Sloppy Joes Plus

$10.97 recipe / $1.37 serving

“Plus? What is this “plus” business?” … I can hear it now. Well, the “plus” is LENTILS! *crowd cheers* Yes, I added lentils to my sloppy joes for added fiber and to bulk it up a bit without bulking up the price.

I know, the idea of adding lentils to sloppy joes is going to frighten some of you to death… If you want regular old, American sloppy joes, just make the recipe as directed but skip adding the lentils in the last step. Without the lentils this is a very good, classic sloppy joe recipe. …but I gotta tell ya, it’s yummy with lentils. They add a nice texture and almost disappear visually (see photos below). Live on the edge, give lentils a shot.

If you don’t want to do lentils, you could try stirring in a can of red beans, kidney beans, or even pinto beans.

BTW, this recipe is super quick and easy so it’s a real winner for beginners!

Sloppy Joes Plus

sloppy joe's plus

4.8 from 11 reviews
Sloppy Joes Plus
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $10.97
Cost Per Serving: $1.37
Serves: 8
  • ¾ cup dry brown lentils $0.23
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.11
  • 1 medium vidalia (or sweet) onion $0.69
  • 1 medium green bell pepper $0.78
  • 1 tsp minced garlic $0.12
  • 1 lb. extra lean ground beef (93/7) $4.98
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce $0.88
  • 3 oz. tomato paste $0.26
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar $0.18
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar $0.12
  • ½ Tbsp dijon mustard (optional) $0.04
  • ½ tsp salt $0.03
  • ½ tsp chili powder $0.07
  • 8 medium whole wheat buns $2.48
  1. (the lentils): If you are using lentils, begin cooking them first. Sort through ¾ cup of dry brown lentils to remove any stones or debris. Give them a rinse under cool water. Bring 1.5 cups of water up to a boil and then add the lentils. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Test the lentils to make sure they are tender and then drain in a colander. Set the cooked lentils aside until you are ready to add them to the sloppy joes. These can be simmering while you make the rest of the sloppy joes.
  2. Chop the onion into small pieces and add it to a large skillet along with the olive oil and minced garlic. Cook over medium heat.
  3. While the onion and garlic are cooking, cut the bell pepper into small pieces and add it to the skillet as well. Cook until all of the vegetables are soft and transparent (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add the ground beef and continue to cook until no red remains (about 7-10 minutes).
  5. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, cider vinegar, brown sugar, dijon, chili powder, and salt. Stir well and heat through (about 5 minutes).
  6. Stir in the cooked lentils and heat through if needed (5 minutes). Serve warm on a whole wheat bun!


sloppy joes plus

Step By Step Photos

cook lentilsLentils cook really fast and require no presoaking. You can have them simmering while you make the rest of the sloppy joes. Begin by sorting through the lentils (to remove stones and debris) and giving them a quick rinse. Bring 1.5 cups of water up to a rolling boil and then add the lentils.

cook lentilsAfter adding the lentils to the boiling water, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes it should look like this. Give them a taste to make sure they are tender. You want them to still have some “tooth” so that they don’t fall apart into mush when stirred into the sloppy joes.

drain lentilsDrain the lentils in a colander and set them aside until you’re ready to add them to the sloppy joes. If you have them simmering while you make the sloppy joes, they’ll probably be done cooking right about the time you’re ready to add them in.

onion garlicChop the onion into a small dice and add it to a large skillet along with the minced garlic and olive oil. Cook over medium heat.

chop bell pepperWhile the onion and garlic are cooking, cut the bell pepper into a small dice. Add it to the skillet and continue cooking.

soft veggiesContinue cooking until both the onion and bell pepper are soft and transparent (about 5 minutes after adding the bell pepper).

ground beefAdd the ground beef and continue cooking until there is no red left. I used extra lean ground beef (93/7) so there was no need to drain off any fat. If you’re using a fattier beef, you may want to drain the fat off.

tomatoAdd the can of tomato sauce and the tomato paste. 3 oz. is half of one of those little cans of tomato paste. The other half can be frozen and used later. I used frozen tomato paste here.

season sloppy joesAlso add the cider vinegar, brown sugar, dijon, chili powder, and salt. Stir until everything is well combined and then continue to cook until everything is warmed. If you are not using lentils, it is ready to serve at this point!

add lentilsIf you ARE using lentils, stir them in and warm everything through. You can barely even see them in there! Sneaky fiber!

serve sloppy joes plusServe warm on buns or in a pita.


  1. Karen says:

    Do you think I could use just lentils or lentils and red beans in this recipe to make it vegetarian?

    • Definitely. Or maybe even a mix of kidney and black beans.

      • Jessica says:

        I made this using red beans, black beans, and lentils. It was amazing. I used the leftovers to make sloppy joe ravioli with some leftover wonton skins I needed to use up.

  2. Miriam says:

    I love your website and have your book. I’m going to try this recipe. But could you do me a favor and lose the apostrophe on the title of this recipe? Plus doesn’t belong to Joe. They are Sloppy Joes Plus.

