This lentil sloppy joes recipe is a healthy and delicious meal! Filled with rich sauce and lots of lentils, it’s packed with flavor and protein to keep you full.
Lentil sloppy joes are the plant based version of the American classic recipe. Totally vegan and gluten free, this great recipe cooks up quickly on the stove for a hearty meal.
Perfect for a meatless Monday or any time you are craving some comfort food that is a little bit healthier.
Free from: Wheat, gluten, dairy, casein, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, fish, shellfish, crustaceans, mollusks, celery, corn, sesame, mustard, lupin, sulfites, and more
This lentil sloppy joe recipe is the perfect quick and delicious meal to make when you are feeding a hungry crowd. Or if you’re cooking for you (and the family) it makes a great dinner and then lunch the next day.
Why You’ll Love Lentil Sloppy Joes
- Sweet, savory, slightly spicy
- Super healthy
- Full of protein and fiber
- Inexpensive to make
- Great for meal prepping
You only need a few simple ingredients to make these lentil sloppy joes!
- Lentils - The main ingredient! Find brown lentils for this as they hold up better. Red lentils and green lentils tend to turn out more mushy like in texture while brown lentils hold their shape. French lentils also will work in this sloppy joes recipe. While you can find pre-cooked lentils, I prefer to use dry lentils and cook them. It doesn’t add that much time, plus, you can season them from the beginning for the best flavor.
- Tomato Sauce + Tomato Paste - These create the base of the sauce that then gets spiced up. I really recommend the combo of both because the sauce adds the body and the paste adds the depth of flavor.
- Brown Sugar or Maple Syrup - To help balance out the flavors, you need a little sweetness. I’ve used both brown sugar and maple syrup in the recipe and both taste amazing. Use what you prefer!
- You’ll also need: Onion, green bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, yellow mustard, and olive oil. Optional red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
To make this without mustard, simply omit the mustard and add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
For plant-based diets, omit the oil and make as directed.
You can easily kick this up a notch by adding red pepper flakes both while cooking and sprinkled on top of your finished sloppy joe! Cayenne pepper can also be added with the other spices. Make it as sweet or spicy as you like!
In place of the green bell pepper, you can use a red bell pepper. However, stick with a sweet onion or a yellow onion and not a red onion.
In place of salt and pepper, you can add a teaspoon of soy sauce or vegan worcestershire sauce to this recipe. That adds a whole new depth of flavor.
For the full recipe, complete with measurements, please see the recipe card below!
Start by rinsing your lentils in a mesh strainer. There is a bit of debris in lentils a lot of times. I’ve found leaves and sticks and one time even a pebble! So don’t skip this step! After rinsing, place them in a large pot with the 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook the lentils over medium-high heat until most of the water has evaporated, about 25-30 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, prep your veggies by dicing your onion, green pepper, and garlic.
Prepare the sauce by whisking together the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and all the spices along with the brown sugar or maple syrup (whichever you are using).
When the lentils have fully cooked, transfer them to a heat safe bowl and set aside. In the same hot pot, add the olive oil, onions and green peppers. Cook them until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more.
Now add the lentils and the sauce back to the pot with the onions. Cook this for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat to allow all the flavors to come together.
After 10 minutes, add the mustard and give it a good stir. Taste it for seasoning and you are done!
Now, if you want, you can let the sloppy joes rest for about another 10 minutes. This not only lets them cool down from lava temperature, it also gives the mustard time to infuse into the sauce. As much as you want to dive in, I really recommend waiting the 10 minutes!
I've never made this recipe in either the instant pot so I'm not sure how that would work. However, if you cooked the lentils and then added the cooked lentils with the sauce and spices to a slow cooker, and set it on low for 2 hours, I think that would work just fine.
If you've made this recipe in the slow cooker or instant pot, please let me know so I can update this recipe!
I don't recommend Dijon mustard in this recipe. It needs the sweet tang of regular yellow mustard.
I love to serve my lentil sloppy joes on hamburger buns. Many times they will be open faced with a scoop of sloppy joe filling on each bun! You can also serve them over a baked potato, baked sweet potato, or even over rice. This recipe can also be a side dish at a BBQ.
How to Store
Fridge: Store any remaining lentil sloppy joes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat as needed, or enjoy them chilled.
Freezer: Let the sloppy joes cool, then transfer to a freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Allow the sloppy joes to thaw in the fridge overnight and then gently heat over a low heat in a saucepan on the stove before serving.
Best Lentil Tips!
- Let the lentils rest for 10 minutes after cooking and before serving. This gives the mustard time to infuse into the sauce making them taste that much better.
- Allow the pan to preheat for a few minutes before adding the onions and peppers. This helps to develop flavor and prevents the onions from sticking.
- You don’t need to soak your lentils before cooking. However, you do want to rinse them well.
- For a gluten free / low carb option, serve the lentil sloppy joes over oven baked sweet potatoes. Top with avocado slices for a really hearty and filling meal!
What to Eat with Sloppy Joes
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- Large cooking pot
- Cooking spoon
- cutting board
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- mixing bowl
- 1 cup uncooked lentils brown or French lentils
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium onion cut into small dice
- 1 green bell pepper seeded and cut into small dice
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ½ tablespoon paprika
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ tablespoon yellow mustard
Cook the Lentils
- Wash the lentils, removing any leaves or debris.
- Cook the lentils. Add lentils and 4 cups of water to a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed and evaporated. Set aside.
Make the Lentil Sloppy Joes
- Cook the onions and green bell peppers. In a medium size saucepan saute the onions and green bell peppers over medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.
- Whisk the sauce. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper.
- Add the lentils and sauce mix to the onion mixture.
- Cook for about 10 minutes to heat everything. Add the mustard and stir through.
- Turn off the heat and let the lentils rest for 10 minutes. Serve on toasted buns, on open faced sandwiches, or over top of baked sweet potatoes. Enjoy!
- Allergy Substitutions
- To make this tomato and nightshade free, please see my Tomato Free Sloppy Joe recipe!
- To make this without mustard, simply omit the mustard and add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
- For plant-based diets, omit the oil and make as directed.
- How to Serve
- I love to serve my lentil sloppy joes on hamburger buns. Many times they will be open faced with a scoop of sloppy joe filling on each bun! You can also serve them over a baked potato, baked sweet potato, or even over rice. This recipe can also be a side dish at a BBQ.
- How to Store
- Fridge: Store any remaining lentil sloppy joes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat as needed, or enjoy them chilled.
- Freezer: Let the sloppy joes cool, then transfer to a freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Allow the sloppy joes to thaw in the fridge overnight and then gently heat over a low heat in a saucepan on the stove before serving.