Sloppy Joe is a sandwich that will now and forever remind me of my childhood. As a kid of the 80’s & 90’s this sandwich was right up there with the golden arches in terms of my favorite foods to eat. But of course, as time went on and Cosmo told me how to get lean & sexy, or I simply became too cool for such things, but soon those thick, tomato-y sandwiches became nothing but a memory.
Until I left the United States. It’s funny how things you take for granted end up being what keeps you grounded and reminds you of home. Even before I adopted a plant based lifestyle, I would make plenty of Sloppy Joe variations for my German and European friends who got a kick out of it. Except for the ones who didn’t quite understand it.
Lately I’ve been really in a burger kind of mood which means we’ve had plenty of butter-free burger buns lying around the kitchen, and when it was time to go shopping again, I knew this would be an excellent use for them.
To make vegan sloppy joe sandwiches you have to start with the “meat”. You can go simple and use tofu crumbles that do a good job of recreating that texture of ground animal meat, or you can go another way. For a long time I would go to my old faithful, kidney beans, but this time I decided to use cranberry (borlotti) beans and brown lentils. Weird, right? I know but I was in a weird mood and something told me it not turn out completely terrible.
The ingredient list for this IS intimidating but I promise it’s not complicated, so here we go:
Bell Pepper (any color, I used red & green)
Firm tofu (half brick, finger crumbled)
Saute the vegetables & crumbled tofu while the lentils cook, adding the garlic last so it doesn’t burn.
Then add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, adding liquid to the pan when it begins to sizzle. This will give your sandwich the depth of flavor as if you used that canned stuff from back in the day.
Add lentils and beans and more water or stock as needed, simmering until a thick paste forms.
And that’s pretty much it!
Now you need to dress your bun and figure out…side dishes.
Between the buns and the beans and lentils, I decided to have veggie chips and found a giant carrot and zucchini. I cut them on a bias, dunking them in an almond milk/mustard mixture before coating them with Panko crumbs. Twenty minutes in the oven, flipping halfway and you’ve got a healthy version of a childhood favorite.
If you’ve got the time or patience, feel free to whip up a BBQ sauce, mayo or ketchup for the chips.
This was fairly easy and quick-ish to make, but the best part was that there were leftovers and the next day we just piled it into a bowl and ate it like a thick soup.
And just in case you were wondering what I drank with it…