Foodie Friday: Sloppy Lentils (Worthy of a Fun Friday, even!)

It’s been a while since we’ve posted a Foodie Friday – and even longer since we’ve actually posted one on a Friday! 😉 It’s been a bit crazy around here. We’ve been canning some things (okay, one thing. Salsa. But ambitions are much higher than the mere one thing I’ve been limited to at this point.), and though I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see another tomato for a while, I will post pics and a recipe, hopefully next week.

For now, though… behold, the sloppy lentils. I got this recipe from Passionate Homemaking, and Lindsay was kind enough to let me share it.

Let me just preface this by saying don’t turn your nose up quite yet! These are surprisingly good. In fact… drum roll…. would you believe I served them for dinner TONIGHT?! I know, I know – it goes against every Fun Friday principle I have. Lentils? On a FRIDAY?! You can bet before it made the Fun Friday rotation, though, it was cautiously served up on a Thursday.

And it passed.

Sloppy joes are one of Chris’s favorites. (No, that’s not a joke. I was quite appalled surprised when I learned that – ground meat with a slightly sweet, tangy sauce? Cafeteria food. (No offense to those of you who, like Chris, grew up with them, but my eating of these strange concoctions was largely limited to the elementary school cafeteria. Maybe I have just been underexposed to sloppy joes, as I can probably count on one hand – make that one finger – the number of times we had sloppy joes at my house growing up. Now, I’m not saying that that’s because my dad probably would’ve been horrified at the thought of a food that so overtly advertises its uncleanliness since he might eat even pizza with a fork because that would just be wrong to advertise that to the general public, especially since I know he reads our blog (or skims it anyway)… but whatever the reason, the messy sandwiches certainly didn’t make many appearances in my neck of the woods.))

Anyway.  Where was I?  Husband who likes sloppy joes, dad who eats pizza with a fork…. Ah, yes!  Sloppy lentils!

So I came across this recipe one day a couple years ago and decided to try them.  It was really a sacrificial act more than anything else – I figured Chris would love them and I would tolerate them but feel like a really cool wife for making a healthier, cheaper, meat free version of his beloved sloppy joes.  (Now I realize that those qualifications would NOT make some wives cooler in the eyes of their husbands, but those husbands probably don’t typically choose a salad over a steak, either.)  We would sit around the dinner table and reminisce about his childhood laden with messy sandwiches while cracking jokes about finger foods and forks (Just kidding, Dad!  ;))….

Only a strange thing happened.  I discovered I actually LIKE them.  The first time I made them I (mostly) followed the recipe to a tea since I really had no idea what sloppy joes were supposed to take like and I didn’t want to take any chances.  I even put the cheese on them that the original recipe calls for.  (We don’t now, however – I actually find it unnecessary (and that’s saying a lot that I would find cheese unnecessary in any context, so really, ditch the cheese and save it for some crackers or a nice, neat ham and cheese sandwich.  Or nibble it while you’re making the sloppy lentils.).  Serve the lentils on some whole grain bread, and you have a complete protein, anyway (more on that magical mixing of foods to make complete proteins another day.  Hopefully the suspense won’t be too much for you.))

The recipe is quite easy to make in large batches, too.  I cook the lentils in a pressure cooker, and it works great, but even without a pressure cooker, it’s still a relatively quick and easy recipe to make.

I made this for some friends one day, and their teenage daughter said she actually likes it better than the meat version.  Her mom now freezes small portions of it for their family to take for lunches.  It’s even taken the mission community here by storm, too (Well, “by storm” in that we know approximately 6 people who really loved it and cook it frequently.  But I feel a Sloppy Lentil Revolution coming on.  And it will not be televised.  (Note that it may be only hippies, English majors and 10th grade students who paid attention when I was subbing at Hillcrest who will get that reference (So in other words hippies and English majors  :/ ), and I’m okay with that.))

Anyway, enough chatter.  That was a really long intro for a recipe when all I really meant to say was, “These are good.  You should try them.”

And do try them.

Oh, and I eat this sandwich with a fork.  I can’t help it.  It’s in my blood.

