Vegan Sloppy Joes (stovetop & instant pot)

vegan sloppy joes

♫ Listening to: Wildfires by SAULT ♫

This sloppy joe filling isn’t very cute, but it’s sooo tasty. You can make it cuter by filling steamed buns with the filling or by making colored buns for it. If cute food doesn’t rank high on your list of priorities, or if it’s not even on the list at all, like not even on the bottom or on the back (WHO EVEN ARE YOU???), then you can serve this sloppy joe filling on toast, store-bought burger buns, as a dip with chips or crackers, or just by itself. This is a favorite leftover in my house, so we’ve eaten it in a variety of ways.

If you aren’t into lentils (some people aren’t, it’s weird), you can substitute packaged plant-based meat. Since my kiddos grew up vegan, they don’t like foods that resemble animal products (since they’ve never had them in the first place). If you have a veg-since-birth in your life, they might like this version with lentils more. The sloppy filling freezes and defrosts well, but I don’t recommend leaving it in the freezer for more than a month.

This recipe makes 10 servings of sloppy joe filling.

Sloppy Joe Filling Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (if you avoid oil, replace this with water or veggie broth)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup dry lentils, rinsed (I used green lentils)
  • 4 cups water (3 ½ for instant pot)
  • 1 (15 oz) can organic tomato sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
Instant Pot
Instant Pot Duo Plus 6 Quart 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker, Warmer & Sterilizer, 15 One-Touch Programs,Stainless Steel/Black Buy on Amazon
Food Processor
KitchenAid KFP1133OB 11-Cup Food Processor with Exact Slice System - Onyx Black (Renewed) Buy on Amazon

Sloppy Joe Filling Stovetop Directions

If you’re using an instant pot , scroll down to see the instant pot instructions.

Dollhouse Shortcut

If you have more time to make this, you can use the same pot to cook the lentils as the rest, so you only have one pot to clean, but you have to plan to be cooking for longer.

Rinse a cup of lentils if you haven’t already.

Cover the lentils with 4 cups of water (I use filtered water) in a medium sized saucepan, put the lid on, and turn on high heat to bring to a boil.

Dice your onion, carrot, and celery if you haven’t already. I use my food processor for this because it dices everything finely and quickly with the least amount of effort. If you don’t have a food processor, get one. Or for now, just finely dice the veggies using a knife and cutting board.

Remove the lid from the lentils when they start boiling, and lower heat to medium.

Simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

Sauté the diced onion, celery, and carrot in a cast iron pan (or any pan) with the olive oil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. If you avoid oil, you can use water or veggie broth in place of oil…just something to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan.

Open the can of tomato sauce.

Measure the teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, ½ tablespoon of chili powder, (optional ½ teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon cumin), and 2 tablespoons of molasses right into the can of tomato sauce to save dishes.

Reduce the heat to low (or turn off) as soon as you notice that the veggies are soft. You don’t want them to burn while you wait for the lentils to catch up.

Prepare the buns and/or the rest of your meal while you wait for the lentils to finish cooking.

Transfer the lentils (once they’re cooked and all the water is gone) to the pan with the sauteed veggies, add the tomato sauce and spices, and stir.

Simmer for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.

Scoop a large amount of filling onto the bottom bun. Add the top bun and serve.

Sloppy Joe Filling Instant Pot Directions

Dice your onion, carrot, and celery if you haven’t already. I use my food processor for this because it dices everything finely and quickly with the least amount of effort. If you don’t have a food processor, get one. Or for now, just finely dice the onion and carrot using a knife and cutting board.

Sauté the diced onion, celery, and carrot in with the olive oil in your instant pot using the sauté mode, and stirring occasionally. If you avoid oil, you can use water or veggie broth in place of oil…just something to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan.

Rinse a cup of lentils if you haven’t already.

Open the can of tomato sauce.

Measure the teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, ½ tablespoon of chili powder, (optional ½ teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon cumin), and 2 tablespoons of molasses right into the can of tomato sauce to save dishes.

Turn off the instant pot as soon as you notice that the veggies are soft.

Add the cup of rinsed lentils to the instant pot .

Cover the lentils with 3 ½ cups of water.

Add the tomato sauce with all the spices to the instant pot and stir everything.

Cover the instant pot and lock the lid in place.

Close the valve (mine says sealing when it’s in the closed position).

Set instant pot to pressure cook, and set the time to 11 minutes.

Naturally release the pressure, instead of manually. This just means that you let the pressure release by itself. You’ll know it’s released because the lid will come off when you try to remove it. It takes around 10-15 minutes usually.

Prepare the buns and/or the rest of your meal while you wait for the filling to cook.

Scoop a large amount of filling onto the bottom bun. Top and serve.

vegan sloppy joes

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* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.

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