A naturally sweet, smoky, and spicy tomato sauce is the star of this easy lentil sloppy joes recipe. They’re made with a delicious sauce and tender, cooked lentils. Add your favorite toppings for another delicious vegan sandwich recipe!
I have been a fan of Sloppy Joes for a long time. They’re a bit messy, but that’s the only negative I can find for this tasty recipe. However, the question came to me, could I make Sloppy Joes vegan?
Of course, the sauce is naturally vegan, but what about the filling? I tried a variety of ingredients and landed on using lentils. The result? These vegetarian Sloppy Joes are so tasty, even my non-vegan friends love them!
You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.
- Lemon — We’ll use both the zest and the juice of the lemon.
- Oats — I used rolled oats for this recipe, but you can substitute instant oats.
- Chia — We’ll add some ground chia seeds to create a thicker texture. You can use whole chia seeds; I just prefer ground because it creates a smoother finished texture.
- Syrup — I used maple syrup, but you can substitute agave nectar.
- Milk — We’ll use almond milk for the best overnight oats! Substitute your favorite plant-based milk.
- Yogurt — I love adding some plant-based yogurt (plain, unsweetened) for an even more tangy flavor.
- Protein Powder — I add some vanilla protein powder for increased flavor and nutrients. If your protein powder is not sweetened, you may want to add an extra teaspoon or two of sweetener.
- Cornstarch — We’ll use cornstarch to thicken the lemon curd topping.
- Turmeric — A pinch of turmeric makes that lemon curd sunny yellow.
- Lentils — You’ll need some uncooked lentils (brown works best).
- Bay leaf — Cooking lentils with a bay leaf infuses a subtle, savory flavor.
- Carrots — We’ll add a few chopped carrots for texture.
- Vegetable Oil — Any neutral oil, like olive oil, will work here.
- Onion — I prefer yellow onion because of its mild flavor and color. You can substitute white or even red onions.
- Bell pepper — Colorful bell peppers are best here, like red, orange, or yellow. Their mild flavor works best, however, green peppers are fine, too.
- Garlic — A few chopped cloves of garlic adds a lot. You can substitute some tender garlic confit or in a pinch a teaspoon of dried garlic powder.
- Tomatoes — You’ll need a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
- Tomato paste — We’ll add tomato paste to create a thicker sauce.
- Seasonings — You’ll need chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, and paprika
- Bouillon — I love the flavor provided by No Beef Better than Bouillon. If you can’t get your hands on that, substitute a tablespoon of soy sauce.
- Smoke sauce — This ingredient is optional, but if you like a smoky flavor, adding a bit of smoke sauce is excellent.
What Lentils are Best for Sloppy Joes?
Brown lentils are the best all-around lentils to use for sloppy joes. They cook quickly (without needing to be soaked), and they’re nutritious (offering up to 24 grams of protein and fiber per half cup of cooked lentils). In addition, they have a firmer texture than red lentils, which can quickly get mushy. They’re also affordable and accessible. You can cook dried lentils or buy canned cooked lentils at health food stores.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- Using brown lentils makes the best texture for this recipe
- Adding both diced tomatoes and tomato paste creates the perfect flavor and makes the sauce nice and thick
- The perfect seasonings, including chili powder, will make this a favorite recipe for years to come!
Keep any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge. This will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. It can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 2 months.
Is Manwich vegan?
Manwich is a sauce made of tomatoes and spices and is vegan. That means you can use Manwich sauce combined with your favorite vegetarian filler, like veggie crumbles, lentils, etc, to create vegan Manwich Sloppy Joes!
Can you freeze lentil sloppy joes?
You can freeze this vegan sloppy Joe mix in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. To serve, transfer the container to the fridge overnight to thaw and then heat it in the microwave or transfer it to a saucepan and cook it until heated through.
Making lentil sloppy joes with canned lentils? Simply leave out the broth and add the canned lentils to the pot with the tender veggies. Then proceed with the rest of this recipe.
Serve this vegan Sloppy Joe mixture on toasted buns with any of these sides:
- Vegan Potato Salad
- Easy Kale Salad
- Vegan Caesar Salad
- Air Fryer French Fries
- Sweet Potato Tater Tots
- Potato Chips or Air Fryer Tortilla Chips
Lentil Sloppy Joes Cost
The good news is there are lots of vegan dishes that are not only tasty but affordable, too. This one, veggie Sloppy Joes, happens to be one of my favorites. Here’s the breakdown of the cost:
- Bag of dry lentils — $1.00
- Olive oil — $.10
- Tomato paste, Tomato Sauce & Ketchup — $.70
- carrots — $1.00
- Onion & Garlic — $.30
- Red Bell Pepper & Carrots — $1.00
- Spices & Brown Sugar — $.50
- Broth — $.50
- Package of buns — $1.50
It costs less than $7 to make this batch of Vegan Sloppy Joes, and that’s only if you don’t already have some of these ingredients on hand.
This is a batch that will make 8 to 12 Sloppy Joe Sandwiches (depending on how much mix you pile on each sandwich). That amounts to about $.88 per sandwich.
That’s it for these Lentil Sloppy Joes!
Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper (green, yellow, or red)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional)
- Add olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until it's shimmering. Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, and carrots. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Stir in the lentils and then add the broth. Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a tilted lid, and cook for 25 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for another 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick.
- To serve, add lentil sloppy joe mixture to toasted buns with cooked confit onions, BBQ sauce, or your favorite toppings.
- Keep any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge. This will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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Vegan Sloppy Joes:Combine the sauce with any of these plant-based meat options:
- Veggie Crumbles. Use store-bought veggie crumbles or Vegan Meat Crumbles.
- Tofu. Use this Tofu Scramble Recipe to make tofu sloppy joes.
- TVP. Textured Vegetable Protein is available in health food stores. Use it to make TVP sloppy joes.
- Tempeh. Cook tempeh, use a spatula to break it down into small bits, then add this sauce to make tempeh sloppy joes.
The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This post was originally published in 2012 and was updated to include new photos, new text, and an updated recipe in 2020.