Enjoy a plant-based version of a childhood classic with these vegan sloppy joes. Lentils simmer in a sweet and smoky tomato sauce and then are piled on a bun for a quick and easy meatless meal that everyone will love!
I grew up eating sloppy joes and I remember loving them so much! I know they were typically from a can, but I honestly can’t remember if my mom just used the Manwich sauce or if meat was in the can with it?!? Either way, it doesn’t sound very appetizing to me anymore.
What does appeal to me? A vegan version that’s made with protein-packed lentils and doesn’t come from a can! It’s similar to the sloppy joes you grew up with – still absolutely delicious, just a bit more sophisticated. The cooked lentils give the mix a perfect sloppy joe texture and the tomato-based sauce is flavorful, sweet and savory.
And don’t you worry… they’re still just as messy to eat so be sure to grab a bunch of napkins before serving these up!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- They taste like regular sloppy joes… but they’re vegan!
- Loaded with plant-based protein!
- Cooks up in about 30 minutes for a quick and easy weeknight meal!
- lentils – the star of the show! Lentils are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein. They’re also low in calories and packed with antioxidants. I suggest using either brown or green lentils for this recipe as they hold their shape better. I love using Bob’s Red Mill lentils.
- olive oil – to sauté the vegetables.
- veggies – yellow onion, garlic, red bell pepper and mushrooms for flavor, texture and nutrition.
- tomato sauce – traditional sloppy joes are usually made with ketchup, but we’re just using plain tomato sauce for the base of the sauce.
- maple syrup – adds a nice touch of sweetness to the sauce! Make sure you’re using pure maple syrup and not pancake syrup as that is loaded with corn syrup and artificial flavors.
- vegan worcestershire sauce – adds a nice umami flavor to the sauce. Worcestershire is usually made with anchovies so make sure to grab a vegan worcestershire sauce to keep this recipe plant-based!
- spices & herbs – bay leaf, chili powder, smoked paprika, dried oregano, sea salt and ground black pepper.
- whole grain buns – can’t have sloppy joes without the buns! I prefer to use whole-grain buns, but feel free to use your favorite type of hamburger bun. You can also use a gluten-free bun if you need this recipe to be gluten-free.
- toppings – use your favorite toppings for this recipe, but I went with onions and pickles.
How to Make
Cook lentils: Prepare lentils by rinsing them and adding to a pot with water and a bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat down and simmer covered until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, drain any excess liquid and set the lentils aside to cool. This step can be done in advance.
Sauté veggies: Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until softened.
Simmer sauce: Add the cooked lentils, tomato sauce, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, chili powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
Serve: Serve the sloppy joe mixture on toasted hamburger buns with toppings of choice. Enjoy!
What Variety of Lentils Are Best to Use
I recommend only using brown or green lentils for these vegan sloppy joes. These are the most common lentils you’ll find at a grocery store and they’re much denser than other varieties. Red lentils are rather fragile and won’t work well for this recipe as they’ll result in a mushier texture. Black lentils are really small and you’ll need a lot more of them. And all the other varieties of lentils are not commonly found at most grocery stores.
I used dry lentils for this recipe and cooked them myself, but pre-cooked lentils will work just fine and make the process a lot quicker.
What to Serve With Vegan Sloppy Joes
I highly recommend eating these vegan sloppy joes on a bun, just like regular sloppy joes. Coleslaw, pickles and/or pickled onions make for a great crunchy topping! These sandwiches are filling on their own, but I love serving them with a side dish! Here are some of my favorites:
How to Store Leftovers
Refrigerator: Let the vegan sloppy joe mixture cool completely then store leftovers in an airtight sealed container for up to 5 days.
Freezer: Let mixture cool completely then store in a freezer-safe container for up to 1 month.
Reheating: If sloppy joe mixture has been frozen, thaw it in the fridge overnight. When ready to enjoy, reheat in the microwave or over the stovetop, until warm throughout. You might need to add a splash of water or tomato sauce to the mixture when reheating.
More Lentil Recipes to Try
More Plant-Based Recipes to Try
Be sure to check out all of the lentil recipes as well as the full collection of vegan recipes on EBF!
Prepare lentils by rinsing them and adding to a pot with water and a bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat down and simmer covered until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, drain any excess liquid and set the lentils aside to cool. This step can be done in advance.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until softened.
Add the cooked lentils, tomato sauce, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
Serve the sloppy joe mixture on toasted buns with toppings of choice. Enjoy!
Serving: 1 sloppy joe, no toppings | Calories: 353kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 717mg | Potassium: 764mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 18g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.