Spicy Lentil Vegan Sloppy Joes

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Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes
Green Lentils
Lentil Sloppy Joes
Spicy Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes

If you've followed this site for some time, you might have noticed that I love comfort food and have turned numerous meat dishes into my favorite vegetarian dishes. These comfort foods are the ones I grew up on and the meals M still occasionally request. It's always fun to try and recreate favorites from childhood.

I have a weakness for sloppy joes. Sloppy joes were one of the first comfort recipes I turned vegetarian by using bulgur. I felt like it was time for an update to the recipe though, to include a bit more protein. This lentil vegan sloppy joe is easy to throw together, has a flavorful, firm texture, and is packed full of protein. I've also been known to smother a baked potato with the sloppy mixture (so good!)

Update 4/2015: I've had a few comments that the lentils just aren't cooking. This could be because of the acid from the tomatoes but it could also be old lentils. To combat the first issue, I've updated the instructions to cook the lentils separate then add the sauce. If your lentils don't cook in 25 minutes, you most likely have old lentils and should replace!


Spicy Lentil Vegan Sloppy Joes

  • Author: Erin Alderson
  • Yield: 2 sandwiches 1x


  • 1/2 cup green or brown lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 red or green pepper, minced
  • 1 clove garlic. minced
  • 1 ¾-2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup strained tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce (like Annie's)
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. In a large skillet or pot, bring lentils and water to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and let lentils cook for 20 minutes, just until lentils are tender. You may have water leftover, that's okay.
  2. In second skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add minced onions, pepper, and garlic. Cook until onions and peppers are soft and fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer until lentils are tender.
  3. Stir the sauce into the lentils, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until sauce thickens and lentils are fully tender.Taste and adjust seasonings while cooking.
  4. Serve on a bun or toasted bread.


Update: Some people are having issues with the lentils not fully cooking. I would recommend soaking the lentils overnight (like you would other legumes) before using to help soften slightly. You could also try cooking the lentils in water only until starting to get tender (20 minutes or so) then add the tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, vinegar, and molasses.

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33 comments on “Spicy Lentil Vegan Sloppy Joes”

  1. Sloopy Joes are one of my favorite comfort foods. I am reducing the amount of meat that I consume, therefore I think this would be a fantastic substitute. I will try it this weekend.

  2. I love lentil sloppy joes! I've even been able to get my meat-eating parents hooked (they beg me to make them every time I visit). I've cooked the lentils in veg stock for extra flavor, but never thought to cook them right in the sauce. I'll have to give it a try!

  3. Hi Erin, these looked so scrumptious (and easy!) that I had to give them a try tonight. This is a winner! My boys loved them and so did my omnivorous guests who stopped in unannounced. I served mine over potatoes and with a side of steamed broccoli rabe. I doubled the recipe since I figured it would make awesome leftovers. I added a bit more onion and Worcestershire--totally amazing! Thanks for the great recipe!

  4. Wow these look crazy good! Recipes for vegetarian comfort food (that is healthy) is hard to come by. I can't wait to try this one 🙂 x

  5. This definitely needs to be consumed behind closed doors or with someone you don't mind seeing your face painted like a warrior's with lentil sauce 😀

  6. I have never cooked with lentils before, and I really want to try them. This might be a really obvious question, but do you have to soak them first like you do other kinds of beans?

  7. I love sloppy joes and I have lots of lentils, so my hubby and I are going to try this tonight. Only change I plan to make is to take out the hot spicy spices. I'm not a fan of spicy hot. Still I think this will be great! I also sent the recipe to my mom and my mother-in-law. My father and my FIL are both not doing so great. I think both moms could make this for them and I bet they will like it, before they know it is meatless. In their case, I suggested that the moms add a little beef bouillon to it. Both need to eat healthier and both are not ready to give up meat (or alcohol, or Pepsi, or potato chips, etc.) so I think something like this would be great for them! Thanks for the recipe!

  8. I had a problem with the lentils cooking through too--perhaps the salt blocked the water from softening the lentil interior. I will try again next week, cooking the lentil separately first. I know it wasn't a problem for Ella or other readers, but perhaps your water is harder or softer than our lovely Lake Champlain source?

    The sauce was amazingly delicious, I am definitely going to try this again. But semi hard lentils (after more than an hour cooking) seemed likely to cause tummy aches.

    I'll report back next week if the lentils cooked in plain water. If they do, I'll add the sauce made separately and make Sloppy Joes! If my lentils won't soften in plain water, then the lentils dried out since I bought them in April. (We've been eating red lentil dal all summer, which pushed the green lentils to the back of the cupboard.) If the lentils cook and soften properly in the plain water, then maybe this delicious recipe can't be one-step in all parts of the country.

  9. Okay, maybe it must have been that my lentils were too long dried.


    Cook’s Illustrated did a study with lentils and concluded that salt has no effect on cooking time or bean texture. Furthermore, they suggest that for maximum flavor it’s actually essential to salt your beans at the beginning rather than the end of of cooking. Also, when soaking beans Cook’s Illustrated says that by using salt water the bean will cook up with softer and more pliable skins. Apparently the salt displaces some of the minerals like calcium and magnesium in the bean skins, which tends to make the skins tough. Since salt ions are weaker than mineral irons, they allow more water to penetrate into the skins, leading to a softer texture. Apparently during soaking the salt doesn’t make it all the way to the center of the beans, so the largest effect is on the outer skin. Cook’s Illustrated recommends 3 Tbs. of salt per gallon of soaking water.

  10. Cooking these now and my lentils are stil hard after an hour too. Sauce tastes great so I will try partially cooking them beforehand next time.

    1. Hi Pat- I just ended up making these for dinner again and adjust the instructions to cook the lentils separate. There's a couple reason why they might not be cooking, but this way it takes the guess work out of it! Now if the lentils don't cook (in water alone), they are most likely old!

  11. I just made a double batch...delicious! I didn't have any molasses. So used agave nectar, and a reduced amount, like half. I also threw in some TVP for additional texture. I'm absolutely keeping the recipe...it really was good!

  12. I made this last night. It was SO good!!!! I'm always nervous about vegetarian recreations of meat dishes, but I will definitely be making this again! And sharing it with my friends! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  13. Naturally Ella's Lentil Sloppy Joes are now a family favorite in regular rotation! Following the new directions, I cook the lentils separately in water only first, and then add the delicious sauce.

  14. I made these last night. They are sooo good. Brought back memories of my favorite dish as a child. Even my carnivorous husband had seconds.


Welcome to my little internet nook. On this site you'll find over a thousand vegetarian recipes, pantry knowledge, and more. I'm ever obsessed with food from gardening, cooking, and preserving. I hope you'll find endless inspiration on these pages and visit often. 

Virtual hugs, Erin (aka: e.l.l.a.)

a few good grain recipes

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