We were thrilled to find a vegetarian version of this family favorite. When we were growing up, we were always excited to have sloppy joes for dinner, and every time it felt like a special treat. But what made them so appealing? Perhaps it was the tangy sauce, with a sweetness that felt indulgent and almost dessert-like. Maybe it was the silly name, or that they were just so messy and fun to eat. Whatever it was, they were so good that you couldn’t help eating more than one. Hats off to the Veganomicon for creating this tasty alternative that has the same smoky, tangy, sweet, and savory flavor as the classic recipe, but simply without the meat.
The robust flavors are exactly like the original, except this dish uses lentils instead of ground beef. It has a rich and hearty tomato sauce that is simmered with sautéed onions, green peppers, and minced garlic, and is perfectly seasoned with herbs, spices, and a spoonful of maple syrup, giving it just the right amount of sweetness. The lentils are an excellent replacement as they have a firm texture and take on the delicious flavor of the sauce. Besides being high in protein and fiber, lentils are low-fat, cholesterol-free, and full of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they cook in about 20 minutes, so this healthy and tasty dinner is easy to prepare any night of the week.
The name of this meal caught our attention as did the clever explanation, “Snobby Joe thinks he’s better than all the other Joes because he doesn’t have any meat.” Even if you are not vegan (we aren’t either), this satisfying recipe is a hearty, delicious, and ever-so-slightly-snobby take on a classic and beloved American tradition.
adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
serves 4 to 6
1 cup uncooked brown lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced finely
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chile powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
4 to 6 rolls or buns, sliced in half
In a small saucepan, combine the lentils and water. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, lower heat and simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
10 minutes before the lentils are finished cooking, place a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, onion, and pepper and cook until the onion softens, about 7 minutes. Then add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Then stir in the cooked lentils, chile powder, oregano, salt, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine, then cover pan, reduce heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the maple syrup and mustard, stir to combine, and remove pan from heat. Keep pan covered and let rest for 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. Divide filling between the buns, and serve hot.