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.
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.
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
- Red Lentil Dal
- Cauliflower Chickpea Curry
- Pressure Cooker Saag Tofu
- Chana Masala
- Vegetable Samosas with Mint Cilantro Chutney
Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with Cilantro Chutney
- 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
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.
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.
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.
Chop the vegetables:
While the lentils are cooking and draining, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrot in the food processor until finely chopped.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.