Years ago, I found myself the only vegetarian at a barbecue hosted by co-workers. I’ve dabbled with vegetarianism on and off; this was during one of my “on” phases. Thoughtfully, or so I thought, I packed my own frozen meatless patties so no would even notice that I wasn’t eating meat. Of course, that didn’t happen.
Instead my hard commercial discs became the center of everyone’s attention.
“These don’t even look like meat!” remarked one of the “hosts.” He considered himself a comic. He cooked them – right on the same grill with the ground beef – and then tasted one afterward. “No wonder you’re so skinny, you’re eatin’ cardboard!”
These mushroom and lentil burgers would shut that guy up. They offer a similar meaty umami quality to the real thing. Topped with cheese, it hits the same satisfying receptors a traditional burger. Make your own breadcrumbs by either pulverizing an extra hamburger bun or leftover bread in a food processor; these can be made from leftover gluten-free breads as well.
This calls for steak seasoning. I am a fan of the Montreal Steak Seasoning from World Spice Merchants in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, although you can certainly use the classic Montreal Steak Seasoning from McCormick, or use your own favorite blend. You can use canned pre-cooked lentils available on market shelves, but the texture of making them from dried beans is superior for burgers and takes 20 (hands-free) minutes.
Pre-cooked lentils come in 15 oz. cans so if you’re using those, you might as well double the recipe since these freeze so well. Topping with cheese is optional. Great toppings for these burgers include sliced avocado, tomatoes and mixed greens. One cup dry lentils yields about two cups cooked. Makes four burgers and is easily doubled. These mushroom and lentil burgers can be made a day ahead and then simply re-heated on the grill.
Mushroom and Lentil Burgers
- 1 cup dry green or red lentils OR 8 oz. 225g pre-cooked lentils
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or cooking spray
- ½ medium onion 225g, chopped (3/4 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 6 oz. cremini or Portobello mushrooms 180g, chopped fine (2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon steak seasoning optional
- 6 oz. cheese
- Heat a large ovenproof skillet (such as cast iron) over medium-high heat, adding a bit more vegetable oil. Cook the patties for about four minutes on one side until browned, adjusting the heat so it doesn’t burn. Then put into the oven for about 10 minutes. If you want to make cheese burgers, remove the patties after six minutes, add the cheese and finish under the broiler until the cheese melts.
Photos by Kathleen Flinn. This page may contain affiliate links. Originally posted in 2013; it has been updated.