I have very fond summer memories of being forcibly removed from the neighborhood swimming pool for just enough time for my mother to shove a sloppy joe and some ranch Pringles into my mouth before I broke loose to cannonball off of the diving board (the 15 minute rule did not apply in Harwood, ND). Sloppy Joes were frequent fare at summer pot lucks, picnics, and family visits and always conjure up memories of red grease stains on my Little Mermaid towel that often doubled as a napkin.
Now, please welcome our good friend lentils to the stage! Lentils are one of my favorite foods. They are cheap, versatile, high in protein and iron and leave you full and satisfied without feeling weighted down. No red grease ground beef needed here! Lentils readily absorb any flavor you foist upon them and have a nice “meaty” texture that lends itself to fillings for tacos/burritos, lentil loaves, and obviously here in a Sloppy Joe. You can also freeze this lentil filling and save it for quick and easy meals in a pinch! Like when hordes of children/drunk friends/relatives show up in your yard and you’re expected to feed them somehow.
WHAT YOU NEED (Serves 8+. Half recipe serves about 4.)
- 2 cups dried green or brown lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 med/large yellow onion cut into small dice
- 1 large bell pepper (any color)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional) (only if you likey spicy)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14oz can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar*
- 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce*
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3 teaspoons chili powder
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste*
- 2 tablespoons tamari, plus more to taste
- pinch-1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder – depending on how hot you like it
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 vegan hamburger style buns
- Slices of vegan cheese if you’re feeling fancy
- The ingredients with the * can be omitted and substituted with 1/4 cup of the locally made and decadent “Coop’s Ketchup” (pictured below). It is made by my friend Cooper and is a delicious fermented ketchup that adds a nice extra zing to these Lentil Joes. For more information, or to place an order, e-mail Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Twin Ports area only).
WHAT YOU DO
- Place the lentils and water/broth in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 min. and set aside.
- In a deep sided skillet or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until softened and lightly brown.
- Add the tomato sauce, Worcestershire, cumin, chili powder, tomato past, and tamari and stir to combine.
- Add the lentils and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
- Taste for seasoning. I tend to add more tamari and some hot sauce.
- Slice buns in half and toast (or not), add vegan cheese (or not), and serve with your favorite salad or chips.