Sloppy Lentils
Original recipe from Passionate Homemaking

3 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed  (Brown or green would probably work best.  Red tends to cook pretty quickly and become mush.)
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
15 oz can diced tomatoes*
1/2-1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste  (170-ish grams for those in Nigeria – though I rarely use that much, even when I increase the recipe.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard powder**
1 tablespoon chili powder***  (Gist of the asterisk: Don’t use the full tablespoon before tasting!  I would even start with a teaspoon.  And probably end with a teaspoon.)
3-5 tablespoons rapadura, molasses, or honey
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper to taste (We rarely use salt in cooking and don’t find this recipe really screams for it.)
4 hamburger buns


Lindsay suggests, for added health benefits, soaking the lentils overnight in warm filtered water with 2 Tbsp acid medium, then rinsing and cooking as described below.  I won’t pretend to know the benefits – or to remember well enough in advance to accomplish said task – but feel free to peruse her blog for more info.

Combine water and lentils in a saucepan; season to taste with salt if desired. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook onions with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the onions have softened and turned translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses/sweetener, vinegar, salt and pepper; simmer 5 to 10 minutes until thickened.

Drain lentils and reserve cooking liquid. Stir lentils into sauce mixture, adding cooking liquid or water as needed to obtain the desired “sloppy joe” consistency. Serve on buns.  (Note: Hot dog buns also work well for sloppy lentils (and joes) and often seem easier to handle.  You know, for those of you who insist on eating them with your hands.   Someone also suggested that maybe thinning it out a little more and serving it over cornbread would be quite good, too.)

*I use fresh tomatoes, though tonight for the first time ever I cracked open a jar of my very own canned tomatoes.  I felt so triumphant!  Except for the part where the only reason I did is because I was completely unprepared and didn’t check to see if we had the ingredients for the recipe and tomatoes are in season right now and REALLY cheap and I should’ve saved the jar for when “fresh” tomatoes are really not but rather are gross and expensive and…. Whew.

**I just squeeze in some mustard.  Maybe because the mustard powder I got at a missionary sale was so old that it could no longer be considered a powder but rather was a large, yellow(ish), solid lump.  (At least it was free.)

*** I would suggest using less chili powder, at least to start, then tasting to see your preference.  Maybe the chili powder in Nigeria is spicier than what I’m used to, but when I quadrupled the recipe and also quadrupled the chili powder, bad things happened.  Like eyes watering (from heat and tears because people were coming for dinner in an hour), cooked more lentils to reduce the heat, added other ingredients and still wasn’t sure of the taste because all my taste buds were scorched bad things.

Tonight’s Fun Friday meal also featured some yummy garlicky baked fries, KFC-ish coleslaw (recipe for that coming one day, too) and also-in-season sweet corn on the cob (Okay, fine, one cob for all three of us because I was too late getting to the farmer and it was long gone.  But while we didn’t experience a multiplying of the cob, we DID get an excellent hands-on lesson in sharing.).  You could try over rice, too, or in a tortilla instead of on a bun.  A lot of different ways you could eat these!

…But however you eat them – and whether with a fork or your hands – hope you enjoy them!

p.s.  Lindsay also has a crockpot version of the recipe, which we haven’t tried and can’t vouch for, here for all you electricity people.  Not that my not vouching for anything would be a deal breaker for anyone, I’m sure.


3 thoughts on “Foodie Friday: Sloppy Lentils (Worthy of a Fun Friday, even!)

  1. Can’t wait to try this Christie. I’ve never made sloppy joes from scratch. When Christopher was in high school, Cindy Place (Amy’s Mom) would have kid’s over for sloppy joes and they would always rave about them. I asked her one time what her secret was. Her response – “I find the cheapest Manwich-type sloppy joe sauce in a can, add cooked hamburger, and throw it on bun”. Nothing special really, I think it was more the fellowship.

  2. I remember you telling me that about the sloppy joes! 🙂 Quite funny.

    …And don’t worry – you’ll try them soon! It’s on the menu (well, the mental menu) to make when you guys are here. 🙂 Can’t wait for you to come! Judah is SO excited. He heard a plane the other day and said, “That Grandma Plane’s plane!” I told him not QUITE yet….. 😉 (Then he said, “Gamma Boo Boo’s plane!”)

  3. Pingback: Foodie Friday: To Market, To Market To Buy a Fat Pig « Those Winklers

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