These Vegan Sloppy Joes Are Satisfying Crowd-Pleasers

Justin Chapple makes the meatless (but meaty!) recipe on this week’s episode of Mad Genius.

In the sandwich sphere, sloppy joes — a hearty pile of seasoned, saucy ground beef housed in a soft bun — are as meaty as it gets. But on this week's episode of Mad Genius, Food & Wine Culinary Director-at-Large Justin Chapple offers a vegan (yes, vegan!) version of the classic, featuring a satisfying combination of crumbled tofu and tempeh that gives the sloppy joe mixture some heft.

"These vegan sloppy joes are hearty, they're a little spicy, they're savory-sweet, but best of all, they are crowd-pleasers," Justin says.

Brought together with toasted buns and topped with some bread-and-butter pickle chips for crunch, these sloppy joes are the real deal — and you won't miss the meat at all. To make them, read on for Justin's method and follow along with the video above.

Start with the Aromatics

First, finely chop your yellow onion. Then, seed, stem, and finely chop your jalapeño and finely chop your garlic cloves, too. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium and add the aromatics with some kosher salt and black pepper, stirring occasionally and letting them cook until the onion is lightly browned.

Add the Tempeh…

Next, get the finely crumbled tempeh, tomato paste, and ancho chile powder in the skillet, stirring constantly so the tempeh is evenly coated. Once a crust starts to form on the bottom of the skillet, add the strained tomatoes (also known as passata), water, apple cider vinegar, organic light brown sugar, sriracha, and liquid aminos or soy sauce.

…and Then the Tofu

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high, stirring occasionally, and then add in the drained and coarsely crumbled extra-firm tofu. (Justin demonstrates how he drained it with paper towels, plates, and a can.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the tofu-and-tempeh mixture to simmer and thicken. In the meantime, toast your hamburger buns for the sloppy joes.

Tofu Tempeh Sloppy Joes
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen


Once the sloppy joe mixture is done, season it with salt and pepper to your taste, and then spoon it onto the toasted buns. Add some bread-and-butter pickle chips, close the buns, and tuck in.

"It is such a pro move using the tofu with the tempeh, because you get all that protein, but you're also getting the different textures in that sloppy joe sauce," Justin says. "You get the perfect amount of heat from the jalapeño and the ancho chile powder. I've got to say, my husband is a solid meat and potatoes kind of guy, and he loves these sloppy joes. And as a meat-eater myself, they have my stamp of approval, and I know my vegetarian and vegan friends are going to love them too."

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