lentil sloppy joes

Posted on Jul 26, 2011 in Food

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 Puppyface and I are citizens, Babyface is a 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.

I love Manwich (AKA: sloppy joes). They are delicious, sweet, and a little bit spicy, but honestly, I think the “just add ground beef!” way of life is seriously contributing to our country’s health issues. 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! I don’t know about you, but the last time I made sloppy joes, I had a lot more than three ounces. And I know most people have it more that 3-4 times a month.

So where do that leave us if we want some sloppy without the cow? Lentils!

When cooked down, lentils have an awesome, meaty texture. They are packed full of fiber and some great nutrients and minerals. Plus, they cut the caloric load of sloppy joes down quite dramatically! One serving of lentil sloppy joes rings in around 220 calories. The beef version? Try 350 calories for a similar-sized serving. 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?

To make this a weeknight-friendly dinner, the base of the sauce is ketchup. Did you know that ketchup is chock-full of sugar and in most cases high fructose corn syrup (AKA: corn sugar)? Yuck! Go ahead and splurge the few extra cents to get yourself a bottle with a nice and clean ingredients list. Your body thanks you.

Oh, one last thing, these guys come together in 20-25 minutes (even faster if you have pre-cooked lentils). Perfect for an American weeknight dinner.

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Makes 4-6 servings

Print this recipe


  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine lentils, water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue to boil until lentils have absorbed all the water and are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Add more water if necessary to soften lentils.
  2. With about 10 minutes left cooking for the lentils, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add onion and green pepper and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  5. Stir in remaining ingredients and allow to simmer over low heat for 5-7 minutes. Stir in lentils and serve on buns.


  1. Love this take on a sloppy joe! I haven’t had an actual one in aaages but this recipe seems like a great substitute.

    • They are so good! And definitely a blast from the past. :D

  2. 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!

    • 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!

  3. 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. :)

    • This will definitely work!

  4. 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.

  5. Oh wow! These look so tasty! I have to try this recipe!

    • Hope you like ‘em! :D

  6. 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!

    • Gosh, that happens to me pretty much all the time. :P I don’t think I’ve ever had a single original idea.

  7. this is great….will be a exellent meat substitute as well…
    thanks for sharing !!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. LOOKS AMAZEBALLS. I’ve clipped it to make it sometime in the near future.

    xox Elizabeth


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