October 11th, 2013
I’m obsessed with these Beef and Lentil Sloppy Joes. So is the hungry papa. The kids, too. Though I cannot lie: I did get a deadpan, “This again?” the most recent time that I served these. What can I say? I have been making them a lot.
Like my famous classic fish sticks, these sloppy joes are a sophisticated update of a classic family dish without being fancy or fussy. The grown-up appeal doesn’t come at the cost of this dish’s essential kid-appeal. Instead, it comes from layering in healthy ingredients and balancing earthy, tart and tangy flavors.
Plus, who doesn’t want a sloppy, filling, delicious sandwich for dinner? Watch your buns, hamburgers.
You can make the beef and lentil sloppy joe filling using lean ground meat (hopefully from a source you know and trust) and lentils from a can or that you’ve cooked ahead of time. I’ve done both and, honestly, they turn out equally delicious.
I’ve served this plain and also packed with veggies. You can add fresh, chopped spinach (at the beginning of step 3 below), and even carrots or sweet potato (chopped into 1/2″ cubes and added with the onions and garlic in step 2 below).
I serve the filling on potato rolls and think it’s the only way to go even though they don’t provide much structural integrity. Whatever: this is a sloppy joe. I also strongly suggest that you serve this sandwich topped with broccoli slaw. Doing so requires so little extra work and makes all the difference. You know the balancing of flavors I mentioned above? The tart and tangy come from this slaw.
Last suggestion: grown ups, hit your sandwich up with a little hot sauce, sriarcha if you have it. Essential.
Beef and Lentil Sloppy Joes
(Can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
4 teaspoons grapeseed, vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 a large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
5 tablespoons tomato paste
1 8-oune can tomato sauce
1 cup lentils, cooked according to package instructions (you can substitute 1 15-ounce can lentils)
Hamburger rolls, for serving
1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large, high-sided skillet set over medium heat. Swirl to coat bottom and add ground beef. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until browned. Using a slotted spoon, scoop cooked beef out of the pan; place in a bowl and set aside. Pour grease from pan.
2. Return pan to medium heat and add remaining 3 teaspoons of oil. Swirl to coat bottom and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and garlic fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add chile powder, oregano, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Stir to coat onion and garlic with spices and cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato paste, stir to combine and cook one more minute. Add tomato sauce to pan. Fill the emptied tomato sauce can with water and add water to the pan as well. Stir to combine. Bring to a low simmer, about 2 minutes.
3. Return meat and add cooked lentils to pan. Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes, until heated through. Taste and season with salt, if necessary, and black pepper. Serve on toasted hamburger rolls, topped with broccoli slaw (recipe below).
*Note: This beef and lentil filling is a wonderful first food, especially if you add veggies like spinach and sweet potato (see note above recipe about how to do this). If your little one doesn’t yet eat meat, substitute another 1/2-1 cup of cooked lentils. However you make this, be sure to pulse the filling into an age appropriate consistency before serving.
Quickest Broccoli Slaw
(can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
Makes enough to top 6-8 sloppy joe sandwiches
1/4 cup cream cheese (you can substitute tofu cream cheese for a non-dairy version)
Juice of 1-2 limes
1 12-ounce bag broccoli slaw
Cilantro, to taste (optional)
Salt, to taste
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cream cheese and juice of 1 lime until smooth. If the dressing is too thick, add juice of remaining lime, a little bit at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
2. Add broccoli slaw and cilantro, if using. Season with salt and toss to coat broccoli. Taste and adjust as necessary. If there’s time, allow the slaw to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend it beginning at 10 months due to the fact that raw broccoli can be hard for little tummies to digest. That said, if your little one likes this, chop or puree a small amount to add to their sloppy joe filling!