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 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!
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 go-to recipe for years to come!
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:
- 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 using 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 be adding tomato paste to create a thicker sauce.
- Seasonings — You’ll need chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, and paprika
- No Beef 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 is ingredient is optional, but if you like a smoky flavor, adding a bit of smoke sauce is great.
How to Make Lentil Sloppy Joes
It’s easy to make vegan lentil Sloppy Joes! Here are the steps:
- Cook the lentils in a saucepan with water for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Use a colander to drain the excess liquid. I love these tips on cooking lentils.
- Cook the carrots in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 to 2 minutes, until tender. Leave the sitting in the microwave so they can finish cooking and cool off.
- Make the Sauce by cooking the onions, peppers, and garlic in oil until tender. Then stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
- Add Cooked Lentils to the sauce and stir everything together.
- Transfer 1 cup of the lentil mixture to a food processor and pulse until a paste forms. Add that paste back into the pan and stir to combine.
- Spread lentil sloppy joe mixture on buns and add your favorite toppings, like sliced onions, pickles, and more.
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.
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!
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
- 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.
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 to 30 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and use a colander to drain excess water. Set aside.
For the Sauce
- Rinse chopped carrots and then place them in a small microwave-safe container. Cook for 1 to 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.
This post was originally published in 2012 and was updated to include new photos, new text, and an updated recipe in 2020.