BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich with Sweet Miso Coleslaw

You’ll love this BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich, featuring a simple, smoky tomato sauce over savory, garlicky lentil meatballs. The sauce is smothered with sweet cabbage coleslaw and served on soft rolls. Or you can toast the buns for more crispy goodness. It may be a messy sandwich to eat…but it’s the very best kind!

A lentil BBQ meatball sandwich with a whole wheat bun sits in the front with another sandwich behind it and a bowl of potato chips.

 Vegans and Protein

I get a lot of questions about veganism. The most popular question of course is, “Where do you get your protein?” It really is a ridiculous question when you think about it. Herbivores are some of the biggest mammals on the planet.

Think about your average cow. It will go from weighing (on average) 40 pounds at birth to nearly 1,500 pounds. They’re not eating sausage for breakfast or steak for dinner. (That would be kind of disgusting anyway.) Where do they get their protein? From plants.

Veganizing Favorite Recipes

Recently I received a question that really made me think. It went something like this, “Why do vegans and vegetarians make food that resembles the Standard American Diet.”

I think the point the questioner was trying to make was that maybe vegans are bored with nuts and twigs and therefore trying to recreate the pitiful meals of their childhood. I don’t happen to eat a lot of twigs, but I’m sure if I did, I could find a way to make them tasty.

Chocolate Covered Twigs, anyone? (Hmm, I don’t think that will go into my “future post” bin.) But I did grow up eating certain foods — Macaroni and Cheese, egg salad sandwiches, Chocolate Sheet Cake, Chocolate Cheesecake — that I still crave from time to time.

Creating vegan versions of these dishes allows me to have my Vegan Coconut Cake and eat it, too. And because vegans don’t use meat, eggs, dairy, or cheese, the vegan version ends up a little healthier than the kind I grew up eating.

Of course, anything can be healthier than the food I grew up eating. I used to require two packets of  “cheese” sauce to season my macaroni and cheese. I’m sure that must have driven my mother crazy. At least until we started buying the big rectangle cube of processed, orange goo they called American cheese. I thought I was really something adding that to my mac & cheese.

How to Make Vegan Meatball Sandwiches

We all have our creature comforts and creating vegan versions of some of these is a favorite past-time of mine. I think it’s because I’m passionate about letting people know you can eat vegan food and still really enjoy every last bite of your meal. Today’s recipe would fall in the “savoring every bite” category. BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich with Sweet Miso Coleslaw. Need I really say more?

Begin by making a batch of lentil meatballs. I also make my own BBQ sauce to minimize sugar. However, you can use store-bought BBQ sauce if that works better for you.*

Finally, there’s that sweet miso coleslaw! The coleslaw adds some sweetness and is absolutely easy to make. Combine the ingredients from the sauce and set it aside to thicken, before adding it to the slaw mix. I use a bagged coleslaw mix, but you can cut your own cabbage if you prefer.

Toast your bun and put it all together.

That’s all it takes to make this dish. Be forewarned, it is a little messy, but it’s so worth it!

*Shawn and I have hard a time finding store-bought BBQ sauce made without high fructose corn syrup, but I encourage you to keep reading labels.

a BBQ lentil meatball sandwich sits on a plate next to potato chips.

5 Great Things about this BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich

  1. Freezer Friendly. This batch of Lentil Meatballs should make more than enough for your meatball sandwiches. You can store the rest of them in the freezer (in a freezer-safe container/bag) and then when you need a quick mid-week meal, you can warm up a few meatballs to go on top of pasta and red sauce. Voila! Spaghetti and Lentil Meatballs!
  2. Lentils are Inexpensive. You can buy a bag of lentils at our store for less than a dollar. That’s not too shabby, especially noting that a bag of lentils can stretch a long way. I don’t mean you should stretch the bag. That would probably tear and you’d have lentils everywhere. I mean, a bag of lentils can make a lot of meals.
  3. Easy Peasy. Lentils are legumes, but unlike other plants in this family, they don’t require pre-soaking. Most lentils cook up nicely within 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Protein Punch. OK. Back to that question about protein. Here’s where lentils really pack the punch. Lentils have the third-highest protein content of plant-based foods. And unlike meat, lentils don’t include any of the things you don’t want, like saturated animal fats and cholesterol. No, the lentil is only giving you good things for your body like fiber, folate, Vitamin B1, and iron.
  5. Umami. The Sweet Miso Coleslaw adds some complexity for your taste buds by touching on the fifth flavor, umami. That’s thanks to the miso. I’m addicted to this stuff and use it all the time. It was only recently that I began adding it to my coleslaw, and I’m so glad I did.
A close-up of lentil BBQ meatball sandwich another sandwich is behind it.
Closeup of a lentil BBQ meatball sandwich with a whole wheat bun

BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich with Sweet Miso Coleslaw

This BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich features a simple, smoky tomato sauce over savory, garlicky lentil meatballs. The sauce is smothered with sweet cabbage coleslaw and served on soft rolls. Or you can toast the buns for more crispy goodness. It may be a messy sandwich to eat…but it's the very best kind!
5 from 3 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8
Calories: 510kcal


BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Sweet Miso Coleslaw

  • 3 cups colesaw mix Dole’s has a great shredded cabbage mixed with slivered carrots that I like
  • ½ cup vegan mayo
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar I actually use sweet pickle juice here…a trick my mom taught me
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste Westbrae makes one of my favorites
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • teaspoon celery seed optional
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds


Lentil Meatballs

  • Heat your oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Make the lentil burger ingredients as instructed. Then use a cookie scoop to create equally-sized "meatballs". Drop these on the prepared baking sheet. I was able to create around 35 meatballs. You can place them closely together, just leave enough room for air to circulate around them.
  • Spray the meatballs with a light coating of vegetable cooking spray.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, using tongs to turn the meatballs about half way through cooking.

BBQ Sauce

  • While the lentil meatballs are cooking, combine BBQ sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until well-combined. Set aside.
  • Once the meatballs are done, allow them to cool slightly, and then pour BBQ sauce over the meatballs. If the meatballs are still warm, be careful because they may break into pieces. 


  • Combine everything but the coleslaw mix in a small bowl. Stir until well-combined. Your sauce might look a little runny. The chia seeds will thicken the sauce. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 
  • Place the coleslaw mix to a medium-sized lidded bowl. Pour in the coleslaw sauce. Stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until you're putting the rest of your sandwiches together.

Assemble Sandwiches

  • Either toast the four buns or serve the sandwiches on soft buns. Place 3 to 4 BBQ coated meatballs on each bun and top with creamy coleslaw.

(The products above contain sponsored links to products we use and recommend)

Calories: 510kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1034mg | Potassium: 671mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 195IU | Vitamin C: 11.7mg | Calcium: 127mg | Iron: 2.6mg

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.


17 Responses to BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich with Sweet Miso Coleslaw

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMonet Reply

    I’ve made lentil sloppy joes before (they are one of Ryan’s favorites!) but this? Well, this needs to be added to our rotation soon! It looks too tempting. Thanks for sharing such a savory bite with me tonight. I hope you have a blessed and restful Sunday. Much love.

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJennifer Reply

    I want this now! Looks so delicious!!

  3. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJamie (Thrifty Veggie Mama) Reply

    This looks so delicious! I love lentils because they are cheap and easy. We always get the protein question too.

  4. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyFeast on the Cheap Reply

    Wow! I can’t believe this is vegan

  5. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarla Reply

    5 stars
    This is the ultimate vegan sandwich! Love the vegan meatballs.

  6. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyAggie Reply

    5 stars
    This looks AWESOME!!!

    Its funny, I just did a guest post today about how I cut back tremendously on meat the past year and half. Biggest question was the protein question. One of my good friends is vegan and she really opened my eyes to other sources of protein other than meat. I still eat a little seafood and fish…and the occasional bite of my hubby’s burger, but I don’t care to eat it as a meal anymore. I would SO rather eat something like this!!

    I’ve been actually craving a meatball sandwich lately. Like seriously craving. I’m really going to have to give these a try.

  7. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlySMITH BITES Reply

    this looks fabulous Marly – i’ll have to gather the ingredients and give it a go!

  8. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJeanette Reply

    Yes, please can I have one. Looks so good!

  9. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJason (J) Reply

    I never really understood the If-You-Hate-Meat-It-Is-Wrong-To-Want-Foods-That-Often-Have-Animal-Products-As-An-Ingredient argument. The real draw of foods that are analogues of meat-based dishes is the combination of flavors. I remember being shocked to discover that it wasn’t the meaty bits that gave sausage its flavors, but the spices. Add sage to potatoes and they share a lot of the flavor of sausage, so why suffer the nastiness of ground pig pieces to enjoy the flavor of sage?

    I think that holds true of most of these re-creation recipes. I am repelled by meats (the taste, the smell, the feel), but the flavorings of the foods that people associate with animal products are appealing. So no shame, just confused people.

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      You always make the best points. Making a “sausage-y” blend from potatoes is one of my favorite toppings for our homemade vegan pizza! Power to the spices!

  10. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyCourtney Reply

    yum these sound great!

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