Photography by Meghan Rodgers

Vegan Sloppy Joes: A Family Favorite

by Meghan Rodgers


February 9, 2021

You’re vegetarian? Why make such a meat-focused meal?

Vegans and vegetarians are often asked these questions — and I guess it’s fair. After all, if we love plants so much, why do we feel the need to recreate meat-heavy dishes?

For me, the answer to be pretty simple. Most of us were raised with meat in our diets so we have nostalgia for family meals and traditions that often incorporated meat. Whether it’s turkey at Thanksgiving, hot dogs on the Fourth of July, Taco Tuesday, or weeknight spaghetti and meatballs, those old dietary habits die hard. We might have made the switch to plant-based diets, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy to give up on old family recipes.

That said, for many people who have given up meat — whether it’s for moral, environmental, or health reasons (or all three!) — plant-based meat substitute meals make it that much easy to stay veg-based. Take, for instance, these incredible Vegan Sloppy Joes. My dad made Sloppy Joes all the time when I was a kid, and I just can’t imagine never again hearing the light splatter of that saucy filling hitting my plate as I take a big bite out of that over-stuff bun. This recipe tastes just like his homemade originals, except I’ve swapped mushrooms and walnuts in for ground beef. The combo is actually remarkably similar in texture and soaks up all that delicious Sloppy Joe sauce. With Sloppy Joes, it’s all about the sauce anyway! You’ll never miss the meat.

Top with coleslaw, pickles, lettuce or spinach, or leave plain and just enjoy that flavorful filling on top of a lightly toasted bun.

*Note: Worcestershire sauce is one of those ingredients that lives in nearly every kitchen that most people aren’t really sure of its purpose. Perhaps you bought it for a recipe years ago, or perhaps you use it all the time. Either way, it’s worth mentioning that traditional Worcestershire sauce is not vegan. It’s not even vegetarian. 

For the most part, Worcestershire sauce contains vinegar, fermented onions, fermented garlic, molasses, tamarind, salt, sugar, seasonings and anchovies — yeah, there’s a lot going on inside that little bottle! Obviously, the inclusion of the little fish make it a no-go for vegetarians and vegans. So now you know. Unless your bottle is specifically labeled “vegan Worcestershire sauce”, chances are it’s not.

Don’t have vegan Worcestershire sauce on hand? PETA shares how to make your own.

Storage Tip: Mixture stays good for up to days, but slowly looses it’s meat-like texture. For best taste, eat within a day or two.


Vegan Sloppy Joes


2 tsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound mushrooms

3/4 cup walnuts

1 1/2 cups ketchup

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp yellow mustard

1  tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 1/2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire* sauce

salt to taste

toppings including pickles, coleslaw, or greens (optional)

buns for serving


  1. Add oil, onions, and peppers to a large sauce pan and sauté for 5 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add garlic in and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic.

  2. Meanwhile, add walnuts and mushrooms to a food processor and pulse until desired, crumbly consistency is reached.

  3. Add mushroom mixture to pan and stir to combine all ingredients. Let cook for another 5 minutes.

  4. Add remaining ingredients: ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, cayenne, tomato paste and vegan Worcestershire. Stir well and let cook another 5 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

  5. Toast buns (optional) and load with several heaping spoonfuls of filling. Top with desired toppings. Enjoy!


Meghan Rodgers is a media professional and writer covering travel, food and the environment. Find her writing on the food blog EverybodyCraves and her adventures on Instagram.