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!
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!
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:
- 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.
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.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
Serve this vegan Sloppy Joe mixture on toasted buns with any of these sides:
- Vegan Potato Salad
- Easy Kale Salad
- Vegan Caesar Salad
- Air Fryer French Fries
- Sweet Potato Tater Tots
- Potato Chips or Air Fryer Tortilla Chips
Lentil Sloppy Joes Cost
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
- 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 is a batch that 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.
If you love these vegan sloppy joes, here are even more great vegan sandwiches you’ll like:
That’s it for these Lentil Sloppy Joes!
Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.
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
For me, this had no flavor, and even after I put salt in, it just wasn’t good.
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.
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”.
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!
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!!!)?
I love adding cocoa powder and soy sauce. What a great idea!
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!
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!
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.
Just made this tonight! It was wonderful, thanks for the recipe.
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 🙂
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!