Do you remember your first sloppy joe sandwich?
I do. And it was definitely a far cry from the most recent sloppy joe creation to emerge from my kitchen.
My first sloppy joes experience was at my elementary school cafeteria. My dad always woke me up, got me ready and took me to school. This was pretty obvious from my mismatched clothes, my messy odd-looking pony-tail, and the fact that I almost always forgot the lunch one of my parents had made the night before. I wouldn't realize this until it was time to go to lunch and I'd notice that my She-Ra Princess of Power lunchbox was not on the shelf with all of the other kids' lunchboxes. My heart would fill with dread and the slow walk to the cafeteria would begin.
Our cafeteria did not have a selection of items from which the students could pick and choose from. Instead, the same meal with the same side dishes, dessert and carton of milk was given to each child that needed "hot lunch," as it was called. I had great disdain for every hot lunch meal I'd ever been served. Everything had the same flavorless taste, the breads were rubbery, the fruit salads watery, the vegetables mushy. Even then, I appreciated a good-tasting meal and every hot lunch I had felt like a lunchtime wasted. In the grand span of my life, I had lost yet another precious meal period to gross food. It made me grumpy.
It was one of these forgotten lunchbox days that I was served sloppy joes for the first time. I didn't want to like it. I wanted my friends to feel bad for me for having to eat this mush. I wanted to be dramatic and grumpy for the rest of the afternoon so that when my mom picked me up, she would instantly see that I was depressed and malnourished and find a way to strap my lunchbox permanently to my body so that I could never leave home without it again. Instead, I took a bite of my sloppy joe sandwich, and was pleasantly surprised. Aside from the hockey puck bun, this stuff was tasty! But I had a reputation to uphold. "The bread is terrible," said my eight-year-old self. I set it on my tray and proceeded to eat the sloppy joe filling with my plastic spork.
I couldn't let on that I liked this particular meal, though. It would tear down the facade of the "girl who didn't like hot lunches" that I'd worked so hard to build (I was one dramatic and stubborn child, let me tell you. God bless my parents for putting up with me!). So I acted as I usually did when I had to eat hot lunch- pouty and mistreated (Seriously, I was that kid.). But from then on out, I secretly kept one eye on the hot lunch calendar every student was given each month, noting which days the sloppy joes were to be served. Of course, I would always conveniently forget my lunch on those days.
As I said earlier, my most recent sloppy joe creation couldn't be more different than my first sloppy joe. Instead of ground beef, these sloppy joes were made of roasted cauliflower and red lentils. And there's no rubbery bread here. In fact, I replaced the whole bun with a cheesy cornbread waffle. These zesty lentil sloppy joes with small chunks cauliflower throughout were so tasty and comforting. The waffles were crisp on the outside and soft and well, cornbready on the inside. The subtle cheesy flavor in these waffles just pulls it all together, making every bite, combined with the sloppy joes, a dose of super-delicious comfort-food goodness. Now, if only I had a spork...
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or agave syrup)
- 1 1/2 cups ground cornmeal
- 3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend (all-purpose would also work)
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of Ener-G egg replacer
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into very small florets
- coconut oil or olive oil spray
- a few dashes of garlic powder
- a few dashes of cumin
- a few dashes of smoked paprika
- smoked salt (or sea salt) to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1 cup red lentils (or other lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ red onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 1 15oz can of fire roasted tomatoes, diced
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
- salt/pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the cauliflower florets out on the baking sheet. Lightly spray with olive oil (or drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil). Sprinkle with spices and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to fully coat each piece.
- Roast the cauliflower for about 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven. Set aside until ready to use.
- Once you've placed the cauliflower in the oven, cook your lentils. Place the lentils in a small pot, cover with the water and place the lid on the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, leaving the lid cracked open a bit. Cook for about 8-10 minutes (if you are using regular lentils, as aopposed to red, this time may be longer), until just barely undercooked (DO NOT FULLY COOK THE LENTILS). Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large shallow saucepan over medium heat for about one minute. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the bell pepper and sauté for about two minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with the cooked lentils and the roasted cauliflower. Use your spatula/spoon to break up the cauliflower as you mix it in. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until heated through and slightly thickened. If it sticks, add a little water to scrape the pan and lower the heat a bit.
- Once it is fully cooked, keep warm until it is ready to be added to the waffles. Enjoy!
- Combine the almond milk and the apple cider vinegar and allow to sour for about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients and thoroughly mix. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, and soured almond milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Let stand for 10 minutes, while you let the waffle maker heat up.
- Cook waffles according to your waffle maker's instructions. Top with sloppy joes, vegan cheese (if using), green onions and avocado. Enjoy!
Did you like your elementary school's cafeteria food?
