Veggie Burger #5: Sweet potato, lentil, & sunflower burgers

After making four different veggie burgers and reading a lot of recipes, I decided that I had learned enough to attempt my own veggie burger recipe. I identified four components that make a successful veggie burger.

The Five Habits of Highly Successful Veggie Burgers

  1.  Structural integrity.  It has to hold together when cooked.  Otherwise you are making hash, not burgers.
  2. Not too sticky, not too smooth:  If the burger mix is super sticky it is hard to work with, and the burgers stick to both your fingers and the pan. And they need a little texture when you bite into them.
  3. Moistness:  A good burger must be juicy.   It can’t be dry or too dense.  This is a common problem with store bought veggie burgers.
  4. Flavor:  the most successful burgers are filled with flavor, with savory deliciousness brightened by lighter notes.
  5. It has to have a crispy outer crust when cooked, with a soft interior.




An example of a Highly Successful Veggie Burger

Then I put it all together:

For structural integrity, I relied mainly on mashed sweet potato.  That stuff really holds together, and it has a good rich flavor.

To control stickiness, I used dried whole wheat bread crumbs, because I happened to have some on hand.They worked great. Just adjust the amount as needed.

For depth of flavor I went with ground sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and pureed lentils (they also help hold things together).

For moistness, flavor, and texture, I added a lot of minced vegetables and some red wine vinegar.  The fresh herbs, jalapeno, and greens worked especially well.

For the crispy crust, I pan fried them in olive oil on medium high heat in my trusty cast iron skillet.

We served them in pita pockets, with lettuce and tomato.  They were good with ketchup, but even better with a little plain yogurt.


Veggie Burger Verdict:  These got rave reviews for taste, and the patties were sturdy yet moist.  The best veggie burger so far, and a pita was perfect as the bread to go with it.

One big problem:  these were a lot of work to make, because they had so many components, and almost all the components had to be cooked before assembly.  I’ll be looking to see if I can simplify it.  But they’re definitely worth making, especially if you have some leftover cooked lentils or mashed potato in your refrigerator.

Want to make your own?  Here’s the recipe.



Sweet potato, lentil, and sunflower burgers


Delicious and substantial, one of these in a pita pocket makes a meal. The seeds and bean give a dense richness, the vegetables give lots of flavor.  They are sturdy enough to stand up to cooking on an outdoor grill.  There is quite a bit of chopping and prep, but these are worth the trouble, and you can multi-task a lot of it.  Make a big batch and freeze the extra. If you have leftover lentil soup or mashed potatoes, consider using up your leftovers to make these.

Makes about 12 hefty burgers.

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cup mushrooms, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup onion, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil for saute
  • 1 medium sweet potato, steamed and mashed, about 1 1/2 cups (white mashed potatoes would also work)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar, apple cider or red wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage or 1 tsp dried
  • 1/2 cup fresh greens, chopped.  I used cilantro, italian parsley, and green onion.
  • 1 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs.  I used Panko – they worked great.

Simmer the lentils in about in 2 cups of water with the bay leaf, until the lentils are soft and the water is evaporated.  Once it is cool, puree in a food processor or blender.

While the lentils are cooking, get the mushrooms, celery, garlic, onion, and jalapeno evenly minced.  If you use a food processor, do not over chop – the vegetables should have a little texture.  Saute in olive oil until soft, with a little salt and pepper, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.  (If you don’t want the heat, leave out the jalapeno.)

Peel and steam one medium sized sweet potato.  When it is soft, mash it with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Grind the sunflower seeds in a blender or food processor until fine.

In a big bowl mash together all of the various components, along with the breadcrumbs.  If it is very sticky, add some extra breadcrumbs.  Taste and add salt, pepper, and vinegar if needed.  Shape into substantial patties.  You can cook them right away, or refrigerate them for later.  They also freeze well.  To freeze, wrap individual patties in plastic wrap.

When you are ready to cook them, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet and fry over medium heat.  Flip when browned.

Serve with lettuce and tomato in pita bread, with yogurt or your favorite burger condiments.