Lentil Sloppy Joes

lentil sloppy joes on a plate

 The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Yields: 4 sandwiches

Lentil sloppy joes are the comfort food you’ve been looking for if you've been trying to eat less meat. They have the same flavor and texture of your favorite childhood sandwich—the sauce is tangy, yet sweet and it’s all piled onto toasted buns and topped with thick slices of onion. To make this vegan, enjoy with your favorite dairy-free hamburger rolls.

We love serving these sandwiches on weeknights or as a part of a weekend barbecue. It’s a great meatless option that you can serve in a crockpot among the burgers and hot dogs.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup green lentils (rinsed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 green bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon steak sauce
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 vidalia onion (thickly sliced rings)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Prepare the Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for lentil sloppy joes on a marble board
  2. Add the broth to a large saucepan, followed by the rinsed lentils. Stir gently and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

    lentils cooked in a pot
  3. Add the olive oil to a large cast-iron pan (or other heavy-bottomed pan) and heat on medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, minced garlic, and diced bell pepper. Add the salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes.

    sauteed peppers and onions in a cast iron skillet
  4. Add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, steak sauce, chili powder, ketchup, and smoked paprika to the vegetables. Stir to combine and heat on medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes to help develop the flavors. If you’re short on time, you can shorten it to 5 minutes.

    sloppy joe sauce in a cast iron skillet
  5. Add the cooked lentils into the sauce and stir to combine. Cook for another 2 to 5 minutes so the lentils can absorb some of the sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

    lentil sloppy joe filling in a cast iron skillet

Assemble the Sloppy Joes

  1. Gather the buns and toppings.

    buns, onions, and mustard on a marble platter
  2. Toast your hamburger buns if you wish, then top with a heaping pile of the lentil mixture, sliced onions, and squirt of mustard. Serve immediately with your favorite fries or chips.

    lentil sloppy joes on a plate
     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

Recipe Variations

  • If you don’t have access to green bell pepper, you can replace with red or yellow bell peppers. You can also do a combination of all three.
  • We used this delicious brioche hamburger bun recipe, but if you are vegan or don’t have time you can just use regular store-bought hamburger buns.
  • You can substitute red lentils for the green lentils.
  • Many steak sauces are vegan, but some are not. You can also substitute a vegan Worcestershire sauce, but use about half of what we recommended for the steak sauce.