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