These vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes are made in the Instant Pot with just a few simple and inexpensive ingredients. Freezer-friendly and kid-friendly, these sandwiches are the perfect healthy comfort food.
I'm excited to share this Instant Pot lentil sloppy joe recipe with you because it's a recipe that I've been making for years!
Did everyone receive sloppy joes for school lunch as a kid? I was never a fan of the original sloppy joe, so I took that as a challenge to make a vegan instant pot sloppy joes that would taste better than the real thing.
These lentil sloppy joes are the grown-up, healthier version of that long-gone cafeteria sandwich. They have all of the same flavor but are meatless and 100% vegan!
Why this recipe works
- Easy: Lentil sloppy joes require just 10 minutes of active cooking time. The rest of the cooking time is up to the Instant Pot!
- Tastes just like sloppy joes: These meatless sandwiches are tangy and packed with that classic sweet sloppy joe flavor, just without the meat.
- Budget-friendly: This recipe uses inexpensive and simple plant-based pantry staples like BBQ sauce and lentils.
- Healthy: Lentils are packed with fiber, plant-based protein, and iron, making this a satisfying and nutritious recipe.
- Dietary-features: vegan, gluten-free (just use GF BBQ sauce), soy-free, nut-free
- Lentils: Use brown lentils. Green lentils do work but will take an extra 2-3 minutes to cook. Red and orange lentils do not work for sloppy joes because they cook much more quickly and are better in recipes like lentil curry.
- Ketchup and mustard are two must-use pantry staples that contribute to the backbone of sloppy joe flavor. For this grown-up version of sloppy joes, I like to use Dijon mustard or whole seed mustard, depending on what I have on hand. Regular mustard does work if that's what you have on hand.
- Brown sugar adds a touch of sweetness that balances out acidity from the ketchup and mustard.
- BBQ sauce: I recommend using a ketchup-based sweet barbecue sauce.
- Vegetable broth: If you don't have vegetable broth, you can use water.
Step by step instructions
Time-saving tip: The onions and carrots don't have to be sauteed. Sauteing them deepens their flavor, but you can save time by skipping this step and just adding all of the sloppy joe ingredients to the Instant Pot at once.
Start by pressing the "saute" function on your Instant Pot. Once it reads "hot" add the olive oil.
Add diced onion and carrot and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Next, add the garlic and saute a minute more, until aromatic.
Add in all remaining ingredients except for the BBQ sauce. Lock the lid in place. Set the Instant Pot to high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
It will take about 10 minutes for the pressure to build up and 15 minutes for it to release naturally. All in all, it should take about 40 minutes for the pot to come to pressure, cook, then release pressure.
Unlock the lid and test a few lentils. If they are soft, stir in the BBQ sauce.
If the lentils need more time in the Instant Pot, simply return the lid and cook them on high pressure for another 2 minutes. Do a quick pressure release. Repeat as needed.
Storage and freezing
- Storage: Store leftover lentils in a closed container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: Reheat individual servings in a microwave-safe container in just about 2 minutes. Or reheat an entire recipe on the stove over medium heat, stirring until heated through.
- Freezing instructions: Let the lentil sloppy joe filling cool to room temperature before transferring to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the fridge before using or heat up in the microwave or stove for quick use.
When I was a kid I ate sloppy joes with nothing other than a burger bun, but that feels like a missed opportunity for a variety of delicious and nutritious toppings.
Here are a few topping ideas if you're craving a more balanced meal:
- Sliced onions, pickled onions, or even caramelized onions
- Romaine lettuce, spinach, or arugula
- Avocado for healthy fats
This lentil filling is also delicious on baked potatoes!
For a classic comfort food meal, enjoy sloppy joe sandwiches with a side of chips and vegan french onion dip.
Looking for more vegan Instant Pot recipes?
Looking for a stovetop version? These vegan lentil sloppy joes are the exact same recipe, just made on the stovetop instead of the Instant Pot!
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Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes
- 1 cup dry brown lentils rinsed; see note #1
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion finely diced
- ½ cup diced carrot
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce check ingredient list to make sure its vegan
- ½ teaspoon hot sauce optional
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 and ¼ cups water or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce
- 5 burger buns
- optional toppings: lettuce, white onion, pickles, avocado
- Press the "saute" function on your Instant Pot. Set to "normal" heat and set the timer for 7 minutes. Once the Instant Pot reads "hot" add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Saute diced onions and carrots for about 6 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add garlic and saute a minute more.
- Deglaze the pot with 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable broth. Stir to remove any stuck on pieces of onion or garlic from the Instant Pot.
- Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT barbecue sauce: dry lentils, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and remaining water or broth.
- Lock the lid in place and set the pressure vent to "sealing". Press the "high pressure" button and set the timer to 15 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure.
- When the timer is up, allow the pressure to release naturally. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the barbecue sauce.
- Serve on toasted burger buns with lettuce, onion, pickles and avocado. Enjoy!
- Lentils: I recommend brown lentils because they cook more quickly than green. If using green lentils you may need to add an extra 2-3 minutes. Red and orange lentils do not work for this recipe.
- If the lentils aren't as tender as you'd like after cooking for 15 minutes, cook them on high pressure for another 2 minutes. Do a quick pressure release. Repeat as needed.
- This recipe can easily be doubled. Double all ingredients, including liquid, and cook for the same amount of time.
- How to freeze: Add cooled (it should no longer be steaming) lentil sloppy joe filling to a freezer safe container (these are the kind that I use) and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the fridge before using or heat up in the microwave or stove for quick use.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared in February 2019. It was updated March 2022 with new photos and additional tips. The recipe is the same.