Ridiculously Healthy Millet, Kale, and Yam Burgers

by Gena on March 13, 2011

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On Friday night, the boy and I decided to have an informal contest to see who could whip up the most creative and delicious veggie burger. I was nervous: I may know my raw and vegan fare, but M knows a fine burger when he sees it, and he’s a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. All day, I wracked my brains trying to imagine what the best entry would be. Should I go with something traditional, like my foolproof tofu burgers? Something sweeter and softer, like my sweet potato and chickpea burgers? How about everyone’s favorite homemade imitation of freezer aisle food: my homemade sunshine burgers?

In the end, I decided that my best food is always the food I like the most. I can sit around for hours trying to come up with recipes that I think my friends will like, or my CR readers will like, or M will like. But my best food is always the food that I make because it sounds delicious to me; the food that I daydream about in class; the food I think about all day long and can’t wait to come home to. I’m sure other bloggers agree: even if blogging gives us motivation to create food that we intend to share, our finest recipes always come straight from the heart.

With that in mind, I decided that my best burger would be one that brought together all of my favorite cooked ingredients and flavors. It isn’t hard, I’m sure, for you to guess what those things are: my favorite vegetable, kale; my favorite grain, millet; my favorite sweet treat, yams; my favorite protein, beans; my favorite spices, cinnamon and cumin. A little flax seed and nutritional yeast later (those are also among my very favorite ingredients), and I was off to the races.

These burgers aren’t as simple as my foolproof tofu burgers are, but I think you’ll find that they’re very easy to prepare if you work in stages (I cooked the millet and mashed the yams the night before), and they’re certainly not challenging in terms of technique. They’re free of gluten—which is unusual and an added bonus in the realm of meatless burgers—and they can be free of soy if you use chickpea miso and substitute salt for tamari. They also boast nine grams of protein per burger (they yield ten nicely sized patties, but I’ve been eating a burger and a half or two at most meals). Fans of my polenta stacks with mashed yams, greens and beans will also find plenty of similarities between that dish and these burgers: no surprise, given that both utilize a laundry list of my “dessert island foods.” I hope you try them, and love them.

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Millet, Yam, and Kale Burgers (Vegan, gluten free)

Yields 10 burgers

1 cup millet, uncooked
4 medium or three large yams
1 1/2 tbsp mellow white miso (or chickpea miso)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cannellini beans (canned or home cooked)
1 cup kale, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flax meal
2 tbsp millet flour (can be omitted, but great for a firm texture)
4 tbs low sodium tamari
2 tsp cumin
Black pepper to taste

1) Cook millet according to package instructions in a rice cooker or on the stove top. You should get about 3 or 3 1/2 cups of cooked grain. Set aside.

2) Bake yams till tender. When they’re cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a mixing bowl (alternately, you can chop, peel, and steam them).

4) Add the chili powder, cinnamon, and miso to the yams. Add the almond milk and mash, using a fork or hand masher, till very tender. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

5) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

6) Place two cups of cooked millet, the cannellini beans, and the kale in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine into a mixture that’s mushy, but has some texture. Season to taste.

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7) In a giant bowl, combine the mashed yams and the millet/bean/kale mixture. Add the remaining cooked millet (about a cup or so), the flax, nutritional yeast, tamari, cumin, and black pepper. If the mix is a little wet, add the millet flour (I needed to). If not, omit it. Check for seasoning.

8) Shape mixture into ten uniform patties. Lay on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes or so, flipping once.

The first night we enjoyed these the old fashioned way; with Ezekiel burger buns, organic ketchup, and a big salad. But for the past few days, I’ve made lunches by placing a cooked burger atop a big green salad, and adorning it with a smear of sweet potato hummus. Yum!

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M and I both noted that, if “veggie burgers” are already a contradiction in terms, at least within popular perception, then these burgers take that contradiction to new levels with their unbelievably healthy ingredient list. They are truly a “health freak’s” dream burger, if we’re to indulge in such pat terminology. But the great news is that they’re delicious enough to please all sorts of palates.

These burgers ought to freeze nicely for at least a month, and they’ll last in the fridge for at least four days. They’re great, easy, portable leftovers! As for the burger competition, these guys were neck and neck with M’s burgers, which were made of cooked buckwheat and beets. They were amazing, and my new goal is to replicate them for CR readers. But for that, you’ll have to be patient.

