Plant-Powered Sloppy Joes

When I was in elementary school I ate in the cafeteria. It was the “cool” thing to do after all, since homemade brown bag lunches were sooo kindergarten. At the time, I thought that the highly processed offerings behind the sneeze guard were a dream come true: pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, fish sticks, mac n’ cheese. But the very best thing of all in my first-grader opinion? Sloppy Joes.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about (ahem, mostly everyone outside North America), a Sloppy Joe is like a stew-y, wet hamburger. I’ve also heard it been called a “loose meat sandwich”. Stay with me, people – I realize how riduclously unappetizing this sounds. As a kid, eating a Sloppy Joe was like getting permission to make a mess – a rare, sanctioned moment to smear sauce all over your face, drip on your plate, and have your whole meal basically deteriorate into a pile of savoury, saucy, deliciousness that you were allowed to eat with your hands?! Isn’t this every kid’s dream? Because eating a Sloppy Joe is just that: it’s sloppy. And that is why it’s awesome.

Sloppy Joes are definitely not on top of the “sophisticated food” list, but that does not mean that they should be discriminated against. When made with plant-based, whole food ingredients, they are in fact quite the respectable meal. Perfect for chilly autumn and winter nights when all you want to do is tuck into something super cozy and comforting, Sloppy Joes are a one-way ticket to the land of savoury satisfaction. Since the temperatures have dropped here in Copenhagen, I’ve been craving this kind of meal like crazy, so I’m more than happy to have a healthy solution at hand, and of course to share it with you.


The classic Sloppy Joe recipe includes ground beef cooked with onions and garlic, crushed tomatoes, ketchup, sugar and some spices. Sometimes there are some token carrots and celery tossed in, sometimes vinegar, mustard, or chilies, but the basic idea is a moist mixture that you pile on top of a bun. But! In my vegan Plant-Powered version, I’ve replace the ground beef with black lentils and mushrooms. I suggest using this type of lentil for this recipe since they are very small, and they maintain their shape and texture while cooking. And if you care about appearances, or perhaps “fooling” someone, they look the most like ground beef. Just sayin’.

The flavouring elements of the Plant-Powered Sloppy Joe mix are diverse and potentially strange-sounding, but trust me, altogether just right. Balsamic for a sweet hit of acidity, Sriracha for a little heat, and cumin and paprika add smoky complexity. I also tossed in some walnuts because I am a firm believer in texture, and all that mushiness needed buffering! I toasted them lightly before giving them a rough chop and a stir through the thick lentil mixture. I love how their nuttiness comes through the rich sauce and adds even more deliciousness. I also made a simple slaw from red cabbage to add more crunch and freshness, plus some token sprouts. These items are optional, but I really love the bright contrast they provide against the rich lentil filling.


Fill up on Folate
Lentils are one of the yummiest sources of folate. Just one cup of cooked lentils provides you with almost 90% of your daily recommended intake! And why is folate so important? You’ve probably heard about this vital B-vitamin in regards to pregnancy, as it is critical in the prevention of birth defects, but folate also functions to support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia, allows nerves to function properly, helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.

Folate received its name from the Latin word folium, meaning “foliage”, so it’s not wonder that other excellent sources of folate are dark leafy greens (yum, your favorite!) – kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, parsley, and collards to name a few. This may explain why North American diets seem to be on the deficient end of things when it comes to this B-vitamin, as folate is available from fresh, unprocessed food. The good news is it is easily absorbed, used, and stored by the body. Folate is also manufactured by intestinal bacteria (remember those probiotics?), so if colon flora is healthy, we have another good source of this important vitamin.


Find the most high-vibe buns or bread you can get your hands on for this recipe. I used wholegrain sourdough buns from my local organic bakery, then toasted them lightly before drowning them in vegan sloppy goodness. You can also eat these open-faced if you’d like to cut back on the bread. Or pull an alt-bread move and wrap it in socca, a cabbage leaf, or use it to top a crispbread (although, let’s be honest: the bun rules).

I should also mention that the sloppy joe filling was totally delicious on its own as a stew, and thinned with a little water to make soup! Bonus.

Show me your Sloppy Joes on Instagram: #MNRsloppyjoes

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Dear friends!

I’ve made a super special pack of holiday recipes that you’ll get FOR FREE when you pre-order my new cookbook, Naturally Nourished. This vegan and gluten-free menu was designed with co-ordination in mind: all the dishes compliment each other perfectly to be your special dinner party start to finish, so that you don’t have to think! Just cook 🙂 The delicious dishes are Garlicky Sautéed Kale with Chili, Maple and Ginger-Roasted Carrots with Hazelnuts, Sweet Potato and Mushroom Tart, and Vegan Peppermint Truffles. Click here to read more about my cookbook, preorder, and download the PDF today. Happy Holidays from me to you, and thank you for your ongoing support of My New Roots!

xo, Sarah B



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  2. Christian

    This is a great recipe. I generally like meat, but these sound really yummy. Will definitely give them a try. The kids might even enjoy these.

  3. Dana

    I just made this for the second time in two weeks because I like having it on hand for quick meals. Really delicious, as are all of the recipes I’ve tried from here 🙂 I haven’t actually made a ‘sloppy joe’ with it though…I’m loving it spooned over a roasted sweet potato or brown rice. Thanks for another winner of delicious, healthy, and feel good recipe!

