A veggie burger is a peculiar thing. Sure, it comes in the form of a patty and it’s typically served on a bun, but it’s not really a burger. Well, let me walk that back a bit, a lot of veggie burgers aren’t really burgers. Some veggie burgers (often made with tofu or tempeh) do their darndest to approach the flavor and texture of meat. But most are made with black beans and chickpeas and sweet potatoes. They’re freaking delicious but you’re not liable to mistake them for ground beef. But still, we call them ‘burgers’ and by doing so we kind of set them up for failure.
Vegetarian food is not bad. I realize I may have legions of die-hard “carnivores” vehemently disagreeing with me, but I will not back down. Plus, if you consider yourself a “carnivore” you’re exaggerating because you’ve probably eaten cereal or an apple at some point in your life. You’re an omnivore and there ‘ain’t no shame in your game. But even if you’d prefer to eat two of every animal, I can guarantee that there is a vegetarian food item out there that you actually like. You see, it’s not that vegetarian food is bad. As I mentioned before, it’s not. No, vegetarian food just suffers from poor PR.
What do I mean by that? Well, take these Black Lentil Veggie Burgers for example. These burgers are delicious. I know, I ate them, I like them and I’m well acquainted with eating meat…Please, don’t let your mind wander. I found them as satisfying as I would a normal burger, but had I been craving an actual burger I would not have eaten them as a substitute. These Black Lentil Veggie Burgers would not have won that game because they aren’t burgers. A burger is a burger – you dig?
I think vegetarian cuisine gets a bad rap because so many of its foods are billed as substitutions. Can’t have turkey? Have tofukey. Can’t indulge in bacon? Have tempeh coated in liquid-smoke. Most of the time, a vegetarian stand-in for something carnivorous is not remotely close to the real deal and is thus disappointing. But what would happen if you just let vegetarian food be vegetarian food?
I don’t really have an answer to that question. I mean, I would appear to be part of the problem, I did call my recipe “Black Lentil Veggie Burgers” after all. But I did that to be more-or-less descriptive. I suppose they could be called “cakes” or “fritters”, but these terms don’t seem to adequately describe them either. So, I guess we’re stuck calling veggie burgers “burgers”. It’s not a pressing problem. To tell you the truth, this whole interlude is marginally ridiculous and painfully nerdy. But this is what it is to be in my head. This is the type of thing my mind likes to tease apart and obsess over. Yes, my brain wants to know if vegetarian cuisine needs its own terminology. I’m just going to assume you’ve all clicked away by now.
Okay, let’s talk about more practical things, namely, how to make these Black Lentil Veggie Burgers. As with most veggie burgers, these bad boys benefit from chilling before frying. They won’t hold together very well in the pan without a good dose of cold. Having said that, these patties do hold together remarkably well for a veggie burger. So, if you’re pressed for time and there’s no way in hell your family will allow for such time luxuries as chilling, you can form them and slap them in the pan. They will hold, but they will be more difficult to flip.
The carrot slaw can be made in advance if you’re making these for a crowd. I’d say you can whip it up about three days in advance and it will still taste gorgeous on game day. I ate this slaw for a few days and the flavor only intensified. The carrots, unsurprisingly, lost a little of their crispness, but they were by no means disappointing.
So, that about does it for these Black Lentil Veggie Burgers with Harissa Carrot Slaw. They’re extremely tasty, satisfying and filling. Sure, they aren’t really burgers, but they do make for one hell of a meal. Make them today, even if you think veggie burgers are blasphemous because these babies might just change your mind.
Black Lentil Veggie Burgers with Harissa Carrot Slaw
Black Lentil Veggie Burgers
- 1 sweet potato scrubbed
- 1 cup dried black lentils
- 1 cup wild rice
- 4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt divided
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley coarsely chopped
- 1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 8 brioche burger buns
Harissa Carrot Slaw
- 5 small carrots peeled & cut into ribbons
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Saffron Mint Yogurt Spread
- Pinch of saffron
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Veggie Burgers
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Prick the sweet potato all over with a fork. Wrap the potato tightly in tin foil and place in the oven. Roast the potato for 1 hour or until tender. Remove the potato from the oven, unwrap it and cut it in half. Set aside to cool completely.
- While the potato is roasting, place the lentils, wild rice and water in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of the salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 40 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and fluff with a fork. Transfer the rice and lentils to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
- Scoop the sweet potato flesh from the skin and add it to the lentil mixture. Add in the cilantro, parsley, garlic, ginger, spices and the remaining salt. Using clean hands, integrate the ingredients into one another until a uniform mixture forms. Form into 8 equal-sized patties and chill for 30 minutes.
- When ready to cook, pour an inch of vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the patties to the oil. Fry the patties until crisp on both sides, about 3-4 minutes a side. I did this in stages, working with 3-4 patties at a time.
- Transfer the finished burgers to a plate lined with paper towel and place in a 150°F oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Slaw
- Place the carrots, parsley and almonds in a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk the garlic, olive oil, harissa, lemon juice and salt together. Pour the mixture over the carrots, parsley and almonds and toss to coat. Transfer the slaw to the fridge and chill until ready to serve.
For the Yogurt
- Place the saffron in a pinch bowl and add the boiling water. Leave the saffron to steep for 15 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer drain the saffron, reserving the steeping liquid and discarding the solids. Pour the steeping liquid into a small bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, mint and salt. Stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve.
- Spoon a tablespoon of the yogurt spread on the bottom half of a brioche bun and place a black lentil veggie burger on top. Top the burger with a mound of the carrot slaw and place the other half of the brioche bun on top.
- Serve immediately with beer.