Introduction: Vegan Sloppy Joes (Made With Pantry Stables)

At this point in time, it's getting harder and harder to find meat in grocery stores, so I decided to use a substitute in this sloppy joe recipe: lentils!

Lentils are a shelf-stable source of protein, and they basically last forever in the pantry. I had a jar of green lentils sitting in the back of my cupboard that needed to be used up, and so I whipped up a meal with only things I had in the house!

(I didn't have any sandwich buns in the house, so don't sue me because I used plain-ol' bread. Desperate times call for desperate measures!)

This sloppy joe filling can be used for more than sandwiches, so stick around until the end to find out!

This makes a great meal for any vegans or vegetarians you know, and meat-eaters will still enjoy it as well.

The filling itself if gluten-free, dairy-free, high-protein, high-fiber, and highly delicious!

Step 1: Ingredients

1 cup dry green or brown lentils (makes 3 cups cooked. You could sub 3 cups of other cooked beans, such as black beans, white beans, or chickpeas. 2 cans of beans = 3 cups cooked)

2 cups of water

1 bay leaf

2 tsp olive oil (or other sauteeing oil)

1/2 an onion

3 cloves of garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)

1 Tbsp tomato paste (optional, but good to have)

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup of salsa (can be substituted with ketchup, pasta sauce, condensed tomato soup, crushed canned tomatoes, or 1/2 cup tomato paste and 1/2 cup water mixed together)

1/3 cup of water

2 Tbsp soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos)

1 Tbsp maple syrup (can be substituted with brown sugar, coconut sugar, white sugar, or honey)

1 tsp Dijon or yellow mustard (or 1/4 tsp of dry mustard)

Salt to taste (up to 1 tsp, but taste first. I didn't add any additional salt to mine since my salsa was salty enough)

Step 2: Rinse and Clean the Lentils

Put the lentils in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse under cold water until well-cleaned.

Pick out any shriveled lentils and any rocks or other bits that you wouldn't want to eat.

There's no need to dry the lentils after rinsing since you'll be getting them wet again in a minute.

Step 3: Plop Lentils in a Pot and Add Bay Leaf and Water

Dump the lentils in a medium saucepan. Add in 1 bay leaf (if you don't have one, that's ok. It will still taste good!). Add 2 cups water to the pot and heat on medium heat until it comes to a rapid simmer.

Step 4: Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Once it reaches a rapid simmer (almost boiling, with some movement and bubbles), turn the heat down to low and gently simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until mostly tender. Don't overcook them, since you'll be cooking them some more in the sauce later on. No one likes mushy lentils!

After they're cooked to your liking, drain off any extra water that hasn't been absorbed, and set the lentils to the side.

Step 5: Chop the Aromatics

Dice the 1/2 of an onion into small bits. Mince the 3 cloves of garlic with either a garlic press or by patiently mincing really tiny with a sharp knife. If you're using garlic powder you don't have to worry about that (yay!).

Step 6: Saute the Onion and Garlic

Heat a large skillet on medium heat, add the 2 tsp olive oil (or other oil of choice), then add in the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until browned and softened. Add in the minced garlic and cook for only 30 seconds (garlic burns fast, to keep an eye on it).

Life hack! If your onions are browning too quickly and are starting to burn, throw 1 ice cube into the pan, and that should stop them from burning. I have used this trick many times, and it's saved some recipes from "the curse of the black onions"!

Step 7: Dump in Lentils and Tomato Paste

Add the cooked lentils to the pan, stir, then add in the 1 Tbsp tomato paste (if using) and stir.

Step 8: Spices and Sauces

Throw in the spices (1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes).

Add in the liquids (1 cup salsa*, 1/3 cup of water, 1 Tbsp maple syrup**, 1 tsp mustard, and 2 Tbsp soy sauce).

Stir well to combine.

(*or other tomato sauce of choice, **or other sweeteners of choice)

Step 9: Simmer Until It's Nice and Thick

Turn the heat down to low and cook for 5-15 minutes, or until it's as thick as you like it (longer simmer = thicker mixture).

I like mine thick enough so that a spoon can leave a trail in it when scraping the bottom of the pan.

Step 10: Serve It How You Like It!

There's a number of ways that you can use this sloppy joe filling.

You can do the standard method of filling a sandwich (sloppy joe wich!)

Or top a baked potato with it (sloppy po-ta-to!)

You could even use it as a chip dip (sloppy nachos, anyone?)

Now that I think of it, this lentil filling could be served as a stew, used as a topping for hot dogs (like a chili-dog), a burger topping, a taco filling, or used as part of a seven-layer, who knew such a versatile meal could come from just things sitting in your pantry!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this power-pulse meal you've cooked up in about 30 minutes!

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