    Thanks, and sorry if I seem retentive!

    • Hahah, no, I’m glad you mentioned that. I saw that when I put the link in that recent recipe and thought that it wasn’t right… I’ll just go do that now and we can just forget it was ever there. ;)

  3. ANGELA says:

    Not terrible. I loved the idea of stretching the meat with the lentils. I followed the recipe exactly and we felt that it has an overwhelming apple cider vinegar flavor. 3 TBS seems WAY too much. I think I would reduce this at least by half next time and maybe add an extra TBS brown sugar. It didn’t remind me of sloppy joe flavors I was used too, which are a tad sweet/tangy.

  4. Danie says:

    I have some ideas on the subject, but I wanted to pick your brain to see how you would suggest (if at all) adapting this recipe to a crock pot. Thanks Beth!

    • Hmm, well, I think you’re always supposed to cook ground beef before adding it to a slow cooker, so you’d have to cook that separately. I think you’d have to cook the lentils separately, too, because you always have to drain off the excess water… So after cooking both separately, it probably wouldn’t be worth it to use the slow cooker. You can finish it up quickly in a skillet.

  5. Brittney says:

    I made these for dinner the other night and thought they were “meh,” not bad but not that great. Then, something magical happened in the fridge overnight, because they were so much better and flavorful the next day. Maybe I didn’t let the ingredients simmer together long enough. Either way, I’m super excited to thaw out the other half for dinner next week.

  6. caro says:

    I do that recipe once in a while for at least the last two years. I also add carrots and another pepper to the recipe just to increase my vegetable income and to stretch the meal a little bit. :)

  7. Abby May says:

    We couldn’t help ourselves and so we went back for seconds!

    Another recipe to add to our rotation. Thanks!!

  8. Catarina says:

    so yummy….cant wait to eat my leftovers

  9. I LOVE this recipe so much. I’ve made it at least 5 times. Tonight I modified it by adding a cup of lentils, extra bell peppers, some zucchini and carrot, and extra tomato paste. I’m going to freeze half of it because it made a ton!

  10. Anoki says:

    I made this using TVP(Textured Vegetable Protein) instead of ground meat and it was FANTASTIC!!!

  11. Jenn says:

    Fantastic! My boys are very much “meat and potatoe” kinda guys, so I was hesitate to include the lentils. After some weird looks, they all tried the sloppy joes and LOVED them!!! The fact that I was able to feed my family of 6 (4 teenage boys) for under $10 is an awesome bonus! This recipe is a definite keeper! Thank you

    • Dana H says:

      It’s getting pretty hot in Michigan (hey folks, after this past winter I’m still saying “well, it didn’t snow today!”) I saw this recipe and cooked it up last night so I don’t need to heat up the house today. I’ll warm it up for our supper tonight & looking forward to seeing how it flies for our family too. Thanks Beth!

  12. Sara says:

    I just made these and they are awesome! I forgot to buy lentils, so I made them without. Delicious!

  13. Jess says:

    I made this last night — it was so good! It really hit the spot. I’m always a little nervous about lentils because, while in theory I like them, sometimes their flavor is just…eh. But the sauce was so good they really just added bulk and fiber. I did eat this while wearing an apron, though… :) I will definitely be making this again. I think kids would really enjoy it (though I don’t have any, so take that with a grain of salt). The little bit of sweetness from the brown sugar and then the vinegar really made it.

  14. Shannon says:

    So so very good! I couldn’t stop saying how tasty it was between bites.

  15. daisy says:

    Hey there! I was wanting to make this tonight for dinner but I don’t have any lentils. I do have a can of red beans though. How long should I cook those in a separate pot and when should I stir them in? I want the beans to be tender! I’ll wing it if I don’t hear back! ;)

    • Ooh, red beans would be awesome in this. Canned red beans are already cooked, so you really just need to heat them up. Just add them to the meat and sauce and let it heat through. No need to cook in a separate pot. If you want them super tender, just let them simmer a little longer in the sauce.

  16. nicole says:

    We don’t use brown sugar. Do you think I could use honey instead and keep the flavor the same? Would it be a 1:1 swap? Thanks

    • Yes, you can definitely use honey, although I think honey is a bit sweeter than brown sugar. I don’t have an exact ratio, so I would start with half of the amount, taste it, then add more if you think it needs it. :)

  17. Katie says:

    Love this recipe! I’ve made it several times. Much better than sloppy joes from a can!

  18. Yet another winner! I cannot wait to have my leftovers at lunch.

  19. Lindsay – Definitely use the green as red lentils disintegrate into mush when they’re cooked. Just be aware that some green lentils can take up to 45 minutes to soften when simmered (as opposed to the brown lentils used here that only took 20 min). I would just take a fork and test them for tenderness at 20 minutes and then again every ten minutes or so there after.

  20. Hi Beth,

    I only have red and green lentils. Which do you think would work better for this dish?

  21. Anon – No, it wouldn’t be a sin! Use what works for you, always :)

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