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These vegan lentil sloppy joes are deliciously filling plant-based dinner made with lentils, tomatoes, and seasonings! The tangy flavor makes them a crowd-pleaser, and they’re a huge hit at our house. Serve on a bun with pickles for the true sloppy joe experience.

Lentil Sloppy Joes on platter.
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Why we love this recipe

If you grew up on sloppy joes like we did (or even if you didn’t), you’re going to love this spin on the classic! Our lentil sloppy joes recipe has all the hearty, tangy flavor of the classic, but it’s an easy vegan recipe that’s 100% plant-based.

The best part is you can make it in 30 minutes! It makes a large batch of 8 servings (true to form, since sloppy joes are intended to feed a crowd). Ketchup, tomato paste, and a few seasonings make a savory flavor that’s irresistible. The first time we made them, we loved watching our toddler shovel in bite after bite! It’s a kid favorite that adults love, too.

“These were so quick, so hearty, and so delicious! This recipe will be on repeat at our house for those busy summer days. The seasoning is perfection!” -Renata

Ingredients you’ll need

Lentil sloppy joes star one of our very favorite plant-based ingredients: lentils! We love them because they’re delicious, inexpensive, packed with plant-based protein (which makes vegan recipes more filling), and shelf stable for up to 3 years. How’s that for a rockstar ingredient? Here are the main ingredients you’ll need, plus salt and olive oil:

  • Brown or green lentils: These are cheap and easy to find. Avoid substituting other varieties (like red or French) since they cook differently.
  • Green bell pepper and onion: These are standard in the classic version of sloppy joes.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic adds a savory meaty flavor that’s essential in vegan dinners, we find.
  • Tomato paste, ketchup, Dijon, brown sugar: These ingredients make the base of the tangy sauce.
  • Vegan Worcestershire sauce: If you eat fully vegan or plant-based, use vegan Worcestershire sauce or this Worcestershire sauce substitute.
  • Garlic powder, cumin and smoked paprika: These savory spices form a meaty base.
Measuring cup with lentils

We’re crazy about lentil recipes

Lentil recipes are some of our favorite to create, so we’re excited to have a new one in our arsenal. You may have heard us talking about this 7 Ingredient Lentil Soup that we’re obsessed with. A few more faves? This Lentil Salad and this Coconut Lentil Curry.

Tips for making lentil sloppy joes

This lentil sloppy joes recipe comes together quickly! A few recipe tips before you get right to it:

  • The recipe makes 8 servings, so it’s a big batch. You can make half if desired. But we love having leftovers to eat again or put on a vegan taco salad.
  • Cook the lentils first until tender, about 20 minutes. You’ll leave all the liquid in the pan when mixing it with the sauce, so you’ll want most of it to be evaporated.
  • You can chop the ingredients for the sauce while the lentils cook. Short cut! Chop and sauté while the lentils are cooking. It makes for quick prep time!

Storing leftovers and make ahead info

We like these lentil sloppy joes best the day they are cooked, but they taste great the next day too! You can store leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days. Reheat in a saucepan, adding an extra squeeze of ketchup if it seems dry.

Another way to make this in advance is to make the lentils and sauce and refrigerate them separately. Then mix together and heat on the stovetop before serving.

Lentil sloppy joes recipe

What to serve with vegan lentil sloppy joes

To us, something about sloppy joes screams potato chips! But if you’re up for serving with more veggies (which we are!), here are a few more ideas on what to serve alongside. If you eat fully vegan, in some recipes you may need to use vegan mayo or feta (or omit the cheese).

Dietary notes

This lentil sloppy joes recipe is vegan (with vegan buns), plant-based, vegetarian, and dairy-free. For gluten-free, use a gluten-free bun.

Frequently asked questions

Are vegan lentil sloppy joes as satisfying as the traditional version?

