Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries for The International Year of Pulses!
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Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

It’s not unusual for a vegan to love beans and lentils, but my love of pulses may go beyond the pale. I eat pulses every single day, often several times daily. They are a veritable food group for me. Like most folks, I have my favorites–chickpeas, navy beans, black beans, and lentils–but I also love adzuki beans, cannellini beans, split peas, lima beans, and cranberry beans. Pulses have texture, versatility, and remarkable nutrient density. They are an affordable staple food for much of the world’s population, and I consider them to be the most profoundly super of superfoods.

What’s a pulse, you may be wondering? I myself didn’t know the difference between a pulse and a legume until…well, this morning, as I was writing this post. Apparently, the word “legumes” refers to the plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. The legume family includes more than 13,000 species, including alfalfa, clover, peas, soy, peanuts, and mesquite. Pulses are part of the legume family, but a pulse is the dried seed of a legume plant–so, dried peas, edible beans, lentils, chickpeas, and more. Pulses are unique in that they’re dried naturally in the field instead of harvested prematurely. Pulses are also grown purely for consumption, which means that (unlike legumes) they’re never used for oil extraction.

If you’re wondering why I’m so jazzed about pulses today, it’s because I recently had a chance to develop a pulse recipe for a very special international event. Each year, the United Nations designates a theme or topic for international observance. Topics of observance are selected based on their ability to address four main areas of interest: Food/Nutrition, Security & Innovation, Market Access & Stability, Productivity & Environmental Sustainability, and Creating Awareness. I’m happy to tell you that the UN has named 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

Why pulses? Let’s start with their incredible nutrition profile. I don’t think I have to list the health benefits of beans and legumes for this audience, but who doesn’t love a little nutrition trivia?

●Pulses are high in protein, making them a great source of nutrition for vegans and vegetarians. One ½ cup serving of pulses offers 7 to 9 grams of protein, or 15 percent of your recommended daily intake.
●Pulses are gluten-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free, with a low glycemic index and load.
●Pulses are high in fiber. On average, one ½ cup serving of pulses delivers ¼ of your recommended daily fiber intake.
●Pulses are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. The antioxidant content of lentils is twice that of blueberries, and three times that of pomegranate juice.
●Pulses are high in essential nutrients like folate, iron and potassium. Chickpeas contain 3x more folate than kale and more than twice as much iron as chicken.

Pulses also have some incredible sustainability benefits. They can be grown in a variety of climates with little or no irrigation, which makes them both drought-tolerant and frost-hardy. Pulse crops also pull nitrogen from air and return it to soil, where it acts as a fertilizer (both for pulses and also for crops planted after). This means that pulse crops can be used to “fix” nitrogen levels in rotation with other crops. Pulses are cost-effective, too: in the United States, the average cost of a serving of lentils is $.07, compared to $1.07 for a serving of beef, $0.71 for a serving of pork and $0.67 for a serving of chicken.

In honor of The International Year of Pulses, the UN has selected the USA Dried Pea and Lentil Council (USADPLC) as the body to manage the International Year of Pulses activities here in the US. The USADPLC will be an ongoing resource for pulse recipes, nutritional information and sourcing information in the Unites States. Most importantly, the UN has asked each country to submit one national signature pulse recipe, and the USADPLC is in charge of selecting the USA’s entry.

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

That’s where this recipe comes in. When the USADPLC asked me to submit a recipe for a contest in which the US’s national signature pulse recipe is going to be chosen, I was thrilled. I can’t think of a better tribute to a group of ingredients that I love so much–ingredients that continually enrich my cooking and nourish my body.

I had endless recipe concepts in mind when I started to ponder the challenge, but in light of the fact that this is to be a national signature recipe, I wanted to offer my own tribute to that most all-American of classics: the burger.

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

But of course, I also wanted to add a nontraditional twist. This lentil burger is packed with umami and texture. You’ll taste delicious shiitake mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, smoked paprika, chili, and walnuts in addition to the hearty lentils. And for extra flavor, you’ll taste a tart, sweet, sticky tamarind barbecue sauce (which I now want to put on anything and everything).

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

No burger meal is complete without fries, and for this particular challenge I wanted to highlight pulses as much as possible. So what could have been more appropriate than chickpea fries?

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

One of my favorite vegan dishes in NYC is the famous plate of chickpea fries at Peacefood Cafe. I’ve often wondered what pixie dust the restaurant sprinkles in these fries to make them as delicious as they are (the fact that they’re fried probably has something to do with it, but still). While I don’t kid myself that this humble, homemade version is as delectable as that dish, I am really glad that I’ve figured out how to make chickpea fries at home. They’re crispy and delicious, and I even managed to bake this version, so that they stay on the light side.