Photography by Chris Miller
Angela @ Canned Time
Great idea Kristy! My favorite from the cafe was always the Mexican. Who only knows what I was eating in those tacos?
It must be waffle week in the blog-o-sphere and this gives me just what I needed, a savory dish to try with my new iron! Looks great, Happy Easter ♥
Angela, I think it's always waffle week. 😉 I love your strawberry waffles too, by the way! Have a great weekend! 🙂
First let me say this recipe looks as good as it sounds - and I am so glad I recently got my waffle iron out of storage! Second, I hated most cafeteria food too, though I was too shy to make a big deal out of it. The one dish they did well, surprising me down to my toes, was unfortunately not veganizable (great new word?) - breaded veal cutlets. However, long before I started down my winding path to vegetarianism, and ultimately the vegan life I had given up veal for all the reasons vegans do 😉
Thank you! And wow- I'm amazed that they served veal in a school cafeteria! I mean, I'm amazed that anybody eats it anyways, but still! Wow!
Well, this was a long time ago - early 60's - and I guess veal prices weren't so high as they became later. Still, once I understood what it was and how it came to be it was the first menu item I permanently crossed off my list. It took me a long time to add to that blacklist, but as I got older more and more items joined it.
Oh, your waffles sound so good! I love the savory flair. That's my preferred MO for breakfasts, and this would be a fabulous breakfast-for-dinner too!
I can't say that I was won over by school cafeteria meals. I tolerated some things, but I generally brought my own lunch and had my own peculiar set of requirements. My favorite option was two peanut butter slices. They couldn't be put together in the form of a peanut butter sandwich. I wanted it to be open-faced, so that I could really taste the peanut butter. So my mom would pack each slice, trying to make it so the plastic baggie didn't stick to the slice too completely. Then I'd bring a dill pickle and potato chips to make sure that I had my salt-group covered. 😉
Speaking of sloppy joes, a coworker friend of David's was recently telling him about this crazy delicious sloppy joe recipe she found. She couldn't believe it was vegan and her non-vegan husband was craving it multiple times a week. Right away I guessed it was your sloppy chicks, and sure enough, it was! Kudos to you!
I can go either way for breakfast, but a savory breakfast for dinner is one of my most favorite things!
That's so funny that you mention that about the PB sandwiches. As a kid, I didn't like PB & J, just the PB. I would always request extra peanut butter because otherwise the sandwich was too bready. 😉
And what a small world! Thank you for telling me that- it totally made my day! 🙂
This is so creative! I just recently bought a waffle maker (finally!), but I've yet to try savory waffles. Definitely bookmarking your recipe!
Thanks, Amanda! Have fun with the new toy! 🙂
Man these look amazing! Hah-aha hot lunch, I do not miss those days...I was a fan of the :"Turkey" Dinner they served I use quotes because last time I check turkey shouldn't come in perfect cubes (yuck!) I remember my first Manwich Sloppy Joe experience and it was actually after I became a Vegetarian, Justin loves Sloppy Joes when we moved in together he asked me to make them one night- they were a messy amazing dinner....but these look a 100 times better, you have outdone yourself with these, they look absolutely incredible, totally wishing I had a big ol' plate of these for lunch today!
I think we had the same Turkey dinner. And it came with gravy I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole! Thank goodness those days are over! 😉 What is it about messy foods? It always seems like they taste better just because they're messy. 🙂
Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
Ohhh goodness these look so so good! I agree about school lunch, never that great!
Thank you, Abby! Glad to hear that I'm not the only one! 🙂
The Sriracha Cookbook
Hot damn. These look fantastic. I always jump to tempeh for a "ground meat" substitute... can't wait to try this cauliflower-lentil combo instead! And I can only imagine that the Sriracha takes these over the top.
Kristy, you truly are She-Ra Princess of Power!! And as always, Chris' photography is stellar!
Love to you both,
- Randy -
Thank you so much, Randy! As always, your words always put the biggest grin on my face. Much love to you too! 🙂
Chef Amber Shea
Ridiculous. Ridiiiculous, Kristy!
If my school served these, I would've eaten a cafeteria lunch every damn day. Actually, probably not, because I had very different tastes (or lack thereof) as a kid. But my adult self might just try to re-enroll in school if it meant eating these babies.
Why oh why is a waffle maker one of the few kitchen appliances I don't own?!
Lady, you need to go get a waffle iron, Stat! Actually, I can't talk because my waffle maker died this last weekend and I am currently without as well. :-/
Thank you so much, Amber! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! xoxo
oooh soo awesome!! dont you just love the roasted cauli + lentils!!
and those waffles!
my sloppy joe experience.. hmm i never ate any.. i didnt eat beef anyway, so i never ate the real deal.. who cares.. i love this version!
