Lentil Sloppy Joes

A naturally sweet, smoky, and spicy tomato sauce is the star of this easy lentil sloppy joes recipe. They’re made with a delicious sauce and tender, cooked lentils. Add your favorite toppings for another delicious vegan sandwich recipe!

Two buns sit on plates. There is a lentil sloppy Joe mixture in the buns. There are potato chips next to the front plate and a bowl with more lentil mixture by the back plate.

I have been a fan of Sloppy Joes for a long time. They’re a bit messy, but that’s 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!

Key Ingredients

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, including substitution ideas:

  • Lentils — You’ll need some uncooked lentils (brown works best).
  • Bay leaf — Cooking lentils with a bay leaf infuses a subtle, savory flavor.
  • Carrots — We’ll add a few chopped carrots for texture.
  • Vegetable Oil — Any neutral oil, like olive oil, will work here.
  • Onion — I prefer yellow onion because of its mild flavor and color. You can substitute white or even red onions.
  • Bell pepper —  Colorful bell peppers are best here, like red, orange, or yellow. Their mild flavor works best, however, green peppers are fine, too.
  • Garlic — A few chopped cloves of garlic adds a lot. You can substitute some tender garlic confit or in a pinch a teaspoon of dried garlic powder.
  • Tomatoes — You’ll need a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
  • Tomato paste — We’ll add tomato paste to create a thicker sauce.
  • Seasonings — You’ll need chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, and paprika
  • Bouillon — I love the flavor provided by No Beef Better than Bouillon. If you can’t get your hands on that, substitute a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  • Smoke sauce — This ingredient is optional, but if you like a smoky flavor, adding a bit of smoke sauce is excellent.
A close-up shot of brown lentils in a glass bowl.

What Lentils are Best for Sloppy Joes?

Brown lentils are the best all-around lentils to use for sloppy joes. They cook quickly (without needing to be soaked), and they’re nutritious (offering up to 24 grams of protein and fiber per half cup of cooked lentils). In addition, they have a firmer texture than red lentils, which can quickly get mushy. They’re also affordable and accessible. You can cook dried lentils or buy canned cooked lentils at health food stores.

What Makes This Recipe Shine?

  • Using brown lentils makes the best texture for this recipe
  • Adding both diced tomatoes and tomato paste creates the perfect flavor and makes the sauce nice and thick
  • The perfect seasonings, including chili powder, will make this a favorite recipe for years to come!

Storage Tips

Keep any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge. This will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. It can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 2 months.

Frequently-Asked Questions

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!

Can you freeze lentil sloppy joes?

You can freeze this vegan sloppy Joe mix in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. To serve, transfer the container to the fridge overnight to thaw and then heat it in the microwave or transfer it to a saucepan and cook it until heated through.

Marly’s Tips

Making lentil sloppy joes with canned lentils? Simply leave out the broth and add the canned lentils to the pot with the tender veggies. Then proceed with the rest of this recipe.

Looking down on a plate with a vegan sloppy Joe mixture on a bun, with the top bun to the side. There are potato chips on the plate, too. Next to the plate is a bowl with more of the vegan mixture with a spoon in in it.

Reader Reviews

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.


Serving Suggestions

Serve this vegan Sloppy Joe mixture on toasted buns with any of these sides:

Lentil Sloppy Joes Cost

The good news is many vegan dishes are not only tasty but affordable. 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
  • Olive oil — $.10
  • Tomato paste, Tomato Sauce & Ketchup — $.70
  • carrots — $1.00
  • Onion & Garlic — $.30
  • Red Bell Pepper & Carrots — $1.00
  • Spices & Brown Sugar — $.50
  • Broth — $.50
  • Package of buns — $1.50

It costs 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.

This batch will make 8 to 12 Sloppy Joe Sandwiches (depending on how much mix you pile on each sandwich). That amounts to about $.88 per sandwich.

More Sandwiches

If you love these vegan sloppy joes, here are even more great vegan sandwiches you’ll like:

Two buns sit on plates. There is a lentil sloppy Joe mixture in the buns. There are potato chips next to the front plate and a bowl with more lentil mixture by the back plate.

That’s it for these Lentil Sloppy Joes!

A bun holds lentil sloppy joes on a plate next to potato chips. There's another plate with the same sandwich in the background.

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Try these delicious Lentil Sloppy Joes on the next Meatless Monday or any day of the week for a satisfying, healthy meal.
5 from 2 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 16 sandwiches
Calories: 81kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper (green, yellow, or red)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional)


  • Add olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until it's shimmering. Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, and carrots. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.
    Looking into a saucepan with chopped veggies, such as onions and red bell peppers, being cooked until tender.
  • Stir in the lentils and then add the broth. Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a tilted lid, and cook for 25 minutes.
    Looking down on a saucepan full of lentils and veggies in a tomato sauce. A green spatula is in the pot for stirring.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for another 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick.
  • To serve, add lentil sloppy joe mixture to toasted buns with cooked confit 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.

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


You can substitute canned lentils by leaving out the broth. This means you can skip the boiling, as well. Simply cook all the ingredients together until the sauce has thickened.

Vegan Sloppy Joes:

Combine the sauce with any of these plant-based meat options:
  • Veggie Crumbles. Use store-bought veggie crumbles or Vegan Meat Crumbles.
  • Tofu. Use this Tofu Scramble Recipe to make tofu sloppy joes.
  • TVP. Textured Vegetable Protein is available in health food stores. Use it to make TVP sloppy joes.
  • Tempeh. Cook tempeh, use a spatula to break it down into small bits, then add this sauce to make tempeh sloppy joes.
Calories: 81kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 308mg | Potassium: 292mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1474IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg

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.

This post was originally published in 2012 and was updated to include new photos, new text, and an updated recipe in 2020.

32 Responses to Lentil Sloppy Joes

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyYVETTE Reply

    For me, this had no flavor, and even after I put salt in, it just wasn’t good.

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Yvette. I’m sorry you didn’t like the flavor of this recipe. It may be an area where taste buds differ. I love the flavors in this recipe, but it may not be the right one for you.

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRobert Reply

    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”.

  3. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyTimaree Reply

    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.

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      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!

  4. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRuthanne Reply

    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!!!)?

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      I love adding cocoa powder and soy sauce. What a great idea!

  5. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKathryn Reply

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

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      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!

  6. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyWhitney Reply

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

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      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!

  7. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyHeidi Reply

    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.

  8. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJolene Reply

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

  9. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlySarah Reply

    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!

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlySarah

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

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly


    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      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!

Rate / Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.