Did your parents ever make you sloppy joes growing up?
If so, welcome to the club.
If not, I’m sorry, you poor neglected soul. (Just kidding, but also kind of not kidding).
Sloppy joes are so delicious! And I haven’t had them since my mom made them for me back in high school. My sister and I would return home from sports practice absolutely famished and we’d eat two open-faced sloppy joes with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese.
Oh, how my diet has changed since then! But my craving for this sweet, savory, smoky sandwich has not. Let’s do this!
Origins of Sloppy Joes
You may think of Sloppy Joes as an American classic (and that may be true), but the origin story isn’t crystal clear! One theory is that the dish was created in the 1930s by a Sioux City, Iowa chef named Joe.
But another popular story is that it may have actually originated in Havana, Cuba. It’s thought that a bar owner named José García created it as a handheld modification of a Cuban dish called ropa vieja. The concept may have then been introduced by Ernest Hemmingway to a bar in Florida.
We’re not sure who deserves the credit for Sloppy Joes, but we do know we love them! The following is our plant-based take on the concept.
Vegan Sloppy Joes
This recipe comes together in roughly 30 minutes, including cooking your lentils! It’s so simple and quick that it’s sure to become a weeknight staple in your home.
The ingredients are also simple. In fact, the only thing not already in my pantry was Worcestershire sauce (I include a vegan-friendly brand recommendation below, as well as a recipe idea if you can’t find any at the store).
Easy recipes that you can make with everyday pantry items – that’s SO my thing.
I think you guys are going to LOVE these sandwiches. They’re:
Fiber- + protein-rich
These would make the perfect meal to throw together when you need something quick and hearty to feed a crowd. One batch should generously serve four. And if you’re a solo diner, this recipe is great to have around during the week to reheat for lunches or easy, healthy dinners.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, be sure to rate it, and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram! Your photos always make our day. Cheers, friends!
Vegan Sloppy Joes
- 2 cups water (I used half water, half vegetable broth)
- 1 cup green or red lentils, well rinsed (red lentils for quicker/more tender result or green lentils for more bite/texture)
- 2 Tbsp olive or grape seed oil
- 1/2 medium white or yellow onion, minced (plus more for serving)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 cloves yield ~1 Tbsp)
- 1/2 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
- Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce*
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut sugar (plus more to taste)
- 1-2 Tbsp vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauce* (like this brand // ensure gluten-free for GF eaters)
- 1-2 tsp chili powder (plus more to taste)
- 1 tsp ground cumin (plus more to taste)
- 1 pinch smoked or regular paprika (optional)
FOR SERVING optional
- Gluten-free or whole-wheat hamburger buns*
- If using green lentils: To a small saucepan, add liquid (I used 1 cup water, 1 cup vegetable broth for added flavor // amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) and rinsed green lentils and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for about 18-22 minutes, or until tender. The water should have a constant simmer (not boil). Drain off any excess liquid and set aside.
- If using red lentils: To a small saucepan, add liquid (water and/or vegetable broth) and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add rinsed red lentils and bring back to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 7-10 minutes, or until just tender. You want them to be cooked through but not mushy. Drain well and set aside.
- In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Sautè for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the peppers and onions are tender and slightly browned.
- Next add tomato sauce, coconut sugar, vegan worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, and paprika (optional). Stir to combine.
- Once the lentils are cooked, add them to the skillet as well, and stir to combine.
- Continue cooking the mixture over medium-low heat until completely warmed through and thick, stirring occasionally – about 5-10 minutes.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more chili powder and/or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, coconut sugar for sweetness, or worcestershire for depth of flavor.
- Serve the mixture on toasted buns with sliced onion. Best when fresh, though leftover sloppy joe mixture will keep in the refrigerator up to 4-5 days, or in the freezer for 1 month. Reheat in the microwave, or on the stovetop, adding water or vegetable broth if the mixture has dried out.
*If you can’t locate vegan Worcestershire sauce at the store, try this recipe from Forks Over Knives.
*My go-to whole-wheat vegan hamburger buns are from Trader Joe’s. The best gluten-free vegan hamburger buns I’ve tried are from the brand Happy Camper (which I found at a grocery store in Portland, OR). However, if you do/can eat eggs, I think Udi’s Gluten Free Hamburger Buns are a great option.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without a bun.