What about you? Favorite burger? What’s the wackiest burger recipe you’ve come up with, and how did it taste?

Finally, I wanted to draw some attention to this recent article on coconut oil. Many of you ask me about the saturated fats in coconut oil, and whether or not they’re a sure path to cholesterol buildup. My own answer—and this article would seem to validate it—is that there isn’t as clearly defined a correlation between saturated fat and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) as was previously thought. In fact, creeping LDL levels are now seen as the result of a confluence of factors, of which saturated fat may only be one. Additionally, there’s some evidence to prove that the saturated fats in coconut (lauric acid) doesn’t behave the same way in the human body as saturated animal fats do. Clearly, research remains to be done, but this is hopeful news for lovers of coconut and coconut oil: as long as it’s eaten in healthy balance, it can be a safe and delicious ingredient.

Have a happy, restful Sunday! See you back here tomorrow.


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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) March 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

OMG, those look fabulous!! Love the combo of ingredients. Sounds awesome!

I love all burgers, they’re one of my favorite foods! Anything with red onion and avocado and mustard between a bun wins me over. :)


Lisa @ Thrive Style March 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm

These look amazing! Totally something I’d love to make and eat :)

My fave lately has been a lentil burger—sometimes when I make burgers, I stuff things in the middle, like nut cheese. It gives it a nice little zip :)


Lisa March 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm

These look amazing! I love lentil burgers lately—I don’t do anything too wacky, but sometimes I stuff things in the middle (like nut cheese or something with zip!).


Christin@purplebirdblog March 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I love veggie burgers and bean burgers, and making my own has proved to be so satisfying. I love that you took pretty much every badass ingredient in the kitchen to make one crazyawesome burger!


Sarah @ becoming-sarah March 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Yum! I’ve been meaning to try millet for a while now and these seem like the perfect occasion. Not to mention the fact that they feature two of my favourite foods: kale and yams. Thanks for another delicious sounding recipe, Gena!

And good to hear about those findings on coconut oil. I use it as the fact in my homemade, low-glycemic chocolate and I have to admit, I’d be pretty sad to give it up.


Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm

This is great! It’s inspiring me to create my own recipe! I’m suffering though, here in New Zealand without a food processor :(


Hannah March 13, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Hear hear about the best food being that which you cook with both love and the conviction that it will be delicious! Sadly I just finished up the last of my millet. Fiddlesticks!


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Gena great work on the burgers. I love the little “iron chef throw-down” that you and M had. How fun! In 12 years of being together, Scott has not stepped foot in the kitchen so I am the only one throwing down around here :)

I would love to take a stab at these. You’re right, there are some steps and stages to them but anything that yields 10 and I can freeze, i.e. planned leftovers which is music to my working mother’s ears…well, they are worth trying!

I confess that I never make meatless burgers. Probably b/c I never liked burgers as a kid when I still (Rarely) ate meat, and so as a teen and adult and not eating meat, I dont crave the burger feel. Other than a brief morningstar chic’en nugget phase and boca burger phase 10 years ago, I don’t usually do meatless burgers/patties/loafs.

This may inspire me to try :)


Katie March 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I could see myself falling in love with these really fast. I have some burgers frozen right now, made with sweet potatoes, but my future is looking bright indeed.


Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA March 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm

These sound amazing, and I will definitely make them. I must.

I love all kinds of veggie burgers, and the weirdest I made had beets and oats in it, but it was still good!


bitt March 14, 2011 at 12:19 am

Just finished off a veggie burger. Sunshine burgers are probably the only packaged one I can eat and they are delicious but a rare treat. I just posted about a bean burger that I frequently make on my blog last week. I put some dill in it and it was perfect, just a little pickle flavor added.

Funny you and M have competitions like that. Cute.


JL goes Vegan March 14, 2011 at 5:42 am

Gena, one of the first veggie burgers I made after going vegan was your Sunshine burger. THIS burger may rival it! I cannot wait to try it! My wheels are also turning on a raw version … I may try sprouting some millet next week to see what I can come up with.

My wackiest burger: I had sprouted lentils. I had beets. It was Valentine’s Day. So, you guessed it, I had a very red burger (freakishly looked like raw meat). Though freakish in looks, it tasted quite good!


Elizabeth@The Sweet Life March 14, 2011 at 7:03 am

Wow-looks delicious! When do we get to learn more about this mystery M?


