These vegan sloppy joes are made with nutritious lentils in a flavourful sweet and savory sauce, served on toasted buns with creamy slaw.

Close up of a lentil vegan sloppy joe sandwich with cabbage slaw on a plate.

About the Recipe

If you’re craving classic sloppy joes, this vegan version made with lentils is a wonderful way to enjoy a nutritious twist on the original.

This recipe is a good source of plant-based protein and fibre, is simple to make with minimal ingredients and prep time, and makes a great option for a family-friendly meal any night of the week.

The sweet and savory lentils served over a warm, toasty bun with the tangy and creamy slaw is the perfect combo!

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or just looking to include more plant-based meals in your diet, this wholesome and delicious recipe is sure to be a new favourite.

For more comfort food classics, check out my Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, Chickpea Meatloaf, Vegan Carbonara and Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers too!

Ingredients & Substitutions

All the ingredients needed for making a vegan sloppy joe recipe with lentils and tomato sauce. Each ingredient is labelled with text.

For the Vegan Sloppy Joes

  • Lentils: This recipe uses green or brown lentils. I wouldn’t suggest another variety.
  • Bay Leaf: This is optional for cooking the lentils.
  • Oil: Use your choice of oil for sautéing the onion and pepper. For an oil-free recipe, you can use water or broth for cooking.
  • Onion: White or yellow onion is suitable.
  • Bell Pepper: You’ll need 1 red bell pepper. You can substitute green bell pepper if needed.
  • Garlic: Use whole garlic cloves, not garlic powder.
  • Chili Powder: Any mild chili powder works.
  • Smoked Paprika: Smoked paprika is best for flavour but you could use regular paprika in a pinch.
  • Tomato Paste: Helps thicken and add more depth of flavour.
  • Tomato Sauce: You can use any plain tomato sauce or passata.
  • Dijon: Grainy dijon mustard or regular dijon mustard is ok.
  • Maple Syrup: You can use maple syrup, brown sugar or coconut sugar for the sweetener.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Use vegan Worcestershire sauce. This is readily available in natural food stores or online. Some well-stocked conventional grocery stores carry it as well. If you can’t find this ingredient, you can use 2 tsp soy sauce or tamari, 1 tbsp ketchup and 1 tbsp vinegar to substitute it.

For the Creamy Slaw

The slaw is optional of course, but pairs really well with the lentils, either served on top or as a side.

  • Cabbage: You can use green cabbage, purple cabbage, green and purple cabbage or packaged coleslaw mix.
  • Green Onion: Use about 4-6 green onions, thinly sliced, both the green and whites.
  • Mayo: Use your choice of vegan mayo.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: You can substitute white vinegar here if needed.
  • Dijon: Any variety of dijon mustard is suitable.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Cook the Lentils

Add the lentils, water, salt and bay leaf to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 16-20 minutes until the lentils are tender. If there’s any excess water left once they’re cooked, drain it off.

Quick Tip: To use canned lentils, skip this step and start the sauce. Add about 2.5 cups canned lentils when you’d add the cooked lentils to the sauce.

Green lentils cooking in a pot with a bay leaf in it.

Step 2: Cook the Sloppy Joe Sauce

Heat the oil in a large pan then add the onions and peppers with a pinch of salt and pepper once it’s hot. Cook them for 6-8 minutes until they’re softened.

Quick Tip: If you prefer to cook oil free, use water or broth instead of oil to saute the peppers and onion.

Add the garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika and tomato paste and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring often, to toast the psices.

Add the tomato sauce, mustard, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce and water or both and stir to combine.

Add the cooked lentils and season with salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce reduces and thickens.

Season with more salt and pepper and more worcestershire if desired.

Vegan lentil sloppy joe sauce in a large saucepan with a wooden spoon.

Step 3: Make the Creamy Slaw

While sloppy joe mixture cooks, make the slaw. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, green onions, mayo, vinegar and dijon. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to combine.

Quick Tip: Use a mandolin to slice the cabbage if you have one. If not, use a sharp knife and try to slice it a thinly as you can. Alternatively, use packaged coleslaw mix for a quick and easy option!

