Weeknight CookingWhat to CookVegetarian CookingBurgers

The Veggie Burger That Turns Into 3 Different Meals

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Making weeknight dinners on a tight schedule is my thing (see: my book), and I never stop searching for simple, adaptable, satisfying zingers that lift me up at the end of the day. My favorite recipes are both familiar and surprising, highly adaptable, and have pieces that can be made ahead of time, leaving us with slightly re-jiggered leftovers for tomorrow's lunchboxes and dinner.

These vegetable burgers fulfill all of my weeknight dinner criteria. To prove it to you, I’ve outlined ways you can adapt this recipe to satisfy your tastes (or what you have in the cabinet), ways to prepare pieces of it beforehand (nothing better than getting a head start), and ideas of how to transform leftover burgers into a second (and equally exciting) meal.

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Photo by Elizabeth Cecil

You'll taste a golden-brown crust—psst: don't rush to flip them—and a filling of creamy lentils spiked with caramelized cauliflower. At first, you won't notice the subtle heat from the red pepper flakes, but give it a few chews and it comes through nicely. Add fresh cilantro and a generous squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it all up.

How to Adapt

Spice: Swap the red pepper flakes for curry powder, cumin, or chili powder.

Legumes: Replace red lentils with chickpeas.

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Fresh Herbs: Try basil or parsley in place of cilantro.

Photo by Elizabeth Cecil

Flavor Additions: Fold chopped roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, or sundried tomatoes into your burger mixture.

Sauce: Slather your buns with your favorite sauce from pesto to spiced mayo, greek yogurt, BBQ sauce, mashed avocado, or hummus.

Toppings: Almost any raw veggie makes a good burger topper—red onion, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, lettuce, avocado, slaw, carrot ribbons.

Photo by Elizabeth Cecil

What to Make Ahead

Cauliflower: Roast the cauliflower and store in the fridge.

Lentils: Cook the lentils, drain, and store in the fridge.

Patties: Make the burger mixture, form into patties, and store on a baking sheet until mealtime.

Photo by Elizabeth Cecil

Tomorrow

Lettuce Wraps: Roughly chop a leftover burger and crisp in a pan. Fill individual Bibb lettuce leaves with a scoop of deconstructed burger and top with shaved cucumbers, fresh cilantro leaves, shredded carrots, and fresh mint. Squirt over lime juice. This is best assembled just before eating.

Poached Eggs: Serve leftover burgers over beds of greens, topped with eggs.

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Spicy Cauliflower-Red Lentil Burgers

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Makes 7 burgers
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • Big pinch red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 of one lemon, juiced
  • A handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • To serve: buns, smashed avocado, sprouts, sliced tomato, shaved purple cabbage
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