Grab a napkin, because things are about to get messy! These Vegan Sloppy Joes are a grown-up version of a childhood favorite. It’s easy to make them from scratch using with tempeh, mushrooms, and a tangy tomato-based sauce – no mix is necessary! These fun sandwiches are perfect for lunch or dinner. This Sloppy Joe recipe is vegan with a gluten-free option.
I created this vegan sloppy joes recipe after teaching a cooking class a few months ago. I frequently make Thai Tempeh Lettuce Wraps in classes, because I like to show people how to work with tempeh, and it’s a good recipe to start with. It’s always a hit with students, and even devout mushroom haters have given it the thumbs up. The last time I demonstrated the recipe, someone asked if it would work with different sauces instead of the peanut sauce I cook it in. Yes, of course it will! It would be great with barbecue sauce or even tomato sauce.
That conversation got me thinking of other recipes I could create using crumbled tempeh and mushrooms, and vegan Sloppy Joes was one of the first things that came to mind.
I grew up eating Sloppy Joes, and Manwich was a family favorite. Traditionally, they’re made with ground beef, onions, and a tomato-based sauce. It’s super easy to veganize using beans and vegetables though.
I’ve used tempeh in this recipe. It’s one of my favorite vegan protein sources, because it’s so versatile. Tempeh can usually be found right next to the tofu in grocery stories. If you find darker, discolored spots on your tempeh, don’t worry – that’s just part of the fermentation, and it’s safe to eat.
People have told me thatdon’t like tempeh because they pick up on the fermented flavor when eating it. It’s easy to remedy that though – simply steam the it for a few minutes before cooking it. Simmering it in a bath of warm water or stock will help remove the fermented taste as well. I’ve used the simmer method here, as that makes it easier to crumble.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, make sure your tempeh doesn’t contain gluten. Some types of tempeh contain grains, not all of which are gluten-free.
I love mushrooms. So. Much. It’s one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. Because the mushrooms in this recipe are finely chopped and mixed in with tempeh and tomato sauce, they’re not very noticeable. I like to cook them for about 10 minutes to get them really nice and soft, which also helps keep them “hidden.” You can use either crimini (baby bellas) or white button mushrooms in this recipe.
The secret to getting your mushrooms chopped for this recipe is to give them a few pulses in a food processor fitted with an s-blade. It makes prep time almost non-existent, and it cuts down on cook time, too. The finer the mushrooms are chopped, the less recognizable they are in the final dish. If you don’t have a food processor, you can coarsely chop your mushrooms with a sharp knife.
Mushrooms add a bit of meatiness and some umami flavor, so the recipe won’t be the same if you leave them out. I’d be willing to be that mushroom haters won’t even know they’re in the mix unless you tell them.
It may look like this recipe takes a while, but I find it works easiest if you chop your veggies and then start to cook them in a separate pan while the tempeh is cooking. Once the tempeh is ready, it can be crumbled and added to the vegetables.
- First, you simmer the tempeh in a bath of vegetable stock.
- While it’s simmering, you cook the onion, garlic, and pepper. Once they’ve softened, add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they’ve released their liquid and are very tender.
- Crumble the tempeh and add it to the pan. Cook for about 5 more minutes or so, until the tempeh has browned and absorbed the mushroom liquid.
- Next, add the tomato sauce and the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Simmer, for about 10 minutes.
- Finally, spoon the mixture onto buns and serve!
Sloppy Joe’s are a perfect meal for summertime gatherings. Top them with coleslaw, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, or whatever your favorite fixin’s are. I like to serve them alongside Cruciferous Crunch Salad and potato salad.
Vegan Sloppy Joes with Tempeh and Mushrooms
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 8 ounces tempeh gluten-free if necessary
- 1 teaspoon neutral-flavored oil
- 1/2 red onion diced, about ½ cup
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ green pepper diced, about ½ cup
- 10 ounces crimini or button mushrooms finely chopped (chop them in a food processor, if possible)
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoon vegan Worchester sauce
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1/12 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 6 whole wheat or gluten-free buns for serving
Add the stock to a large pan over medium heat and add the full block of tempeh. Allow to simmer for about half an hour.
Remove the tempeh from the pan and allow to cool
While the tempeh is cooking, place another large pan over medium-heat, and add the oil, diced onion, garlic, and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is fragrant and lightly browned.
Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and they have released their liquid, about 5 or 10 minutes
Crumble the tempeh and add it to the pan. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until the tempeh has browned and absorbed any mushroom liquid left in the pan. If the mushrooms don’t get very juicy, use a little of the stock that the tempeh was simmered in.
While the tempeh and mushrooms are cooking, mix together the tomato sauce, maple syrup, Worchester sauce, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes, if using.
Add the tomato mixture to the pan and stir to coat the tempeh and vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato sauce heats throughout and reduces slightly.
Spoon the mixture onto buns and serve hot.