Veggie Sloppy Joe

Veggie Sloppy Joe

Just call me your school lunch lady today (minus the hair net, of course). I actually have a clear memory for some things from elementary school. Take for instance, the black bench. It sat in the principals office and was where kids who misbehaved were sent. You feared being sent to the black bench. However, I’m proud to say I never sat there. Really! I also remember my sweet, fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Abby, who was likely in her 60s but would play hopscotch with us on the playground. I dont remember any of the lunch ladies but I do remember my favorite lunch—the sloppy Joe. I think sloppy joe day was Fridays. I’m not sure. However, I do remember I loved them. Today the idea of a sloppy joe from a school cafeteria seems pretty unappealing, but back then it was my favorite meal. (I also loved my school’s cornbread. Go figure.)

I hadn’t eaten a sloppy joe since those days at Southwest School. And I know for sure Scarlett had never had anything like it until I found this recipe in the Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook. This vegetarian option of the classic meat belly bomb made me lust for that messy, satisfying Friday lunch meal. Or was it Thursdays?

Photo By Maya Visnyei

Veggie Sloppy Joe


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped red pepper
  • 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shaved cheddar


In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onions and peppers.

Saute until the vegetables are softened.

Add the beans, tomato sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, cumin, paprika and salt.

Simmer fro 15 minutes.

Serve on toasted whole grain bun and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

I have to admit Scarlett was a bit turned off at first by the dish. She thought it was too messy and hard to eat. Once I explained to her that the point of it was to be messy, she got really into it. It was probably a little too enthusiastic about it since the stuff was all over my banquet cushions.

Honestly, this is a great dinner as well because it comes together super fast. I also like the idea of being able to send kids to school with it for lunch. Place the hot sloppy joe mixture in a thermos and put a  sliced, multi-grain roll in a plastic sandwich bag. It can be assembled at school with some fresh, shaved cheddar. A few carrots on the side and they’ve got a warm, healthy lunch any day of the week.

This post was originally posted on December 1, 2011.

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  1. Barbara Yankoski
    December 05, 14:45 Reply

    I am skeptical to say the least but you haven’t let me down so far. Real meat Sloppy Joe’s were my favorite food when my girls were young as they loved them too. I will try this “veggie” one and get back to you. If Charlotte loves it that is a good enough recommendation for me. Cheers and keep up the good work. /barby

    • Laura Keogh
      December 06, 20:25 Reply

      Barby! I’ll eat them for the next month if you don’t like them. Please write back and let us know. Just keep in mind…it’s not beef!

  2. Shalini
    December 06, 09:51 Reply

    This looks delicious. I would like to eat it now.
    For a packed lunch, I like the idea of the thermos and a vegetarian chilli-type thing in there. My son wouldn’t be able to assemble and eat it in school, but he would be able to spoon it out of a thermos. Thanks!

    • Laura Keogh
      December 06, 20:26 Reply

      Thanks so much for writing! Yes, if your son can’t assemble, not to worry. It’s all good no matter how it goes down. Thank you for your note. Laura

  3. Amy
    January 18, 10:04 Reply

    Great recipe! Will have to try — I’ve been looking for a veg alternative to the traditional sloppy joe, and one that doesn’t contain soy. Thank you!!

  4. […] can easily find something to satisfy everyone around your table – personally, I recommend the veggie sloppy joes. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInEmailTumblrPrintRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  5. Tammy Sutherland
    September 28, 17:17 Reply

    Can I just say that my toddler LOVES this recipe! Since we’re a vegetarian family, I’m always looking for new ways to get beans into her and this recipe works every time. Sometime I sneak in a few other veggies, like zucchini or corn, and serve it over rice. Delish!

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