Getting Inventive with Leftovers: Delicious, Healthy Grain Burgers in Five Easy Steps!


Thursday night express post!

Thanks so much for all the great feedback on my curried millet and goldenberry salad bowl. It’s truly one of my favorite recent recipes, and I’m delighted that it piqued your interest in the magic of goldenberries! For more on these guys, you can check out the info on the Navitas site.

As delicious as this grain dish was, I realized very quickly upon making it that I should have cut the recipe in half, and prepared two servings, rather than four. I won’t be home this weekend, and the the idea of scarfing down the whole recipe just to use it up didn’t appeal. Instead, I decided to turn it into something new: chickpea millet burgers with goldenberries and gojis. Bam! And all that this little “transformation” required was the addition of chickpeas and flaxmeal to the original grains, along with a spin in the food processor.

I took about 2 1/2 cups of my grain dish, processed it with a scant two cups of chickpeas, and added 1/4 cup flax meal. I baked them at 350 for about 25 minutes, and this is what I had:


A delicious, curried grain/veggie burger, which I served over a big bowl of greens with simple flax oil, lemon, and sea salt. Perfect nutrient dense salad, if you ask me.

In general, you can go about transforming any grain dish into a grain burger quite easily:

How to Transform Cooked Grains into a Grain Burger in 5 Easy Steps!

1. Take 2-3 cups grains, 1 1/2 to 2 cups beans/lentils, and 1/4 cup flax, and process or use a potato masher to mash well.

2. Adjust consistency by adding water if it’s dry.

3. Choose your seasonings! Salt, pepper, curry, cumin, paprika, thyme, oregano, cayenne, lemon, lime, vegan worsterchire sauce, liquid smoke…the list goes on and on! Pick flavors that work for you.

4. Choose your add-ins! Sundried tomatoes, herbs, nuts, hemp seeds, and even dried fruit all make great additions.

5. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

That’s it! Instant burger—100% plant-based and protein packed. And, since you already know you like the flavors of the grain dish, there’s very little guesswork involved about the dish’s success.

I remember clearly the moment I felt that I’d gradated from recipe-copying to cooking: it was the day I realized I could improv and create new things from leftovers, without worrying about the fact that I didn’t have a precise recipe to follow. Since then, I’ve tried to provide my readers with as many “techniques” and “templates” as I can, so that they understand that cooking isn’t all about imitation: it’s also about intuition! I hope that you use this template to make many a delicious grain burger, and that you get to use up tons of healthy, fiber-packed rice, millet, quinoa, spelt, barley, and other grains in the process.


Happy reinvention.


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  1. Thanks for this tutorial! It’s such a great idea and tasty way to recycle grain leftovers, which I always seem to have!

  2. Fantastic use on leftovers, love it! And I can’t wait to try my own grain burger, you make it look so simple – thanks!

  3. I love homemade burgers. Nice way to use up beans or grains.

    Good point on the learning curve for cooking. I think some people try to leap too fast into doing it themselves and run into trouble. In my opinion it’s OK to follow recipes for quite awhile until you get a feel for what works. There’s no set time for people. I come from a background of noncooks, so it took me awhile.

  4. I did the same thing once with leftover black bean chili – just mixed it up with cooked and uncooked oatmeal, some flaxmeal and cornmeal (a lot of “meals” in my recipe), then formed the mixture into patties and baked them in the oven. I’ve tried it with other soup leftovers, but they didn’t turn out as well as with the chili – too watery, I suppose.

  5. I often have grains and lentils leftover at the end of the week but had never thought to combine in a burger – thanks for the tip!

  6. These look absolutely amazing! Thank you for the basic formula. I can’t wait to try!

  7. Yay, another recipe transformation idea! I’m definitely not at the point yet where I can successfully trust my intuition and transform one thing into something else entirely, but I’m making progress. I’ll have to give something like this a try very soon because I love veggie burgers, but the frozen kind just isn’t doing it for me anymore and I want something more natural. This sounds like a great idea, not to mention quite healthy.

  8. this post is great help for everyone who always has leftovers in the fridge and does not know what to do with them. very often people throw food away that you could easily make something else out of. veggie burgers are such a great idea, i call my version FF (fantastic falafels 🙂 and i just mix whatever i have left (even almond pulp, as u inspired me from one of your previous posts!), add some nice spices and call it a meal. i think the trick is to have an array of spices to choose from. you can real inventive!

  9. Thanks for the step-by-step! I’m working on graduating from cooking to creating 🙂

  10. These are so cute! Thanks again, Gena, for making vegan food accessible and easy.

  11. This looks & sounds great; I’m definitly going to try this recipe. Incidentally, I made your lentil/sweet potatoe loaf & it turned out absolutely fantastic & it too can be made into awesome burgers. Thanks for the great recipe ideas & inspirational blogging.

  12. Any ideas for a bean substitute? Legumes and I do not get along, unfortunately. 🙁

    • Hi, I’ve been making “beet burgers” using the pulp (from a juicer) of beets/carrots/parsley… Those have been working out really good as a go-to recipe b/c of minimal ingredients and prep time… I am curious to modify that recipe by adding the grains, sun-dried tomatoes and other ingredients to try something new (for awhile I’ve been limiting my grain intake)… So basically, substitute some juice pulp (beets or any other combo you like) for the legumes… That’s my suggestion!@

  13. I’ve tried making different kinds of vegan burgers in the past, but would always have a problem with getting them to stick together. If they did stick long enough to be cooked, then they would become too crumbly and I’d have a hard time eating them.
    I’m definitely trying out your recipe, those burgers look absolutely perfect to me, especially on that lovely bed of salad leaves!

  14. what a great idea! now I know exactly what I’m going to be doing with my left overs;)

  15. I love that moment when you start being able to cook out of your own heart and skills. The sad thing is that it’s rendered many of my cookbooks redundant, although at least they still work for inspiration!

    But, truly, blogs like yours are my greatest inspiration these days.

  16. Nice step-by-step guide & info for folks to refer to and the mention of Sundried tomatoes…oh, that has me wanting those all of a sudden! Yum!

    Great looking burgers, Gena.

  17. Lovely, lovely post, Gena. Templates like this really help when you have a mismash of stuff int he fridge.. I love following recipes but it is more empowering to have the freedom to experiment at will! 🙂 You are awesome for sharing that with your readers. 🙂

  18. I definitely fall into the category of a recipe-follower – I am not very adventurous when it comes to making up my own recipes. I was even intimidated by the thought of making my own veggie burger until I recently tried out a recipe and found that it wasn’t difficult at all. Thank you for such great tips; the way you broke it down makes it seem very manageable and I’m not afraid that I will end up with something inedible if I wing it!