Vegetarian Sloppy Joe Recipe

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When I was a wee teenager, one of my best friends came home from summer camp newly vegetarian. Her lifestyle change impacted me greatly as I spent many late afternoons after school at her house. Thankfully, she introduced me to some great vegetarian recipes — including one for lentil sloppy Joes.

Lentils have numerous health benefits. They have been known to lower cholesterol as well as protect against diabetes and colon cancer. They also contain folate, iron, and potassium — a mineral known to combat the negative effects of salt and lower blood pressure. The high fiber content also provides a boon to one’s digestive tract. What’s not to love? 

These lentil sloppy Joes will leave you feeling nourished instead of overly full or, well, sloppy. Using canned lentils can help cut down on the prep time, but if you’re of the opinion that fresh is best, dry lentils are not that hard to cook.

Makes 8 servings


  • 1 cup dry lentils, or 1 15-oz. lentils can
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, (I prefer pink Himalayan)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup, (I prefer an organic brand like Annie’s)
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar, (or sugar substitute I prefer Swerve brown sugar or Stevia)
  • 1½ tbsp. spice mix, (I prefer South African Braai or Peri Peri. Instructions below to make your own)
  • 8 hamburger buns, your choice *optional (I choose to go bunless)
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground celery seed
  • ½ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground


1. *If using dried lentils: In a medium saucepan, add lentils, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Then, add 1 teaspoon of salt. Reduce to a low heat and allow the lentils to simmer until they are tender. This should take around 30 minutes. Once they have reached the desired texture, drain the water and set aside.

*Canned lentils do not need to be cooked; just open the can, drain any liquid, and move directly to step 2.

2. In a large pan or skillet, pour the olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add the bell pepper and onion, sauté until the peppers are tender and the onions are translucent. This should take around seven minutes. Throw in the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

3. Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, spice mix (1 tbsp. chili powder, ½ tsp. ground celery seed and ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper), the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the water to the pan. Stir well.

4. Finally, add the lentils to the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for around 15 minutes until it reaches desired consistency.

5. While the lentil mixture simmers, if desired, toast your hamburger buns if you plan on using them.

6. Serve your sloppy Joes either directly on the plate or on the hamburger buns if you are using them. You can top them with cheese, pickles, and/or coleslaw if you choose.

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Tags: Healthy Eating, Healthy Recipes, Vegan, vegetarian

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Written By

Allie Nelson

Allie is a TV producer and writer with credits on Netflix, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, TBS, E!, & HGTV. See Full Bio

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