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Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes

Recipe At-A-Glance
Vegan, Gluten-Free30 minutes
Looking for a kid-friendly way to bring Meatless Monday to your house? Try these Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes. Lentils are hearty, meaty, and packed full of plant-based protein!
A finished lentil sloppy joe sits on a plate.

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This post was updated March 2016.

Even though one-third of the creatures living under my roof are Canadian, I’d consider our household distinctly American. We go to the fair. We watch auto racing. And we eat a lot of meat. We’re pretty much your quintessential Americans. As citizens of this fair land (scratch that, only Juniper and I are citizens, my husband is a permanent resident), we also enjoy the taste of good ole doctored up pound of ground beef.

The amount of stuff you can do with ground beef is pretty incredible. Even more incredible are the number of products on grocery store shelves that blast across their packaging, “Just add ground beef!” One of the more popular (and more prevalent in my childhood) is Manwich.

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

I love Manwich (AKA: sloppy joes). They are delicious, sweet, and a little bit spicy. I love meat as much as the next carnivore, but I think, as a country, we eat meat too frequently. The nutrients and minerals in red meat are great for you, but to get the benefits of those you only really need to eat one-three ounce serving of red meat every 7–10 days! 

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

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

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? This is a super kid-friendly way to do Meatless Monday. Trust me, your family will love these!

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

And 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. Enjoy!


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 bring Meatless Monday to your house? Try these Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes. Lentils are hearty, meaty, and packed full of plant-based protein!


  • 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


  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.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

26 Responses
  1. Charlotte

    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. Cassie

      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. Julie @ Wholefully

      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. Laura

    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. Laura

    “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. Julia

    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!

  5. Amy

    I made this last night for my family. I am a vegetarian and they are in the process of learning how to make more meat-free dishes that taste good. They really liked it! I was surprised that the sauce really does taste like the sloppy joes I remember from my childhood, but probably without all the questionable ingredients found in canned, mass-produced food. Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. Bethany

    This is an AWESOME recipe! My whole family loves it…even my picky 8 year old and my 18 month old! Not too often that I come across a recipe that makes everyone happy…thanks!

  7. Don’t you just love striking genius, thinking up your own food idea or recipe and then Googling it to find that a hundred other people have thought of it and blogged it. That happened to me with lentil Sloppy Joe’s. Aw well, that’s part of the foodie life I guess! Yours looks delicious, by the way!

  8. Janelle

    I’m going to have to try these. They look so good.

    I started making homemade yogurt following your recipe. It took a couple weeks to get the consistancy to my liking, but now I never buy yogurt any more.

    Thanks so much for the wonderful recipes.

  9. Sara @ lemonysnippet

    Thanks for sharing this! My friends in England were wanting to have a sloppy joe party because they’ve never had them but always heard about them, but I wasn’t too keen on eating a bunch of beef. I don’t mind making it for other people, but I’m really not comfortable eating it so I’ve been trying to think of a good way to make a veg option. 🙂

  10. These look delicious! The only time I’ve had lentils was in an off-the-shelf item that tasted a LOT like chili. I can’t recall the brand or anything about it – my sister served it to me – but it was absolutely incredible. I’ve been intrigued by lentils ever since and need to spend some time working with them and incorporating them into our diet!

    1. Cassie

      Lentils themselves are pretty bland, but they take flavoring super well, so it makes them a great sub for any meat-y dishes (I bet taco lentils would work, too). And they are PACKED with good-for-you stuffs!

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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