Hearty and nourishing, vegan sloppy joes are jam packed with tons of flavour in every, single bite. This healthy and nutritious dish is simple to prepare, and you can make it in your hands off Instant Pot, or on stove top too. Healthy ingredients have never tasted this good!
This recipe was originally published in October 2018. It has been updated for content and photos.
But it gets better!
How you ask?
Here’s why you’re going to LOVE these
- Actually healthy! Plenty of recipes claim to be healthy, and I suppose the term healthy is quite subjective and always depends on what you’re comparing. But these incredible sloppy joes are truly nutritious, packed with fiber, protein and iron.
- Low calories: Like all the recipes on my blog, I aim to make each low in calories. Lentils are a powerhouse for nutrition, delivering a ton of nutrients in little calories. Don’t worry, we’re not sacrificing on flavour!
- Low fat: Lentils are naturally low in fat and since I’m not using any oil here, this keeps the fat content WAY down. Perfect for anyone following a low fat diet.
- Allergen friendly: No common allergens found here. This dish is free from eggs, dairy, gluten (just make sure to use gluten free buns) and nuts. Plus a simple swap can make these soy free too, if needed.
- Hearty and filling: Two kinds of lentils make these vegan sloppy joes hearty and whether or not you opt for a bun, you will fill up.
- Budget friendly: Lentils are very inexpensive, and using them as the base for this dish makes it a super affordable one.
- Versatile: Adjust the seasoning to your preference, and dig in to a messy sandwich (just get those napkins ready). Or make it a soup, which is mine and my 4 year old’s preferred way to enjoy these.
- Kid friendly: My kids love this dish! Their little hands make it harder to eat as a sandwich, so they usually opt for a bowl. But either way, you can feel great about the nutrients they’re getting.
- EASY: These sloppy joes are so simple to make. They use basic pantry ingredients and don’t need any babysitting. Just set it and forget it in your hands off Instant Pot and let the magic happen.
How to make vegan sloppy joes
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Gather your ingredients, and make sure to use low sodium vegetable broth since the Tamari or soy sauce will also add salt.
Chop up your onion and pepper and add them to your Instant Pot or a pot on your stove top. (photo 1)
Add a tablespoon or two of water (or you may use a teaspoon or two of oil if you’re not avoiding oil) and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened. (photo 2)
Add all remaining ingredients and give everything a good stir. (photos 3-4)
If using your Instant Pot, close the lid and make sure the valve is in the sealing position.
Then select manual or high pressure (this depends on the model) and set your timer for 6 minutes. (photos 5-6)
For stove top directions, see the recipe card below.
When the timer is complete, quick release the steam valve and open the lid once safe to do so. Give everything a quick stir and serve. (photos 8-9)
Serve your vegan sloppy joes in soft buns, with pickles in or on the side. Or pair these with some creamy classic coleslaw.
Or serve in bowls and enjoy as a soup, depending on the method you’ve chosen.
How long does it keep?
Leftovers keep refrigerated for 3-4 days in a sealed container. You may reheat on stove top and enjoy.
NOTE: As the leftovers sit, the lentils will absorb more and more of the sauce. If it gets too thick, just add a splash of water, broth or sauce when reheating.
These sloppy joes freeze amazingly well! (Without the bun of course!)
I always freeze individual portions of this whenever I make a batch to have handy meals ready to go.
Freeze in an airtight container, leaving a touch of room for expansion, for up to 3 months.
- Do not add salt. Omitting salt in the recipe was not an oversight. If you’re using the Tamari or soy sauce, do not add extra salt to your pot. The broth and the soy sauce add enough salt. Once cooked, taste it and add more only if you feel it needs extra.
- Use SPLIT red lentils, not whole red lentils. Split lentils absorb more broth and sauce and make the dish thick so that a sandwich will hold nicely. If you don’t have split red lentils, split yellow or green peas also does a good job of this.
- Adjust the seasoning: Don’t be afraid to up the cumin or add some smoked paprika to the mix if you want to amp up the flavour of these vegan sloppy joes. If you want heat, add some cayenne pepper or a dash or two of hot sauce.
Substitutions and Variations
- Make it a soup: If you’re not really into licking your fingers, or if you’re avoiding bread, you may skip the bun entirely and enjoy as a soup. To make vegan sloppy joe soup, you will add an additional cup of tomato sauce and two additional cups of veggie broth to your pot.
- For soy free: Omit the Tamari and use coconut aminos instead. Or omit it, and add a little salt, to your taste.
- If you can’t find split red lentils and you also don’t have split peas to sub, you may use more green or brown lentils, but the sauce won’t come quite as thick.
- For added nutrients, feel free to add more chopped veggies like celery, mushrooms and carrots, you may even omit the pepper if preferred and use another veggie of choice.
More fun lentil recipes for kids
In this house, we eat lentils for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Such a versatile ingredient that can be included in a variety of ways.
Try some of these great oil free, vegan recipes below.
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Instant Pot Directions
- Select sauté on your Instant Pot, and add the onions and peppers with a tablespoon or two of water and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened. Then add all remaining ingredients, close the lid and turn the valve to the sealing position. Set to high pressure for 6 minutes. (It will take 10-15 minutes to build pressure before counting down.) When the timer is complete, you may quick release.
- Serve with soft buns or enjoy as a soup.
Stove Top Directions
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onions and peppers with a tablespoon or two of water and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened
- Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium low and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are cooked and the liquids are mostly absorbed.
- Serve with soft buns or enjoy as a soup.