Instant Pot Lentils Are The Perfect Vegetarian Swap For Sloppy Joes

If you grew up eating sloppy Joes like many of us, then you probably can't imagine one without ground beef. It has been a staple ingredient for the loose meat sandwich for decades, after all. However, considering the rising costs of beef and the increasing popularity of eating a meat-free diet, it's a good idea to have a backup. Enter lentils, an unlikely ingredient that's ideal for vegan-friendly sloppy Joes, including in our Instant Pot lentil sloppy Joes recipe from Tasting Table recipe developer Miriam Hahn.

Hahn uses brown lentils which stay firm when cooked, with a lovely creamy interior, a little reminiscent of slow-cooked ground beef. Green and red lentils will also work, but you'll have to adjust your cooking method and time. Another benefit of lentils is that they're quick to absorb other flavors, similar to grains like rice, so the legumes will have the essence of the rich tomato sauce found in traditional sloppy Joes. Lentils are also packed with protein, making up for the lack of meat. And if you need further convincing, this ingredient swap is more cost-effective than the meat version — and we could all probably use a little financial relief at the grocery store these days.

Use an Instant Pot for easy vegetarian sloppy Joes

Our recipe calls to use an Instant Pot which makes this recipe easier and quicker, according to Hahn. The saute setting is used first for the onion, garlic, peppers, and carrots, which are then combined and cooked on a high-pressure setting with the dried brown lentils and the sauce. For that rich sauce, Hahn uses a combination of broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, soy sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, and spices. If you want to get this meal on the table even faster, turn to one of those packaged or canned sloppy Joe sauces available at the grocery store to combine with the lentils and aromatics. Prefer a kick of heat? Add pickled jalapeños, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, or a squirt of hot sauce to the base.

These lentil sloppy Joes will be flavorful enough to eat on their own piled high on a hamburger bun if you want to keep it simple. For contrasting texture, add coleslaw and pickles like Hahn suggests in our recipe. If you prefer cheesy Sloppy Joes, sprinkle shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top of the lentils if you aren't concerned about keeping it vegan-friendly. And you can always get more creative with toppings like sliced avocado, tomato, bacon, or your favorite potato chips for crunch to contrast with the rich and creamy lentils.