I’ve long been a huge fan of Gena Hamshaw’s Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes recipe. (In fact, I’m pretty sure she singlehandedly convinced me that lentils actually can be delicious.) Naturally, I made a few tweaks over the years, as I tend to do. Recently, I tried the Vegan Sloppy Jane at Denver’s Hops & Pie, which I found absolutely wonderful flavor-wise but missing that hearty, satisfying chewiness that I love in a lentil-based sandwich. Hence, I made a few more tweaks. Here’s the end result, but feel free to make it your own. I’d love to hear your modifications.
1 cup brown lentils, soaked overnight and rinsed (Just wanted to point this out right away, since it calls for some pre-planning.)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I use avocado oil, but really, any kind of neutral flavored vegetable oil is fine.)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 package of organic smoky tempeh strips, crumbled into small pieces (I recommend the Lightlife brand.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons chili powder, to your liking (1-mild; 2-spicy)
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
½ teaspoon paprika
One 15-ounce can of crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen brand is typically my go-to.)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar (Bragg Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, always.)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
¾ cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste (*FYI: If you live near a Savory Spice Shop, their Bourbon Barrel Smoked Black Pepper is a natural choice here, but obviously, totally optional. Regular black pepper is just fine.)
8 whole wheat buns
- Put the lentils in a large pot and cover with water. (Make sure there’s about 2 inches of water above the lentils.) Boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until lentils are chewable but still a bit firm. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, push the onion/pepper mixture to one side of the pan so there’s a clearing, and add the crumbled tempeh to the open side. Cook for 1-2 minutes, frequently stirring, until tempeh is beginning to brown. (If you’re using a stainless steel pan, you may notice the tempeh sticking to the bottom of the pan a bit—at 2 minutes, just splash a tablespoon or two of vegetable stock on that side, and it should loosen all that up without too much trouble.) Scrape up the bits, and stir together the tempeh and onion/pepper mixture. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.
- Add garlic, chili powder, mustard and paprika, and cook for another minute, until garlic and spices are fragrant.
- Add lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, molasses, liquid smoke and vegetable broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding salt and pepper to your liking. (*Quick note: See how all the ingredients are grouped together by steps? You can premeasure everything in one bowl as they are grouped—so, say for example, you can measure out all the ingredients in step 4 and put them all in one bowl, so you can just quickly and easily add everything all at once while you’re cooking. You may already do this—but if not, this makes for way less stressful cooking and a lot fewer dirty dishes than putting each pre-measured ingredient in its own little bowl. I’m all for less cleanup.)
- Once your Sloppy Joes have reached your desired thickness, take the pan off the heat and it let cool for a few minutes. (You can take this time to toast your buns on your oven’s Lo broiler setting, if that’s your thing.)
- Top with whatever sounds awesome. My personal favorite combination is yellow mustard, pickles and sauerkraut. Enjoy!