Lentils stand in for ground beef in these lentil vegan sloppy Joes. This is such a fun recipe to sneak in a meatless meal the whole family will love!
My favorite part about school was always lunch time. You finally get to talk to your friends after sitting quietly through class all day and on an extra good day someone would share the dessert their mom packed in their lunch box with you. But two things I did NOT love about lunch was that weird square pizza with the cube shaped pepperonis, and the gross sloppy Joes! Nobody ever ate school lunch on sloppy joe day - it was mystery meat!
But when I came across this recipe for vegan lentil sloppy Joe’s I was intrigued enough to make them. Inspired by that recipe, I created the perfect vegan lentil sloppy Joes recipe that will change your mind about sloppy Joes forever!
While I’m nothing close to vegan or vegetarian, I do try to work in meatless meals when I can. One way I like to do that is by using lentils, which is a great ground meat substitute! The lentils offer a very similar texture to ground meat and are packed with protein like meat is too. The extra kicker with lentils though is that they are also packed with fiber that meat doesn’t have. I have successfully used lentils for lentil meatballs and veggie burgers!
This vegan lentil sloppy joe recipe is made with ingredients that are mostly pantry staples. It doesn’t require an hour long grocery store trip which is always a plus in my book. It is quick once the lentils are cooked, easy, and budget friendly so perfect for feeding a lot of people. You can make a large batch of it ahead of time to save for a day that you don’t have time to plan an elaborate meal. In fact, this vegan lentil sloppy joe filling is even better for left-overs because it give the flavors extra time to meld.
What I find so wonderful about this recipe is that it is great to make in bulk and freeze for another time. After letting the vegan lentil sloppy joes filling cool down to room temperature, fill a freezer bag with a few servings, and press any extra air out. Store the bag or bags, flat in the freezer and stack them. When you’re ready to use the vegan lentil sloppy joe filling, place the frozen bags in the refrigerator for a day to thaw, or place them on the counter if you want to thaw them faster. Once thawed, empty the bag into a pot and reheat on the stove until warm.
Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Edible Perspective.
1 cup uncooked lentils
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 medium-large carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons mild chili powder (I used 1 tablespoon smoked chili powder and 2 tablespoons regular)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
3/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch rings
Hamburger buns, toasted
Pick over lentils for any stones or debris. Place in a medium pot and cover with water by a couple inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and partially cover with lid. Simmer about 20 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside.
While lentils are almost done cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add carrot and cook 2-3 minutes until onions are starting to brown. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste and cook a minute or two two. Pour in diced tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and broth. Bring to a simmer then stir in the cooked lentils. Cook about 15 minutes until thickened and lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While cooking the lentil mixture, caramelize the onions. Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat in a medium skillet. Add red onions when hot. Cook 6-8 minutes until tender and well browned. Add a pinch of salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to cook another 10 minutes, adding a bit of water if you’re worried they’ll burn. Remove from heat when lightly caramelized.
Serve sloppy Joe mixture on a toasted bun with pickled and caramelized red onion.