Make Ahead

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes

January 24, 2014
4.6 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Easy, filling, and inexpensive, this is the only vegan sloppy Joe recipe you'll ever need. —Gena Hamshaw

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 58 minutes
  • Serves 6
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, soaked for a few hours (or overnight) and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped (about 3/4 to 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder, dried
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (adjust according to taste; how much is needed will also depend on the tomatoes and tomato paste you use)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or more as needed)
  • 6 sprouted grain buns
  • 1 dash Toppings of choice (Tabasco sauce, sriracha, pickles, onions, sauerkraut, coleslaw, avocado slices, etc.)
In This Recipe
  1. Place lentils in a large pot, and cover with water (enough so that there's at least a full inch or two of water above the lentils). Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are chewable, but still have some firmness to them. Drain them and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is soft and clear, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, chili, paprika, and mustard, and continue cooking for another minute or two, until the garlic is quite fragrant.
  3. Add the lentils, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar or maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add more broth as needed. Simmer until the mixture has thickened to your liking, about 15 to 20 minutes (I like thick sloppy joes, but if you like 'em sloppier, that's fine, too!).
  4. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Divide sloppy joes onto the buns and top with toppings of choice, including some Tabasco or sriracha for heat, if desired. Serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • charles
  • Cheryl
  • Christie D
    Christie D
  • Judi Newman
    Judi Newman
  • Meghan Murray
    Meghan Murray
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.

26 Reviews

charles January 23, 2022
I don't want to rate the recipe because I didn't stick to it completely, but what I made came out nice. I didn't have a bell pepper, and added corn. I also added some bbq sauce to give it a little more dimension and sweetness, but I think that is more personal preference. I think this recipe gives you a really tasty starting point that you can then alter to fit your taste.
kp May 27, 2020
Loved this! So quick to throw together too.
Sheila February 25, 2020
I've made this many times and I think it is delicious just as written! I used to eat regular sloppy joes and longed for a vegetarian recipe. This is it and for me, it is just right!
Liesje February 6, 2019
As a vegan, I love hearty meals that evoke memories without trying to mimic meat. This recipe is loved by me and my omnivore guests too. I will make it again and again! I added cumin and vegan worcestershire sauce, as previously recommended. Also added canned, diced jalapeños and unsweetened cocoa powder for additional depth of flavor. Threw in some uncooked bulgur into the warm mixture at the very end--just to sop-up any additional liquid and for more texture; the bulgur softened right away. Also, I did not soak the lentils ahead as they cook so quickly.
Robin June 13, 2018
Made these tonight and they were delish!! Followed the recipe exactly and it came out great. I’m not a vegetarian and did not miss the meat!!
Cheryl April 1, 2017
We loved it! I used just a sprinkle of the smoked paprika and 1/2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika. I cooked the lentils in homemade vegetable broth, not water and when cooked used the strained broth from lentils as my broth to add into the tomatoes, etc. No additional sugar or maple syrup needed; it was plenty sweet enough. My friend and I ate it on 1/2 a sprouted hamburger bun topped with coleslaw. For coleslaw, which calls for mayo and sour cream, I used a vegan home-made sour cream from a cashew base. Looking forward to leftovers! Thank you!
Christie D. February 10, 2017
This was so good! Added cumin when sautéing onions & peppers and some Worcestershire at the end- definitely added to rotation!
Judi N. September 30, 2016
Absolutely delicious! easy to make. I added 1/2 jalapeno, chopped to the pepper, and 1 chopped date for the sweetener....look forward to making it again.
Meghan M. August 11, 2016
BEST sloppy joes ever! And so easy to make! I added some pickles + onions to mine and they were wonderful.
[email protected] April 27, 2016
Just made these again. So yummy!!! Even the boys liked them.
Meredith M. February 7, 2016
Made this last night and it was delicious! I don't agree that it was bland but I did put sriracha on top and some hot dill pickle chips. I am all about more spices, so I'd say you could safely almost double them (except for the salt) and it would be even more flavorful, but again, I thought it was delicious as it. Nice and heart for a meat-free meal.
Meredith M. February 7, 2016
Lori A. November 9, 2015
Just about doubled the spices because it was bland as written but otherwise it was very, very good.. Even anti-vegan omnivore HH (Handsome Husband) loved it!

Can anyone recommend tasty recipes that are just as easy? I'm all about quick/easy/tasty/healthy and/but my days of messing with a long list of ingredients and complicated methods are over. Thanks!!
Mary E. March 7, 2015
I agree with AMGenco. This recipe is almost word for word verbatim out of Veganomicon. I didn't realize it until I checked and the sloppy joe was simmering away in the pot. I did a little doctoring. To my doubled recipe (An army is coming for dinner) I added canned a can of black beans, a can of black eyed peas, a few drops of vegetarian Worcestershire, a little more maple syrup, the whole can of tomato paste, 4 cloves of garlic, subbed smoked paprika with ancho chili spice, and added a splash more apple cider vinegar. I felt it needed more substance.
Tara C. February 9, 2015
Was a little cautious as I've been striking out lately with new recipes and my kids, but get a gold star for this one! My 7 yo AND 4 yo both wolfed this down!!! One are it on a bun, the other just ate the mixture straight with a spoon. delicious, healthy, easy & satisfying. Great as leftovers too
Erika June 19, 2014
Freezes great! Just made it for a big group of meat eaters, big hit. One child was convinced there was meat in it.
Jara June 17, 2014
I had been meaning to make this for a while. Even the lentil haters loved it. They were a great sub for meat. Does anyone know if it freezes well?
simplyrenee February 12, 2014
i also doubled the spices and it turned out well. great recipe even for a picky ten year old!
souptastic February 11, 2014
I didn't pre-soak and cooked the lentils for 30 minutes in the first step, and they turned out great. I also didn't have veggie stock so I just used some of the drained lentil cooking water. A bit of soy sauce bumped up the umami and I found Tabasco a nice addition as well.
Diane February 3, 2014
These are wonderful! Though I don't eat anything with a face, I'll admit I've pined for the overly-salted, smoky, tomato-y sloppy joes that my mom used to feed us in the 70's. For this recipe, I nearly doubled the spices, added a good teaspoon of salt to the mixture, and drizzled a generous amount of sriracha on top. Viola! It was the sloppy joe from my childhood, and gosh-darn it I didn't miss the cow one bit. Moo! :)
ChristyBean February 2, 2014
If, unfortunately, we don't have access to canned fire-roasted tomatoes, if there a way to doctor up normal canned tomatoes? Or a way to add in that lovely flavor?
Donna February 6, 2014
Since you're cooking the onions and peppers as part of the recipe, you could char them both on a grill or grill pan, as if you were making a roasted pepper. I like to cut my onions in half, skewer them so they don't fall apart and then grill.
Hulaboola February 10, 2014
Personally I would add a bit of Mesquite liquid smoke. Start with a half teaspoon and increase to taste. Hope that works for you. Oh, there is also a hickory flavor if that works better for you. I just find the mesquite "smokier" and less like barbecue.