A naturally sweet, smoky, and spicy tomato sauce is the star of this easy Lentil Sloppy Joes recipe. Vegan Sloppy Joes are 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 the sloppy Joe for a long time. They’re a bit messy, but that’s about 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!
What You Need
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.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:
- Uncooked lentils (brown works best)
- Bay leaf
- Bell pepper yellow or red
- Tomato paste
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Dried basil
- No Beef Bouillon*
- Smoke sauce
How to Make Lentil Sloppy Joes
It’s easy to make vegan lentil Sloppy Joes! Here are the steps:
- Cook the Lentils. Lentils are easy to cook because they don’t require pre-soaking like a lot of beans. Simply, place them in a saucepan with water, bring them to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until tender. I love adding a bay leaf for added savory flavor. Use a colander to drain the excess liquid. I love these tips on cooking lentils.
- Cook the Carrots. I do a little pre-cooking of the carrots because they can take so long to get tender. So, give the chopped carrots a quick rinse then place them in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, until tender. Leave the sitting in the microwave so they can finish cooking and cool off.
- Make the Sauce. In the same saucepan from above, add some oil over medium heat. We’re going to cook the onions, peppers, and garlic in the oil until tender. Then add the remaining sauce ingredients, including spices, and give that all a good stir.
- Add Cooked Lentils. Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir everything together.
- Purée. I like a nice, thick, lentil sloppy joe mix so transfer 1 cup of the mixture into a food processor and pulse until a paste forms. Add that paste back into the pan and stir to combine.
- Serve. Spread a nice, thick dollop of this vegan sloppy joe mixture on buns and add your favorite toppings, like sliced onions, pickles, and more!
Vegan Sloppy Joes
There are a variety of ingredients you can use to make vegan sloppy joes. I just happened to use lentils for this recipe, but here are some alternative ingredients you can combine with this sauce:
- Veggie Crumbles. There are a variety of different store-bought veggie crumbles that could be added to this sauce to make a tasty vegan sloppy joe recipe with a meat-like texture
- Tofu. Cook up some tofu using my Tofu Scramble Recipe, and use a spatula to break it down into small pieces. Add that to this sauce instead of the lentils to make tofu sloppy joes.
- TVP. Textured Vegetable Protein is available in health food stores and is relatively inexpensive. Cook it according to the package directions and add it in place of the lentils to the sauce to make TVP sloppy joes.
- Tempeh. Finally, you can use tempeh to make sloppy joes. I would begin by steaming the tempeh first, for about 10 minutes. Then cook it in a skillet with a tablespoon of oil and use a spatula to break it down into small bits. Then add that to the sauce to make tempeh sloppy joes.
There are so many great options for meatless sloppy joes!
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!
Inexpensive Vegan Recipes
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 every penny. 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, veggie Sloppy Joes, happens to be one of my favorites. Here’s the breakdown of the cost:
- Bag of dry lentils — $1.00
- 1 small can tomato paste — $.70
- carrots — $1.00
- Onion — $.30
- Red Pepper — $1.00
- Spices — $.50
- Bouillon — $.50
- Package of buns — $1.50
So, there you go. It would cost you 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. And this is a batch that will make 8 – 12 Sloppy Joe Sandwiches (depending on how much mix you pile on each sandwich). That amounts to about $.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.
If you love this lentil sloppy joes, here’s even more sandwiches you’ll like too:
That’s it for these Lentil Sloppy Joes!
Lentil Sloppy Joes
For the Lentils
- 1 cup uncooked lentils (brown works best)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups water
For the Sauce
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- ½ cup bell pepper yellow or red, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon No Beef Bouillon*
- 1 tablespoon smoke sauce
For the Lentils
- Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lentils, water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and use a collander to drain excess water. Set aside.
For the Sauce
- Rinse chopped carrots and then place in a small microwave safe container. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes. Let them sit for a few minutes until the carrots become tender.
- Add oil to a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add onions, cooked carrots, peppers, and garlic and sauté over medium heat until tender and onions are translucent. (I use the same pan from cooking the lentils so I can make this all in one pot).
- Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, bouillon, and smoke sauce. Stir to combine.
- Remove the bay leaf from the lentils. Then add cooked lentils to the pan with the sauce. Stir to coat the lentils. Cook, stirring ocasionally, over medium heat for up to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- Take 1 cup of the lentil mixture and place it in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is the consistency of paste. Add this to back to the lentil mix, stir until combined.
- To serve, add lentil sloppy joe mixture to buns with sliced 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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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.