These Vegan Sloppy Joes are made with lentils, onions, red peppers, and a perfect balance of seasonings. Using pantry ingredients and taking less than 30 minutes to prepare, they’re flavorful, easy, and perfect for a weeknight meal!
As a busy working mom, I now understand why my mom made Sloppy Joes on the regular. They were fast, easy to pull together on a weeknight, and a great burger alternative. All my mom needed was some buns, one of those classic Sloppy Joe cans, and some ground beef, and voilá dinner was made!
As I was planning this week, I was reminded of my mom’s classic Sloppy Joes and a vegetarian version I had many years ago.
I simplified the restaurant version opting for green lentils and adding extra veggies. I also subbed out the cornbread for whole wheat buns, but you can easily use a gluten-free bun or serve this over rice for a gluten-free version. These Vegan Sloppy Joes are filling and a great vegan weeknight meal.
💗 Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- 30 Minute Meal
- Simple Pantry Ingredients
- Family Friendly
- Healthy and Hearty
- High in plant-based protein
- Chock full of veggies
- Flavorful and delicious
- Classic flavors
- Smoky, sweet, and tangy
- Omnivore and kid-approved!
🥣 Ingredients and Notes
Green Lentils: This is the protein source we use for this recipe. I like using green lentils instead of many meat sources, especially for this Sloppy Joe vegan version.
Water: Used to cook the lentils. You could also use vegetable broth if desired.
Red Bell Pepper: Traditional Sloppy Joe’s call for green bell peppers, but I find that using a red bell pepper brings a slight sweetness to the dish.
Sweet Onion: Onion is a traditional sloppy Joe ingredient and brings a lot of necessary flavors.
Garlic: I like mincing fresh garlic. However, you can use the minced garlic from the jar if in a pinch.
Organic Tomato Sauce: I like to use plain tomato sauce for this recipe. In traditional Sloppy Joe’s, some people choose to use ketchup, but ketchup is full of sugar! Tomato sauce brings a richer flavor without the added sugar.
Coconut Sugar: A source of slight sweetness. You may also choose to use agave, honey, or maple syrup.
Spices: Chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Brings a slightly tangy flavor.
Vegan Worcestershire Sauce: Make sure your Worcestershire sauce is certified vegan because regular Worcestershire sauce usually uses fish products.
Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Buns: You can’t have a sloppy Joe sandwich without some buns! But if you’re not feeling the buns, go ahead and put this over rice!
📋 How to Make Vegan Sloppy Joes
- Prepare Lentils- Thoroughly rinse lentils in a colander. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- While cooking lentils, dice yellow onion and red pepper, and mince the garlic. Add ¼ cup of water and a tablespoon of soy sauce (optional) to the sauté pan over medium heat. Water is used as an alternative to olive oil. Add onions. Cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add minced garlic. Sauté for an additional minute. Add red pepper and cook for another minute.
- Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Add tomato sauce. Stir in coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar, and vegan Worcestershire sauce. When lentils are cooked, drain any excess liquid. Then, add lentils to the sauce. Stir to combine.
- Toast burger buns and top with lentil mixture. Add your favorite toppings and serve!
Sloppy Joes are a popular American sandwich, typically made with ground beef mixed with a tomato-based sauce and served on a bun. The exact origins of the Sloppy Joe sandwich are a subject of debate, but there are a few theories regarding its creation. One theory suggests that the Sloppy Joe sandwich was created by a cook named Joe in Sioux City, Iowa, in the early 20th century. According to this account, Joe was a cook at a local cafe who began serving a loose meat sandwich on a bun, and it quickly became popular among the patrons. Another theory points to a different origin in Key West, Florida. It is said that the Sloppy Joe sandwich was created by a bar owner named Joe Russell during the 1930s. Russell owned a bar called “Sloppy Joe’s Bar,” and he supposedly created the sandwich as a way to feed the hungry patrons late at night.
Yes, you can use vegan ground beef crumbles instead of lentils if you prefer. Add the vegan ground beef to the skillet after you’ve cooked the vegetables and added the spices. Allow the vegan ground beef to warm through before serving on your bun of choice.
Find a good 100% whole wheat bun. If you can find fresh-baked buns from your local bakery, that’s the way to go! You can find great whole wheat and gluten-free buns from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I also love Dave’s Killer Bread whole grain buns.
👩🍳 How to Serve
You can add so many delicious toppings to these Vegan Sloppy Joes! Why not load up on more veggies? Here are some of my favorite toppings…
- Pickles or Cucumbers
- Green Peppers
- Jalapeño Peppers
How to Store
Store extra Lentl Sloppy Joe filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. I recommend storing the sloppy Joe mixture in the container and storing your bread separately.
💭 Expert Tips
- You can use pre-cooked lentils for this recipe. I find prepared lentils in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s.
- If preparing your lentils, rinse them before adding them to the water or broth.
- Check lentils at 15 minutes. Overcooked lentils become mushy.
- Use water or vegetable broth to prepare the lentils. The vegetable broth will add a bit more flavor to the lentils. However, in this recipe, I don’t find it necessary as the sauce already has many flavors!
- Use water or vegetable broth to sauté the onions and vegetables instead of oil for a whole food plant-based, no-oil recipe.
😋 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 1 cup green lentils
- 3 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 red pepper
- 1 sweet onion medium
- 2 cloves garlic
- 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire Sauce
- 8 whole wheat or gluten-free buns
- Prepare lentils- Thoroughly rinse lentils in colander. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- Dice onion, red pepper, and mince garlic. Add ¼ cup of water to sauté pan. Add onions. Sauté for 5 minutes of until translucent. Add minced garlic. Sauté for an additional minute. Add red pepper cook another minute.
- Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Add tomato sauce. Stir in coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar, and vegan Worcestershire sauce.
- When lentils are cooked drain any access liquid. Then add lentils to sauce. Stir to combine.
- Toast buns and top with lentils. Add your favorite toppings and serve!
- You can use pre-cooked lentils for this recipe. I find prepared lentils in the refrigerated section of Trader Joes.
- If preparing your own lentils, be sure to rinse before adding them to the water and broth.
- Check lentils at 15 minutes. Overcooked lentils become mushy.
- Use water or vegetable broth to prepare the lentils. Vegetable broth will add a bit more flavor to the lentils. Although in this recipe I don’t find it necessary as the sauce has a lot of flavor already!
- Use water or vegetable broth to sauté the onions and vegetables instead of oil.