These Vegan Sloppy Joes will take you back to your childhood…the healthy way! They’re sweet, smoky, tangy, and messy and will please even the meat eaters in your life.
It’s a common misconception that a plant based diet lacks comfort food – the kind of meals that transport you back to your childhood and make you feel like everything is easy and fun. I’m happy to report that it’s just not true.
We eat plenty of comforting, hearty meals that even an omnivore would love. These Lentil Sloppy Joes, evoking feelings of nostalgia, will nourish your belly and your soul.
Bonus: they cook in about 30 minutes which makes them the perfect quick weeknight meal.
Through the years I have found that the simplest meals are the ones my family loves the most, like my incredibly easy Burrito Bowls and my 4-ingredient Black Bean Burgers. Let’s face it, kids are finicky. Their favorite food one day is the food they can’t stand the next. Somehow, simmering pretty much anything in a smoky, sweet, tangy sauce will make it ultra appealing. The kids gobble these up and ask for seconds.
The fact that they are a little messy makes vegan sandwiches even more fun. Fun for the kids, anyway. But you can rest easy knowing the extra washcloths needed to scrub those saucy little faces and hands are worth it because your kids just noshed on 4 different vegetables without even realizing it. Score!
Bell peppers boast large amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Carrots are high in beta carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. They also contain plenty of fiber, potassium, vitamin K, and antioxidants. [source]
What kind of lentils should I use?
Lentils come in a variety of colors, but they are not all the same. For these Vegan Sloppy Joes, you will need brown or green lentils as they hold their shape well and retain a bit of texture. Red and yellow lentils mostly disintegrate once cooked and turn to mush, which we definitely do not want.
More vegan lentil recipes
- Lentil Quinoa Soup
- Roasted Cauliflower Lentil Salad
- Baked Red Lentil Fritters
- Lentil Cottage Pie
- Lentil Bolognese
- Asian Lentil Burgers
- Lentil Tacos
How to cook lentils
This recipe calls for cooked lentils which you can buy canned or sometimes packaged in the produce section (Trader Joe’s carries steamed lentils in a box among the veggies in the refrigerated section).
I like to cook big batches of lentils at once and then freeze them in freezer safe bags in about 2-3 cup portions. They’ll keep in the freezer for about 6 months.
If you don’t have pre-cooked or leftover lentils on hand, you can easily make them from scratch. You always want to pick through them to make sure there are no rocks or other debris, then give them a good rinse in cold water until the water runs clear. There is no need to soak dry lentils.
I often use my Instant Pot to cook lentils, which takes just 8 minutes on high and then a natural release of 10 minutes. It also takes 5-10 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to temperature. All in all, it takes just a bit less time as on the stove top, but it’s all hands off and you don’t have to worry about the pot boiling over. Use 1 ¾ cup water to 1 cup brown or green lentils.
To cook them on the stove top, combine 2 cups water for every 1 cup of lentils. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a low bubble/simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender. Lentils can turn to mush quickly, so keep an eye on them and check for doneness early.
How to serve
We love these messy sandwiches on burger buns with lots of dill pickles. You can also top them with tomato slices, raw onion slices, pickled red onions, or a slice of vegan cheese (we love Field Roast Chao or Violife varieties).
You can serve them up with any of your favorite sides that you’d serve with burgers. Here are a few of our faves:
- Steamed or roasted broccoli (or your fave veggie)
- French fries, potato chips, or Sweet Potato Fries
- Corn on the cob or Raw Corn Salad
- Baked beans or Kidney Bean Salad
- Baked potato or Roasted Potato Salad
- Kale Salad
- Artichoke Pasta Salad
If you find yourself with leftovers, store the lentil mixture in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it in a freezer-safe bag for about 6 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight and then pop in the microwave for a minute or two or heat gently in a pot on the stove.
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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For even more easy family recipes, be sure to check out my cookbook, The Meatless Monday Family Cookbook!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or ¼ cup vegetable broth or water, plus more as needed to prevent sticking)
- ¼ of a red onion (peeled and diced)
- 1 green pepper (seeded and diced)
- 2 small carrots (diced small or shredded)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup organic brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce, (Annie's and The Wizard's are both vegan) (or use 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon molasses)
- 1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt/pepper to taste
- 2 ½ cups cooked lentils
- 6 burger buns
Toppings of choice, optional
- tomatoes, pickles, avocado, sliced onion, etc.
- Heat the oil (or broth or water) over medium heat in a large deep skillet. Sauté the onion, green pepper, carrots, and garlic for 5 to 6 minutes until soft.
- Add the tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vegan Worcestershire sauce (or balsamic and molasses), liquid smoke, mustard and oregano. Bring to a low boil, decrease heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Taste and add salt/pepper (or more Worcestershire sauce or liquid smoke) if necessary.
- Add in the cooked lentils and stir until evenly coated. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Serve on buns with your favorite toppings.
~To make this recipe oil-free, use broth or water to sauté.
~Nutrition facts calculated without buns.
Serving Size:6 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 184Sodium: 666mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 9gSugar: 18gProtein: 9g