When I saw your post yesterday, I started laughing to myself. We must have been on the same wavelength there- putting cauliflower with red lentils! Though, your technique was absolutely genius. I'm still amazed!
Have a great weekend, Richa! 🙂
Gabby @ the veggie nook
What a creative spin on the sloppy joe Kristy, I love it! I always had a strange fascination with the sloppy joe too. I was never served it at home but it became a special treat when I went to camp. Strange how gross camp food becomes nostalgic when you connect it with good memories 🙂
My elementary school was very small and had no cafeteria. If you forgot your lunch you were SOL. I was always secretly jealous of all those kids on TV who had them haha
Thank you, Gabby! It is funny how I can now look back fondly on gross food that I ate because it was during a good time in my life. Or at least find humor in it. 🙂
That's so weird that your school didn't have a cafeteria. I never had lockers at my school until I started high school, and in middle school, I was jealous of the kids on TV who had lockers. I wanted so badly to slip a note into my friend's locker, just for the sake of saying I did it. 🙂
I want to make this now! I love sloppy joes and corn bread in any form. What a great idea!
Thank you, Robin! If you make it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 🙂
Jackie @ Vegan Yack Attack!
Savory waffles, something I have yet to tackle, but you've made it look effortless! What an awesome combination of cornbread, waffles, and sloppy joes. Mmm..
Also, I used to eat cafeteria food all of the time. I feel as though the options were pretty typical. I remember in middle school, having a salad bar, and every time pizza was served I made myself a huge side of ranch dressing to go with it. Oh dear.
Thanks, Jackie! I never would've thought to pair ranch with pizza, but now that you mention it... Sounds pretty good! And don't feel bad- my freshman year of highschool, my lunch was Spree candy or a milkshake. I got healthier by my sophomore year, having mainly soft pretzels every day. 😉
you are a genius, woman! i grew up loving sloppy joes. what i wouldn't have given to eat them with cheesy cornbread waffles! such a great anytime meal- breakfast, lunch, dinner, or savory dessert!
Thanks, Caitlin! Cornbread waffles + sloppy joes are a match made in heaven. 🙂 And now you've got me thinking about this term "savory dessert" you mentioned. You've got the wheels turning now! 😉
Those look so meaty! I love that both you and Richa used the same combo this week! Great minds definitely think alike! Yeah.... I secretly loved the sloppy joes served at hot lunch too 😉
Thank you- it's totally all about the cauliflower in this dish! And I started laughing when I saw Richa's post- same combo exactly. Too funny. 🙂
wow, this looks incredible, all of it!
I rarely had cafeteria food either... by my own choice. when we reached high school we had a fantastic salad bar, though, so I'd eat a salad every day!
Thanks, Kristina! I wish my high school had a salad bar! I probably would've eaten a lot less soft pretzels and nachos! 😉
Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole's Chatter is collecting links to dishes using cauliflower and/or cabbage. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are lots of good ones already. Cheers
These look incredible! I grew up eating sloppy joes, and I always liked them, but they could sometimes be a little boring. This doesn't look boring at all! I was never a fan of the school lunches either, although I do remember a few times in middle school where I would only eat french fries for lunch to be cool. 🙂
Thanks, Melissa! By middle school, I think I had my own lunches under control (I actually went to the same school from K-8th) because I still didn't want hot lunch. But in high school, oh boy. My lunches were ridiculous. Nachos, pretzels, candy. And I thought I was being pretty darn cool. 😉
Just made this last night and my boys declared me the best "cooker" in the whole world! Thanks for a great recipe. I did add a bay leaf to the lentils as they cooked, but that was the only alteration I made. So tasty!
I have made this recipe at least 4 times now and love it! Most recently I used a can of crushed tomatoes and used water instead of tomato paste (cause it was all I had on hand). I was worried about it coming out too tomatoey, but it was still good! Thank you for such an exciting way to eat cauliflower!
I've just made this as part of this week's menu at Chez Hammer, and it turned out great. My Australian palate is craving juts a bit more savoury to balance the sweet in the waffles, so next time I make it I might put in a teaspoon of veg stock or something, and some mushroom powder in the lentils. The lentils will definitely reappear soon, over rice if I can't be bothered futzing with waffles. Thanks for such a great recipe.
Just saw the comment about adding a bayleaf - I did too! I have two bay trees and am obsessed with cramming bay into whatever I can get away with. Bay and thyme.
Made this for Sunday night dinner. I used a 15 oz jar of medium salsa (for some heat) instead of the canned tomatoes and omitted the tomato paste - otherwise made it just like the recipe. It was excellent. My bf, who was raised on cornbread and loves spicy food didn't alter it in anyway and raved about it. Everything holds up well for leftovers.