This is a quick and easy meal that also reheats well for lunch the next day or two. Serve this stuffed into a whole-grain bun and eat with your hands, or ladle it over the buns (open-face style) and eat with a fork. I usually serve steamed kale with this dish and fresh corn, when in season.

By Heather McDougall,


  • 3 ⅓ cups water or low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ cups dried brown lentils
  • 1 15-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
  • salt to taste


  • Place 1 cup of the water or stock in a large pot.
  • Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until onions soften slightly, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the chili powder and mix in well. Add the remaining liquid, lentils, tomatoes, and the rest of the seasonings. Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve on whole-wheat buns, or fresh baked bread, with the trimmings of your choice.

Comments (45)

(5 from 26 votes)

Recipe Rating

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It was a good basic recipe, but I doubled the spices, used an immersion blender to thicken a little, then added chopped walnuts into the mix to add greater texture. Also added some smoked paprika and cumin, and some BBQ sauce. And now it is perfect!

Julie L

Can you substitute dates for brown sugar?

Lisa, Forks Over Knives Support

Hi Julie, While we haven't tested this, we think this would be a good substitution. I'd chop the dates first, they'll be nice and soft and integrated into the sauce by the end of the hour-long slow cook. Brown sugar is sweeter than dates, so you might want to add 3 tablespoons of chopped dates to allow for this difference. Let us know how it goes!


Tasted pretty good. I will probably triple the spices next time. As a family we like strong spicy tastes in our food. I would make this again. It wasn't too bad just needs stronger spices.

Cassandra Gore-Johnson

While I knew it was lentil it taste as good as regular sloppy joe so this was a good recipe for me as I continue on my journey of wfpb life. Oh very easy to make


I'm not vegan, but I do love lentils and sloppy joes so I thought I'd try this. It is wonderful. I have made it several times now. I'm looking for other lentil recipes on this site that are full of flavor and easy to make. Thank you!


Can anyone give specific instructions for making this recipe in the Instand Pot? I see some comments about making in the IP nothing specific though. Thank you!


My family loves this recipe! I fix it in the Instant Pot!


Delicious and easy! The only thing I did differently was add 3 cloves of garlic and then I blended up the cooked garlic with the cooked bell pepper (plus some of the liquid) to make it a bit more smooth to be similar to the canned sloppy joe sauce I grew up eating.

Carol DiBenedetto



Excellent recipe, taste just like sloppy Joe’s I remember. I added a little smoked paprika and adobe chili spice and it taste excellent. Will be a staple in my recipe rotation thank you for making such a great recipe for us!!


I really like these Lentil Sloppy Joe’s. My girlfriend made them while I was visiting her in California. They are delicious! I made them, but they are not as good as my girlfriend’s. I think I need to add more of something for spice. I will ask my girlfriend her secret.


Excellent! I've made this several times and the consistency was never completely to my liking. I don't care for al dente. This time I used red lentils and cooked it for 50 minutes. It came out similar to refried beans. It was perfect. It is delicious to eat all by itself. I added bbq sauce, and next time I will dice up 5 cloves of garlic too. Thank you for this recipe!


This was good! Good, basic sloppy joe. Easy to make. Familiar ingredients.


Yummy!! We have been doing FOK off and on for a while now. After a world wind year, we are back at it! This is a quick easy dish to do! Subbed regular brown sugar for Dark brown. It was delicous! A nice hearty meal after working out side! Also great for reheats!


Thanks for sharing your IP method! A few questions, if you don’t mind answering(?): - Do you let pressure naturally release? - Are all ingredient ratios the same as the recipe? - Do the lentils turn out soft or al dente? Anytime When I’ve cooked dry lentils in an IP along with other ingredients, especially tomato-based, the lentil texture never seems fully cooked (too al dente for my preference).


Do not put tomato products in with the lentils while cooking. Makes it too acidic for them to cook fully to soften.


So easy and quick in the Instant pot (I set it for 6 minutes). Would be great in zucchini boats with some cashew cheese crumbled on top. I ate them on tortillas with lettuce and green onions.


Has anyone tried making this in an instapot? Thanks


Fantastic!!! I was out of chili powder, so I subbed a smoky adobo blend…wowza! I’ll use that on purpose from now on. It really did taste like sloppy joes. I’m trying to limit processed grains, so I stuffed this in a red leaf lettuce leaf and topped with a thin line of good mustard and some chopped homemade “quick pickles.” It was amazing!


