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?