These delicious vegan sloppy joes are easy + quick to prepare, making it a great weeknight dinner recipe. They are healthy and full of sweet + savory + smoky flavors that make this recipe so satisfying. This is a plant-based comfort food recipe your whole family will enjoy!
I grew up in Quebec, so sloppy joes weren't something we would eat at home. Or when going out either. BUT, I fell in love with that classic American comfort food the second I tried it once I moved here. And I know for many of you that sloppy joes are a childhood memory, so I was pretty excited to share my recipe on the blog.
To me, comfort food means vegan mac and cheese or a tofu bolognese, but my husband is all about sandwiches OR bean chili stews, so sloppy joes have been a recurrent request in my house. I have tweaked and perfected this classic to turn it into a plant-based and healthier sloppy joes meal, and now we are all obsessed, including our kids!
I also realized that I actually never had a classic sloppy joes made with real meat. Which is fine, because I know you don't need beef to make a sloppy joes AMAZING!
So here is my version of a vegan sloppy joes made with lentils instead of meat. Lentils are such a great meat-replacement for so many recipes, such as when making a plant-based lasagna or a vegan taco meat, since the tiny beans mimic well the crumbly and hearty consistency that ground beef provides to sauces.
This recipe is actually SO easy to make and absolutely delicious, rich and bold in flavors. Even any meat eater will ADORE this recipe and ask for more, making it the perfect meatless sandwich to serve to everyone, no matter their diet.
These lentil sloppy joes have a perfect balance of smoky + sweet + savory + spicy flavors that will really satisfy your tastebuds, it is SO good. Once the lentils are cooked, it takes no more than 15 minutes to have everything come together. Then, serve over a soft warm bun and layer with more toppings if you want. And dig in!
You will also love that this recipe is secretly super healthy and packed with fiber and plant-based protein. But you won't even realize it, I promise. You can use seasonings that aren't that spicy and serve it to your whole family, even your kids will love it.
Let me know if you gave it a try! ❤️
Why this recipe works
- Perfect 30-min meal (or even quicker if you use canned lentils!)
- Healthy and PACKED with fiber
- Filling and ultra satisfying
- Great to serve to a crowd or your whole family.
- Makes for amazing leftovers
- Loaded with flavors
- 100% plant-based, vegan, vegetarian and easy-to-make gluten-free
Ingredients you will need
- Lentils: choose brown or green lentils for best result. Do not use red lentils (too mushy) and avoid black or beluga lentils (hold their shape a little too well).
- Onion: adds a lot of flavor to the lentil stew, use yellow or sweet onion.
- Green bell pepper: a classic sloppy joes recipe includes a green pepper, but you can swap for any colored peppers if you prefer and even omit if you don't have it.
- Garlic: I used 3 large cloves to really infuse the lentils with tons of flavors. Use as much as you want!
- Spices: I used a mix of chili powder, cumin powder and smoked paprika. Smoked paprika I think is important to add a light smoky flavor, but use regular sweet paprika if that's all you have.
- Dijon mustard: also another classic ingredient in a sloppy joe to boost the peppery flavor.
- Tomato sauce: makes for the base of the stew. A smooth tomato sauce as opposed to a chunky sauce will give you a better texture. If you only have diced tomatoes, then you can do a quick blend before adding to the pan.
- Tomato paste: to help thicken the lentil stew and add more deep savory flavor.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: a little sweet + savory + umami + vinegary, it complements the other flavors of the filling mixture. Look for a vegan sauce made without anchovies!
- Buns: to serve the sloppy joes.
How to make vegan sloppy joes
Cook the lentils (or use canned!)
Rinse well the lentils in a small mesh colander and then transfer to a small-medium pot. Then, add 3 cups of water, cover and bring to a simmer. Then, turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking for about 25 minutes or until they are tender. Check often and add water if they dry out before being done. Once tender, drain excess water if necessary and set aside.
Make the sloppy joes filling
In a large non-stick pan, warm up a small amount of oil (I prefer using an oil-spray so I don't add too much, but you don't have to use oil) and then add the onion, green pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until tender.
Then, add the garlic and spices and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring almost constantly.
Pour the tomato sauce over and also add the cooked lentils, maple syrup, tomato paste and vegan Worcestershire sauce to the pan.
Stir to combine and keep cooking for about 8-10 minutes or until desired consistency.
Assemble the sandwich
Toast the bun and then add a few spoonfuls of the lentil mixture over the bottom part. You can add extra toppings, such as onion or marinated jalapeño. Close up the sandwich and enjoy right away.
- Make sure to look for a vegan Worcestershire sauce! Classic Worcestershire sauces can contain anchovies, so you want to check the ingredient list to avoid that. I like Annie's Natural vegan Worcestershire sauce or I'll sometimes use Whole Foods Market's vegan Worcestershire sauce (from the brand 365) as well.
- I encourage you to use canned lentils to speed up the recipe if you are in a rush. If you don't have to cook the lentils first, then this recipe should take 15-20 minutes to prepare. Perfect weeknight dinner!
- Taste the lentil stew and adjust the flavor to your preference, it is so easy to customize! I like mine not that sweet, but I know some will prefer a sweeter sloppy joes mixture, so simply add more maple syrup to taste if that's the case.
You can serve the sloppy joes with the buns as is, it is so delicious and satisfying on its own. But, it is also fun to add extra toppings, such as:
- Onion or pickled onion. I have a lime marinated red onion recipe that would pair well with this sandwich.