Chickpea fries

When I was serving these fries, I happened to make a fortuitous discovery. We had some of my delightfully green tahini dressing in the fridge, and Steven and I had the idea to use it as dipping sauce.

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

Wow. So much better than ketchup.

Altogether, this is a hearty, satisfying meal with tons of texture. I love the range of flavor here, the variety of spices and herbs. It’s reinvented comfort food at its (vegan) finest. And here, without further ado, is the recipe. It looks like a ton of ingredients and steps, I know. But fear not. The fries are optional, the barbecue sauce can be made in advance, and canned lentils are A-OK. As long as you get the burger part together, you’re good to go.

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Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries (gluten free)

Author - Gena Hamshaw


Shiitake Lentil Walnut Burgers

  • 1 1/2 cups cups dry brown lentils or 2 cans cooked lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms about 2 heaping cups
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes hydrated in hot water for at least 10 minutes and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Black pepper

Tamarind Barbecue Sauce (Makes 1 Cup)

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • Black pepper

Chickpea Fries (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 2 cups chickpea flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 clove garlic roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
  • Olive oil


  • To make the barbecue sauce, whisk all sauce ingredients except for the pepper together. Check the seasoning and add additional pepper as needed. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • To make the burgers, pick through the lentils to find any pieces of debris or grit. Rinse the lentils under cold, running water. Add them to a medium sized pot along with the water. Bring the lentils to a boil and reduce them to a simmer. Simmer them for 20 minutes, or until they're entirely tender but not yet mushy (check them at the 15 minute mark for consistency). Drain the lentils, set them aside, and allow them to cool to room temperature. Alternately, you can use 2 cans of cooked lentils (about 3 cups total) in this recipe.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Season the onion and cook it for 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and clear. Add the mushroom and cook them for another 4-5 minutes, or until they've rendered all of their liquid and are soft and reduced in size. Add the sun dried tomatoes and garlic. Sautee for another minute, or until the garlic is quite fragrant. Add a few splashes of broth as needed to prevent sticking.
  • Add the paprika, chili powder, thyme, oregano, and 2 cups of the cooked lentils. Stir all of the ingredients together until the lentils are warm and the spices are evenly incorporated. Remove the ingredients from heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the walnuts and oats in a food processor fitted with the S blade along with the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse until both the oats and nuts have been ground into a course meal. Add the hot lentil mixture and pulse a few times, just enough to break the lentils and mushrooms down, but not enough to create puree.
  • Turn the lentil mixture out into a mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix in the breadcrumbs and the remaining cup of cooked lentils. Check the mixture for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste. The mixture should have a thick consistency, similar to conventional uncooked burgers. If it's too sticky, add a few tablespoons of water.
  • Shape the mixture into 8 burgers. Place the burgers on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops with a layer of tamarind barbecue sauce (recipe below). Bake the burgers for 15 minutes. Flip the burgers and brush the bottom side with barbecue sauce. Continue baking for another 10 minutes, or until each side of the burger is crispy. Serve on a whole grain or sprouted burger bun, a whole wheat or gluten free English muffin, or between a few crisp lettuce leaves, topped with additional tamarind barbecue sauce.
  • To make the chickpea fries, Place the chickpea flour, water, salt, cumin, and garlic into a blender. Blend till smooth.
  • Add the chickpea mixture into a medium or large sized pot. Heat over a medium flame, stirring constantly. The mixture will quickly begin to thicken, so watch it carefully and whisk constantly. After about 10 minutes, the mixture will be very thick. Trade your whisk for a spoon and beat it continuously as you stir in the parsley.
  • Quickly transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use an inverted spatula to smooth it over evenly. Transfer the baking sheet to the fridge for for one hour to chill.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the sheet of chickpea dough into strips that are approximately 3/4" wide and 3" long. (If the parchment tears as you cut them, replace the parchment beneath the fries.) Brush the fries with oil.
  • Bake the fries for 15 minutes. Flip them gently and brush the underside with oil. Transfer them back to the oven and bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until both sides are golden. Serve, with delightfully green tahini dressing if desired.

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

I hope that you’re excited about the burgers. I have a bit of advance praise from Steven, who took one bite of the dish and declared it the best veggie burger he’d ever had. Me? Well, maybe I’m biased. But as someone who has called veggie burgers an “overrated” vegan food in the past (I know, I know–blasphemy!), I gobbled these up with gusto. And I won’t even mention how quickly we both polished off the chickpea fries.

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

And now it’s time to ask you guys for a little help. I would be thrilled to see a vegan recipe be chosen as the United State’s national signature pulse recipe. And you can help to make it happen.

Between May 1 and May 15, you can visit the USADPLC’s Facebook page and vote for my recipe by liking the photo. Your support would mean so very much to me. I’d love to share my love of pulses with the world!

