Isn’t it amazing how you can learn something new about your partner no matter how long you’ve been together? My fiancé and I celebrated our fifth Halloween together this past October and he told me that Sloppy Joes were an annual Halloween tradition in his family growing up. He suggested we continue the tradition in our house and offered to make me vegan Sloppy Joes. I obviously couldn’t say no. They were so delicious! I can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on all of these years. These Lentil and Cauliflower Vegan Sloppy Joes are my lightened up version of traditional Sloppy Joes and I’m confident they’re just as good as what you remember from childhood.
There are several vegan Sloppy Joe recipes floating around the internet, but most rely on ketchup to get that authentic Sloppy Joe flavor. I try to avoid ketchup because it’s full of high fructose corn syrup and I feel like I’m eating pure sugar when I dunk my French fries in it. Instead, these Lentil and Cauliflower Vegan Sloppy Joes get flavor from a combination of tomato sauce, maple syrup, and brown sugar, among other key ingredients. I tried my best to keep the sugar content low, but there’s just no way to get the crave-able Sloppy Joe flavor without some sweetener. You can try reducing the amount of sugar in this recipe, but I can’t guarantee the results. Just throwing that out there!
One step you won’t want to skip is toasting your hamburger buns. It might seem unnecessary but I promise it’s worth the tiny bit of extra effort. The slight crunch you get from the toasted bread is such a nice texture contrast from the hearty, saucy, sloppy sandwich filling. I topped my sandwich with thinly sliced cabbage for some more crunchy texture. My fiancé would argue that putting potato chips on the sandwich is non-negotiable, but I’ll leave that up to you (it’s really freakin’ good by the way). The filling will keep in the fridge for several days, making this a great prep-ahead dinner!Print
- 1 small head of cauliflower
- 2 cups cooked French green lentils (about ¾ cup dry lentils)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- Few twists of black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne (optional)
- Vegan hamburger buns, for serving
- Shredded cabbage, for serving (optional)
- Begin cooking the lentils if you aren’t using pre-cooked lentils.
- Chop the cauliflower into florets and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up the chunks. You want the pieces to be slightly larger than you’d make them for cauliflower rice.
- Drizzle the olive oil into a large, deep skillet and warm over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook 2 minutes more.
- Add the cooked lentils, tomato paste, tomato sauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and spices to the skillet and stir to combine. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the mixture has thickened. Adjust flavors to taste.
- Preheat a dry pan (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium-low heat. Toast the tops and bottoms of the hamburger buns, about a minute on each side.
- Spoon some of the vegan sloppy Joe filling onto each bottom bun. Garnish with sliced cabbage and place the top buns on top. Enjoy warm.