Vegan Sloppy Joes

This vegan Sloppy Joes recipe has a tangy lentil filling that’s full of flavor and nutrients! It’s a plant based dinner everyone will love.

Vegan sloppy joes

Looking for plant based recipes to please everyone at the table? These days, Alex and I getting lots of requests for veggie-centric recipes to feed a crowd. In fact, per the New York Times, 40% of Americans are now looking to eat more plant based recipes. And what better to please a crowd than Sloppy Joes? These vegan Sloppy Joes have a zingy lentil filling that tastes just as good as the meaty version. Put it on a toasted bun with some bread and butter pickles, and WOW! You’re going to love this one (promise). Ready to get cooking?

Vegan Sloppy Joes

What’s in these vegan Sloppy Joes?

These vegan Sloppy Joes are full of whole food plant based (WFPB) ingredients. Lentils form the base, and they’re covered in a gooey sauce with savory spices! Here’s what they’ve got:

  • Onion, garlic, and green pepper bring big flavor
  • Brown or green lentils are the base: they provide texture and lots of plant based protein
  • Olive oil & vegetable broth for sauteing and simmering
  • Organic ketchup: look for organic and read the label to find a ketchup with as few ingredients as possible!
  • Vegan Worcestershire sauce: It can be found at your local grocery store or online! If you don’t eat 100% vegan, you can use regular (it has a small amount of anchovies).
  • Spices: mustard powder, onion powder and chili powder round it out!
Sloppy Joe lentil filling

The basic method: how to make vegan Sloppy Joes

These vegan Sloppy Joes are very easy to make! They do take about 50 minutes total, but most of that is hands off. So, you’ll have to plan ahead on this one. Leftovers save well, so if you don’t have time on a weeknight, meal prep a batch and have it in the fridge. It tastes just as good days later! Here are the basic steps for this recipe:

  • Prep the veggies: Dice the onion, garlic and green pepper. Because what good Sloppy Joes recipe doesn’t have green pepper?
  • Saute: Saute the veggies for 5 minutes.
  • Simmer: Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes until a thick sauce forms and the lentils are tender.
  • Stir in ketchup and serve. You’ll stir in one last hit of ketchup to intensify the flavor.
Plant based sloppy Joes

Why lentils? A note on plant based meats

Many vegan Sloppy Joes recipes use plant based meat versions of ground beef. Here’s the thing: Alex and I aren’t so into plant based meat substitutes (like veggie crumbles or Impossible Burger). They’re all the rage these days, but guess what? They’re also processed food.

According to Dr. David Katz in Heated, plant based meats are a step up from eating processed meats, but a step down from whole foods. So if you’re looking to eat lots of plants for your health: start with actual veggies! That’s why we’ve used lentils as the filling in these Sloppy Joes.

Make it in advance, or use our quicker version!

This vegan Sloppy Joes recipe takes about 35 minutes to make. If you want to make it for seriously quick weeknight meals, here are a few tricks:

  • Meal prep in advance. Make it the night before or on the weekend. Leftovers save well! Just refrigerate them until serving, and reheat in a saucepan. Add an extra squeeze of ketchup if it seems dry.
  • Use our quicker version. Try our Two-Bean Sloppy Joes: they take just 20 minutes! We like the flavor and texture of these a little better, but the bean version is nice for a quick fix.
Plant based dinner ideas

Everyone loves them…including kids!

These vegan Sloppy Joes are a nice plant-based meal for people who are on the fence about veggies. They’re crowd pleasing and have a cozy, comforting vibe. They’re also a great vegan recipe for kids! Our son Larson loved them. Of course, they do get a little sloppy: so beware!

More healthy plant based dinner recipes

Looking for more healthy plant based dinner recipes? That’s our forte around here. Here are some you might enjoy:

  • Minestrone Soup Minestrone soup is a colorful Italian soup full of hearty vegetables and pasta! This recipe is an easy plant based dinner or lunch recipe.
  • Easy Sheet Pan Dinner This easy sheet pan dinner is filled with healthy vegetables and fresh flavor! Throw it all in the oven while you cook rice or quinoa. Dinnertime win!
  • Easy Chickpea Curry The ultimate healthy and easy weeknight dinner! It’s done in 20 minutes, totally plant based, and full of flavor.

This vegan Sloppy Joes recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free. For gluten-free, use gluten-free buns.

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Vegan sloppy joes

Vegan Sloppy Joes (That Everyone Loves!)


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (45 votes, average: 4.11 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

This vegan Sloppy Joes recipe has a tangy lentil filling that’s full of flavor and nutrients! It’s a plant based dinner everyone will love.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups brown or green lentils
  • 1 quart vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (about 3/4 cup diced)
  • 1 medium onion (about 1 cup diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic ketchup, divided*
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce, divided
  • 1 teaspoon each mustard powder, onion powder, and chili powder
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Pickled onions, to serve
  • Bread and butter pickles, to serve
  • 8 whole wheat buns (make sure they are vegan, use gluten-free as desired)

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan, place the lentils with 3 cups of the vegetable broth, 2 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon 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 (start tasting at 15 minutes; the exact timing depends on the heat level and your pan size). Drain the excess liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Once you’ve started the lentils, dice the bell pepper. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic.
  3. In another large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and cook 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add vegetable broth, 1 cup ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.
  4. Add the lentils to the sauce: When the lentils are done, add them to the sauce. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Then remove the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. Serve: Serve on a bun with pickled onions and pickles. (If desired, toast the buns prior to serving.) Make ahead: Leftovers save well 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.

Notes

*Look for organic ketchup and read the label to make sure it has as few ingredients as possible. 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan

Keywords: Vegan Sloppy Joes

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Heather E.
    January 16, 2020 at 6:49 am

    I followed the recipe with no changes or substitutions and my lentils were not tender at the 35 minute mark. I added an additional 5 minutes, then 10 – still not tender. I checked the cooking instructions on my bag of BRM lentils. For one cup lentils it called for three cups liquid. I thought maybe if I added another cup of water and cooked it out that would help but no, my lentils are still not tender. After over an hour on the stove I decided to just pull it off the heat, add the additional ketchup and call it a night. I can say that what I did eat when checking the lentils was very good but I can’t serve it to my family because they’d swear off lentils for life! I plan to heat up some at dinner tonight in hope that after reheating the lentils will be tender but I don’t think they will.

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      January 17, 2020 at 1:06 pm

      Hi Heather! Good news: Alex and I re-formulated the recipe to make sure the lentils are tender every time. The updates are now listed in the recipe! Thank you for letting us know this feedback!

  • Reply
    Bea
    January 16, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Coincidentally, my lentils didn’t soften as usual either; lentils break down quickly during the cooking process in my other recipes. I love the idea of this recipe, but I found it was a bit too sweet despite using organic ketchup. I’d love other seasoning ideas to counter the ketchup flavor. A bit more umami?

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      January 17, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Beth! Good news: Alex and I re-formulated the recipe to make sure the lentils are tender every time, and also addressed the sweetness factor. The updates are now listed in the recipe! Thank you for letting us know this feedback!

  • Reply
    Amber Vanderlinden
    January 16, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    My lentils did not soften either by the 35 min mark! So weird!

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      January 17, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Amber! Good news: Alex and I re-formulated the recipe to make sure the lentils are tender every time. The updates are now listed in the recipe! Thank you for letting us know this feedback!

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