Sloppy lentils

We take things so literally when we’re little. Sloppy joes were a frequent meal at our house when I was growing up, and I always wondered about the name. Who was this Joe, and why was he so sloppy? I reasoned it might be my own uncle Joe, whose shirts were often untucked and face unshaven.

Whoever Joe may have been, the sloppy part is clear enough – this isn’t a dish for a first date. But it is delicious, so feel free to make it once the relationship’s sealed and the person’s no longer a flight risk. Also, thanks to advanced lentil technology, your sloppy joe can now be vegan!

Scroll to the bottom for my take on this iconic recipe.

Sloppy lentils

Serves about 4.

  • 1 cup dry green or brown lentils (don’t use red lentils)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ cup (80 g) onion (any color), diced
  • ½ cup (60 g) green pepper, diced
  • ½ cup (55 g) celery, diced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown or red miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (oregano, thyme etc.) or herbes de Provence
  • A few squeezes fresh lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • A couple grinds fresh black pepper
  • Soy sauce, to taste (optional)
  • Maple syrup, to taste (optional)
  • 4 hamburger buns
  1. Start by cooking the lentils in 3 cups water, with the bay leaf, for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf, drain any excess water, and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, chop and dice the onion, green pepper and celery.
  3. In a large skillet, sauté these vegetables in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until tender.
  4. Add the cooked lentils and stir to combine.
  5. Incorporate the ketchup, miso paste, mustard, dried herbs, lemon juice, garlic powder and black pepper.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. If it isn’t salty enough, I recommend a splash of soy sauce rather than actual salt because soy sauce will boost the umami profile of the dish. If you would like the sauce to be sweeter, add a bit of maple syrup (but I find that the ketchup usually makes the sauce sweet enough).
  7. Toast your hamburger buns, if you like, and then load them with the sloppy lentil mixture. Eat leaning well over your plate, which many globs of lentils and sauce will land on, in the company of someone who already knows and accepts you even with sauce all over your face. 😉

Variation: try this same recipe using about 2 cups vegan ground “beef” from a brand like Beyond Meat, Impossible Meat or (in France), HappyVore or Herta.

Enjoy! If you’re a lentil aficionado, you might also like my Lockdown Lentils recipe. And if you too are curious about the name sloppy joe, you’ll find some theories here.

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