When I was a kid, growing up in the 70s, easy-to-prepare food from a box or can was the rage (well, it still is really). But back then, processed food was sort of newer and kind of exciting. So our family dinners often consisted of things like Hamburger Helper, Stovetop Stuffing and of course, Manwich Sloppy Joes.
It wasn’t until i graduated from college that I started to explore the world of fresh vegetables (not green beans from a can) and other whole foods. I got my first vegetarian cookbook in 1989 and I have been preparing plant-based meals ever since. A few years ago I came across a recipe from the Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook for vegan sloppy joes and it took me right back to my 10-year old self.
The recipe is full of veggies along with lentils and tempeh (fermented soy). It’s comfort food for sure, but healthy comfort food. There is a little bit of chopping, but mostly it’s a really easy to throw together recipe for a weeknight family dinner.
The sauce has tomato paste as the base and is flavored with tamari, balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. I add a little vegan worcestershire sauce too. And it has ketchup which I happen to love!
Instead of the typical ground beef, the binding protein comes from the lentils and tempeh. I used canned lentils, but you could cook a batch of dried lentils ahead of time and use that instead. I think red or green lentils would both work. The tempeh is optional but I think it adds a nice texture.
So it couldn’t be easier. Saute the veggies and tempeh. Add the lentils, then the sauce. Boom! Homemade vegan sloppy joes. You can serve them anyway you like. I chose a gluten free english muffin. You could use a hamburger bun, corn tortilla, pasta, polenta or just on their own.
Not Your Momma’s Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed (or 1 cup cooked lentils)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup tempeh, cut into small cubes
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce (optional)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
Hamburger buns or english muffin
Sea salt and pepper
In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and saute chopped vegetables and tempeh until cooked and softened. Add drained lentils and continue cooking.
In a medium bowl, combine tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, tamari, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Thin sauce with some of the vegetable broth.
Add sauce to lentil mixture and stir to coat. If the sauce seems too thick or the mixture seems dry, add more vegetable broth. Taste and season with sea salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat.
Toast the buns or english muffins. Serve sloppy joe mixture on the buns and top with avocado slices and pickles if desired.