Lentil Sloppy Joes

A naturally sweet, smoky, and spicy tomato sauce is the star of these easy-to-make Lentil Sloppy Joes. What I love is that this recipe is a trifecta of triumph for vegan dishes. That’s because it’s tasty, healthy, and cheap. What else could we want in a recipe? Go ahead and join me as I do a little happy dance. I won’t tell anyone.

Lentil Sloppy Joe's Vegan Sandwiches

We decided to head north for the summer to escape the heat. North for us means North Dakota. You won’t go further than that while staying in the states. We’re just lucky enough to have family there. Although we did get a break from the humidity it was still warm, but we found ways to enjoy life anyways. A little bit of tennis, a little bit of hitting the trails, a little bit of Olympics watching, and a lot of eating.

Seems like every time I return from vacation, it’s time to hit the “Back to Healthy” reset button. Of course, the Olympics didn’t help much either. There’s nothing like  two weeks of watching people in peak physical fitness participate in grueling competition to make you realize what a slacker you are.

Lentil Sloppy Joe's with a little extra barbecue sauce and pickles to boot.

It’s true that being vegan can keep you slim in a seemingly effortless way. But even vegans can find themselves smack dab in the middle of some bad habits…especially after vacations.

I have a feeling my cholesterol levels are just fine. It’s my jeans that I’m worried about. And even though “jean season” is quite a ways out still, I’m ready to get back on track.

When I was a kid, Sloppy Joes meant greasy hamburger meat mixed with tomato sauce and spices. If we wanted to go upscale, we’d buy a can of Manwich mix. That didn’t happen all that often and not because my mom was reading labels and worried about ingredients. And it wasn’t so much that she was an evangelist for making it better from scratch. It’s just that the can of Manwich cost twice as much as the tomato sauce. Saving money was important for our small-town, rural family.

You could read between the lines and see that we were poor. That means I grew up with a mother whose eyes were keenly focused on saving money. So when I told her I was vegan, one of the first things she commented on was the cost. She, like many people I’ve met, have a misguided stigma about vegan lifestyles being synonymous with expensive.

Did I just say that my Mom was misguided? I’m sure glad she doesn’t own a computer!

I can understand how the whole vegan expensive lifestyle gambit got started. Vegans have this reputation for sipping soy masala chai lattes and munching on organic buckwheat granola with steamed quinoa and organic fruit. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? But it causes most people to wonder, who can afford to eat like that?

The good news is there are lots of vegan dishes that are not only tasty, but affordable too. This one happens to be one of my favorites, Lentil Sloppy Joes. Here’s the breakdown of the cost:

  • Bag of dry lentils — $1.00
  • 1 small can tomato paste — $.70
  • carrots — $1.00
  • Brown rice — $1.00
  • Onion — $.30
  • Red Pepper — $1.00
  • Corn Meal — $1.00
  • Package of buns — $1.50
So, there you go. It would cost you $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. Of course, there are spices to add too, but many of those are taste specific and can be altered based on what you have on hand. And this is a batch that will make at least 8 Sloppy Joe Sandwiches (depending on how much mix you pile on each sandwich). That amounts to $.88 per sandwich.
Even my lovely, penny pinchin’ mom would agree, that’s not too shabby.
See? I called her lovely. That should more than make up for the “misguided” comment above.

Vegan Sloppy Joe's featuring lentils and barbecue sauce.


5 from 1 vote
Lentil Sloppy Joe's with a little extra barbecue sauce and pickles to boot.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Try these delicious Lentil Sloppy Joes on the next Meatless Monday or any day of the week for a satisfying, healthy meal.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12
Calories: 292 kcal
Author: Namely Marly
  • 3 cups lentils cooked
  • ½ cup carrots chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • ½ cup sweet pepper yellow or red, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup brown rice cooked
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon smoke sauce
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ cup corn meal
  1. Place carrots in a small microwave safe container with enough water to cover and cook for 2 minutes. Let them sit for a bit until the carrots become tender.
  2. Add onions, carrots, peppers, garlic and oil in a medium-sized pan and sauté over medium heat until everything is tender and onions are translucent. (I use a pan instead of a skillet so I can make this all in one pot).

  3. Add cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir well. Add spices and stir so all the ingredients get to know each other a little better. Continue to keep the party simmering over medium heat.
  4. Add cornmeal, stir some more and allow to sit over low heat for 10 minutes or so.
  5. Now for the final step. Take 1 cup of the lentil mixture and the 1 cup of cooked brown rice and either place it in a food processor or put it in a small bowl and use an immersion blender. Pulse until the mixture is the consistency of paste. Add this to back to the lentil mix, stir it in a bit, and you're done.
Nutrition Facts
Lentil Sloppy Joes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 292 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 120mg 5%
Potassium 786mg 22%
Total Carbohydrates 52g 17%
Dietary Fiber 17g 68%
Sugars 4g
Protein 15g 30%
Vitamin A 39.9%
Vitamin C 20.7%
Calcium 6%
Iron 29.4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Spread this thick, flavorful Sloppy Joe mixture on your favorite buns and top with BBQ sauce and pickles for a meal your whole family will enjoy. Not only is this a tasty dish, but it’s also good on the waistline (and the pocketbook) too!

