A favorite since childhood for many people, Sloppy Joes are a fun sort of comfort food meal for kids of all ages. And these Vegan Sloppy Joes made using lentils and a rich tomato base are such an easy treat.
Big on flavor. Super easy. Packed with protein. One skillet meal. Sound good?
Bonus points for the fact that they are super simple to make, can be whipped up in twenty minutes, taste amazing and are packed with nutrients like protein and fiber and antioxidants. Looking for some speedy, plant-based dinnertime inspiration? Here you go!…
Easy Vegan Dinner
The trick to this recipe being absolutely amazing is that it is so simple. I really tried to keep ingredients to a minimum. You can easily have most of these ingredients in your pantry – like canned lentils and tomato puree – or canned tomatoes – and spices to boost the flavor. Have some burger buns stored in your freezer and try to have some leafy greens on hand. Or you could even use frozen spinach for true plan-ahead meal prep.
Start to finish, this recipe only takes about twenty minutes. Easy as Sloppy Joes!
Lentils – The lentils are the heart of this dish. They make a perfect meat substitute for Vegan Sloppy Joes. IF you don’t want to use lentils, some other options include TVP, vegan “beefy” crumbles or even crumbled tempeh or tofu. All possible for the plant protein portion of this dish.
Tomato Puree – I actually made my own puree by blending a can of san marzano tomatoes. You can either use a pre-blended puree or DIY your own with any can of tomatoes you can on hand. If you are in a real bind, tomato paste and water or veggie broth could sub — though I don’t have an exact ration of those for you.
Sweet – Vegan Sloppy Joes should have a light sweetness to them. This makes them feel more like the kid-approved dish from childhood. I like to use coconut sugar for it’s brown sugar, caramelized flavor. You can use anywhere from 1-4 Tbsp of coconut sugar. The more sugar, the sweeter your filling will be. I personally like using 3-4 Tbsp for that sweet kick.
Greens – Yup, I had to add some veggies to this dish to make it feel like a full one-skillet meal. I added about 1 1/2 cups of chopped leafy greens. Spinach, kale or chard works great. Bok choy is another green I’ve been loving lately.
Spices – You can really play around with your own Vegan Sloppy Joes spice blend, but I personally like some onion powder and chili powder. Black pepper as well. But anything from cayenne to smoky paprika and even chipotle powder or cumin would be fun to experiment with.
You can keep some burger buns in the freezer for when you want to whip up this meal. I used these buns, but honestly I am aching to DIY my own soon. Baking project on the horizon. I like something soft, yet nicely toasted on the outside.
To toast frozen buns, simply toss them in a 400 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes, depending on how large/thick they are.
Vegan Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joe Filling
- 2 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1-3 tsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar, optional
- 1 1/2 cups lentils, drained and rinsed
- 11/2 cup spinach, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- black pepper to taste, to taste
- 2 burger buns
- 2 tsp vegan mayo
- pickles, sliced
- Toast buns for 5-10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Until tops are toasty and browned. This can happen while you are preparing the filling. When buns are ready, turn off oven heat and allow them to stay warmed.
- Start by warming a skillet over medium-high. Add the oil and garlic. Saute garlic for a minute to brown.
- Add in the tomato puree, spices, coconut sugar, optional vinegar. Turn heat to medium and allow the puree to cook down a bit – 2-3 minutes, stir every so often.
- Add in the lentils and stir to combines. Keep stirring as the mixture thickens and cook down. Another 2-4 minutes.
- Add in the greens and salt and pepper. Stir to wilt greens.
- When mixture is nice and thick – scoopable – turn off heat.
- Add vegan mayo and pickles to your toasted buns. Scoop on the sloppy joe filling. Serve warm!
- apple cider vinegar is optional – it adds an extra tanginess to the filling
- you can sub spinach for any greens, kale, collards, etc
- you may reduce the coconut sugar if you want a more savory and less sweet flavor – 1 Tbsp is minimum though because you want a tiny hint of sweetness — if making for kids, the full 1/4 cup coconut sugar might be most appealing!
nutrition estimate | per serving
Another Sloppy Joe recipe I love: summer corn sloppy joes.
Or browse my other entree recipes for vegan dinner recipes!