Red Lentil Dal Burger

Red Lentil Dal Burger
Red Lentil Dal Burger

I LOVE dal.  It’s almost a perfect food — cheap, easy to make, adaptable, tasty…  But it can be difficult, like so many other things, to order out at a restaurant with allergies.  Dal is one of those dishes that seems to have a thousand and one “family recipes” so you never know what you might encounter when you order it out, though ghee is the most common questionable ingredient, cream is sometimes used.

The real question is why it took so long for me to learn to make my own.

When we were talking veggie burgers that would be grillable, this was the one of the first things that came to mind.  It would be different from your standard Boca (which is soy-based), but wouldn’t even attempt to be like a meat burger.  Flavor would be the key.  In this case, rather than even attempt to interpret multiple recipes and see what might sound good, I went on instinct, with flavors I knew I liked that I thought would stand up to grilling in a patty shape.  The mustard seeds and the chia seeds add a nice bit of texture and crunch, but the key is the counter-intuitive practice of blooming the spices in hot oil and adding them to the beans at the end of cooking.

You will need to cool down the dal and then briefly (an hour or so) refrigerate the burgers, so plan ahead or make these the day before.

Lentil Burgers with Authentic Grill Marks
Lentil Burgers with Authentic Grill Marks

Red Lentil Dal Burgers

In medium saucepan, mix:

  • 1 cup red lentils, washed and sorted
  • 3 cups water

Bring to boil and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils no longer retain structural integrity.  Remove from heat.

Spice mix to add to dal:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 2 Tablespoons microplaned ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced cilantro

Heat a small skillet over medium low heat until hot.  Add the oil.  Let it heat up a minute, until it shimmers.  Add the mustard AND COVER THE PAN (ask me how I know this).  When the mustard seeds have popped some, quickly add the onion and cover for another 30 seconds or so.  Otherwise, you will be finding popped mustard seeds when you move out.  When the onion is nicely browned, add the rest of the spices and cook until the garlic is fragrant and cooked, stirring very frequently so as not to burn anything.

Add the spice mix to the lentils along with

  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds, whole (use maybe 1-1/4 T if ground, but you’ll miss the crunch in here)

Mix well and then taste — adjust the seasonings (particularly salt) if necessary.

Chill this mixture until completely cool, and then use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to make patties — keep these no larger than, say, an average coffee mug’s opening, and they will stay together even on a regular grill — go bigger at your own risk.

These are fully cooked, so just singe and warm them on the grill, and serve with lime wedges.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a bun, but if you need one, maybe check out the not pitas I originally made to go with them.

Summer perfection -- the veggie burger
Summer perfection — the veggie burger

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