We eat meatless at least once a week but we rarely have meatless burgers. To be honest, when I have a burger, I want the real thing, not cheap meat at a fast food place or some kind of imitation-meat. But these burgers were different. Actually, they reminded me more of a kofte or some kind of Middle Eastern meatball (perhaps since they are stuffed inside a pita and topped with a yogurt cilantro sauce instead of the topped with cheddar cheese and encased in a hamburger bun like my usual burger).
Regardless of what you call it, these were wonderful and surprisingly meaty. My husband said he would have actually asked what kind of meat it was if I hadn't already told him they were meatless. There's a bit of spice from the red pepper flakes (which you can tailor to your liking) but is cooled by the yogurt cilantro sauce. The coriander and cumin spices give it more of a Middle Eastern flair.
I prepped the lentils and walnuts earlier in the day so arranging the burgers was a cinch. Also, I made the burgers about 30 minutes before I needed to cook them so I just popped them in the fridge until they needed to cook.
We served this with the yogurt sauce and pita as well as any additional toppings such as lettuce (I used both romaine and arugula), sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion, pickles, hummus (I actually liked the hummus on the burgers!). I had a vinegar coleslaw on the side and extra pita for dipping in the hummus. Oh, and these burgers also made for delicious leftovers!
Spicy Lentil & Walnut Burgers
Taken from: Handle the Heat
- 3/4 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 1/3 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used 1/4 teaspoon for just a bit of spice)
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large egg
- whole wheat pita bread or whole wheat buns
- tomato, bell pepper, red onion, pickles, hummus, etc. for topping (if desired)
- 3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt (I used 1/4 cup of nonfat plain and 1/4 cup of 2% plain Greek)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- This step 1 can be done ahead of time: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with 1-inch of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 15-20 minutes. Drain well and let cool. Meanwhile, spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly darkened. Let cool.
- In a food processor, combine toasted walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Process until finely ground. Add the lentils and 1 tablespoon of the oil and pulse until coarsely chopped (some whole lentils should remain).
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Add the lentil-walnut mixture, mix well. Divide mixture into 4 equal parts, roll into balls, and flatten with the palm of your hands into 3/4-inch thick patties. Refrigerate patties until ready to cook.
- For the yogurt-cilantro sauce, whisk yogurt, cilantro, and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the burgers; cook until crisped and browned, turning gently with a thin-edged spatula, 8-10 minutes per side. Once cooked transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Serve burger patties on pita bread, top with yogurt sauce and other desired toppings.