These vegan sloppy joes have the most delicious tangy sauce and meaty filling! This easy-to-make and freezer-friendly meal is perfect for Meatless Monday and it's ready in 30 minutes!
You're going to love these vegan sloppy joes! The filling is so easy to make and it has the most delicious tangy tomato-based sauce. The filling tastes very meat-like because it contains two types of legumes. The french lentils hold their shape while the red lentils break down and it creates a thick and chunky texture.
This kid-approved sloppy joes recipe is great for a quick Meatless Monday dinner. Serve the sandwiches with a side of chickpea puffs, sesame ginger coleslaw, avocado tomato salad, creamy broccoli salad, or lemon tahini zucchini salad for a balanced meal that the whole family will love!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Lentils - I used both french and red for plant-based protein and to create a chunky and creamy texture. You can substitute green or brown lentils, Beyond Meat crumbles, or riced cauliflower if needed.
- Bell Peppers - Red bell peppers give a pop of color, but you can use any color fresh or frozen bell peppers you like.
- Tomato Paste - This deepens the tomato flavor in the sauce. If you don't have it, you can substitute an additional ½ cup of ketchup.
- Maple Syrup - If you need a low-glycemic sweetener, date syrup can be used instead of maple syrup 1:1. If you're sugar-free, you can omit the sweetener completely. It's only added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes in the sloppy joes sauce.
- Chili Powder - Make sure you use a mild chili powder blend, not a spicy chili powder.
- Vegan Worcestershire - This ingredient gives so much flavor! If you need a substitute, you can use 1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce. Omit the sea salt listed in the recipe card and add more salt to taste only if necessary because soy sauce is salty.
- Balsamic Vinegar - Vinegar adds a delicious tang to the sloppy joes sauce.
How to Make Vegan Sloppy Joes
Begin by cooking the green lentils in a medium pot (they take about 20-25 minutes to cook), so at the halfway point, add the red lentils to the same pot (they take 10-12 minutes to cook) and let both finish cooking together in the same pot. When they are done cooking, drain any excess liquid out.
Next, saute the diced onions and bell peppers in a large pan until they are translucent (Photo 1). Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and all of the dry seasonings. Let it cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant (Photos 2 & 3).
Add the Worcestershire, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, and water to the pan. Stir a few times and let it cook for 2-3 minutes (Photo 4).
Add the cooked legumes to the pan and stir them into the sloppy joes sauce (Photo 5). Let the filling cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes (Photo 6). Serve on soft buns.
Slow Cooker Instructions
To make the sloppy joes in the slow cooker, put all of the ingredients (except the burger buns) into a large slow cooker. You'll need to put an extra 6 cups of water or vegetable broth into the slow cooker. Stir to combine the mixture together, cover it, and set it to cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
- Rinse the dried lentils with fresh water until the water runs clear. The water will be pretty cloudy at first.
- Cook all of the lentils in the same pot so you'll have one less pot to clean!
- You can use fresh or frozen bell peppers, both are delicious in this recipe. I often use frozen bell peppers to save time and they're usually cheaper too.
- This sloppy joes recipe makes a large amount, and it freezes perfectly. So, it's great to freeze half for a future meal if you like to plan ahead.
Yes. 1 cup of dried = 2 ½ cups cooked. (1) 15 oz can contains about 2 cups of cooked, so, you'll need 2 ½ cans for this recipe.
Make sure to read the ingredient label on the bottle symbol before you buy it because not all Worcestershire sauces are vegan. I've tried multiple brands but this vegan Worcestershire is my favorite. It's smoky and tangy and it gives a lot of flavor to the sloppy joe filling.
Refrigerate it: Store the sloppy joes filling in an airtight container in the fridge and it should stay fresh for 3-4 days.
Freeze It: It freezes and reheats perfectly! Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Reheat From the Freezer: Take the container out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw for 24 hours. Then you can warm it up in a pan on the stove or in the microwave. When you reheat it, add a little bit of water or vegetable broth to help loosen up the sauce a bit if it's too thick.
More Easy Recipes You'll Love!
Easy Vegan Sloppy Joes
- Medium Pot
- Large Pan
- 1 cup dried green lentils (rinsed and drained)
- 1 cup dried red lentils (rinsed and drained)
- ½ cup water or vegetable broth (to saute)
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 2 medium red bell peppers diced (fresh or frozen)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp sea salt add more to taste
- 1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 cup water
- Cook the green lentils (rinsed and drained) according to package instructions. Halfway through, add the red lentils, stir to combine, and let both finish cooking together in the same pot.
- (Do this step while the lentils are cooking.) In a large pan, saute the diced onion and bell peppers in vegetable broth over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the minced garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, tomato paste, and salt. Stir to combine and let the mixture cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. You might need to add a splash of water if the mixture gets to dry and it's sticking to the pan.
- Add the maple syrup, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, and water. Stir to combine and let it cook for 2-3 minutes so the flavors begin to meld together.
- Add the cooked lentils to the pan, stir everything together, and reduce the heat to medium-low and let it cook for 15 minutes. Spoon the filling into burger buns and enjoy!
- Store leftover vegan sloppy joes in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or you can freeze it for 2-3 months. Then take the container out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw for 24 hours. Then you can warm it up in the microwave or in a pot on the stove top. Add a little bit of water to thin the sauce if necessary.
*This post was originally published on 4/23/17 but I updated it with new pictures and better recipe instructions on 9/11/22.