Kristin (Cook, Bake, Nibble) March 14, 2011 at 7:33 am

These burgers look incredible! Yams, kale and millet are personal favorites of mine as well, so I will definitely be trying these for sure!!



JPSTG(Jenny) March 14, 2011 at 8:02 am

Great post, and through it I discovered you “sunshine burgers” recipe which looks like an amazing way to put more rice & sunflower seeds in my diet, which I’ve been wanting to do! :) Thanks!

As for this post itself, it does look like a health foodie’s dream! Now if yams weren’t so hard to find where I live… I wonder if substituting with potatoes or sweet potatoes would be ok – although certainly not as healthy, especially the former.


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn March 14, 2011 at 8:04 am

Absolutely delicious!! Do you think this would work with quinoa?

I love that you and M had a competition, the food battles are the best! Especially when you get to taste everything:)


Gena March 14, 2011 at 8:54 am

Yup, I think quinoa would work great!


Hannah March 14, 2011 at 8:04 am

Now that I am home for spring break, I am SO making these! I just bought a head of kale, too, to make massaged kale salads.


Jess - The Domestic Vegan March 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

These look FANTASTIC!! I am currently planning meals for the week ahead & definitely adding these to the list!


Kelsey March 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

These look amazing! I love all of those ingredients. Great idea to add them to salads, too. Can’t wait to try!


brandi@BranAppetit March 14, 2011 at 8:59 am

Nick and I just tried millet for the first time a few weeks ago and we fell in love! I’ve been looking for new recipes to try – these look great, Gena :)


Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing March 14, 2011 at 9:25 am

Looking for new ways to use millet, and I always buy too many yams :) Can’t wait to try this! Cumin makes everything delicious…!


kathleen March 14, 2011 at 9:47 am

i just read your “about” section. are you doing the post-bacc pre-med program at columbia? if so, hats off to you. i did the pre-med certificate program at harvard for a year and then dropped out, got a job in finance (i have a M.S. in finance) got myself out of debt and enjoyed life for a while. i loved my job in finance (i have since become a stay at home mother). although, i still sometimes wonder if i should have stuck with the medical school route. it was a really hard decision to drop out. anyway, it’s a long journey from post-bacc to residency. good luck to you! i hope you enjoy it. =)


Iris March 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

Haha I love the name! And if I haven’t mentioned it, your photography has been awesome lately! I especially love that last close-up.


Jen @ keepitsimplefoods March 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

These sound amazing! Classic comfort food at its healthiest.


Lis March 14, 2011 at 10:09 am

Gena these look delicious, thanks! I will certainly try them as soon as I’m done with the big batch of Thai Mung Bean Burgers I recently made. I got the recipe from http://www.nourishingmeals.com ? This is one of my favorite sites for super delicious healthy recipes. Though not 100% vegan, they are dairy and gluten-free. I definitely recommend checking it out!


Gena March 14, 2011 at 11:31 am

Hey Lis,

Thanks! I actually do know the site. I have to admit, I have a hard time with the Weston Price/Sally Fenton ethos, which I don’t agree with. And since veganism is a personal priority for me, whereas GF isn’t (I like to cater to GF readers, but I eat wheat and gluten), I sometimes struggle with the non-vegan emphasis. All of that said, I LOVE the whole foods attitude, and those burgers look amazing!



FoodFeud March 14, 2011 at 10:12 am

These sound absolutely delicious. I’m doing all raw today but it’s one of my few days off to cook so I may pre-prep like you did! Looking forward to it, really.
Can’t wait to see M’s results!


Brittany March 14, 2011 at 10:38 am

I just love this post! Literally yesterday I was daydreaming about summertime and homemade veggie burgers!! I love making them and freezing them!!

Do these burgers hold together enough to be grilled on a grill outside? I need a veggie burger that can be my go-to burger when I’m invited to a cookout! (though I don’t like to use grills that much because of the potential carcinogen’s)
My mouth is watering right now…


Alice March 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

Oh excellent, thanks for the weeknight dinner/lunch idea! Always looking for those. Admittedly I sometimes take the lazy route with Trader Joe’s frozen Masala Burgers–totally flavorful and spicy over greens in a pinch.


Alice March 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Btw…I’ve seen quite a bit lately on the “Dangers of Soy” including less processed forms such as edamame, tofu, and tempeh. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.


Magda March 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm

What about M’s burger? And who won the competition? Need more details!


