won’t have extra bowls to wash! That’s a big win in my book. 

HOW TO COOK LENTIL BURGERS

After a 30-minute chill time, I prepare a baking sheet and turn on my broiler. I chose to broil the burgers because I’m not a big fan of frying (messy!) and I like to have one less pan to clean, but you could cook them in a skillet with olive oil if you like. 

A blue plate has an indian spiced lentil burger set next to halved grape tomatoes. The lentil patty, chutney and sprouts are visible inside the bun. A blue patterned napkin is folded next to the plate.

TIPS FOR MAKING CILANTRO CHUTNEY (EVEN IF YOU HATE CILANTRO)

In addition to the spices in the burger, I double the flavor by adding a fresh, piquant cilantro chutney that only takes minutes to make. 

This chutney is more like a spread than what we might normally think of as chunky chutney from a jar. Jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice whirled in a food processor makes the chutney make a balanced but spicy sauce. A dab of tangy, refreshing Greek yogurt provides the finishing touch.

If cilantro isn’t your favorite, skip it. Instead, spice up some mayonnaise with curry powder, or mix some chopped cucumber with yogurt and a pinch of cumin.

Go with your instincts. Ketchup isn’t my first choice, but it proved to be a kid-friendly option!

TIPS TO MAKE AHEAD AND FREEZE LENTIL BURGERS

  • To make up to two days ahead: Form the patties and refrigerate them, covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days before broiling, or broil them and reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350°F.
  • To reheat leftover burgers: Zap them in the microwave or reheat in a 350ºF oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • To make up to three months ahead: Freeze the cooked or uncooked burgers on a parchment-lined baking sheet. As soon as they are frozen, wrap each burger in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Defrost at room temperature. Broil the uncooked burgers or heat the cooked burgers in the oven (350°F for 10 to 15 minutes) until hot all the way through.

MORE VEGETARIAN RECIPES

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with Cilantro Chutney Recipe

  • Prep time: 35 minutes
  • Cook time: 12 minutes
  • 30 minutes chill time:
  • Yield: 4 burgers

Ingredients

For the Chutney:

  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves coarsely chopped to make 2 packed cups 
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from about 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the burgers:

  • 1 cup dry red lentils 
  • 2 teaspoons table salt, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece ginger root, unpeeled, cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for broiling the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs

To serve:

  • 4 hamburger buns or similar rolls
  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 lettuce leaves, a handful of sprouts, or greens of your choice

Method

1 Make the chutney: In a food processor, puree the cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth “ish”, scraping down the sides of the bowl two or three times. The mixture will still have some texture but should be predominately smooth. 

Transfer to a small bowl. Don’t wipe out the food processor. You’ll use it again in a second.

Food processor set on a marble background with cilantro and salt visible inside. Bowl of a food processor on a marble background. Cilantro and olive oil are pureed to make lentil burgers with chutney.

2 Pick over the lentils: Spread the lentils on a baking sheet and pick out small stones or pieces of dirt if there are any. Place them in a sieve and run them under cold water to rinse them. Drain. 

A baking sheet with dry red lentils spread in a single layer. The pan is on a marble background. A metal bowl is on a marble background with a colander of dry red lentils inside.

3 Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and the lentils to a boil. Adjust the heat to a low boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. 

At this point they should still hold their shape somewhat, though you will notice that the outer husks may have separated. Drain well in a fine-mesh colander or sieve. 

Small pot on a marble background with a colander of red lentils set inside.

4 Chop the vegetables: While the lentils are cooking and draining, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrot in the food processor until finely chopped.

Bowl of a food processor set on a marble background with chopped carrots, red onion and ginger inside. Bowl of a food processor on a marble background with minced carrots, red onion and ginger.

5 Cook the vegetables and spices: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.

Non stick skillet on a marble background with mashed lentils and spices inside. Non stick skillet on a marble background with indian spiced lentil filling inside.

6 Mash the lentils: Stir the well-drained lentils into the still-warm vegetables in the skillet. With a fork or potato masher, mash about half the mixture, leaving the other half intact.

Clear a space on one side of the skillet and add the eggs. Beat them well with a fork, and stir them into the lentils. Add the breadcrumbs and stir again. Let the mixture cool enough for you to handle and form into patties.

Non stick skillet set on a marble background with indian spiced lentil filling and a potato masher in the pan. Non stick skillet on a marble background with indian spiced lentil filling and a cracked egg in the pan. Non stick skillet set on a marble background with indian spiced lentil burger filling and a fork. Non stick skillet on a marble background with a fork and lentil burger filling and spices.

7 Form the patties: Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly brush it with oil. Form the lentil mixture into 4 patties that are about 4-inches across. Refrigerate the patties, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Best lentil burger patties on parchment paper set on a baking sheet with a marble background.

8 Cook the burgers: Set a rack 4 inches from the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Brush the tops with oil. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn carefully, brush with more oil, and brown on the other side (another 5 to 6 minutes.)

9 Serve the burgers: On four buns, place the burgers. Spread each with the about 1 tablespoon of the chutney and dollop 1 tablespoon of yogurt on top. Top with sliced cucumbers and lettuce or greens of your choice.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

More from Sally

6 Comments / Reviews

No ImageIndian Spiced Lentil Burgers with Cilantro Chutney

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Christine

    I can’t believe how easy and tasty these burgers are! We live off the grid and do not own a food processor so I ended up grating the vegetables with a box grater. We made the chutney in the blender and thus was a little too runny. Next time will pulse it to the proper consistency. Other than the blender, we did only use one pot to boil, fry, mix and mash.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. MG

    We made just the burgers and really liked them! But have a question…our lentils were drained very well, but once we added the eggs, the mixture was very wet. So we added twice the breadcrumbs to firm them up. And of course, we had to cook them longer and they came out a bit dry (but still tasty with a squirt of sriracha mayo). Any suggestions on what we could improve on? Or is the patty supposed to be really moist? Thanks; will be making these again!

  3. LaylaH

    So I’ll admit the whole time I was making these I was thinking “ a trip to Trader Joe’s would have saved me loads of time”. However, the family LOVED these and pronounced them so much better than what I buy in the store. They were a bit time consuming and not a one pot wonder, so not a busy weeknight meal. But the possibilities are endless and you can totally customize to your families tastes. I have already had requests to make this again. Thank you!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. M

    This.Was.EXCELLENT!
    I am super picky and this was really good. Tasted like something you’d get at a restaurant. The chutney added brightness and the yogurt/cucumber/lettuce combo was awesome. And the burger itself was great. I’m a slow prepper so this took about 2 hours – too much for a weeknight, but definitely a tasty weekend treat. Awesome recipe.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Eugenia

    what do recommend to make them vegan? replace the eggs, I mean…

    Show Replies (1)
The best lentil burger is served on a plate with halved grape tomatoes and a spoon of green chutney is resting on the plate next to the burger. A patterned napkin is to the right of the plate and small glass containers of yogurt and chutney are visible above.Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with Cilantro Chutney