Lentil Tamarind Barbecue Burgers with Chickpea Fries

Thanks in advance for your support, friends. The USADPLC Facebook page will be ready for your vote by 12:30pm EST today (that’s just about an hour from now!).

And in the meantime, I’m scrambling to get ready for a weekend as a bridesmaid in a dear friend’s wedding. What a lovely springtime celebration it will be–and I’ll be back for weekend reading on Sunday!


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Categories: Recipes, Main Dishes, Vegan Basics
Method: Oven, Stovetop
Ingredients: Lentils
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: Meal Prep

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  1. well, these sound DELICIOUS. any idea if the burgers may freeze well? I’m a homely, vegetarian university student cooking for herself, without a ton of time to spend in the kitchen. if I could cook the whole batch of eight then throw half of them in the freezer, I would be over the moon.

  2. Gena– made these last night and they were amazing! So good my staunchly carnivore husband ate TWO of them rather than meat 🙂

  3. I’ve never cooked with tamarind before but I’m on a total vegan burger kick right now. Even though I didn’t like traditional meat barbecue when I was younger and ate meat, I LOVE barbecue sauce and barbecue flavors in summer cooking. I had no idea what pulses were so in addition to a great new recipe, I learned something new! 🙂 Can’t wait to try the chickpea fries too!

  4. I voted! 🙂 Wow, these look fabulous! And, even though my experience with chickpea fries thus far have been nothing short of disappointment I’m definitely willing to give them another try with your recipe.

  5. Chickpea fries?? I have never even heard of that. It sounds purely awesome though =) As does the burger of course. I love pulses too! I most definitely did not realise the difference between legumes and pulses, so thank you for shedding the light on that one. And for sharing the awesome nutritional benefits of pulses. So good!

  6. I’m gonna try you recipe, I just have my cravings for burger, but I want to keep my diet clean good thing I found your recipe. Thank you. People should try to explore more alternatives to meat and fast food.

  7. This looks so good! Can’t wait to try it! But I have to say…International Year of Pulses??? There’s our taxpayer dollars in action…

  8. Oh my gosh! These look so amazing! I love the addition of walnuts, some more omega-3s charmed into a gorgeous meal 🙂 Thanks for yet another amazing recipe

  9. I love yor blog…. But I have to be sincere here. This recipe is 3 recipes i one, and has tons of ingredients. Maybe that could scare the jury, even if the burgers taste amazing.

  10. Ok the public health geek in me is so freaking out about this – congrats on being asked to submit an entry!!!! SO SO very cool.

    Also as soon as I saw chickpea fries my mind went to Peacefood (especially since I had them on like Monday…) and I got so ridiculously excited. I’ve been afraid to try some at home because…pixie dust, But these might just be the ones to convince me!!!

    Going to vote my tail off now! Here’s to vegan representation!!!!

  11. These look amazing! Have you tried grilling them on the barbecue? I have had mixed results with BBQ’ing vegan burgers in the past, but it remains my favourite way to cook them!

    • I just cooked them over a aluminum sheet, that way you don’t lose too much because they crumble.

  12. Great meal composition Gena, I will definitely make a meal with everything you suggest. The tamarind sauce souds delicious and versatile. I will switch the nuts for sunflower seeds. Like you, I love «légumineuses» (the word we use for all legumes, pulse or beans) and lentils are one of my favorite meal. Homemade adzuki sweet bean paste is pretty addictive too! Soaking really seems to help digestibility, so it’s unfortunate legumes have a bad reputation! Given the high cost of good quality food nowadays (especially organic food), beans are a solution that provides nutritional value, good taste and endless meal possibilities at a very reasonable cost, while being easy to grow respecting the environment.
    It’s a good idea to suggest a burger for the contest it is definitely a symbol of North American gastronomy! Good luck!

  13. I’m excited that 2016 is the year of pulses! I most definitely share your love of beans & legumes but these burgers look like a great way to enlighten those who haven’t yet discovered their amazingness 😉
    Those chickpea fries too!

  14. Gena, these burgers look completely amazing. So much umami. I think you forgot to add the mushrooms to the ingredient list/directions, though. I’m assuming you add them to the onion mix 🙂

    • Hannah, I swear I don’t make it through a single recipe without at least one error of omission. Thanks for the head’s up!!!

      • Haha. I can only imagine trying to invent countless delicious recipes, write up compelling blog posts about them, and transcribe said recipes without error. By the way, these remind me slightly of Sarah a la My New Roots’ black lentil-mushroom-olive burger…my fave veggie burger of all time! I would not be 1/100th the cook I am today without my trusty bloggers and the nonstop inspiration you all provide. Cheers!