Lentil Sloppy Joes have the same comforting flavor as regular Sloppy Joes, but with healthy lentils instead of meat. You can make Instant Pot lentil sloppy Joes or use your slow cooker, this recipe has instructions for both!
Lentil Sloppy Joes make so much sense. Take all the comforting, homemade flavors in regular Sloppy Joes (like tomato, onion, mild spices and seasonings, bell pepper and a pinch of sweetness) then add protein-rich lentil beans instead of ground meat.
These lentils are really flavorful and very satisfying. They're also versatile. You can serve the lentils on buns, like traditional Sloppy Joes, or try one of the serving suggestions below.
If you'd like to learn more about lentils, read How to Cook Black Lentils or How to Cook Red Lentils.
How to Serve Lentil Sloppy Joes
- You can keep the healthy-train on the right track by serving vegetarian* Sloppy Joes in a bowl with crunchy cabbage slaw and brown rice.
- Spoon the lentils over polenta with a dollop of sour cream
- Take the nostalgic route and serve these Sloppy Joes like your Mom or Grandma did, with a pickle and potato chips on the side.
- Toast hamburger buns or bread under the broiler with butter and garlic powder, for a crunchy, garlic bread flavor. Scoop the lentils onto the bread. Maybe melt cheese on top!
- Add these lentils to burritos.
*Are these lentil Sloppy Joe's vegan and vegetarian? They certainly can be! Just make sure to use vegan Worcestershire sauce, like Annie's. You can also use soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce, but it doesn't have quite the same flavor.
Side Dishes for Sloppy Joes
What goes with Sloppy Joes? Lot's of things! Here's a list of Sloppy Joe side dishes to choose from.
- French fries
- Potato chips
- Simple carrot fries
- Corn on the cob
- Pickles or sauerkraut
- Fruit salad
- Sweet potatoes
- Broccolini slaw or coleslaw
- Baked beans
- Buttered rolls
Slow Cooker Instructions
My favorite way to cook these healthy Sloppy Joes is in a slow cooker. I love the texture and consistency of the lentils.
Step 1: Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker.
Step 2: Cook on low 6 to 8 hours, depending on the texture you want.
Helpful Tip: Most Crockpot recipes suggest sautéing onion before adding it to a slow cooker. This is because slow cookers don't always fully cook onion. Even after 6 hours it can be a little bit crunchy and pungent. Sautéing onion first softens the texture, which helps it meld into the dish better, and it also makes the flavor richer and sweeter. The problem is that sautéing ingredients before they go into a slow cooker is inconvenient. Am I right?
A simple compromise is to microwave chopped onion with a drizzle of oil until it's soft ( 2 to 4 minutes). This step achieves nearly the same results as sautéing and is quicker and easier.
Instant Pot Instructions
An Instant Pot helps get dinner on the table faster. The lentils turn out great, but the texture is a bit thicker. However, you can always add more liquid after the lentils cook for a "sloppier" sloppy Joe.
Step 1: Saute onion and garlic in the Instant Pot. Then, add all of the other ingredients.
Step 2: Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the texture you want.
FAQ About This Recipe
Absolutely! In fact, I think the Sloppy Joes taste even better the next day or even three days later.
Yes, and this recipe makes a big batch so you're likely to have leftovers.
I often freeze some of the lentils for another dinner later in the month. Even better, freeze small portions for lunch.
You can use a Ziploc freezer bag or any freezer-safe container. To defrost, leave in the fridge overnight or gently microwave.
Brown or green lentils work best for this recipe because they hold their shape well but also have a soft texture.
Red lentils break apart and become really soft, so they're better for red lentil soup or curries.
Black lentils hold their shape best and have a slightly firmer texture, which isn't quite right for Sloppy Joes. Instead, try black lentils in salad.
More Lentil Recipes
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Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes (Slow Cooker instructions included)
This lentil Sloppy Joes recipe has the same comforting, homemade taste as regular Sloppy Joes, but with healthy lentils instead of meat.
Whether made in the Instant Pot or slow cooker, these lentil Sloppy Joes are especially good served as leftovers the next day. For serving suggestions and side dishes that pair well with Sloppy Joes, read the blog post above.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: varies
- Total Time: varies
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: Instant Pot
- Method: Slow Cooker or Instant Pot
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 tablespoon oil (canola, sunflower or olive oil)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (yellow or red onion)
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound green or brown lentils (about 2 or 2 ⅓ cups of dry lentils)
- 2 cups frozen sliced bell peppers OR 1 fresh bell pepper, chopped
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (see recipe notes below for vegan/vegetarian options)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon regular paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or yellow mustard)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon maple syrup or brown sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- WATER - the amount changes for the slow cooker and Instant Pot
- Slow Cooker = add 3 ½ cups water
- Instant Pot = add 4 cups water
- Press the Saute button. Add the oil to the Instant Pot.
- Saute the onion until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and saute 30 seconds, then turn off the Saute function.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients: Lentils, bell pepper, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, mustard, maple syrup/brown sugar, salt and water. Mix well.
- Cook on high pressure. The time varies, depending on the texture you want.
10 minutes for tender but still slightly firm lentils
12 minutes for tender lentils
15 minutes for very soft lentils
- When the cooking time is complete, let the Instant Pot release pressure naturally (or at least for 10 minutes).
- Stir the lentils and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt if needed. If you like a sweeter flavor, add more maple syrup or brown sugar. If you want a looser texture, slowly add hot water to loosen up the consistency.
Some slow cooker recipes require sautéing the onion and garlic before adding them to the crock pot. This is because slow cookers don't always fully cook onion, and sautéing also helps boost the flavor of onion and garlic. You can do this if you like, but I find that simply microwaving the onion and garlic achieves nearly the same results and is quicker and easier.
So, either saute the onion and garlic in oil for 5 to 7 minutes on the stovetop (to soften and lightly brown) OR combine the onion and garlic with oil in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2 to 4 minutes, stopping to stir once or twice, until the onion is soft. Don’t microwave too long or the onion and garlic will dry out.
- In the slow cooker, combine the onion and garlic with all the remaining ingredients: Lentils, bell pepper, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, mustard, maple syrup/brown sugar, salt and water.
- Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. The lentils are done after 6 hours, but will be a little more firm than if cooked for 8 hours.
- When done, stir the lentils and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed. If you like a sweeter flavor, add more maple syrup or brown sugar.
- The lentils might be a little bit watery right when you open the slow cooker, but the longer they sit before serving the thicker the mixture will be.
Vegan Worcestershire sauce, like Annie's brand, can be found at some grocery stores. You can also use soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce, but it doesn't have quite the same flavor.
This recipe was tested in a 6-quart Instant Pot.
Keywords: lentil sloppy Joes, Instant Pot lentil sloppy Joes, vegetarian sloppy Joes
This healthier plant-based version of sloppy Joe's is really satisfying and yummy!