Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Make Ahead

by: Gena Hamshaw



14 Ratings

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 58 minutes
  • Serves 6

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Author Notes

Easy, filling, and inexpensive, this is the only vegan sloppy Joe recipe you'll ever need. —Gena Hamshaw

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1 cupbrown or green lentils, soaked for a few hours (or overnight) and rinsed
  • 2 cupswater
  • 2 tablespoonsolive oil
  • 1 cupwhite or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped (about 3/4 to 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoonschili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoonsmoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoonmustard powder, dried
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
  • 3 tablespoonstomato paste
  • 1 tablespoonorganic brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoonapple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoonsea salt (adjust according to taste; how much is needed will also depend on the tomatoes and tomato paste you use)
  • 1/4 teaspoonblack pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cupvegetable broth (or more as needed)
  • 6 sprouted grain buns
  • 1 dashToppings of choice (Tabasco sauce, sriracha, pickles, onions, sauerkraut, coleslaw, avocado slices, etc.)
  1. Place lentils in a large pot, and cover with water (enough so that there's at least a full inch or two of water above the lentils). Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are chewable, but still have some firmness to them. Drain them and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is soft and clear, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, chili, paprika, and mustard, and continue cooking for another minute or two, until the garlic is quite fragrant.
  3. Add the lentils, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar or maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add more broth as needed. Simmer until the mixture has thickened to your liking, about 15 to 20 minutes (I like thick sloppy joes, but if you like 'em sloppier, that's fine, too!).
  4. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Divide sloppy joes onto the buns and top with toppings of choice, including some Tabasco or sriracha for heat, if desired. Serve.


  • Sandwich
  • American
  • Maple Syrup
  • Mustard
  • Paprika
  • Vinegar
  • Bean
  • Lentil
  • Make Ahead
  • Serves a Crowd
  • Spring
  • Summer

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • OPTOMontheEdge

  • charles

  • Cheryl

  • Christie D

  • Judi Newman

28 Reviews

Christine August 26, 2023

This is the second time I’ve made this recipe & it is just as delicious (and easy) as I remember! I used double the smoked paprika & I used maple syrup instead of brown sugar. The Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes are healthy & tasty. This time I served it on Dave’s killer hamburger buns & added some Brooklyn dill pickle chips - oh my lord it was amazing! I will be making this one again soon!

OPTOMontheEdge September 18, 2022

Hit all the right sloppy Joe notes. I added a little extra sugar (maple sugar actually) and a bit extra salt. Fantastic. Can't wait to heat it up for some messy leftovers. The hubs recommended using hotdogs buns next time for slightly less mess eating- sloppy dogs! Brilliant!

charles January 23, 2022

I don't want to rate the recipe because I didn't stick to it completely, but what I made came out nice. I didn't have a bell pepper, and added corn. I also added some bbq sauce to give it a little more dimension and sweetness, but I think that is more personal preference. I think this recipe gives you a really tasty starting point that you can then alter to fit your taste.

kp May 27, 2020

Loved this! So quick to throw together too.

Sheila February 25, 2020

I've made this many times and I think it is delicious just as written! I used to eat regular sloppy joes and longed for a vegetarian recipe. This is it and for me, it is just right!

Liesje February 6, 2019

As a vegan, I love hearty meals that evoke memories without trying to mimic meat. This recipe is loved by me and my omnivore guests too. I will make it again and again! I added cumin and vegan worcestershire sauce, as previously recommended. Also added canned, diced jalapeños and unsweetened cocoa powder for additional depth of flavor. Threw in some uncooked bulgur into the warm mixture at the very end--just to sop-up any additional liquid and for more texture; the bulgur softened right away. Also, I did not soak the lentils ahead as they cook so quickly.

Robin June 13, 2018

Made these tonight and they were delish!! Followed the recipe exactly and it came out great. I’m not a vegetarian and did not miss the meat!!

Cheryl April 1, 2017

We loved it! I used just a sprinkle of the smoked paprika and 1/2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika. I cooked the lentils in homemade vegetable broth, not water and when cooked used the strained broth from lentils as my broth to add into the tomatoes, etc. No additional sugar or maple syrup needed; it was plenty sweet enough. My friend and I ate it on 1/2 a sprouted hamburger bun topped with coleslaw. For coleslaw, which calls for mayo and sour cream, I used a vegan home-made sour cream from a cashew base. Looking forward to leftovers! Thank you!

Christie D. February 10, 2017

This was so good! Added cumin when sautéing onions & peppers and some Worcestershire at the end- definitely added to rotation!

Judi N. September 30, 2016

Absolutely delicious! easy to make. I added 1/2 jalapeno, chopped to the pepper, and 1 chopped date for the sweetener....look forward to making it again.

Meghan M. August 11, 2016

BEST sloppy joes ever! And so easy to make! I added some pickles + onions to mine and they were wonderful.

[emailprotected] April 27, 2016

Just made these again. So yummy!!! Even the boys liked them.

Meredith M. February 7, 2016

Made this last night and it was delicious! I don't agree that it was bland but I did put sriracha on top and some hot dill pickle chips. I am all about more spices, so I'd say you could safely almost double them (except for the salt) and it would be even more flavorful, but again, I thought it was delicious as it. Nice and heart for a meat-free meal.

Meredith M. February 7, 2016


Lori A. November 9, 2015

Just about doubled the spices because it was bland as written but otherwise it was very, very good.. Even anti-vegan omnivore HH (Handsome Husband) loved it!

Can anyone recommend tasty recipes that are just as easy? I'm all about quick/easy/tasty/healthy and/but my days of messing with a long list of ingredients and complicated methods are over. Thanks!!

Mary E. March 7, 2015

I agree with AMGenco. This recipe is almost word for word verbatim out of Veganomicon. I didn't realize it until I checked and the sloppy joe was simmering away in the pot. I did a little doctoring. To my doubled recipe (An army is coming for dinner) I added canned a can of black beans, a can of black eyed peas, a few drops of vegetarian Worcestershire, a little more maple syrup, the whole can of tomato paste, 4 cloves of garlic, subbed smoked paprika with ancho chili spice, and added a splash more apple cider vinegar. I felt it needed more substance.

Tara C. February 9, 2015

Was a little cautious as I've been striking out lately with new recipes and my kids, but get a gold star for this one! My 7 yo AND 4 yo both wolfed this down!!! One are it on a bun, the other just ate the mixture straight with a spoon. delicious, healthy, easy & satisfying. Great as leftovers too

Erika June 19, 2014

Freezes great! Just made it for a big group of meat eaters, big hit. One child was convinced there was meat in it.

Jara June 17, 2014

I had been meaning to make this for a while. Even the lentil haters loved it. They were a great sub for meat. Does anyone know if it freezes well?

simplyrenee February 12, 2014

i also doubled the spices and it turned out well. great recipe even for a picky ten year old!

souptastic February 11, 2014

I didn't pre-soak and cooked the lentils for 30 minutes in the first step, and they turned out great. I also didn't have veggie stock so I just used some of the drained lentil cooking water. A bit of soy sauce bumped up the umami and I found Tabasco a nice addition as well.

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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