Sloppy Joes

by Laurel on April 20, 2012

Sloppy joes are one of those fun comfort foods we all had as a kid. I loved them growing up because they were messy. My other favorite messy food was BBQ chicken with tons of sauce on top. My eating habits have certainly changed over the years, but I can usually find a way to make a healthier version of any food I used to love. I have to give my boyfriend props for thinking of sloppy joes as my next recipe challenge. These sandwiches are known for being a greasy, fatty mess!

After a bit of Google searching for vegetarian versions and picking out my favorite ingredients from those recipes, I made up my own. This version is comforting and sloppy, but not greasy. Tempeh takes the place of ground beef, and when you crumble it up, it looks just like cooked ground turkey. If you’ve never tried it, you should give it a shot. It’s fermented soy (like tofu) but has a nutty, meaty texture that makes it special. It’s also a great source of protein! As for all the flavor in sloppy joes, I loaded this recipe with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. Hope you enjoy it!

Sloppy Joes (Vegan)
(makes about 6-8 sandwiches)

Sloppy Joe (vegan)
6-8 whole-grain or sprouted grain hamburger buns
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 8-oz. packages plain tempeh (16 oz. total)
1 yellow onion (medium-large)
1 green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup organic ketchup
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp. yellow mustard
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Chop up the onion, bell pepper, and garlic (small dice) and toss them in a big soup pot with the olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the vegetables soften, stirring frequently. Open up the packages of tempeh and crumble it with your hands right into the soup pot (it will look very similar to ground turkey). Stir and continue to cook for a few minutes until the tempeh turns golden brown.

Stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, mustard, Worcestershire, maple syrup, hot sauce, cumin, paprika, oregano, celery seed, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Serve warm on toasted whole grain buns with a side salad or a green vegetable.

Tip 1: If you’re serving this recipe to children, you may want to reduce or cut out the hot sauce so it won’t be too spicy for them. I actually think this dish is very mild, but you can judge for yourself and always add more spice later.

Tip 2: To save calories, try spreading the sloppy joes on only one half of a burger bun, then eat it open face with a knife and fork (see pictures below).


8-ounce package of tempeh

Crumbled tempeh, onions, garlic, and peppers

Crumbled tempeh, onions, garlic, and peppers (base of the sloppy joe)

Leftover sloppy joe on top of sweet pickles

Leftover sloppy joe on top of sweet pickles

Sloppy Joe (vegan)
Sloppy Joe (vegan)

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