- Cucumber. You can check out my quick marinated cucumber recipe in my oyster mushroom burgers, which would be amazing here too, or use finely sliced raw cucumber for a nice crunch and touch of freshness.
- Marinated jalapeños, as seen in the pictures. It adds a pickling flavor, but also just a little heat that's not overpowering.
- Dill pickles. Regular store-bought pickles would be great and convenient to add some crunchiness and an extra tangy flavor.
- Coleslaw. Amazing in most burgers, but especially in sloppy joes. Choose a creamy slaw if you can, such as the one showcased in my BBQ chickpea bowl. Here, I served the slaw on the side, but you can simply pile it up in the burger for a messy (!) but delicious meal!
- Roasted vegetables. Such as mushrooms and red pepper. Add flavor, nutrients and texture.
- Lettuce. Choose crunchy romaine if you can.
- Avocado. Adds a nice creaminess and more healthy fats to your sandwich!
Side dishes for sloppy joes
Here are a few great side dish ideas to serve with your sloppy joes:
- Chips: such a classic! It adds a nice crunchy bite to your plate that contrasts well with the saucy burger filling.
- Salad: can help lighten up your dish, especially if choosing a simple green salad. Also try pairing with a coleslaw, cilantro lime pasta salad, potato salad or classic macaroni salad.
- Mac and cheese: well, this would make for a filling meal! Mac and cheese is another American comfort food classic that's actually a common pairing for sloppy joes. Try out this coconut milk mac and cheese! It is done so quickly and is also completely vegan.
- Pickles: this sloppy joes recipe is already super filling, so you can keep your side dish super simple and pair with a dill pickle.
- Corn on the cob: or any roasted vegetables. Try zucchini, pepper, potatoes or carrots.
- French fries: here is an easy, vegan and healthier homemade French fries recipe that would be great with your sloppy joes!
Variations to the recipe
You can also tweak the lentil mixture as you wish to fit your preferences. You can make it:
- Sweeter: feel-free to add more maple syrup for a sweeter sloppy joes mixture or if you end up with a stew that's too spicy.
- Spicy: add some cayenne pepper or finely diced jalapeño when cooking the onions.
- Extra spiced: play around with the spices and add more cumin or paprika if you want. Or, include other spices you like, such as garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs, black pepper, etc.
- Veggie-packed: you can add finely chopped carrots, sweet potato or mushrooms to the pan to add more nutrients and texture.
This recipe makes enough for 4-5 sloppy joes. If you have to serve a crowd or if you love leftovers, then simply double the recipe and keep the extra in the fridge for another meal later in the week. You can serve over rice or like a chili with bread next time you serve it!
To reheat, use the microwave or the stove and warm until until heated through. It should keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If your sloppy joes mixture is too thin, then you can let it cook for longer to let the extra moisture evaporate. If you tried this and it is still too thin to serve, then you can combine a little cornstarch (1 tbsp) with cold water (2 tbsp) in a mug and pour the slurry over the pan while the mixture is simmering. Stir right away and keep cooking until thicker, which should take about 30 seconds. Repeat if needed until desired consistency.
Yes you can! Let it cool completely and then freeze in an air-tight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Other than making sure your bread is gluten-free, also check if your Worcestershire sauce is GF as well. Some brands use a malt that might not be GF, so just double check on packaging before buying.
Yes! Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger both would work in this recipe and give the sloppy joes a great texture. That being said, plant-based meat replacements are high in saturated fats among other unhealthy ingredients, which we avoid as much as possible, although are great on occasion for a treat.
More sandwich recipes you might like
- Mashed chickpea avocado sandwich
- Beet pickle sandwich
- Jackfruit burgers
- Roasted vegetable sandwich
- Tofu breakfast sandwich
- Balsamic tofu sandwich wrap
- Chickpea oat sandwich
- Vegan BBQ jackfruit wraps
I hope you like this vegan sloppy joes recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 1 cup uncooked lentils (brown or green)
- 1 small onion - diced
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3-4 cloves of garlic - crushed
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 15 oz canned tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato paste - or ketchup
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp dijon
- 4 buns - to serve
- Start by cooking the lentils: rinse them using a fine-mesh colander and then transfer to a medium pot. Add 3 cups of water, cover and bring to a simmer. Then, turn down the heat to medium-low and keep on a gentle simmer for about 25 minutes or until they are tender but not mushy. Check often to see if they start to dry out before they are done, if this happens you can simply add a little more water. When the lentils are done, drain the excess water and set aside.
- Warm up a large non-stick pan with a little oil (I like using an oil-spray for that, but you can also make it oil-free with just a little water as needed). Then, add the onion, green pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 6-8 minutes stirring often.
- Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring almost constantly. Then, pour the tomato sauce in the pan and add the cooked lentils, maple syrup, dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine and keep cooking until desired consistency, about 8-10 minutes.
- When ready to eat, toast your buns and add a generous spoonful of the lentil stew over the bottom part of the bun. Add more toppings if you want, such as marinated jalapeño, onion, romaine, etc, close up your sandwich and enjoy!
- The lentil filling is amazing to make ahead as it stores very well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove until warmed up. Also freezer-friendly. Once the sandwich is assembled, then enjoy right away.
- This sloppy joes recipe goes well with coleslaw, French fries or potato chips, Or serve with a quick vegan coconut milk mac and cheese for the ultimate American comfort food meal! You can check out the blog post for more ideas.