“Plus? What is this ‘plus’ business?” … I can hear it now. Well, the “plus” is LENTILS! *crowd cheers* Yes, these easy Homemade Sloppy Joes Plus have lentils for added fiber and to bulk them up a bit without bulking up the price.
I know, the idea of adding lentils to Sloppy Joes is going to make some of you squirm, but if you want regular old Manwich-style American Sloppy Joes, just make the recipe as directed below and skip adding the lentils in the last step. Without the lentils this is a very good, classic homemade 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 and give lentils a shot.
What Are Sloppy Joes?
If you’re not familiar with this American classic, it’s a loose meat sandwich with a sauce that is kind of like a cross between BBQ sauce and chili. It is tomato based, tangy, sweet, and full of spices. They’re super fast to make and are quite freezer friendly! So if you make a batch of the filling, you can portion it out and freeze it for later.
Can I Freeze Sloppy Joes?
Yes! The Sloppy Joe mixture freezes beautifully. Just cool the saucy beef and bean mixture completely in the refrigerator first, then transfer to a zip top freezer bag or other freezer safe container before transferring to the freezer. Keep the frozen Sloppy Joe mixture for about 3 months. To thaw, simply transfer to the refrigerator the day before, then reheat over medium-low, stirring often, until heated through.
What to Serve with Sloppy Joes
This is a classic American meal, so I’m going to suggest serving the sloppy Joes with another classic, French Fries, but homemade, like these Thick Cut Garlic Parmesan Oven Fries. I think the flavors of the Sloppy Joe sauce also go great with sweet potatoes, so you could try something like Chili Roasted Sweet Potatoes.
Other Sneaky Legumes to Try
If you’re not into lentils, you can try stirring in a drained can of red beans, kidney beans, or even pinto beans to your Sloppy Joes Plus. You’ll still be getting a ton of extra nutrition for very little extra cost. Plus, beans are a natural with the chili/bbq flavor of the sloppy joe sauce.
Not into beans? Try our classic Homemade Sloppy Joes recipe.
Sloppy Joes Plus
- 3/4 cup dry brown lentils ($0.34)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.13)
- 1 clove garlic ($0.08)
- 1 Vidalia onion ($0.53)
- 1 green bell pepper ($0.50)
- 1 lb. lean ground beef ($4.57)
- 1 15oz. can tomato sauce ($0.69)
- 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.29)
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ($0.09)
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.12)
- 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (optional) ($0.04)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1/2 tsp chili powder ($0.05)
- 8 hamburger buns ($2.29)
- Before cooking the lentils, sort through them to remove any stones or debris. Bring a large sauce pot of water to a boil over high heat, 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. The lentils can be simmering while you make the rest of the sloppy joes.
- Mince the garlic and finely dice the onion. Add both to a large skillet along with the olive oil and sauté over medium heat until they begin to soften (3-5 minutes).
- While the onion and garlic are cooking, finely dice the bell pepper. Add the diced bell pepper to the skillet and sauté a few minutes more.
- Add the ground beef and continue to cook until the beef is fully browned (about 5-7 minutes).
- Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, cider vinegar, brown sugar, dijon, chili powder, and salt. Stir well and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your liking.
- Stir in the cooked lentils and heat through. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed. Serve warm on a bun!
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Sloppy Joes – Step By Step Photos
Lentils 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 3/4 cup brown lentils to remove stones or debris. The easiest way to do this is to spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet so they can all be seen. Pick out any stones or other particles.
Bring a large sauce pot full of water to a boil over high heat, then add the sorted lentils. Turn the heat down to low, replace the lid, and let them simmer for 20 minutes (you can begin preparing the rest of the sloppy joes while the lentils simmer). After 20 minutes test a few lentils for doneness. They should be tender, but firm enough to hold together. Drain the lentils in a colander and set them aside until you’re ready to add them to the sloppy joes.
Mince one clove of garlic and finely dice one sweet onion (like vidalia). Add the onion and garlic to a large skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil and sauté over medium heat until they begin to soften (3-5 minutes).
While the onion and garlic are cooking, finely dice one green bell pepper. Add the diced pepper to the skillet and sauté a few minutes more, or just until it begins to soften (it will continue cooking as we add the rest of the ingredients).
Add 1 lb. lean ground beef and continue to sauté until it is fully browned (5-7 min.). 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 off the fat.
Once the beef is browned, add a 15oz. can of tomato sauce, 3oz. tomato paste (half of a 6oz. can, or about 4 Tbsp), 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp chili powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. This chili powder is a mild spice blend, not hot red cayenne pepper.
I always get a lot of questions from my non-American readers about what “tomato sauce” is, so here is a photo of the can. It’s basically tomato purée that has a small amount of salt and seasoning. It is not the same as spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce. It’s very, very lightly seasoned puréed tomato.
Stir the ingredients in the skillet together and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened to your liking. If you want plain beef sloppy joes, stop here and serve this mixture in a bun.
OR, add those cooked lentils, stir, and heat through. It’s always a good idea to taste again after adding the lentils and adjust the salt if needed.
This makes a pretty big batch (about 8 cups), so I am freezing half of my Sloppy Joes Plus! Make sure you cool the mixture completely before transferring to the freezer (and don’t put the hot mixture straight into a Ziploc bag or it could melt).
And that’s it! Sloppy Joes PLUS made in no time at all. Totally tasty and satisfying! :D