BBQ Lentil Burgers in Lettuce Cups

The burger patties can be served in bread buns if desired. I find them quite filling as they are, so prefer to wrap in crunchy lettuce cups.


  • 1 cup brown lentils pre-soaked 6-8 hours (or 2 x 400g cans brown lentils)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 carrots grated
  • 3 slices wholegrain bread gluten-free bread can be used
  • large handful parsley mint and/or chives
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 heaped teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 iceberg lettuce to serve washed and separated into leaves


  • Drain and rinse the soaked lentils in a sieve. Place in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well and stir through the salt. Set aside to cool a little.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion, cooking for 5 minutes. Add the carrot and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Roughly tear the bread slices and place in a food processor with the herbs and blend into breadcrumbs.
  • Add the eggs, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, drained lentils and onion mixture. Pulse half a dozen times to bind the mixture.
  • Squeeze a small amount in your hand to check it holds together, pulsing a few more times to combine if required.
  • Using wet hands shape the mix into 5cm round patties. Heat a BBQ plate or frying pan over a moderate heat. Add a splash of oil and fry the burgers in batches until golden on both sides. Arrange on a serving platter accompanied by crispy lettuce leaves, smokey mayo and red onion pickle.

Red Onion Pickle

½ red onion
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon chilli powder

Using a mandolin or sharp knife slice the onion thinly. Place the onion in a small bowl along with the salt, lime juice and chilli. Use the back of a spoon to bruise and soften the onion. Set aside for 15 minutes to pickle. After this time the onion will be a vibrant pink colour.

Smokey Paprika Mayo

4 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Check flavour adding extra lime juice or paprika is needed.

Although my family isn’t vegetarian I focus on meat as an accompaniment to vegetables rather than the main of a dish, eating small quantities several times a week. The rest of the week we tuck into an array of plant-world proteins.

The key to cooking with dried legumes such as lentils and beans is to go big on flavour. In these burger patties sautéed onions and carrot add sweetness, mustard adds pungency, herbs for freshness and a splash of vinegar rounds it off. Cooking is alchemy of flavour building – any good chef or home cook learns to layer tastes to find that perfect balance.

When cooking dried legumes, pre-soaking in a bowl of water for 6-8 hours will make them easier to digest and cook more evenly. It is important to not add salt when cooking legumes as it can toughen the skins. Instead add salt once they are tender and leave to infuse into the cooked legume as they cool. This will ensure they are uniformly salted, otherwise the resulting burgers will taste bland no matter how heavy the flavourings.

It goes without saying lentils need to be served with flavoursome condiments. My picks are simple smoked paprika mayo and fiery red onion pickle, but if you have a favourite sauce or burger accompaniment, go right ahead. Happy summer barbecuing!

*Recipe first published 3rd January 2018 on

Join the Conversation

  1. Yum! These look so good, can’t wait to try them!

    1. Thanks Liz 🙂

  2. You read my mind, I will be cooking these this week for sure. Thanks

    1. Thanks Diane, I hope you enjoy them. I family favourite around here!

  3. Heather cameron says:

    When I lived in Christchurch before the earthquake, there used to be a small cafe in New Brighton, who used to make vegetarian food and this was on the menu. I loved them, and my mouth waters with the taste I remember. I went back later but the cafe was gone. I am sure this is something like they used to make. So I shall give it my best shot.

    1. Hi Heather, I hope these fit the bill. I have added loads of flavour elements to work with the earthiness of the lentils. Enjoy!

  4. Hi Nicola,
    These sound great! Just wondering if the 3 slices of wholegrain bread could be replaced with sourdough breadcrumbs? If so, how much?

    1. Hi Julia, I just saw your comment! It is about 1 cup bread crumbs. You want the mix to hold together nicely and not be too wet.
      Enjoy! Nicola

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