They can be! Lentils provide a hearty texture and a good amount of protein, while the blend of spices and savory ingredients delivers the classic sloppy joe flavor you crave.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like the taste of ground beef, so if you’re trying to impress a meat lover you may want to try purchased plant-based crumbles.

Can I use other types of lentils besides brown or green lentils?

We don’t suggest substituting lentil varieties here. Red lentils in particular become very mushy.

Are there any gluten-free options for the buns?

Many grocery stores now offer gluten-free hamburger buns. Alternatively, you can use lettuce wraps or even serve the sloppy joe filling over rice or quinoa for a grain bowl-inspired twist.

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Lentil Sloppy Joes

Lentil Sloppy Joes

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 5 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
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These vegan lentil sloppy joes are deliciously filling plant-based dinner! The tangy flavor makes them a crowd-pleaser, and they’re a huge hit at our house. Serve on a bun with pickles for the true sloppy joe experience.


  • 1 pound (2 ¼ cups) brown or green lentils
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt*
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • ¾ cup organic ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, cumin, and smoked paprika
  • 8 buns (vegan if desired)
  • Bread and butter pickles, to serve


  1. In a large saucepan, place the lentils, 6 cups water, and the kosher salt. Bring to a rapid simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape and there is only a bit of liquid left in the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables as noted in the ingredient list. 
  3. In another large saucepan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and cook for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, cumin and smoked paprika. (If the lentils are not yet ready at this point, remove the heat and allow the sauce to rest until they are done). Once the lentils are cooked, add them and the pan liquid to the tomato mixture, then simmer for 5 minutes until thickened and warm. Taste and add salt if desired. 
  4. Serve on a bun with pickles. (If desired, toast the buns prior to serving.) Make ahead: Leftovers save for 3 to 4 days. Make in advance, refrigerate and then reheat in a saucepan. Add an extra squeeze of ketchup if it seems dry.
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Anne Stauch says:

    Recipe was great!!! Became a fan of vegetarian recipes because of a damn tick which made me allergic to mammalian meat that is called Alpha Gal. Think I might tinker a bit with the recipe next time. Instead of green pepper, add jalapeno and cut amount of ketchup in half and add barbeque sauce. This might add more spice & heat. Hands down it’s repeat recipe! Found you guys from Kate & Cookie website and have ordered your new cookbook. Best wishes!!!

    1. Thank you! I’m so sorry to hear about alpha gal. I hope you find many more to enjoy!

  2. Tanvee says:

    Yum, this was sooooo good! I was nervous about the amount of tomato, but it’s just perfect. I love the smoky, sweet, slightly punchy flavours much, they work perfectly.

    I’m so partial to lentils, they are very versatile and so filling. And now I love them in chili. Using them in sloppy joes just makes sense! :)

  3. Melissa says:

    Hi Alex and Sonja,

    I’m thrilled to see people using vegetables instead of plant-based meat substitutes. Some of us aren’t fans of the taste of meat, so it gets exhausting visiting websites that only feature tofu and crumbles to replicate meat lol.

    I’ve made your meatloaf recipe in the past and loved it! You two are my go-to for recipes.

    I’m curious about the difference between this sloppy joe recipe and your other one. I’d love to make them on Sunday, but I’m torn about which recipe to use.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi! This is one is our latest and greatest :) I go with it.

    2. Suzan Wilson says:

      I can’t resist responding to Melissa’s comments. I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life and until “plant based eating” became a THING in recent times, many if not most vegetarian recipes seemed to aim towards “replicating” meat – hence the extreme fixation on tofu & other soy-derived products. Many if not most of “us” never aspired to replicate meat – we didn’t like it in the first place ! I sympathize with Melissa who characterized the recipe search as exhausting !

      SO you fab Couple of Cooks — keep up with the EASY delicious vegetarian recipes which use lots of good hearty ingredients that aren’t trying to “be meat”
      Yay for you.

  4. Renata says:

    These were so quick, so hardy, and so delicious! This recipe will be on repeat at our house for those busy summer days. The seasoning is perfection!