This vegan lentil sloppy joes recipe is a healthy twist on a classic recipe that everyone knows and loves! The tangy sauce has a secret ingredient that will make you want to lick every last drop of sauce off the plate. Vegan + gluten-free.
*This post was originally published on 4/23/17 but I updated it with new pictures and better recipe instructions on 3/3/19.
**This post contains affiliate links.
Sloppy joes were never my favorite food or a meal that I requested for dinner when I was a kid. I don’t have fond memories of eating them for lunch at school or at a picnic table with my friends at summer camp. Probably, because I never went to sleep away summer camp because my mom would threaten it like it was a punishment! Did anyone else’s parents do that?
My mom did make sloppy joes occasionally for dinner when I was a kid. I remember the feeling of the sauce dripping down my chin and the filling falling out of the sandwich that I had to pick up and eat with my fingers. It was super messy which did make it a fun dinner to eat.
Strangely enough, I now find myself craving lentil sloppy joe’s as a vegan adult. Weird! I absolutely love the combination of the red and green lentils, chunky bell peppers, sweet onions, and tangy sauce. I use a combination of french and red lentils because the french lentils hold their shape while the red lentils get very soft and make the sauce super thick and creamy. It’s so delicious and the lentil filling truly looks like and tastes even better than the animal-based sloppy joes that I used to eat as a kid.
Maybe we should change up the name since we’ve swapped out one of the major ingredients? I mean, why are they called “sloppy joes” anyways? Leave me a comment if you know the answer! How about “lentil joes” or “sloppy lentils?” Do you think either of those will catch on? I kind of like sloppy lentil sandwiches!
How to Make Lentil Sloppy Joes
It’s very easy to make red lentil sloppy joes! Begin by cooking the french lentils in a large sauce pan. The french lentils take about 20-25 minutes to cook, so at the halfway point, add the red lentils to the same pot (the red lentils take 10-15 minutes to cook) and let the lentils finish cooking together. You could cook the lentils in different pans by why dirty another dish when you don’t need to? Once the lentils are done cooking, drain any excess water out.
Step #1 – While the lentils are cooking, saute the diced onions and bell peppers in olive oil or vegetable broth in a large saute pan until they are translucent. Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, all the dry seasonings, and salt. Let it cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. You might need to add a splash of water to the filling if it gets too dry.
Step #2 – Add the vegan Worcestershire, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, and water to the pan. Stir it well and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
Step #3 – Add the cooked french and red lentils to the pan and stir them into the sauce. Let the filling cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Taste it and add any additional seasonings to your taste.
Is Manwich Vegan?
I totally understand. Some nights you just want to take a shortcut and use a can of sloppy joe sauce that’s already ready to eat instead of making your own. But, what are the ingredients in a can of Manwich? Is Manwich vegan?
Based on the label ingredients that I found on the Manwich website, it’s hard to tell if Manwich is vegan or not. Peta released an article that said Manwich is accidentally vegan, but, also according to Peta, if the sugar used isn’t organic then you should look for it to be labeled as unrefined or made from beets. That way you’ll know for sure that the sugar wasn’t filtered with bone char (bone char isn’t vegan). The sugar that Manwich lists on its ingredient label says it’s refined sugar from beets or cane sugar. Since you don’t know 100% which sugar is used in the mixture, it’s up to you if you want to chance it.
Is There Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce?
Yes, there is a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce! Even better, there are a couple of vegan options! I’ve tried multiple brands but this one and this one are my favorites. They taste delicious and give a lot of flavor to the lentil sloppy joe filling.
Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes Secret Ingredient
You might have thought that using two different types of lentils as a vegan ground beef substitute in the sloppy joes filling was the secret ingredient surprise. However, the secret ingredient is actually balsamic vinegar! The balsamic vinegar gives the sloppy joe filling the best tangy flavor. I promise you’ll want to lick the sauce off your plate, it’s so so so delicious!
Can You Freeze Lentil Sloppy Joes?
Yes, you can definitely freeze this lentil sloppy joe recipe. It freezes really well! This is one of those recipes that I like to make and then freeze half for dinner another night. When you reheat it, add a little water or vegetable broth to help loosen up the sauce a bit.
Tips For Making the Best Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes
- Cook the french lentils according to package instructions and then add the red lentils to the same pot halfway through so you can cook both lentils in one pot. What’s the point of getting two pots dirty?
- I recommend using both french and red lentils to make the sloppy joe filling. However, if you don’t have red lentils then you could substitute 1 cup of french, green, or brown lentils instead. I’ve done this before in a pinch and it’s delicious too, it’s just not as thick.
- You can use fresh or frozen bell peppers. I often use organic frozen bell peppers to save time and it turns out just as good as if I had used fresh peppers.
- Speaking of saving time, canned lentils can work in a pinch too.
- Make sure to read the Worcestershire sauce label or check for the vegan symbol, not all Worcestershire sauces are vegan.
More Lentil Recipes You’ll Love!
If you make these vegan lentil sloppy joes, please share your picture on Instagram and tag @StaceyHomemaker so I can see your delicious creation!
Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes
- 1 cup dry french lentils (or green or brown lentils)
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 medium red or green bell peppers, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 cup water
- Cook the french lentils (rinsed and drained) according to package instructions. Halfway through, add the red lentils, stir to combine, and let both lentils finish cooking.
- In a large pan, saute the diced onion and bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent.
- Add the minced garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, tomato paste, and salt. Stir to combine and let the mixture cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant. You might need to add a splash of water if the mixture gets to dry and it sticking to the pan.
- Add the maple syrup, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, and water. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes so the flavors begin to meld.
- Add the cooked lentils, stir everything together, and reduce the heat to medium-low and let it cook for 15 minutes. Spoon the filling into vegan burger buns and enjoy!
- You can substitute green or brown lentils for the french lentils.
- If you don't have red lentils, you can use 2 cups of dry green, brown, or french lentils.
- You can use fresh or frozen red peppers, either option will be delicious.
- The lentil sloppy joes filling is vegan and gluten-free as is but make sure you buy vegan and gluten-free burger buns.