vegan beet + lentil burgers


I'm going to put this out there right away: these are one of my favorite foods. We've had Isa Chandra's take on beet burgers several times in our tiny kitchen and they. never. disappoint. What I love most (I think) about them is her obvious decision to cook these on a stovetop grill or in a cast iron. Of course! As a burger, vegetarian or otherwise, is meant to be cooked!

After these black bean burgers entered a steady rotation in our weekly dinners and since I have pretty-much-mostly distanced myself from the veggie burgers you can find in the freezer section (not all, technically, but most of the ones I've ventured towards have way too much unnecessary stuff), I am now most in love with these, whose only binders include some whole wheat bread crumbs and, ahem, almond butter.

Don't worry! It's not weird! It makes so much sense!

For this recipe, you will need:

1 1/4 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked brown lentils, drained
1 cup shredded beets (about one bigass beet, maybe two mediums)
1/2 cup fine whole wheat bread crumbs
3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons almond butter (Isa suggest creamy, I only had chunky: chunky won)
1 teaspoon finely crushed (or chopped) fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

You can also add burger buns, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and whatever else you like to top your burgers with to this list of ingredients. To each their own - to me, they're perfect as is with only a little extra onion on top.

What's also great about this recipe is that you can have most of your main ingredients prepared in advance, whether earlier that day or using leftover rice from last night's dinner.

For making your own bread crumbs, just take some day old bread and allow to dry out on the countertop (or quickly in the broiler or toaster). Allow to fully cool and harden further and then pulse in a food processor until you've achieved the right crumb consistency, about 10-20 pulses. About two regular slices of bread will make enough crumbs for these patties, but making extra also works if you want to keep some on hand for other recipes (refrigerate for up to one week).

In the bowl of a food processor, add your brown rice, lentils, shredded beets and garlic. Pulse about 20 times or until it all starts to blend together (leaving a little texture is key, though).

Add this mixture to a large bowl and add in your bread crumbs, onion, almond butter, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Isa suggests using your hands to mix well (as you would with, well, meat), but my chime-in is that if you have some disposable gloves handy and aren't looking to have a permanently purple hand, that may help. Not using your hands is also an option, but it might take you a little longer to get everything evenly combined and, let's face it, it's also just not as fun.

Tightly cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for thirty minutes or long enough for the mixture to set. (It should already be pretty close, but the chilling just makes forming the patties a little easier.)

When the time has come, preheat a cast iron or stovetop grill over medium heat. Lightly coat with your olive oil and quickly form the patties -- also a hands-on job and if you've already ditched your gloves from before, oh well. Mine came out less than uniform, but the burger-forming police were busy that night so I got away with it. This time.

Place the patties in the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes per side, depending on how much char and crunch you want. My personal preference is a decent amount of char without being fully blackened. Obviously you're not worried about how "cooked" they are so much as how warm they are. You get it. This isn't your first time.

As mentioned previously, these stand up to buns and do just as well alone - what do you think?

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