Sprouted Black Lentil and Walnut Burgers
These vegetarian-friendly, highly nutritious sprouted black lentil and walnut burgers are anything but blah. Easy to make and packed with easily-digested protein and, most importantly, tons of flavor, you’ll want to make these every night of the week.
A few years ago, at the beginning of my whole foods/cooking from scratch/knowing where my food comes from journey, I got really into homemade veggie burgers. And unfortunately, a lot of the recipes I came across were really tedious and time consuming, only to end up with a really bland, cakey patty. I was overwhelmed and disappointed until I came across the recipe for Lentil-walnut burgers from Everyday Food Great Food Fast. It’s super flavorful, and the texture is great. The walnuts lend a nice richness while the lentils have a fantastic meaty texture to them. And both are remarkably nutritious … if prepared properly. And that’s where my tweaking of the recipe comes in.
I know, it seems ridiculous to spend the time soaking, let alone sprouting these beans because lentils cook so fast even when dried. The issue here isn’t flavor or texture, it’s the anti-nutrients found in the bean itself. Specifically, phytic acid. I talk about it in a lot more detail in a previous post I’ve written about properly preparing beans. So, if you have the time, please read it! But if not, just know that phytic acid is in all nuts, legumes, and whole grains, and it prevents your body from absorbing nutrients in these super foods. Fortunately, there are ways to significantly decrease the amount of phytic acid in these foods, and sprouting and soaking are two really effective ways. So today, we’re going to do both.
It’s not as scary or complicated as it sounds. Beans are meant to sprout so that they can make more beans. And you don’t need soil to do it. Just a clean glass jar, some cheesecloth, a rubber band, and water. (I actually usually use these sprouting lids because I sprout often enough that it was worth it for me to but them. But for a first-timer, cheesecloth and rubber bands are perfect) Soak overnight, drain and rinse a few times a day for a couple of days, and you’ll start to see little sprouts. And for this recipe’s purposes, that’s where we stop growing and cook them for our burgers. And they are lovely.
I like to use black lentils because, well, they’re beautiful. But more than that, their texture is perfect for these burgers. They hold together well, but aren’t crumbly. If you can’t find black lentils, you can use Du Puy lentils or really any green or brown lentils that haven’t been split. Which is why red lentils are a no-no. They won’t sprout because they’ve been split, and they cook so differently for the same reason. You’ll end up with a mushy, porridgey texture instead of a firm one.
Yes, this recipe takes a couple of days from start to finish. And that might seem overwhelming. But really, it’s mostly hands off time until you’re ready to cook. And it only takes about 30 minutes at that point. I recommend serving these with really good, homemade hamburger buns. Not the pasty grocery store ones. For these photos I tried this recipe for brioche burger buns, and it was fantastic and is now printed out in my lovely old-school recipe binder. They were the perfect balance of tender but strong enough to hold up to the hefty toppings.
- 3/4 cup black lentils, picked over
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, preferably organic
- 1 large egg
- olive oil, for cooking the burgers
- For the quick pickled red onion: (optional)
- 1 medium red onion, sliced paper thin
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- fine sea salt
- Place the lentils in a large glass jar and cover with lukewarm water by at least 2 inches. Cover the jar with a double layer of cheese cloth secured with a rubber band or a sprouting lid. Let soak for 8-12 hours. After soaking, the lentils should have plumped significantly. Drain and rinse. Place the jar with the opening at the bottom at a 45 degree angle in a bowl. Rinse and drain the jar 2~3 times a day until little sprouts begin to form. As soon as the sprouts show, they are ready. This should only take 2~3 days, depending on the ambient temperature in the room. At this point you can cook the lentils or place them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Meanwhile, add the walnuts to a separate jar and cover with at least 2 inches of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let soak for 8~12 hours. Rinse and drain completely and pat dry. Preheat an oven to 300°F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven until dried out and lightly toasted, about 15~20 minutes. Remove from the over and let cool.
- To cook the lentils, add the lentils to a medium sauce pan and cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer and cover with a lid. Let the lentils cook until tender, about 8~10 minutes. Drain well and let cool.
- To make the pickled red onion, whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the onion and toss to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the walnuts, panko, garlic, cumin, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, soy sauce, and process until finely ground. Add the lentils and pulse until roughly chopped, making sure to retain some of the texture of the beans.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Add the lentil mixture and mix well. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape them into patties about 3/4 in thick.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the patties. Cook until crisp and browned, 8-10 minutes. Flip over carefully and cook another 8-10 minutes on the second side until crisp and browned. Serve on a brioche bun with sliced tomatoes and pickled red onion.