As Meatless March continues I have come to realize that although it’s not particularly difficult for me to go vegetarian (other than when going out to eat…Montana is not full of options, especially if you also don’t feel like eating a pound of cheese), it is incredibly easy for me to end up eating all sweet potato all the time instead. In an effort to fight this predilection and expand my horizons, I did my best to find some vegetarian dishes that didn’t rely on sweet potato.
One that has actually intrigued me for awhile are sloppy joes. I really enjoy sloppy joes although it rarely occurs to me to actually make them, but in addition to being, well, sloppy, they are also not a particularly healthy meal. Several months ago I came across the idea for sloppy joes made with lentils instead of meat which greatly intrigued me. I’d never even bought lentils before but have liked many dishes that contain them, so it seemed the perfect time to try.
I adapted a recipe I found online, mostly changes to suit what was already in my pantry. After adding extra veggies, cutting the sugar, and using apple cider vinegar instead of Worcestershire sauce (which I never have), my concoction turned out delicious; not too saucy and not too sweet, which is just the way I wanted it. Conveniently, not only are these vegetarian but they are also inherently vegan which is nice if you’re cooking for a range of diets. The flavor is excellent, I love having the huge range of veggies, and texturally they are thick and hearty like a proper sloppy joe should be. I’m sure M would frown at the lack of meat, but I genuinely think they are fantastic.
Having recently seen a recipe where a burger was served in a pita rather than on a giant bun, I had the epiphany that this would be superb for sloppy joes since the filling would be so much better contained. It also results in a much more ideal (in my opinion) filling to bread ratio. In all likelihood I’ll use pitas even for regular sloppy joes in the future because it is just so much easier to eat. (I bet it’d be extra great for kids, too.) To retain the vegan-ness you’ll obviously have to find vegan pitas or flatbread or what have you, but I assume such a thing exists somewhere.
With trendy ingredients like lentils and a multitude of veggies and then neatly packaged into a pita, these started to feel less “sloppy” and more “farmers’ market”, so I’ve christened this recipe Hipster Joes in order to credit the proper genre. Feel free to keep ’em sloppy, if you prefer. I try to have something green with at least two meals per day, and these go great with roasted veggies or a salad.
Adapted from the Minimalist Baker
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained (I used green)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped finely
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup minced spinach
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
3-4 pocket pitas, halved and gently split open
- Combine broth (or water) and lentils in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a constant simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add onion, peppers, and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and golden.
- Reduce heat slightly and stir in all remaining ingredients. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot, adding the lentils once they are cooked through.
- If desired, add additional spices, salt, sugar, or vinegar to suit your tastes, allowing to simmer at least 5 minutes after any additions.
- Briefly heat pita pockets (I used the microwave) and fill with mixture. Serve hot!
1 Leftovers were great for me, just reheat lentil mixture and pitas (or burger buns) separately so the bread doesn’t get soggy.