These Vegan Sloppy Joes are a quick, easy, and tasty vegetarian dinner for the whole family. Made with lentils, veggies, and a tangy tomato sauce, these Lentil Sloppy Joes are packed with plant-based protein. Ready in just 30 minutes (or less if the lentils are already cooked) you'll have dinner on the table in no time.
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I never really understood the point of Sloppy Joes until recently. Messy to eat! Makes the bun soggy!
But then I became a parent and understood that taking time to do things like shape individual burger patties with my hands while one of my kids is trying to climb me and the other is trying to shank his brother with a vegetable peeler is pure insanity.
Don't get me wrong, I do love a good homemade veggie burger (evidence: Chipotle Black Bean Burgers) when I have the time and a quiet enough house to make them. But for a quick and easy weeknight dinner that's packed with plant-based protein and veggies and is dang delicious? You can't beat these Vegan Sloppy Joes.
These bad boys come together in just under 30 minutes, or even faster if you've cooked the lentils in advance (Batch Cooking For Beginners, anyone?). You can serve them as is with toasted hamburger buns, or make a batch of Crispy Potato Wedges to go with. Not a fan of wedges? You crazy. Make a Vegetarian Caesar Salad instead.
The main takeaway is this: we've got a fast, simple, and dang delicious weeknight dinner on our hands that's comprised almost entirely of pantry staples. You can't really argue with that, now can you? So let's go make some Lentil Sloppy Joes.
What do I need to make vegan sloppy joes?
Alrighty then, head to the pantry and get down to business. Here's what you need for this recipe:
- Lentils --> I used small green lentils, but really any sturdy lentil (beluga, brown, etc) will do just fine.
- Onions --> Forming our flavour base.
- Carrots --> Cause I can't not with vegetables.
- Celery --> See above.
- Garlic --> Bringing some flave.
- Crushed tomatoes --> One whole can.
- Tomato paste --> I use the stuff in a squeeze tube cause it lasts forever.
- Maple syrup --> A little balancing sweetness.
- Apple cider vinegar --> Bringing the tang.
- Ground cumin --> Smoky flavour.
- Smoked paprika --> Even smokier!
- Chili powder --> For a touch of heat.
- Soy sauce --> For that umami touch.
Do I need any special equipment?
Not really. I like a large, heavy-bottomed pan like this one to make the vegan sloppy joe mix up in, but really any pan you have will do just fine.
How do you make lentil sloppy joes?
I'll talk you through it step-by-step. Here's what you do:
Step 1: Cook your lentils if they're not already cooked. I like to rinse the lentils well, then cover with cold water so there's a good inch of water over the lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and set the lid on the pot slightly ajar.
They'll simmer for about 20 minutes, but start checking them at around the 15 minutes mark. You want them to be cooked, but still firm - kind of like al dente when making pasta. Drain the lentils and set aside.
Step 2: (pictured above) Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and sauté for a couple of minutes until it's just becoming translucent. Add the carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have just softened.
Step 3: (pictured above) Add the cumin, smoked paprika, and chili powder to the pan.
Step 4: (pictured above) Stir the spices through and sauté for 1-2 minutes more.
Step 5: (pictured above) Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce to the pan.
Step 6: (pictured below) Stir the wet ingredients through and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Step 7: (pictured below) Add the drained lentils to the pan, and stir through.
Step 8: Allow the mixture to simmer for another 2-3 minutes with the lentils added.
Step 9: Serve!
I serve my Vegan Sloppy Joes on toasted whole wheat hamburger buns. I usually just go for store-bought buns, but if you've got extra time on your hands and you're feeling fancy you can make these Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns from Sustainable Cooks.
Top 'em with Spicy Pickled Onions for a pop of colour and tang, and a selection of condiments of your choice.
Dinner. Is. Done.
Can this recipe be made in advance?
You bet your booty it can! You can make the lentil sloppy joes mixture and keep it in an air-tight container in the fridge for around 3 days.
