My name is Ashley McLaughlin and this is my blog, Edible Perspective. To learn more about my journey head on over to my about + FAQ pages. I'm thrilled that you stopped by. Enjoy!


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loaded vegetarian lentil sloppy joes

I made this recipe on a whim last week and decided it was way too tasty not to share.  The only problem was that it finished cooking around 8:30pm and there was obviously no light left to take photos. Yes, we eat dinner late.

I perused a few standard sloppy joe recipes and a recipe I made awhile back for slow cooker sloppy joes [this version is so much better!] before getting started.  I didn't really write anything down as I cooked but just tasted and added along the way.  Once I finally deemed it done I was kicking myself in the rear for not taking notes.

The next day I wrote down approximate amounts and ingredients knowing that I absolutely had to make it again.

I waited to give it another go until I was at home and could cook up a double batch for my last family dinner.  Thankfully, I think I remembered my creation from that night almost exactly, which is surprising given my awful memory.  And with this version I added a few toppings that sent this sandwich from super tasty to freaking delicious.

The topping ideas came from a local restaurant we head to a few times a month called, Hops & Pie.  They specialize in pizza but have quite the variety on their menu including numerous GF and vegan options.  They have house-smoked tofu, vegan cheese options, GF pizza, vegan mac n' cheese, GF quinoa pasta, and more.  My very favorite menu item is the Vegan Sloppy Jane, served on the best gluten-free bun I've ever had--which reminds me I need to ask them the brand!  They use tempeh in their version and add a nice pile of house-made pickles underneath everything.  Never would have thought to try that combo!  And the caramelized onions seal the deal.

I had to get creative while taking photos at home since I was without my stack of 20 random plates to choose from.  I wanted something fairly plain and contrasting in color.  My parents' plates are pretty busy, so I searched the cupboards high + low.  

And then...jackpot!  A mini pan from their toaster oven.  It was the perfect "plate" to house this gigantic, sprawling meal.

Print this!

Loaded Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes gluten-free, vegan // yields 6-8 servings

  • 1 cup uncooked black lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or ghee
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 med-large chopped carrot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1, 15oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/2-1 cup low/no sodium vegetable broth
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • pickles and caramelized onions, to top
  1. Pick over dried lentils for debris then rinse well and place in a pot with cold water and bring to a low boil.
  2. Reduce heat to simmer with a lid cracked for 18-25 minutes until lentils are al dente [tender with a slight bite].  These cooking instructions are for small black lentils (solid black and shiny).  Not all lentils cook this quickly.
  3. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  4. While lentils are cooking heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  5. Once hot add the onions, sprinkle with salt, and cook stirring frequently until translucent and tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  6. Add the carrot and let cook another 2-3 minutes
  7. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and a few good grinds of black pepper and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
  8. Slowly pour in the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine.
  9. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth then bring to a simmer.  Add more broth to thin out.
  10. Stir in 3 cups of cooked lentils and simmer for 15-25 minutes until thickened and the flavor is to your liking.  Add more salt + pepper as needed or cayenne for some heat.
  11. Place pickles on the bottom of a hamburger bun, then scoop the sloppy joe mixture on top, and then top with caramelized onions and the top bun.
  12. Eat with a fork + knife.  This gets messy!

to caramelize onions:

  1. Thinly slice a large yellow or red onion and then heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion stirring frequently until just softened, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Generously sprinkle with salt, stir, then reduce heat to med-low for about 25+ minutes until fully golden brown and caramelized.  Stir every few minutes.

to freeze:

  • Let cool to room temp then place 1-2 servings in a freezer bag and squeeze excess air out.  Flatten with your hand on the counter and place flat in the freezer, stacking if you have multiple bags. Let thaw in the fridge the day before you want to eat or for a few hours on the counter.  Reheat in a pot on the stove until hot.

notes/substitutions: Feel free to use 3 cups of pre-cooked black lentils instead of boiling your own.

Pretty easy to whip up.  A filling + comforting crowd pleaser.  A cinch to double.  Killer leftovers.  Easy to freeze.  And it tastes pretty great, too.

Do I need to convince you further?


