Healthy burgers are made with lean ground beef and cooked lentils, for extra fiber and nutrients in each bite. They are budget-friendly and the perfect option for those looking to eat more plants, without giving up meat entirely.
This recipe excites me because it’s exactly the kind of balance I hope to bring into the healthy living space. As a recovering perfectionist and yo-yo dieter, I used to think I needed to dive head-first into a strict eating regimen, whether it was with a focus on Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or raw food.
With this sort of “all or nothing” mentality, you may end up binge-eating when you’re not following a plan!
My hope is that I can help others avoid this, by sharing more creative and balanced recipes like this one. With these healthy burgers, you’re eating more plants and saving money on your grocery bill, without cutting out an entire food group.
It’s the best of both worlds!
Why You’ll Love Them
They taste like a regular burger. When you flatten this recipe into thin patties, you can’t tell the texture is anything other than ground beef. It’s perfect for picky eaters, or anyone who wants to lean into eating more plants, without fully committing to a veggie burger. (If you make the patties too thick, the lentil flavor is more noticeable, so keep that in mind!)
They are flexible. You can make this recipe with ground turkey, for a turkey burger instead. Or try it with chicken burgers, for a different variation.
They are budget-friendly. Typically you’ll only get 4 burgers from 1 pound of beef, but this recipe yields 8 to 9 patties for the same amount of meat. Lentils are such an affordable addition! I used canned lentils for convenience, but you can also cook them from scratch ahead of time, if you prefer.
They are nutrient dense. This recipe offers the best of both worlds. You’ll get a complete protein and heme iron from the beef, which the body absorbs more efficiently than non-heme iron, and you’ll also enjoy the folate, copper, and fiber from the added lentils.
They are simple to prepare. Just toss 5 ingredients in a food processor and pulse briefly to mix everything together. This is my preferred choice for preparing the patties, but you can also mix this together in a large bowl, if you prefer.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in a healthy burger?
- Ground beef
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
You can add any other spices you like to the burger base, but I like to keep it as simple as possible. These have plenty of flavor!
In fact, I recently learned from Serious Eats that some chefs swear by only seasoning the outside of the burger patties, rather than mixing it into the burger itself, for a better texture.
The addition of lentils in this recipe helps with the burger texture, regardless, so in this case, seasoning the entire patty helps the lentils blend into the beef better.
Feel free to sprinkle a little salt on the outside of the burgers as they cook, for even more flavor. You can add a little black pepper if you like, too.
Wondering which ground beef works best for burgers?
Choosing one that is 80 to 85% lean will often give you the best texture. However, if you want to choose something that is 90 to 95% lean, the lentil addition will help with the texture, either way.
When possible, look for beef that is grass-finished, which means the cattle only foraged or consumed grass for their entire lives. This type of beef may have a lower saturated fat content than grain-fed beef.
How to Make Healthy Burgers
In a large food processor fitted with an “S” blade, add in the ground beef, the cooked lentils, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Pulse several times, until the mixture looks well combined.
You don’t want the meat to be pureed, and it’s okay if the lentils are still in tact. They will still be totally unnoticeable when the burgers are cooked.
Don’t have a food processor? Feel free to mix these 5 ingredients together by hand in a large bowl. This is the more “authentic” way to make burgers, with a light touch! Luckily, the lentils make the texture of this recipe very forgiving, compared to a traditional beef burger.
Scoop the beef lentil mixture with a 1/3 cup measure, and then transfer it to your hands and form a ball.
Flatten the ball between your hands, creating a patty that is roughly a 1/2-inch thick. The thicker the burger, the more noticeable the lentils will be, so keep these on the thinner side for the best results.
Repeat with the remaining mixture until you have 8 to 9 patties.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray it with cooking oil, to help prevent sticking. (You can also cook these on a grill, if you prefer.)
Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook 3 or more patties at a time. I can fit 3 burgers in my 10-inch cast iron skillet, but you can cook all of them at once if you have a large griddle. The burgers should instantly sizzle when they hit the pan. Season with additional salt and pepper on top, if you’d like.
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until you start to see the edges of the burgers start to brown. Flip the burgers, and you should see a dark brown sear on the side that is facing-up now.
Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the burgers are done. Repeat, until all of the burgers are cooked.
Note: It’s recommended that ground beef reach an internal temperature of 160ºF if you want to use a meat thermometer as you cook.
Serve these healthy burgers on your favorite bun, or in a lettuce wrap, with your favorite burger fixings. You can add cheese on top for the final minute or two of cooking, if you want to make a cheeseburger, or keep it dairy-free by adding ketchup, mustard, or my homemade special sauce.
For a family-style spread, you can set out slices of tomatoes, red onion, pickles, sliced avocado, and any other condiments you love. Everyone can build their own hamburger exactly how they like!
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 (15 oz. can) cooked lentils (about 1 1/2 cups, drained & rinsed)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- In a large food processor fitted with an "S" blade, add the ground beef, drained lentils, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Process briefly, until the mixture sticks together, but isn't totally pureed. You just want the lentils to blend in with the meat. (Alternatively, you can mix this all together by hand in a bowl.)
- Use a 1/3 cup measure to scoop the meat, then roll it into a ball between your hands and flatten into patties about a 1/2-inch thick. The thinner the burgers are, the less noticeable the lentils will be. Repeat with the remaining mixture, forming 8 to 9 patties in total.
- Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat, then spray it with cooking oil before adding the patties. (I can usually fit 3 patties in a 10-inch skillet at once, but you may be able to cook them all at once on a griddle.) Add the burgers, and sprinkle the tops with a little extra salt, if you like. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown.
- Flip the burgers (you should see a nice sear on the side you just flipped) and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until they are done to your liking. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160ºF, if you want to check with a meat thermometer. Repeat with the remainin burgers, until they are all cooked.
- Serve these healthy burgers warm, with your favorite toppings. Leftover burgers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, as long as you store them within 2 hours of cooking. You can also freeze these for up to 4 months! Thaw the individual patties in the fridge overnight before reheating again.
If you try this healthy burger recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it.