Vegan sloppy joes are made with lentils and "meatless" tofu crumble for a hearty texture. This plant-based recipe is full of flavor and easy to make. It can be made in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop and comes together in less than an hour.
The best sloppy joes are smoky, savory, and, of course, MESSY! And, this recipe delivers on all three.
This childhood sandwich is packed with flavor and is a favorite weeknight dinner. It comes together in under 45 minutes and can be made effortlessly in the Instant Pot.
You'll need these simple ingredients to make vegan sloppy joes.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutes
- Lentils – Use green or brown lentils for the best texture. Red lentils cook up too soft for this recipe.
- Tofu – The crumbled tofu is cooked in the oven for a “meat-like” texture. This recipe calls for half a block but you can use a full block for a meatier texture. Or, omit it with no changes to the recipe. It can also be replaced with your favorite packaged vegan meat crumbles. Use extra-firm tofu or super-firm tofu for best results.
- Jalapeño pepper – Remove the seeds for very mild heat. Or leave the seeds for a spicier sandwich.
- Onion – Yellow or sweet onions are best, but you can use what you have on hand.
- Bell pepper – I used red bell pepper because it gives a pop of color to the meal, but any color is fine.
- Salt – I use sea salt, but any salt you have on hand can be used.
- Sugar – Any granulated sugar will do. I use either cane sugar or coconut sugar.
- Smoked paprika – This gives a smoky flavor to the dish so I suggest using it. You can always use a few dashes of liquid smoke instead.
Instant Pot Instructions
The Instant Pot turns this vegan sloppy joes recipe into an easy one-pot meal the whole family will enjoy.
Start by preparing the meatless tofu crumbles.
Step 1: Crumble the tofu on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and paprika.
Step 2: Bake until the texture becomes crispier and more "meat-like". Set aside.
While the tofu bakes, prepare the sloppy joes in the Instant Pot.
Step 3: Add chopped bell pepper, onion, jalapeño pepper, and a bit of oil to the inner pot.
Step 4: Using the sauté feature, sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Step 5: Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Step 6: Set the Instant Pot to high pressure for 10 minutes. After cooking, allow the pressure to naturally release. The sloppy joes mixture should look similar to the above image when you open the lid.
Mix in the meaty tofu crumbles.
Step 7: Stir the mixture and toss in the "meatless" tofu crumble.
Step 8: Now mix the tofu into the lentils and serve.
Tip: The Instant Pot (affiliate link) makes this meal easily come together. It is one of my favorite kitchen appliances I own. If you don’t have one yet, I highly suggest it.
To Serve Vegan Sloppy Joes
This vegan sandwich is perfect for those evenings when you need a quick weeknight meal. Simply serve alongside your favorite potato chips or frozen fries.
Or, keep it healthy with a side of steamed vegetables, a baked potato, or homemade macaroni salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Transfer the sloppy joe mixture to a freezer-safe container. It should keep for 2-3 months in the freezer. To reheat, defrost the mixture, then heat in a pan until warmed throughout.
Sure! Use 3 cups as a replacement and be sure to drain and rinse them first. Also, canned lentils will only work for the stovetop instructions, not for the Instant Pot.
I don’t recommend red lentils as a replacement. They are too soft. Use either green or brown lentils for the best taste and texture.
- Tofu – Use ½ a block for a bit of meat-like texture. Use a full block for a more meaty texture. Or, omit with no change to the recipe. You can also replace the tofu with packaged vegan meat crumbles.
- Leftovers – Any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat in a saucepan until warmed throughout. Add a few splashes of water, as needed, to keep the lentils and sauce moistened.
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- ½ block of tofu (firm or extra firm)
- Paprika, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water
- 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and diced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
Make the Tofu Crumble
- To start, press the block of tofu. Use a tofu press or wrap the block in a clean kitchen towel, or a few paper towels. Place a heavy object on top and allow it to drain for about 10 minutes.
- Then, use your hands to crumble the drained tofu breaking it into small pieces. Spread the tofu out across your baking sheet. Sprinkle paprika across the top adding enough to give it color. Now sprinkle it with salt and pepper before mixing.
- Bake the tofu in the oven at 350ºF for 12-18 minutes. Stir/mix around the crumbles every 4-6 minutes. Oven baking will dry it out to a meatless crumble texture. Be careful not to overcook the tofu. It shouldn't be too crispy.
Tip: If you do accidentally overbake the crumbles, no worries, they will rehydrate in the sloppy joes.
- Once the tofu is to your desired texture remove it from the oven and set it aside. It will be stirred in after the lentils are cooked.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Using the sauté feature, sauté the bell pepper, onion, and jalapeño peppers, in a bit of oil or water, for about 5 minutes to slightly soften.
- Now, add the lentils, water, tomato sauce, and seasonings to the Instant Pot and mix everything together.
- Seal the lid and set the cooking time to 10 minutes high pressure using the manual feature. Allow for natural pressure release.
- Once the pressure has fully released, carefully open the lid and give the lentil mixture a stir.
- Mix in the cooked meatless tofu crumbles.
- Taste and adjust any seasonings if needed.
- For the lentils: In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cover and cook the lentils for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are tender.
- Drain any excess liquid from the lentils, if needed, and set them aside.
- For the sloppy joes: In a separate, large skillet, sauté the bell pepper, onion, and jalapeño peppers for about 5-6 minutes to slightly soften.
- To the skillet, add the tomato sauce, cooked lentils, cooked tofu crumbles, and seasonings. Stir to evenly mix everything together.
- Lightly simmer the sloppy joe mixture over medium-low heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste and adjust any seasonings if needed.
- Meatier texture: The recipe calls for ½ block of tofu or about 7 to 8 ounces. For an extra “meaty” texture, use 1 full (14-ounce) block of tofu without any change to the recipe.
- Leftovers: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- To freeze: Add the vegan sloppy joe mixture to an airtight freezer-safe container. Store in the freezer for up to 4 months. Defrost on the counter or in the refrigerator, then cook in a pot over medium-low heat until heated through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 69Total Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 247mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 5g
**Nutritional info is provided as an estimate based on the ingredients I used and for convenience and as a courtesy only.**
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