Vegan Sloppy Joes

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Enjoy a plant-based version of a childhood classic with these vegan sloppy joes. Lentils simmer in a sweet and smoky tomato sauce and then are piled on a bun for a quick and easy meatless meal that everyone will love!

I grew up eating sloppy joes and I remember loving them so much! I know they were typically from a can, but I honestly can’t remember if my mom just used the Manwich sauce or if meat was in the can with it?!? Either way, it doesn’t sound very appetizing to me anymore.

What does appeal to me? A vegan version that’s made with protein-packed lentils and doesn’t come from a can! It’s similar to the sloppy joes you grew up with – still absolutely delicious, just a bit more sophisticated. The cooked lentils give the mix a perfect sloppy joe texture and the tomato-based sauce is flavorful, sweet and savory.

And don’t you worry… they’re still just as messy to eat so be sure to grab a bunch of napkins before serving these up!

One vegan Sloppy Joe on a whole wheat bun topped with coleslaw.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • They taste like regular sloppy joes… but they’re vegan!
  • Loaded with plant-based protein!
  • Cooks up in about 30 minutes for a quick and easy weeknight meal!
Ingredients measured out to make Vegan Sloppy Joes: oregano, paprika, chili powder, pepper, salt, Worcestershire, garlic, bell pepper, lentils, onion, water, olive oil, mushrooms, tomato sauce, bay leaf, maple syrup, slaw and buns.

Ingredients Needed

  • lentils – the star of the show! Lentils are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein. They’re also low in calories and packed with antioxidants. I suggest using either brown or green lentils for this recipe as they hold their shape better. I love using Bob’s Red Mill lentils.
  • olive oil – to sauté the vegetables.
  • veggies – yellow onion, garlic, red bell pepper and mushrooms for flavor, texture and nutrition.
  • tomato sauce – traditional sloppy joes are usually made with ketchup, but we’re just using plain tomato sauce for the base of the sauce.
  • maple syrup – adds a nice touch of sweetness to the sauce! Make sure you’re using pure maple syrup and not pancake syrup as that is loaded with corn syrup and artificial flavors.
  • vegan worcestershire sauce – adds a nice umami flavor to the sauce. Worcestershire is usually made with anchovies so make sure to grab a vegan worcestershire sauce to keep this recipe plant-based!
  • spices & herbs – bay leaf, chili powder, smoked paprika, dried oregano, sea salt and ground black pepper.
  • whole grain buns – can’t have sloppy joes without the buns! I prefer to use whole-grain buns, but feel free to use your favorite type of hamburger bun. You can also use a gluten-free bun if you need this recipe to be gluten-free.
  • toppings – use your favorite toppings for this recipe, but I went with onions and pickles.
Collage of four photos showing how to make Vegan Sloppy Joes: cooking veggies in a pan, adding lentils, spices and sauce until cooked together.

How to Make

Cook lentils: Prepare lentils by rinsing them and adding to a pot with water and a bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat down and simmer covered until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, drain any excess liquid and set the lentils aside to cool. This step can be done in advance.

Sauté veggies: Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until softened.

Simmer sauce: Add the cooked lentils, tomato sauce, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, chili powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Serve: Serve the sloppy joe mixture on toasted hamburger buns with toppings of choice. Enjoy!

Woman's hand holding a vegan Sloppy Joe on a whole wheat bun topped with coleslaw.

What Variety of Lentils Are Best to Use

I recommend only using brown or green lentils for these vegan sloppy joes. These are the most common lentils you’ll find at a grocery store and they’re much denser than other varieties. Red lentils are rather fragile and won’t work well for this recipe as they’ll result in a mushier texture. Black lentils are really small and you’ll need a lot more of them. And all the other varieties of lentils are not commonly found at most grocery stores.

I used dry lentils for this recipe and cooked them myself, but pre-cooked lentils will work just fine and make the process a lot quicker.

One vegan Sloppy Joe on a whole wheat bun topped with coleslaw with a second vegan Sloppy Joe in the background on a plate.

What to Serve With Vegan Sloppy Joes

I highly recommend eating these vegan sloppy joes on a bun, just like regular sloppy joes. Coleslaw, pickles and/or pickled onions make for a great crunchy topping! These sandwiches are filling on their own, but I love serving them with a side dish! Here are some of my favorites:

One vegan Sloppy Joe on a whole wheat bun topped with coleslaw with a gold pepper grinder are in the background.

How to Store Leftovers

Refrigerator: Let the vegan sloppy joe mixture cool completely then store leftovers in an airtight sealed container for up to 5 days.

Freezer: Let mixture cool completely then store in a freezer-safe container for up to 1 month.

Reheating: If sloppy joe mixture has been frozen, thaw it in the fridge overnight. When ready to enjoy, reheat in the microwave or over the stovetop, until warm throughout. You might need to add a splash of water or tomato sauce to the mixture when reheating.

More Lentil Recipes to Try

More Plant-Based Recipes to Try

Be sure to check out all of the lentil recipes as well as the full collection of vegan recipes on EBF!

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5 from 6 votes

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Enjoy a plant-based version of a childhood classic with these vegan sloppy joes. Lentils simmer in a sweet and smoky tomato sauce and then are piled on a bun for a quick and easy meatless meal that everyone will love!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients  

  • ½ cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 1 ⅓ cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 orange or red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 whole grain buns, toasted
  • Toppings: onions, pickles and/or coleslaw

Instructions 

  • Prepare lentils by rinsing them and adding to a pot with water and a bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat down and simmer covered until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, drain any excess liquid and set the lentils aside to cool. This step can be done in advance.
    Cooked lentils being drained for the vegan Sloppy Joes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until softened.
    Vegetables sautéing in a skillet for the vegan Sloppy Joes.
  • Add the cooked lentils, tomato sauce, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
    Ingredients for vegan Sloppy Joes in a skillet.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
    Lentils simmering in a tomato sauce in a skillet for vegan Sloppy Joes.
  • Serve the sloppy joe mixture on toasted buns with toppings of choice. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 sloppy joe, no toppings | Calories: 353kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 717mg | Potassium: 764mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 18g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegan sloppy joes
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

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Recipe Rating




16 Comments

    1. WOO! I am excited to hear this recipe is a hit for you and your whole family, Tanya. Thank you so much for sharing your review + star rating, I really appreciate it!

  1. 5 stars
    I was skeptical and so was my family, but it’s delicious and I find myself making them for the second time for dinner tonight! I also printed the recipe and put it in my binder of recipes I love.

    1. Ah yay! This means so much to me, Sarah. I am so glad you and your family are loving this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing your review & star rating, I truly appreciate it!