When I eat veggie burgers, I only like the ones that actually taste like vegetables — not the ones that try to mimic the flavor and texture of meat. The same goes for meatless sausage. The goal isn't to make a vegetarian option that tastes just like the ones made with meat, but rather one that is inspired by one. So here's a vegetarian "sausage" patty full of hearty and toothsome lentils, plus all the flavor we associate with breakfast sausage like sage, black pepper, and fennel.
For some reason, I thought that making a tasty vegetarian sausage would be tricky or hard, but once I let go of the idea that it had to have the exact same flavor or texture of breakfast sausage, this recipe actually came together quite quickly.
These patties start with simmering lentils with some garlic and onions. While the lentils are cooking, brown mushrooms, which add moisture and a savory flavor, are buzzed in a food processor. The cooked lentils are added to the food processor, along with oats, flaxseed, and some traditional breakfast sausage seasonings (fennel seeds, sage, and maple syrup). After everything is pulsed together into a sticky paste, it's ready to go straight into a frying pan to crisp up in some olive oil.
These patties are great for those with food sensitivities. They're gluten-free (if you use gluten-free oats) and nut-free, and contain no animal products. If eggs are part of your diet, however, I would highly recommend serving these patties with poached or fried eggs!
Vegetarian "Sausage" Patties
1 cup lentils
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt, divided
8 ounces brown mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
Rinse the lentils. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lentils, garlic, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the mushrooms in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until finely chopped, about 5 (1-second pulses). Add the oats, flaxseed, maple syrup, sage, fennel, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to the food processor and set aside until the lentils are ready.
Drain the lentil mixture to remove any excess water, then add the drained mixture to the food processor. Pulse into a coarse paste, about 10 (1-second) pulses. Form into 20 (2-inch-wide) patties (about 2 tablespoons each).
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1/3 of the patties and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side (be careful when flipping and use a flat spatula; they are delicate). Remove to a serving plate. Repeat frying the remaining patties, adding a tablespoon of oil between each batch.