Updated by Marly · Permalink

30 Responses to Lentil Sloppy Joes

  1. Im so happy you shared this recipe. Last weekend I made my husband his favorite dinner, sloppy joes (the meaty kind). Now I don’t normally eat a ton of meat, but it looked so good…I indulged. I was sick for 2 days 🙁 I am going to make these the next time I have a craving for it. I’m thinking they’ll freeze well too so I can have them handy when the rest of the fam wants sloppybjoes, I’ll have my own 🙂

    Looks so so delicious, especially with that pickle slice.

    Hope you are well!! And I feel like such a slacker right now watching the Olympics. Haha

  2. woah.. these look fabulous!

  3. What’s the “Smoke Sauce” that you use?

    • Hi Sunny
      This is the liquid smoke sauce I use:

      It’s good stuff!

  4. Hi Marly, I’m wanting to cook this for dinner tonight, but I’m confused at the end of your directions you say to “Add this to the Sloppy Joe mix, stir it in a bit, and you’re done!”. What is considered the Sloppy Joe mix at this point? It looks to me that everything has already been combined…? Am I missing something?

    • Hi Maggie. Thanks for your comment. I changed the directions to say “add this to the lentil mix…” Hopefully that clarifies any confusion. Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

  5. Wonderful!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.:)
    Is it 3 cups of cooked lentils or 3 cups dried lentils?

    • Hi Kathy
      It’s 3 cups of cooked lentils…which is so easy to do. I love lentils. Do they make bumper stickers that say that?

  6. Oh wow, I just made three cups of lentils, cooked – which made about eight cups of cooked lentils! :-O

  7. Just made these tonight and they were excellent! I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, which I didn’t have, and used a little more sauce than was called for. Delicious! Thank you for the healthful recipe 🙂

  8. I’m delighted to see that other people use phrases like “so all the ingredients get to know each other a little better” in their recipes! It makes it all seem a little more comfortable, like we’re sitting around each other’s kitchens, rather than making a vain attempt at securing a coveted space at the Cordon Bleu (which, by all means, if that’s your passion, go for it!).

    I just needed the basic idea of what goes into lentil sloppy joe’s, so finding this post at the top of Google’s hit list was perfect for me – Thanks a bunch!

  9. Just a quick question-
    In the ingredients list it calls for tomato sauce. But in the directions it says add tomato paste. Is it sauce or paste that I should be using?

    • Hi Chantel
      Great catch! I changed the list of ingredients to call for tomato paste instead of tomato sauce. That paste keeps the sloppy joes on the thick side which is what we like. That said, I’m always finding myself out of this ingredient or that. If all you have on hand is sauce and you don’t want to run to the store, use the sauce and just cook the recipe a little longer or add a little cornmeal to help it thicken. I hope that helps!

  10. Yum! Btw: WHERE do you buy vegan hamburger buns for $1.50?! At my healthfood store, they cost $5.00 (or more). Still, this recipe is worth a try!

    • Hi Michelle! We buy a brand of buns that are sold at our local grocery store. It’s sort of like a store brand knock-off variety. But they taste fine and we checked the ingredients and they’re vegan! How lucky is that! I guess you could call me A Vegan On A Budget! Besides, I’d rather save our money for really good chocolate. I love this Lentil Sloppy Joe recipe because it makes a lot and serves lots of tasty leftovers!

  11. SO, I am trying to get my husband to eat healthier and kind of move away from beef. I told him today that I am making “sloppy joes” and whenever he looks at the computer, he thinks I am making a certain recipe from food network. I do not know if that is mean or not, but I know if he knew I was really making this recipe, he probably would not try it. He has not caught on yet and is awaiting lunch. This recipe looks amazing and I can not wait to try it in about 30 minutes!

    • BY the way, my husband LOVED it! I was completely amazed and very happy 🙂

    • Awesome!!!

    • My hubby was a meat and potatoes kinda guy for most of his life. Not only that, but he has been (and continues to be at times) a picky eater. What vegan won’t eat mushrooms? Agghh! Anyway, this isn’t about me, right? Right! I do that kind of thing all the time, Sarah! People will ask me, “What’s in this?” and I will respond, “Don’t ask unless you really want to know!” 😉 Who would have thought that lentils could be the filling for Sloppy Joes but it works…and works quite well!

  12. Just made this tonight! It was wonderful, thanks for the recipe.

  13. I just made these and they are SO good! I love recipes that don’t make me miss meat. Thanks so much for the awesome recipe.

  14. If you cannot find/afford the smoke sauce, can it be left out? Thanks!

    • Absolutely you can leave it out! In fact, you could replace that with a little bit of smoke-flavored BBQ sauce if you’d like. Let me know how it goes!

  15. Does it matter what kind of lentils you use – red or green??

    • I haven’t had any bad experiences with using different kinds of lentils. I am particularly fond of red lentils, but they all should work well!

  16. I use cocoa powder and soy sauce in my vegan chili to create a smokey flavor, think that would work with this recipe (that has left me with a serious craving!!!)?

  17. This sounds good. I noticed the date is about 2 years ago. That’s how much lentils cost then. Now they are $1.49. I know that off the top of my head but not the other ingredients. Food keeps going up so finding a budget meal is great and I hope this tastes good. I make lentil tacos my son loves but they leave me wanting my beef ones. I hope this works out and then I can try them on my son.

    • Yes, the price of everything is always going up it seems, but at least lentils are not as bad as some. I can still find a bag of lentils for less than dollar…on sale!! Gotta love sale prices!

  18. Just for future posts, it may be helpful to include the cooking directions for the lentils. Just saying it would be a time saver and people won’t have to “google it”.


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