For one year, in grade seven, my school decided to raise money by having “Hot Lunch Wednesdays”. Instead of bringing our lunches on Wednesdays, if our parents paid into the system, we’d get a hot lunch prepared and served by Nick, our school custodian. Trust me, the lunches were better than you might think. Nick was beloved in our school and the lunches were highly sought after. My favourites were the beef pies with gravy and the sloppy joes – two things that weren’t in my mom’s repertoire. My mom made beef pies on occasion, but they were filled with rutabaga and other vegetables along with beef. Nick the Custodian’s pies were sized individually, came inverted and covered in gravy. They were, I later realized, from the supermarket’s frozen section and unlike my mom’s pies, there was not a vegetable in sight. My grade seven self cheered loudly. But it was the sloppy joes that made the biggest hot lunch impact. The combination of the beefy chili hitting the hamburger bun was a match made in heaven for my tender tastebuds. The hamburger bun was transformed from a bun to a wet delicious sponge (I know, it doesn’t sound that good to me either). When I got home, I begged my mom to pour a ladle of her homemade Bolognese sauce over some sandwich bread so I could replicate a sloppy joe at home. It was true comfort food.
I first had lentil sloppy joes at a local brew pub and was gobsmacked that I had never heard of such a thing. It was tasty, healthy and paired well with a beer. Not too shabby. I remember bookmarking the Snobby Joes recipe from Veganomicon, but never following through. Until today. But this recipe isn’t the same one from that cookbook. Instead of cooking the lentils separately, I cooked them like I would in a stew hoping to get a smoky flavourful dish. I also wanted to use up an apple that had been sitting in my crisper since December. Not so great for snacking on, but oh so good for cooking. I was well rewarded. This dish is simple and hearty and gives me all those good kind of feelings that I had back in grade seven.
apple-lentil slappy joes
This dish is straightforward and simple, but you should check on it once in a while as it simmers away on the stove. You don’t want the mixture to get too dry, so be sure to add in additional liquid to keep the mixture stew-y. Please note, you do not need to use red lentils. I only had 1/2 a cup of green and decided to add the red later (since they are faster cooking) in the recipe for bulk, but I did like the texture that both kinds of lentils gave this dish. If you want to make things even better, add a slice of cheese to each bun before toasting under the broiler – yum!
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 large red pepper, finely diced
1 apple, cored & finely diced
1/2 c small green lentils, picked over & rinsed
1 c red wine (or white wine/stock/beer/apple juice)
2 c water
1 c marinara sauce
1/4 c ketchup
1 T dijon mustard
1 T brown sugar or maple syrup
1 t chili powder
1 t smoked paprika
a big squeeze (or a little squeeze) of sriracha
1/2 c red lentils
salt + pepper
4 whole wheat burger buns, split and toasted under the broiler (dish is only gluten-free if you use gf buns)
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and when the oil is hot, add in the onion, celery, carrot, red pepper and apple. Let everything get shiny and wilty for a few minutes and then add in the green lentils, along with the red wine, water, marinara sauce, ketchup, sugar, dijon, sriracha and spices. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add in the red lentils and add in a bit more water or liquid of your choosing if needed. Simmer on low heat for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender, adding more liquid if mixture becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasoning. Serve open-face over toasted buns.
You read my mind. I was craving something with apples and lentils just the other day- and I only have green ones. I’m new to liking lentils, so I’m excited to try this!
Sloppy joes are a ubiquitous childhood favorite, I think! There something about the messiness factor combined with the deliciousness. Must try this veg version!
What a great combination, I bet it’s delicious, will have to try.
No offense to vegans, but I might have to try this with bacon added … 😉
These look great! I very rarely had lunch at school and I felt the same way when I was able to! I like that you cooked the lentils like a stew instead of cooking them separately. Easy and I’m sure it helps infuse great flavor. Thanks for sharing!
I haven’t even thought about sloppy joes in…I have no idea how long. Maybe since actual high school? But now that I’ve seen this, I think I’m going to have to make up a batch very soon indeed. Perfect for the rainy days we’ve been having!
Wow, how specific, Lydia 🙂 I hope you enjoy this one! I also have a few other lentil-apple recipes on my blog if you’re up to searching.
Nicole, hot lunches were so much more preferable to cold peanut butter sandwiches 🙂
Eileen, I know, it’s a throw back to an earlier time. Hope you enjoy this updated version.
Looks great! Might I ask where you got those ww buns? They look like a brand that Drive Organics used to carry, but don’t anymore 🙁
Viktoria, I got them at Whole Foods – I know, it’s so difficult finding ww hamburger buns on the drive lately. Uprising seems to have stopped making them. I can’t remember the brand, but it was BC-based.
I have to agree with Sara…some bacon on this would be divine! Great looking recipe.
I’ve never tried cooking apples with lentils but it sounds mighty good. A very tasty looking hot lunch.
Looks so hearty and perfect for cold days 🙂
Ooh lentils in sloppy joe form..sign me up!
I made this and enjoyed it, but I wanted a somewhat more tomato-y flavor. So I added more ketchup, wine, and a big shot of Worcestershire sauce; this give it a beefier mouth feel. Unfortunately, my ancient green lentils never softened, but the dish was an overall solid meal.
I’m not vegan and I don’t take offense to bacon, but adding bacon to a vegan meal is like adding shredded cheddar to a salad, it sort of misses the point.
Oh, and consider moving “2 c water” to a separate line. My eye stopped at “wine” and I had a hard time finding that ingredient.
Jennifer, I’m not one of those bacon gimme-gimme types 🙂 But go right ahead, I’m sure it would be wonderful! Thanks 🙂
Elizabeth, it’s a good pairing, give it a try!
Thanks Lucy & Tiffany!
RobertF, you know my plan was to add worcestershire but I totally forgot! Glad it worked out well. If I had a can of tomatoes on hand, those would have been added in. I have to disagree about adding cheese to salad – LOVE it 🙂 Edited recipe, thanks!!
Loved reading your childhood story about lunches at school. Could a nostalgic food memoir be around the corner? 😉 Lots of memories on my end too for Sloppy Joes. My mom didn’t make them but I would just take her standard Greek meat sauce that she made for spaghetti and I’d ladle it onto a hamburger bun. It’s been ages since I’ve eaten a Sloppy Joe. I don’t think I could stop at one though, and that might become a problem lol.
I’ve made this three times now, and it is the perfect easy thing to bring to work for lunch or dinner on the run. I got super lazy and substituted a half a jar of BBQ sauce for the ketchup/marinara/etc one day (kept the sriracha!) and had half the department looking over my shoulder while I ate. Heartfelt thanks for sharing this!!!
Joanne, ha, I don’t think so, but you never know 🙂 These are a good version and you could make them with other kinds of beans if lentils are bothersome.
Lisa, so glad you are loving this meal! Yay, I’m thrilled that it’s become a go-to dish 🙂
I was surprised to see I had written the first comment on this post. It only took me 10 months to make this! We had it tonight on brown rice instead of buns. I liked it a lot. Baby-friendly if you chop the vegetables fine enough, and pretty easy. I even had time to make granola bars while it simmered. Thanks!