These Vegan Sloppy Joes are packed with savory lentils, tangy tomato sauce and nourishing veggies. The whole family will love the thick and hearty sloppy joe filling with mouthwatering flavors and satisfying texture. This plant-based take on an American Classic is the ultimate in Healthy Comfort Food.
Delicious traditional Sloppy Joes taste with protein-packed lentils and Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce. Get ready to sink your teeth into the ultimate vegan comfort food experience that’s entirely plant-based and brimming with wholesome goodness. Everyone will enjoy this great recipe for Vegan Sloppy Joes….and feel good afterwards too.
Why you will love this Sloppy Joe Recipe
- Add this to your easy weeknight dinners repertoire. This is meal prep and freezer friendly!
- Tastes like Classic Sloppy Joes…but this vegan version is healthier.
- Delish…oh yes, it’s totally hubby approved!
- Uses pantry ingredients with fridge staples so you don’t have to go to the grocery store.
Ingredients and Substitutions
You don’t need ground beef, beyond meat or Manwich sauce to make vegetarian sloppy joes that are bursting with flavor and loaded with perfect sloppy joe texture. I stick to nutritious, whole foods ingredients for the best sloppy joe filling. My body doesn’t like fake ingredients and I bet yours doesn’t either.
- Lentils: A good source of plant-based protein that gives a legit ground beef texture when cooked. Use green lentils or brown lentils. Red lentils will fall apart and turn to mush, so I don’t suggest those. Small black beluga lentils or small green french lentils would be ok subs.
- Carrots: Small dice makes them perfect. Substitute with diced beets, parsnips or turnips.
- Onions: Use yellow onion if you prefer or even scallions, spring onions or shallots.
- Green Pepper: Green, orange or red bell pepper will all work well in this recipe.
- Garlic: If you must, use garlic powder, but fresh garlic will add the most flavor to this recipe.
- Tomato Sauce: Look for a brand with just one ingredient: tomato. Use tomato paste diluted with vegetable broth as a substitute.
- Mustard: I used yellow mustard. Dijon mustard or spicy brown mustard will also be a good choice.
- Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is great in this recipe. You can also use lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
- Maple syrup: A great way to add a touch of sweetness without any added sugar.
- Spices: I like the combination of smoked paprika, cumin and white pepper. You could also add chili powder, black pepper or a bay leaf.
How to make Vegan Sloppy Joes
Prepare your veggies. Chop onion, carrot and green bell pepper into small dice. Use a microplane to grate the garlic or finely mince.
Heat a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Use water, olive oil or veggie stock to saute the diced onion, carrot and peppers with sea salt, pepper, paprika and cumin for 2-3 minutes.
Add the garlic and mix continuously so it doesn’t burn. Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. A splash of water will help, if the pan becomes dry. You could add a bit of oil, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Next, add the lentils and stir until well coated with the spices.
Add the tomato sauce, mustard, pure maple syrup and vinegar and stir well.
Stir to combine the water with remaining ingredients. Increase to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes.
Continue cooking over low heat until the sauce ingredients have reduced, the lentils are tender (but not mushy). The cooking process will remove any excess water.
Taste for seasoning, adding a pinch of salt, or a splash more vinegar, if desired. Serve on a toasted bun with your favorite sandwich fillings. A side of Summer Slaw and some Sweet Potato Fries and you’re golden!
Serve, Store, Reheat, Freeze
- Serve: Serve with some raw cabbage salad or some pickled cabbage inside the bun. Delish!
- Store: Use an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Freeze: Use freezer-safe container or freezer bag for best results.
- Reheat: Use a saucepan on the stove, with low-medium heat until heated through. Use up to ¼ cup water, as needed.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- Toast the hamburger buns (use a gluten-free bun if desired) before ladling on the sloppy joe mixture to avoid soggy bread.
- Set up a toppings bar with cabbage salad, sliced jalapenos, relish, lettuce and avocado slices so everyone can build their best vegan sloppy joe.
- Leftover sloppy joe makes a great taco filling….add some chili powder and hot sauce and you’re good to go!
- Add diced mushrooms with the other veggies for even more meaty vegan flavor and texture.
Although Manwich original sauce is vegan, it is not plant-based because it is made with high fructose corn syrup and other processed ingredients. For a healthy alternative to Manwish sauce, it’s easy to make your own with whole foods, real ingredients.
Vegan Sloppy Joes can be made from processed meat-like alternatives, or you can make them plant-based with wholesome, real food like cooked lentils or mushrooms.
Allowing sloppy joes to simmer slowly on the stovetop of slow cooker will naturally thicken the sauce. You can also add tomato paste and let it cook into the sloppy joe mixture for a thicker sauce.
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Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 1 red onion small dice
- 1 large carrot small dice
- 1 green bell pepper small dice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 1 cup dry green lentils rinsed and drained
- 2 ½ cups water
- 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- Prep veggies: Small dice onion, carrot and green pepper. Grate the garlic and set aside.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and saute onions, carrots and bell peppers with cumin, paprika, white pepper and salt. Use water, veggie broth or olive oil, as it fits in with your dietary needs. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time to keep pan from becoming too dry. Saute until veggies are beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Mix in garlic and stir constantly (so it doesn't burn) for 30 seconds, until flavorful.
- Stir in lentils to coat with spices and then add tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, mustard and maple syrup. Mix well. Then add the water and mix again. Turn up the heat and ring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cook, uncovered, for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, but still firmly holding their shape.
- Serve on toasted buns of your choice.
- Store any leftovers in airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Reheat on the stove over low heat, until heated through….add up to ¼ cup water, as needed if the sauce has thickened.