Reader Comments (46)

These look insanely delicious Ashley!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
OH MAN OH MAN OH MAN OH MAAAAAAN! I love the insane amount of pickles on these and your spice combo is so choice, miss. Love that presentation in a tray too. If there is a food serving woe, there is a pretty tray with paper to solve it. xoxo
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
It looks SO good! I've never had a lot of sloppy joes in my life, but I think I would prefer this version (to the meat-full version) any day. Such a great idea to add briny pickles and caramelized onions as toppings.
I have never had much luck in the past with lentils... but I trust you!
These look killer! I am a huge lentil fan and can eat them as they are, just seasoned with a little salt, pepper and balsamic ,but the smokiness and sweetness of these, topped with those gorgeous caramelized onions? Wow!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
I seriously can't WAIT to make these! You are hitting it outta the park here : )
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAbby @ The Frosted Vegan
I seriously miss sloppy joes. I LOVE this healthier version, can't wait to test it out :)
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrandy @ A Mindful Mantra
i had been waiting for this.
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdixya
Ahh, I have been dying to try Hops & Pie! We suggested it to a group of friend a couple weekends ago and where did we end up?...Chili's. I guess we'll be going by ourselves next time!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
I love the plating for this- it looks like the most gourmet veggie diner food! I am drooling over this recipe and definitely will have to whip it up soon. And I need to try Hops & Pie! Thanks as always for all your great suggestions!
These look delicious!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie | Tastes Lovely
My gosh, these sloppy joes are driving me bonkers! I love lentils and adore your healthy spin on a delicious comforting meal. Definitely going to give these bad boys a try ASAP!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
These look awesome! I'm definitely trying these - especially with the pickles and onions!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Tadic
these looks AMAZING! I just snapped a text photo of the ingredients list to pass on to the one doing the shopping today, these are happening tonight! now, all we need to know if if you fried or oven baked those amazing looking sweet potato chips... ;)
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTori
I want those sweet potato chips!!!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLivi
This looks like the most satisfying sloppy joe possible! Definitely better than the horrific manwich meals of my youth. :) Love the idea of super spice combined with the sweetness of maple syrup!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEileen
@Laura - Thanks so much lady love. :) You are the sweetest! Now, come over to help us put a dent in the leftovers.

@Tracy - Cooking them, or liking them? I adore the texture of black beluga lentils. They have a nice bite and are much smaller than typical lentils. The cook time is nice, too! A low boil is key so they don't cook to fast and break down.

@Abby - Thanks, lady. Enjoy!

@Brandy - Hope you love it. Comfort on a bun! ;)

@Lauren - Ohhh man, you have to go to H&P! Just expect a crazy wait time. I suggest going on a weekday at 9pm. :) But you can put your name in and they'll text you when the table is ready, so you can walk around or get a beer across the street at West End Tap House [another favorite with a great small menu!].

@Marisa - You are so welcome! Hops & Pie has yet to disappoint. Great salads + sides too!

@Tori - Haha, that is awesome. Enjoy!! The potatoes were baked! I haven't been able to get them 100% crispy but you'll get crispy edges and some that are slightly soft, but still so delicious. The best thing is to cut them as thinly as possible...mine were about 1/16-inch cut with a mandolin slicer. I tossed them in a little ghee [grapeseed oil works for vegan and high heat], salt, and pepper and baked them at 400* F for about 25 minutes in a single layer, flipping a few times. Some finished before others, so I removed the from the pan as they were done and checked every 1-2 minutes towards the end to get the as crispy as possible. They continue to crisp a bit as they cool. Hope that helps!
November 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterAshley
I am digging this HARD. LOVE!
Love the way you photographed these on the little baking sheet! I made something similar to these lentils for a vegan shepherd's pie this week so I'll have to put this on my list. Totally digging the pickles and caramelized onions with it!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney
Wow. This looks so delicious! Sloppy Joes are one of those foods I always forget about, especially having not eaten meat for the last few years, but this I am definitely trying! Great job with the photos, too! Love them!
I often have that experience where the meals I most love are the ones I don't take pictures or notes on! It just always seems to end up that way. But kudos to you for remembering the recipe almost by heart! These look super hearty and delicious.
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne
Oh wow, these look epic!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlanna
This looks SO amazing, friend! I love that you styled at your parent's place -- and found such a fitting backdrop! I definitely want to try this out.
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
This is so much better than any typical meaty sloppy joe!! I am in love!
November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTieghan
update! made these last night and they turned out SO DELICIOUS. My boyfriend bought green lentils (the ones that just say "lentils" at the grocery store... "wait, they're all the same right?" clueless) and they held up fine and they cooked in about 12 minutes. I think the texture of the black lentils would be awesome, but the regular old lentils work if you need them too!
November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTori
Oh man these look awwweeesommeee! I don't think I've ever seen a vegetarian sloppy joe recipe yet but lentils definitely seems like the right choice! Awesome pics, too!!
November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaty
Can you be my personal chef please?!
November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCara
First time on your blog and I am loving it! This recipe is killer- I am all for lentils - and your recipe is pure healthy comfort:) This one is on my to- make list next!
November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMedha
I really really wish I hadn't just eaten a huge dinner that was composed of nearly all of the elements in these sloppy joes, but in a must less appealing form. I'm going to make these tomorrow! Your photos couldn't be any more enticing, Ashley!
November 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjodye @ whole pure recipes
My boyfriend made these for us tonight and they were absolutely delicious!! Almost fool proof too :D We didn't find any black lentils through so just used brown instead. Thanks for sharing the recipe :)
November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarilin
Someone needs to make me these! Lentils seriously rock!
@Tori - Thanks for the update and glad they were delicious with green lentils!

