A finished lentil sloppy joe sits on a plate.

Lentil Sloppy Joes are a meatless twist on the classic dish, making them a must-try for anyone looking to add more plant-based meals to their diet. Lentils provide a hearty texture and absorb the sweet and tangy tomato sauce beautifully. Whether you’re a vegetarian or simply seeking a tasty Meatless Monday option, Lentil Sloppy Joes are versatile and satisfying. Let’s get cooking!

A bowl of sloppy joe mixture sits in a sauce pan. A wooden spoon is inside the pot.

What are sloppy joes? 

Sloppy joes are a classic American comfort food favorite. Traditionally, these sandwiches combine perfectly seasoned ground beef bathed in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce with soft hamburger buns. And while we love the flavor of sloppy joes, we don’t always want to use meat—making meatless meals helps the environment and your budget. And that’s where lentil sloppy joes come in!

Why lentil sloppy joes? 

So where does that leave us if we want some plant-based sloppy joe? Lentils!

When cooked down, lentils have an awesome, meaty texture. They are packed full of fiber and some great nutrients and minerals.

The lentils really work perfectly for a ground beef substitute! They work especially well in highly flavored sauce dishes like this. Really, do you even taste the ground beef in sloppy joes? Or do you just taste the sloppy part of the sloppy joe mixture? This is a super kid-friendly way to do Meatless Monday. Trust me, your family will love these!

Raw lentils sit in a measuring cup, on a white background.

What kind of lentils should I use? 

Green lentils or black lentils are your best bet. We love red lentils, but they don’t hold their shape nearly as well. You’ll get a much better texture with green or black lentils!

What other ingredients do I need for lentil sloppy joes?

To make these vegetarian sloppy joes, you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Garlic
  • Green lentils
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
  • Maple syrup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns
  • Water and salt

If it’s really important to you to keep this entire dish vegetarian (like say, you’re serving it to folks who are strict vegetarians instead of flexitarians like I am), make sure you get vegan Worcestershire sauce. Annie’s Homegrown makes a good one that is available at most health food/natural foods stores. Typical Worcestershire sauce is made using fermented anchovies (sounds disgusting, tastes delicious!)—which is obviously not vegetarian.

A Lentil Sloppy Joe sits on a white plate, with pickles off to the side

What is a good side dish for sloppy joes?

Sloppy joes are super versatile and go well with a variety of side dishes. Some of our favorites include:

How to store and reheat leftovers

Leftover sloppy joe filling can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Reheat over medium heat on the stovetop, stirring often, or microwave the filling until warm.

 
A finished sloppy joe sits on a plate.

Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes

Yield: 4 large servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Looking for a kid-friendly way to do Meatless Monday? Try these Lentil Sloppy Joes. Lentils are hearty, meaty, and packed full of plant-based protein!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (like Annie's Homegrown)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns, for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add in the onion, green pepper, and garlic, and cook until the veggies are just slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in the lentils, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed and the lentils are tender.
  3. Add in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar. Simmer until just thick and heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately on top of whole wheat hamburger buns.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 large serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 817mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 6gSugar: 23gProtein: 8g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Want more easy vegetarian recipes like this one?

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26 Comments

  1. Cassie, I love this recipe (and so does my bf!). It’s def a go to when I’ve got a bag of lentils burning a hole in my pantry. Do you have a crock pot conversion? I want to bring it to an office potlock and keep it warm. Thanks!

    1. You know, I’ve never made it it the slow cooker (because it’s so fast on the stovetop), but if you’re just looking to keep it warm, you can whip it up on the stovetop and then transfer it into the slow cooker to keep it warm. 🙂

    1. The red lentils don’t hold their shape as well, so I suspect you wouldn’t get that “meaty” texture you want for sloppy joes if you used them. Sorry!

  2. Greetings Cassie!
    Have you cooked this dish in your rice cooker?
    Do you know you can cook lentils and quinoa in your rice cooker?
    I soak both together in cold water for 15 mins and rinse well to remove the starches.
    I only use white Basmati rice, I am diabetic and the rinsing off of the starch does not spike my blood sugar.
    Now if you already know about this, well, nevermind (I hear Rosanna, Rosanna Danna calling. Take care…

  3. “The nutrients and minerals in red meat are great for you, to get the benefits of those you only really need to eat one-three ounce serving of red meat every 7–10 days”

    What is your source for the 7-10 days part?

  4. Woot, about to make this to feed two hungry journalists all throughout our busy production day tomorrow. 😀 Not sure my Aussie husband has ever tried this American classic and since I’m vego, I’ve never made it for him before. It’s going to be a good one, I can feel it. 😉 Thanks for posting!