sloppy joe on a plate on a wood cutting board next to bowls of barbecue sauce and more sloppy joe filling

Vegan Sloppy Joes

The deliciously dependable combination of savory and sweet in these Vegan Sloppy Joes leaves your fingers just as messy and your taste buds just as satisfied in this plant-powered version of the quintessentially American sandwich we all know and love.

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Can you believe I never made a Sloppy Joe until last month when I was experimenting with Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger?

My kids loved them. In fact, Jake loved them so much that he told me he’d eat a Beyond Burger the next time we made hamburgers. I’ve been trying to get Jake to replace his hamburger with a Beyond Burger like forever so this was a major victory!

My favorite part of these burgers was the vegan brioche buns I picked up from my local Lazy Acres.

close up of a vegan sloppy joe on a plate on a wood cutting board in front of a plate of lettuce leaves

What is a Sloppy Joe?

A Sloppy Joe is a quintessentially American sandwich, beloved for its hearty filling and casual, comfort-food appeal. At its core, a Sloppy Joe consists of ground beef sautéed with onions, garlic, and green bell peppers, then simmered in a sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce. This rich, flavorful mixture is then generously spooned onto hamburger buns, often resulting in the deliciously messy eating experience from which its name is derived. 

 

Over the years, the Sloppy Joe has seen countless variations, both in its ingredients and in its cultural adaptations. The traditional tomato-based sauce can be tweaked with the addition of Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and various spices, allowing for a range of flavors from sweet and smoky to spicy and tangy. Additionally, while ground beef is the standard protein, the Sloppy Joe is incredibly versatile, with variations including ground turkey, pork, chicken, and even lentils or beans for vegetarian versions.  

 

As many American kids, I grew up eating Sloppy Joe’s for lunch in the school cafeteria and I can even remember my mom making them for dinner. Despite it’s simplicity and lack of sophistication, the sandwich evokes nostalgia and comfort. There’s also the whole joy of eating something so unabashedly messy that makes it a beloved choice for the family dinner table.  

What You Need to Make Vegan Sloppy Joes

Olive oil:

You just need a tad to saute your onion.

Onion:

Saute your onion first and then add your beef.

Vegan Beef:

My go-to choice is Beyond Meat, but any store-bought vegan beef brand works, as does textured vegetable protein, crumbled tofu or tempeh.

Vegetarian Baked Beans:

I added baked beans to my Sloppy Joe filling to not only add more protein power, but also to add more flavor. The sweet, thick brine of the beans kicks things up a notch

BBQ Sauce:

For even more flavor, your favorite store-bought sauce gets stirred and simmered into the filling.

Hamburger Buns: 

I went with brioche when I tested this recipe (adding a little sophistication to the recipe), but any bun or roll works.

Substitutions:

Replace the vegan beef with 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils. 

How to Make Vegan Sloppy Joes

  1. Saute your onion: Heat the olive oil and cook until golden brown.
  2. Add your vegan beef: Crumble in the vegan beef and continue cooking until it’s cooked through.
  3. Add the beans: Stir in the beans and simmer.
  4. Stir in the sauce: Fold in the BBQ sauce and stir to combine. 
  5. Serve: Slice and toast the buns before piling the filling on top. 

Meal Prep & Storage Tips

Vegan Sloppy Joes are best eaten when served but the filling will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week. 

Prep the filling ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to serve. (You’ll have dinner on the table in under 10 minutes!

vegan sloppy joe on a plate on a wood cutting board next to a plate of lettuce leaves and bowls of more filling and BBQ sauce

What to Serve with Vegan Sloppy Joes

1. Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

Slice sweet potatoes in to wedges and toss with olive oil, sea salt and paprika before baking them until desired crispness.

2. Classic Coleslaw

Make it homemade by tossing a store-bought coleslaw mix with dressing of apple cider vinegar and vegan mayo, or take some help from the store and buy a kit.

3. Corn on the Cob

Simple and sweet! Grill or boil the corn and brush it with vegan butter, then sprinkle with salt and a dash of chili powder or chile lime salt for a slightly smoky flavor that pairs deliciously with the Sloppy Joes.

4. Dill Pickle Spears

It doesn’t get any easier than this and I so love a good pickle. I highly recommend Grillo’s Pickles.

5. Macaroni Salad

The classic macaroni salad is the quintessential side dish for the nostalgic Sloppy Joe.

FAQs

Can I make the Vegan Sloppy Joes gluten-free?

Yes, you can easily make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free vegan beef substitutes and gluten-free hamburger buns. Just be sure to check the labels on your ingredients, such as BBQ sauce and baked beans, to ensure they are gluten-free as well.

What can I use instead of vegan beef?

If you prefer not to use processed vegan beef, there are several whole-food alternatives. Lentils, mashed chickpeas, or crumbled tofu can make excellent substitutes. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the seasoning slightly as these options have different flavor profiles from vegan beef.

Can I prepare the filling ahead of time?

Absolutely! The filling for Vegan Sloppy Joes can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Reheat it on the stove over medium heat, adding a little water or vegetable broth if the mixture seems too thick.

Can I freeze the Sloppy Joe mixture?

Yes, the Sloppy Joe mixture freezes very well. Cool the mixture completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat on the stove, adding a little water or vegetable broth to adjust the consistency if necessary.
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sloppy joe on a plate on a wood cutting board next to bowls of barbecue sauce and more sloppy joe filling

Vegan Sloppy Joes


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  • Author: Stephanie Dreyer
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

The deliciously dependable combination of savory and sweet leaves your fingers just as messy and your taste buds just as satisfied in this vegan version of the quintessentially American Sloppy Joe that we all know and love.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 lb vegan beef (such as Beyond Meat)
  • 2 cups vegetarian baked beans
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, plus more to serve
  • 4 vegan hamburger buns, toasted

Instructions

  1. Cook your onions: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute until golden brown.
  2. Add the meat: Crumble the vegan beef into the pan and cook until browned.
  3. Stir in the beans: Mix in the baked beans and simmer to heat through.
  4. Add the BBQ sauce: Stir to combine. Taste and add more sauce as desired.
  5. Serve: Slice the hamburger buns in half and spread BBQ sauce on each slice. Top with a heaping ladle of the filling.

Notes

  • Gluten Allergy? Use gluten-free hamburger buns.
  • Spoiler Alert: Vegan Sloppy Joes are best eaten when served but the filling will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week. 
  • For non vegans: In a separate pan, make another batch of the filling but swap the vegan beef with regular ground beef.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Main Meals
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

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