@Medha - Thanks for your sweet words, Medha. Glad you're enjoying my blog!

@Marilin - Sounds like a keeper of a boyfriend! ;) Thanks for letting me know you loved them!
November 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterAshley
Oh my!! Got to make these! I have major love for lentils, so this is totally my kinda thing!
November 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMillie
I made these last night for dinner (and actually am currently eating the leftovers for lunch) and they were so, so good! I didn't have pickles, so I used some banana pepper rings - they gave it the perfect amount of zing! Thanks for the great recipe - I'll definitely be making these again!
November 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelsy B
Hi Ashley- My name is Dianne (also known as Red Apron) and I dwell in Ft. Worth, TX. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this fabulous recipe! Having been vegetarian for years, it's been a long while since I've been able to experience a sloppy joe. And I will tell you, that this recipe is better than I remember the meat version being. I wish I could post a picture in the comment section as my 'joes turned out exactly as promised. I also made sweet potato chips, which turned out nicely as well. I plan to offer this dish as a menu offering on my personal chef website, and will credit you as well as link back to your site. Thanks again for the deliciousness!
November 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRed Apron / Personal Chef
just made these tonight for dinner - really messy but super delicious! cooked the lentils the day before to save time, but otherwise followed the directions exactly (I hardly ever do that) and they came out perfectly.
November 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstacey
What an amazing recipe! I can't wait to try this up at college! <3
Could you suggest another "bun" vehicle for these…In France we have no wonderful-looking Udi's buns….Would a spiralized "sweet potato bun" do the trick? I have seen something to a "bun" effect done on the Inspiralized blog…or do you have a recipe for a homemade gluten-free bun like Udi's?…Love this offering…the flavor/spice mélange is killer! I happen to have beluga lentils in my pantry…so I am eager to try this out for myself and my tribe!
November 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
Looks great. Just note that ghee is not vegan.
November 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean
@Donna - You could definitely make a spiralized sweet potato bun! That would be awesome! I don't personally have a bread/bun recipe on my blog. I even like eating this bun-less!

@Sean - I realize that. Olive oil is vegan, which is the first option for the recipe.
December 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterAshley
I made this last night. Tweaked a bit as I was cooking to taste (adjusted spices because I was worried my chili powder might be too spicy for my 2 year old, used a touch of dijon mustard, etc). It was great -- sloppy, but beautiful too. Taste, look, and texture were just like meat-based Sloppy Joes. P.S. your photos of the finished product are beautiful. Thank you!
December 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
I'm trying this tonight! Instead of cooking the lentils first I skipped a few steps and started with the onion/spices/tomato steps, then I threw it all in the crockpot with the uncooked lentils ( I added some extra veggie stock). I'm hoping it turns out!
I also bought pretzel rolls to put them on and I'm making homemade coleslaw with them!
February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCorissa
@Corissa - I hope it worked for you! Good call on adding more veggie stock. Let me know how it turned out!
February 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterAshley
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I am going to give it a try tonight. I will be serving it over baked potatoes. Can't wait to see how it goes over.
October 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJula
I don't have black lentils. What else can I use? I have green, brown and puy lentils. Would any of those work?
January 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay
@Lindsay - I would use green or puy lentils. Cook time may differ but they'll be delicious in this! I haven't used brown lentils before, so I'm not sure of the texture after cooking.
January 19, 2015 | Registered CommenterAshley

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