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    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Joey,

      Try roughly chopping some hulled sunflower seeds – I think it would be delicious! Or you can omit nuts and seeds altogether. They’re just really nice for texture. I hope that helps 🙂

      Xo, Sarah B

  6. Helena

    Interesting about folate in lentils. It gives me yet another good excuse for making these (and and excuse for my kids creating an enormous mess). They look delicious and healthy. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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  9. Riley

    Hi Sarah, long time reader and fan, first time commenter! I am planning on making these tomorrow but just realised I have the Du Puy lentils from your amazing lentil salad not the black lentils! They’re so dang close in colour! I’d love to know if you think they’re a fine substitute or if black is king here! Love your work and your blog! It brings me so much joy. Riley Xxx

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  11. Edna Smith

    Great staffs!!! I like all the things about kitchen and my best friend Ellena referred me to visit here. I have to tell you that, i’m really very pleased to read about you and your blog. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and I’ve no regrets being here!! 🙂

  12. Sheila

    It’s been really feels awesome after completing reading your blog. I guess you have an innormas amount of knowledge to engage with different kind of peoples with one language. I have to say, thanks for adding me in those kind……

  13. steffi

    oh my freaking god, this sounds so amazing! i’ll have to try it tomorrow, already making a list with all the ingredients! thanks for the recipe! if you wanna explore more vegan food recipes, feel free to head over to my blog eatwholegreens and browse through 🙂

    cheers, steffi |

  14. Win at The Equipped Cook

    These look really tasty. That’s good to know about folate being high in the lentils. Is it the same for all lentils or just the black ones? I quite like the idea of the sloppy joe wrapped in a leaf so I might try that too, even though the bun rules!

  15. Anna

    I have never had a real sloppy joe in my life, but I made this recipe and it was extremely delicious. Going to make it again this week! My only advice is to consider using less Sriracha at first if sensitive to spice, as 2Tbsp was great for me and my husband but definitely too much for our toddler. I also enjoyed it with a little ketchup mixed in to give a bit more sweetness. Yum!!!

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  18. Babul Chandra Saha

    Yum! These look so good! Sloppy Joe’s is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods. Sloppy Joe that is healthy and delicious. I’ve been looking for a healthier version though so I can not feel as guilty when I do eat them.

  19. Anita

    Thank you so much for this recipe! So easy to make, I’ve made them twice now and my husband *loves* them. They’re a hit!

    Question re book pre-order: is this only open for US and Canada residents? I’m in Australia and would love to pre-order and have those extra recipes. Really looking forward to getting your new book, your last one is one is constantly referred to in my household!

    Anita x

  20. Reeni

    Yum! These look so good! My husband likes sloppy joes, but I don’t like always cooking it with meat so this gives us a great alternative. Excited to try this recipe 🙂

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  22. Jason @ The Tool Report

    I can honestly say that the idea of vegetarian sloppy joe’s never occurred to me. Pretty sure I haven’t had one since grade school. What a clever and creative recipe. Thank you for sharing this. Will have to give it a try.

  23. Pingback: Plant-Powered Sloppy Joes – Easy Recipe Maker
  24. Jane

    I have tried this over the weekend and my family loved it, also made the cabbage slaw with maple syrup and it was delicious, thanks for the post!

  25. Stephen Scrivens

    Sloppy Joe’s is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods. I’ve been looking for a healthier version though so I can not feel as guilty when I do eat them.

    Lentils are one of those foods that go great with basically anything.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  26. Medha

    These sammies are so gorgeous! And I too remember when getting lunch at school was the cool kid thing to do… don’t know why, if I could switch places with myself I would be begging for a lunch like this over a school lunch!

  27. Cea

    Yum, looks delicious and easy and fun. Big question please– folate prevents dementia? I have never heard of anything known to prevent it or cure it. Can you guide us to the source of that claim? Thank you

  28. Karen

    OMG! Just finished making this mouthwatering dish. It is delicious! Your recipes are always spot on, ones that I repeat and never cease to amaze. Thanks Sarah!

  29. Susan

    One never knows where their education is going to come from. I had some friends from Mississippi who used to talk about loose meat sandwiches, but I could never figure out what they were. Now I know. This recipe is intriguing, but sloppy joes do not (and never have) called to me. I may have grown up in North America, but at home I ate Hungarian food, and always either went home for lunch or brought it to school. In 7 decades I’ve probably eaten sloppy joes exactly once… I will save this recipe just for fun.

  30. Erica

    Funny timing! I hadn’t had a sloppy Joe since my childhood until about 5 days ago when I served some for dinner – I stumbled upon a seasoning mix by Simply Organic, which called for adding onion and tomato paste, and it was pretty good, but my 4 yr old still was not interested. I’d love to give this plant based recipe a try!

  31. Swati

    This is new kinda of burger I am hearing and looks fun to eat also…will try it out soon and hope the kiddo loves playing around with it too like you said 🙂

  32. Claudy

    We can’t do walnuts in my house due to a nut allergy. We can, however, do almonds and pecans. Think either of those would work?

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