Simply reheat in the microwave or in a pan with a splash of water or broth added when you're ready to serve.
Can you freeze sloppy joes?
You can definitely freeze the sloppy joe filling, but I wouldn't freeze with the buns as they'd get soggy and gross.
To freeze your vegan sloppy joe mixture just portion it into a freezer-proof container, label it, and pop it in the freezer for up to three months. I usually freeze stuff like this in empty cottage cheese containers because my husband has a two-tub-a-week habit and we've pretty much always got some on hand. Reduce, reuse, recycle, yo!
Alternatively, I love freezing soups, stews, and wet mixes like this sloppy joe filling in these reusable silicon freezer bags.
Can I use a different legume in the filling?
Sure, you do you.
I don't recommend red lentils as they don't hold their shape well, but another green or brown lentil would be just fine. Alternatively, if you'd rather use beans you could use small or medium-sized beans like mung beans (maybe you have some left over from this Mung Bean Curry?), black beans, navy beans, or black-eyed peas.
Whatever you decide to use, you'll want to aim for about 3 cups of cooked (or canned, rinsed well) beans.
Hey Nutrition Lady, are lentils healthy?
Um, yes, my friends. They sure are.
These lovely little legumes are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber. The soluble fiber in lentils helps to keep blood sugar stable, while providing a steady source of energy.
But the energy benefits don’t stop there, lentils are a rich source of iron, as well as being a good source of plant-based protein, which is good news for us veg heads. They’re also a great source of heart-healthy folate and magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, potassium, and B6.
Other recipes you might enjoy:
Veggie Burger in a Bowl
Vegan Lentil Loaf
Red Lentil Dal
Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Lentils
Beluga Lentil Salad with Halloumi Croutons
Vegan Sloppy Joes with Lentils
- 1 cup green lentils such as du Puy
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 medium carrot diced
- 1 large celery stalk diced
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 14 oz can crushed tomatoes use finely crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- Cook your lentils if they're not already cooked. I like to rinse the lentils well, then cover with cold water so there's a good inch of water over the lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and set the lid on the pot slightly ajar.
- They'll simmer for about 20 minutes, but start checking them at around the15 minutes mark. You want them to be cooked, but still firm - kind of like al dente when making pasta. Drain the lentils and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and sauté for a couple of minutes until it's just becoming translucent.
- Add the carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have just softened.
- Add the cumin, smoked paprika, and chili powder to the pan. Stir the spices through and sauté for 1-2minutes more.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce to the pan.
- Stir the wet ingredients through and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the drained lentils to the pan, and stir through. Allow the mixture to simmer for another 2-3 minutes with the lentils added.
- Nutrition values are an estimate only and are calculated without the bun.
Love, love, love this! I made my lentils in the instant pot and then pre made this for a no brainer weekday dinner. I loved everything about it. The flavor, the texture, the quick and easiness of it. It will definitely be part of the dinner rotation. Thanks for such a great recipe! The pickled onions were the bomb. I’ve been eating them with everything!
Delicious! Wasn’t sure about smoked paprika but was a nice surprise! We had this over baked potato wedges. Thank you for sharing your recipe.
I love a bunch of your recipes but this one was not my fav. The pickled onions were great but I felt like I was just eating lentils on a bun. Didn't really resemble sloppy joes to me. The lentils were good, but yeah, it felt like I just made lentils and then put them on a sandwich. Not sure if that makes sense. But I love many of your other recipes!
Haha, your comment made me laugh, Patti! I mean, ultimately it IS lentils on a bun. To be fair, I haven't eaten a real sloppy joe in well over 25 years, so my perception may be skewed. Perhaps it should be renamed "tasty vegan lentils on a bun" or something like that instead.
This is one of my favourite recipes!
Your VSJ pack a ton of flavourful, are delicious, and come together quickly!
This is a perfect meal for a crowd!
I like to add cayenne too and have paired with sweet potato fries, kale chips and I would say quick pickled onions are a must!