Lentil Sloppy Joes – THE best vegetarian dinner for a carnivore

In my never-ending quest to find tasty, real-food** vegetarian entrees, I hit on one that was simply terrific. Lentil sloppy Joes, which carnivore Craig aptly named “Faux Joes”. These are absolutely delicious, nicely spiced, great texture, and easy because you throw everything in the slow cooker and you’re done.
**I’ve read recommendations to use fake meat products to ease a meat-eater into the world of acceptable vegetarian, but if you read those labels, these kinds of “food” violate my rule of only eating what you can pronounce. Typically soy-based protein, they are chocked full of sodium, chemicals, preservatives, and the like. No thank you. If I can’t make real-food vegetarian that Craig likes, we will eat continue to just eat animal proteins.

I digress. Back to the faux Joe recipe. It’s simple to prepare because you likely have everything in your panty called to prepare these. And it’s flexible for serving. Craig ate his on one of those thin 100-calorie wheat flats (bun?), and I had it over faux cauliflower rice. You may be sensing a faux theme, but it’s only because we’ve been purposely increasing our vegetable intake and reducing wheat and carbs. I’ve known how to substitute spaghetti squash and grated zucchini/yellow squash for this purpose, but recently we’ve learned how flexible cauliflower is used in lieu of mashed potatoes, rice, risotto, even pizza crust (a forthcoming blog post).

Even if you are cooking for a conventional meat-and-potatoes eater, you will have success because these are that good. Aside from the orb shape of the lentils, your taste buds will deceive you into thinking you are eating real sloppy Joe’s.

Tasting notes:  Craig enjoyed a few spoonfuls of homemade beer BBQ atop his (which would also be a nice addition while simmering in the slow cooker), as well as a wedge of Laughing Cow bleu cheese on his bun. Chopped green onions are good, too.

Lentil Faux Joes
4-5 servings

1 cup dried lentils, picked over (not red lentils; they would get too mushy)
1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
15 ounce canned tomatoes
1/4 cup + 1 table spoon tomato paste
3/4 cups onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (about 3/4 cups)
1T apple cider vinegar
1T garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1T chili powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more depending on your tastes)

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker; stir until well combined and cook on high, covered, for 3 to 4 hours on high or 7 to 8 hours on low, depending how fast your device cooks.

Taste test to ensure lentils are cooked through. If not, cover and cook in 30 minute increments until soft.

If too much liquid remains, cook on high without the lid for 30 to 60 minutes, keeping in mind these thicken as it sits.


  1. This looks yummy and I love that it can be made in the slow cooker! I made a "faux Joe" not too long ago using black beans- it was a big hit!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. We like black beans, sound great in faux Joes, have to give them a try.

  2. Good stuff. We love dried legumes, and use them often. Try making chili without meat and using sweet potatoes instead (and beans, of course). If you spice it right, it's a super dish. We've been eating way too much the past month or so, so come January we're going to be doing a lot of straight and narrow eating. Pretty easy with recipes like this - I'll definitely be giving it a try. Thanks. And Happy New Year.

    1. Thanks, John. We also need to do a good bit of cleaning eating for the month of January. Looking forward to reading about some of those straight and narrow recipes in the coming weeks.

  3. Just made these tonight, I wasn't sure how they would turn out. Oh my god they were amazing. I used the French Indigo Lentils, you can pick them up at Whole Foods and simmered on low for 3 hours. They came out to die for. I never felt so guilt free eating 3 sloppy joes. Thanks for this!



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