Cooking with Kids: Lentil Sloppy Joes

Lentil Sloppy Joes are the answer for a delicious meatless meal that will satisfy the whole family. Kids love ’em. Plop the flavourful lentil filling onto buns, top with cheese, and enjoy this fantastically-flavoured, fun, messy meal. (Skip to recipe)

lentil sloppy joes with on a toasted bun, with cheese

Cooking with Meredith

Kids (and grown-ups) love meals that are flavourful, comforting, and maybe a little messy to eat. Sloppy Joes fit the bill. What differentiates a Sloppy Joe filling from a regular thick meat sauce is that it’s slightly sweet ‘n sour. And what differentiates these Sloppy Joes from the regular ones is that they’re made with lentils. Delicious, fiber-rich, nutrient-rich, fun-to-eat lentils. Hearty and filling. Loaded with tangy-sweet flavour. A great way to sneak in a meatless meal more often.

eating lentil sloppy joes - fun and messy

Kids will be asking for them again and again.

Meredith and I had fun cooking these up. She loved chopping the veggies and measuring the spices.

We served our Lentil Sloppy Joes on buns with a side of carrot curl salad.

lentil sloppy joes with a side of carrot salad

You can pile the filling onto a bun, top with shredded cheese, and eat the whole thing like a drippy hamburger, leaning over your plate and using lots of napkins – Meredith’s choice. Or you can pile the dressing onto both halves of the bun and eat it in a civilized manner with knife and fork – my choice.

open faced lentil sloppy joes

(Though I must admit, Meredith’s way is much more fun!)

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can use any kind of lentils for this, but big green lentils and brown lentils work best because they get softer when cooked and cook apart a bit more, so they make a nice sloppy joe texture. If you need to use green Puy lentils or black lentils, cook them a bit longer, until they start to get somewhat mushy.

*If you can’t find gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, use 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of gluten-free soy sauce instead.

You can use your favourite commercial chili powder mix, or this easy and delicious homemade chili powder.

To make these Lentil Sloppy Joes vegan, use the substitution above for the Worcestershire sauce and use vegan buns and a vegan cheese substitute, or omit the cheese on top.

We used gluten free O’Dough’s hamburger buns, but you could also serve the Lentil Sloppy Joes with crackers to dip in, or on top of rice or short pasta.


lentil sloppy joes on a bun

Lentil Sloppy Joes

  • 1½ cups big green lentils
  • 4½ cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 onions
  • 1 red or green bell pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can (156ml/5.5oz) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (see Notes, above)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free if necessary, see Notes, above*)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

to serve:

  • 6 buns (gluten-free if necessary), like hamburger buns, or Kaiser rolls
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • crushed red chili flakes (if anyone wants added spice)

Combine the lentils and water in a saucepan. Stick the two whole cloves into one of the peeled garlic cloves. Add this and the bay leaves to the lentils. Bring the lentils and water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan with the lid, and simmer the lentils for 30 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, peel and dice the onions. Mince the remaining two cloves of garlic, or push them through a garlic press. Cut the green or red bell pepper into thin strips, then cut the strips crosswise into small cubes, and mince the celery finely or cut it into small cubes.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the garlic, onions, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are all softened. Set aside.

When the lentils are finished cooking, fish out the bay leaves and the garlic clove with the cloves stuck in it. If the cloves have slipped out of the garlic, try to find them, but if you can’t – don’t worry too much about it. You don’t need to drain the lentils.

Add the sautéed vegetables to the lentils, and add the tomato paste and the rest of the ingredients (except the buns and cheese).

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, uncovered and stirring often, until the Sloppy Joe mixture is thick like porridge.

Cut the buns in half and toast them. Serve the filling on top of the buns, either open-face onto both halves of the buns, or piled onto one bun. Top with shredded cheese. Sprinkle with a pinch of red chili flakes if you’d like it spicier. Add the top half of the bun if you’ll be eating the Lentil Sloppy Joes out of hand, or leave them open if eating with a knife and fork.

Serves 6.

*Note: This filling reheats well (so you can make it ahead) and it also freezes well (so you could make a double batch and stash one in the freezer for busy days). You might need to add an extra splash of water when reheating, to loosen the mixture up if it’s too thick.

Guten Appetit!

For more fun cooking projects to make with kids, see the ‘Cooking With Kids’ series here.

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Lentil Sloppy Joes - deliciously savoury, fun and messy to eat, and a great meatless option. A good cooking-with-kids project.

You might also like:

Number One Chili (Super Easy Chili Recipe)

Pasta and Sausage Skillet Supper

Easy Marinara Sauce

Porcupine Meatballs

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6 Responses to Cooking with Kids: Lentil Sloppy Joes

  1. Nancy Jay says:

    Hi Margaret,
    This recipe sounds delicious and easy to make. I’m going to try it now that there is more time in the kitchen for me……It got me thinking, let’s plan this as one of the meals for our upcoming Francois Lake trip? It would taste oh so good looking out at the lake water. I’m on a mission to get a new hot water tank (with Dave and Irene’s help one must note). I’ll catch up with you on the phone.
    Happy Summer Time.

    • Margaret says:

      Just your mention of the words ‘looking out at the lake water’ makes me yearn to be there. I absolutely cannot wait. It will be such a great chance to relax and reconnect – with each other, ourselves, and nature. So looking forward to it. And yes, this would be a great meal at the cabin. I can even make a big batch up ahead and bring it along. We’ll have to chat soon about our meals and supplies (such fun to talk about food, since I think about it all the time anyway).
      Happy Summer to you, too. We’ll chat soon. XOXO

  2. Yummy, Margaret! I’d definitely eat this sloppy joe! But I’d eat it like Meredith, a bit messy but oh so satisfying 🙂 . Love it, going to make it!

    • Margaret says:

      Sometimes it’s fun just to let all our adult inhibitions go and let our inner child out – I think we should do it way more often. Sloppy Joes is a fun way to start! ;D Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Elsa says:

    I have to make a lentil sloppy joe for Nickie, she loves lentils .
    Great idea Margaret!

    • Margaret says:

      Thanks, Elsa. I love lentils, too, but often forget about cooking them. Then when I do, I always think I have to cook with them more – they’re so satisfying. Happy cooking.

Comments are closed.