Aurelia March 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Wow — the burgers look delicious! I have yam and millet, so all I need now is kale…


Laura C March 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Thank goodness I cooked extra sweet potatoes last night! And have a rice maker now! I’ll see if I can give these a try tonight.


Laura C March 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm

update: they are great! Definitely helped that I had leftover sweet potatoes on hand, plus brown rice leftover from a meal out. I’m eating them wrapped in lettuce and dipped in veganaise. I’m craving raw ketchup though… I’ve always hated ketchup, but then I tried a raw version and have had a hankering since. nice recipe!


Lisa N. March 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I just found this blog and it all sounds so good! I searched the net for a Chia seed pudding recipe to find out what it was and found it here! It sounded so appetizing, I tried it right away! I love it! All your recipes sound so good I want to try them all, my grocery list today has the makings for these “burgers” and the walnut “cheese”. I am an omnivore who is trying more vegan and raw to try to wean myself from so much animal products and start feeling healthier. Your blog is really encouraging! Thank you so much!


wendy (healthy girl's ktichen) March 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm

These look amazing. I have all the ingredients in my kitchen and am making them tonight! thank you Gena!


Sylvia March 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I am throwing together a meal plan for the week and these have definitely made the list! I can’t wait to try them! Nevermind certain foods being staples in my diet, it appears your website is my main staple. Haha! :D


Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama March 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

It sounds like this boy is a great match for you! :-) That is my idea of a fun weekend! Your burgers look fantastic. My favorite burger is my beet burger. Like this one it takes a few steps to make, but it’s totally worth it!


Christine (The Raw Project) March 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

These burgers look wonderful, thanks for the recipe. I’m starting to appreciate vegan burgers more now, both raw and cooked, as a salad alternative and something I can take to family gathering dinners.

This isn’t the simplest recipe, but it looks worth the effort!


Jen March 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I am a HUGE fan of meatless burgers, especially when they contain a great grain! These sound delicious!

Do you think whole wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour would work in substitution for the millet flour? (I don’t see why not, considering I’m not gluten intolerant.)


Lauren March 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Well of course all of your favorites are my favorites! I made. Kale salad with millet and white beans on it almost weekly! Never thought to turn it into a burger! You are brilliant, my friend, brilliant! Lol!


melissa March 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Look great! Veggies burgers are actually the only “fake meat” product I enjoy. Nothing else ever tasted good or appealed to me!
Can’t go wrong with baked chickpea and yam anything!


Michelle March 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm

A lot of my all time favourite ingredients! … never heard of cannellini beans though…

.. a bit complex for what I’m used to but it looks worth the time and effort… thanks for sharing.


BroccoliHut March 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I was happy to see that article in the NYT too–so much so that I devoted an entire post to it!


Katrina (gluten free gidget) March 15, 2011 at 5:32 am

Love these ingredients!!!


elise March 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

starred and on the future to-make list.

fyi, its been verified repeatedly that the saturated fat in coconuts dont act at all like their animal fat counterparts.

cant wait for M’s version!


Sarah S. March 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

I made these last night and served them to omnis, thumbs up from all! I am counting the minutes until lunch time when I’ll be eating a leftover burger on top of my salad. These really pack a nutritional punch and are so, so delicious!


trisaratopss March 20, 2011 at 12:06 am

Had these for dinner tonight (made with quinoa in place of millet as I had so much on hand) and they were a hit! I enjoyed mine between two slices of Ezekiel bread, Veganaise, organic ketchup, mustard, and pea greens. I have yet to try one of your recipes and not be floored by how delicious it is. Thank you Gena!


joy March 25, 2011 at 8:13 am

the wackiest burger I ever made…totally on the fly…Creminni Mushrooms, Onions, Carrot, Sundried Tomato, Walnuts, Yeast Flakes, Olive Oil, and Forbidden Black Rice(salt pepper garlic powder) this is what I had in the house and I was tired of paying upwards of 5$ for Sunshine Burgers, so I decided to make my own….they turned out pretty good a little on the soft side, but tasty:) Thanks for sharing, gonna make your burgers minus the cumin and cinnamon:)


Lisa January 28, 2014 at 8:46 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this recipe, but did find that the cinnamon was a bit too dominant in the end. Next time, I would decrease down to 1/4 tsp. Otherwise, great texture and flavor combo!


Gena January 29, 2014 at 8:22 am

Good to know, Lisa! I appreciate the feedback.


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