Step 4: Serve the Sloppy Joes

Spoon the lentil sloppy joe mixture over toasted buns, top with slaw, hot sauce and any other toppings you might enjoy.

Scooping a lentil sloppy joe mixture over a toasted bun on a plate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use red lentils for this recipe?

I wouldn’t recommend it, no. They’re too mushy when cooked. This recipe is best with brown or green lentils. They hold their shape through cooking but have a nice, tender bite to them once cooked. Perfect for sloppy Joe’s!

Can I use canned lentils?

For sure! To use canned lentils, simply add about 2.5 cups to the sauce when you’d add the cooked lentils.

Can I use plant-based meat instead of lentils?

Yes! To use plant-based meat, use approximately 1 lb. or pacakage vegan meat of choice and brown it with the onions and bell pepper before continuing with the recipe.

Serving Ideas

In addition to the creamy slaw, you might enjoy some of the other toppings listed below. The lentil mixture is also delicious served over baked potato or fries on even on its own as a kind of chili.

  • sliced pickles
  • grated carrot
  • avocado
  • raw or cooked sliced onions
  • pickled onion
  • jalapeno
  • hot sauce
A lentil vegan sloppy joe sandwich with cabbage slaw drizzled with hot sauce on a plate.

Storing

  • Cool before storing.
  • Transfer the lentil sloppy joe mixture to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag.
  • Store the lentil mixture in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Thaw overnight in the fridge if frozen.
  • Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop until heated through.
  • The cabbage slaw can be stored in a separate container in the fridge for 3 days.
  • Toast fresh buns as needed when you’re ready to serve.
Lentils in a thick tomato sauce with diced onion and bell pepper cooking in a large pot.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Scroll down to the comment section to leave a star rating and review.
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Print
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A sloppy joe on a plate. The sloppy joe filling is made from lentils and topped with a cabbage slaw.

Vegan Sloppy Joes

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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Description

Sweet, tangy and smoky you’ll love this easy vegan sloppy joes, especially served with the creamy cabbage slaw!


Ingredients

For the Lentils

  • 1 cup lentils (210 g dry) 
  • 3 cups water
  • salt
  • 1 bay leaf, optional

For the Sloppy Joe Sauce

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, diced (160 g, 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 red pepper, diced (170 g, 1 ½ cups) 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (40 g)
  • 1 ½ cups tomato sauce or passata
  • 1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or coconut sugar 
  • 12 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup broth or water
  • salt and pepper

For the Creamy Slaw

  • 4 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw cabbage mix (about 215 g
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayo (30 g)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp grainy dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook Lentils: In a medium pot, add lentils, water, salt and bay leaf, if using. Bring to a boil over high. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook lentils for 16-20 min, until tender, but not mushy. Drain lentils, then set aside.
  2. Prepare: Once the lentils are started, chop the onion, garlic and bell pepper. You can gather the rest of the ingredients after you start the sauce. If you’re not using coleslaw mix to prepare the slaw, slice the cabbage after you add the lentils to the sauce.
  3. Cook Sloppy Joe Sauce: Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-8 min, stirring occasionally, until tender.
  4. Add garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika and tomato paste. Cook for 1-2 min, stirring often, until fragrant and toasted.
  5. Add tomato sauce, dijon mustard, maple syrup or sugar, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 cup broth (or water). Stir to combine.
  6. Add cooked lentils. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 6-8 min, stirring often, until sauce reduces and thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more Worcestershire sauce, if desired.
  7. Make Slaw: While sloppy joe mixture cooks, make the slaw. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, green onions, mayo, vinegar and dijon. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to combine.
  8. Toast Buns: Slice and toast buns in the oven at 350 F or watching closely on broil until they’re lightly toasted and golden brown.
  9. Serve: Spoon lentil sloppy joe mixture over toasted buns. Top with slaw and any other desired toppings like hot sauce and sliced onion. Close with top buns and serve. Serve any remaining slaw alongside.

Notes

The leftover lentil mixture can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or freezer for 2 months.

Nutrition facts are for the lentil sloppy joe mixture only and includes 1/2 tsp added salt. 


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 188
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Sodium: 300 mg
  • Fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 9 g

Keywords: vegan sloppy joes, lentil sloppy joes

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