My family loves this recipe! The only thing I do differently is I cook it in the Instant Pot! Comes out perfectly in half the time!


Love this recipe as does my husband. We are incorporating more plant based meals into our diet.


OMG! What an amazing recipe! I am new to eating vegan and was getting tired of the few recipes I had. Definitely one I will keep.


I just made this recipe and as John noted in his review, I added BBQ sauce. I made the FOK BBQ sauce last week for BBQ tacos and it was a tasty addition to this recipe. My husband doesn’t generally eat lentils but he was intrigued by the aroma coming from the pot. He ate 2 sandwiches. In my house that’s a win! I will definitely make this again and will be sure to add the FOK BBQ sauce.


Hello, I am 12 year brain tumor survivor & huge Forks Over Knives believer. Have been getting more plant based since I read The China Study in 2018. What "whole wheat bun" is recommended since all buns are not a whole food??!

Lorraine Calhoun

Killer Dave has 100% wh wheat rolls, or pitas come in whole wheat


Ezekiel has great buns in the frozen section! I toast them in the toaster oven when I make bean burgers or similar

John Hoffman

This is fabulous as it is. The second time I made it, I added a tablespoon of Bullseye Bold Original BBQ sauce to to finish off the bottle, and a tablespoon of smoked chipotle pepper. O M G!


Highly recommend adding BBQ sauce, great suggestion!


Quick, easy and delicious! I didn't have vegetable broth on hand so I used beef broth, and I cooked it a bit longer to make it thicker. Served open-faced on a bun with a sprinkle of cheese. My meat-loving husband agreed that it was a keeper!


What to sub for brown sugar? Don’t keep that on hand.

Shari T

@Jean put in a little molasses - maybe 1/2-1 tsp [assuming you have that] along with the sugar [or whatever you are using] A standard sub for brown sugar in a recipe is white sugar + a little molasses.



Margaret Ovitt

Also, date syrup in place of brown sugar.



Momma Bear

Oops, replied to the wrong person about the IP! That was for Donna. Emily, if you use red lentils, the cooking time will be much shorter and it won't be as "meaty."

Momma Bear

Emily Thiesen, I think you could make it in the IP. Just get the time for the lentils from another source. That's how I plan to make it!


We used a lentil blend and the flavor was there but it turned out like soup! maybe because we quadrupled the recipe?


This is a great recipe - at the moment I'm putting it over potatoes. I look forward to using it on my wholegrain sourdough bread as an open sandwich. Since I'm Australian and grew up with English-style savoury baked beans, I'm not a fan of American-style baked beans recipes with so much sugar added. The only time I ever made American baked beans I found them inedible. So, I knew the sugar in this recipe would ruin it for me. Just hold the sugar and it's great. I also used light soy sauce (it's got more umami than dark soy) and I only used a quarter teaspoon of rice wine vinegar. Without the sugar, it's probably not needed at all, so I might hold the vinegar next time too. I throw in a big handful of chiffonaded parsley and finely sliced green onion with a squeeze of lemon or lime and its truly beyond good! Thanks to Heather McDougall :)


Yummmm!!! This is a very tasty recipe! I will definitely make this again! I didn’t have any vegetarian Worcestershire sauce so I added some smoked paprika and cumin instead!!! The brown sugar does make it a little sweeter, so just adjust to your likeness.

Emily Thiesen

Could I use red lentils instead of brown? Thanks!


Can you make this in the instapot?

Nancy Olenic

This is one of our favorites and it's quick and easy to make. I try to make it the day before because I find this even tastier when the flavors have had a chance to blend longer. Since I can't have gluten and we try to avoid refined flours, I serve this over garlic mashed potatoes mixed with cauliflower. This recipe also freezes very well.


Our 4 year old loves it! The recipe is straight forward to make with not a lot of prep. It’s quick enough for a week night with a little planning ahead to get it started. It’s one we all enjoy!

Cindi M.

Really good Sloppy Joe’s! It’s a fork and knife kind of sandwich that we ended up eating open-faced. The recipe says it makes 4 sandwiches, which I agree if it’s for 4 adults. I’d it’s 2 adults and some kids you might be able to make 5-6 sandwiches. Nice and filling!

About the Author

Headshot of Heather McDougall, director of the McDougall Program

About the Author

Heather McDougall

Heather McDougall is the director of the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California. Heather also develops healthy, family-friendly recipes for the McDougall Newsletter. For more from her, follow the McDougall Program on Instagram.
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