Sloppy Joes

By Judi Bushala | December 16, 2020
Makes 5-6 sandwiches
A sandwich dripping in sauce with crumbled meat spilling out of the bun—OK, I get the “sloppy” part, but who the heck is “Joe”? There is one theory involving a man named José Abeal Otero who opened a bar in Havana, Cuba in 1917 and called it “Sloppy Joe’s” because that was the nickname given to him by the regulars. He created a sloppy sandwich of ground beef, stewed tomatoes, capers, olives, and raisins. Ernest Hemingway, who was one of the regulars, loved the sandwich and brought the recipe to his friend’s bar in Key West Florida in the 30’s and it remains on the menu today. The restaurant, to this day, is also called, “Sloppy Joes”! Fun! When Phill and I were little, Sloppy Joes were always fun to eat for us and my mom made them for birthday parties, or casual family get-togethers and everyone loved them. Our plant-powered version is very close to the Sloppy Joes I remember as a kid—comforting, delicious and well, sloppy.


Basic Tofu Crumbles 1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 cup celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried basil
4 large Medjool dates, pits removed, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, and then drained
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons water
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1/8 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
6 turns freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6  100% whole grain buns


  1. First, prepare the Tofu Crumbles, according to the recipe and instructions below.

  2. Next, heat a large pot over medium heat for a minute. Add the onions, and sauté for 7-8 minutes, while stirring. Add a splash or two of water if anything sticks.

  3. Add the green pepper, celery, garlic, and basil, and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until your veggies start to soften. Add a splash of water they are sticking.

  4. Place the drained dates into a high-speed blender, and add the tamari, coconut aminos, smoked paprika, apple cider vinegar and water, and blend until smooth, and there are not little bits of dates left.

  5. Pour the mixture from your blender, into your pot, along with the 2 cans of tomato sauce, and mix well.

  6. Over medium heat, bring this to a simmer, and the turn the heat down to low and cook, uncovered, for about 40-45 minutes. Check on it often to give it a good stir. If you are making the Baked Fries, now would be a good time to get those going!

  7. Gently stir in the Tofu Crumbles, and cook over a low heat, for just enough time to heat everything up, about 2 minutes. Add the salt and black pepper, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

  8. Scoop a generous amount of your Sloppy Joe mix onto a bun, and serve with our Crispy Seasoned Baked Fries and dill pickles. Yummy!

Recipe Notes

Your sauce will thicken as it cooks, and you want a nice, thick Sloppy Joe sauce. Don't add your Tofu Crumbles to the sauce too early or they will soften and break down too much. Make sure to add them at the end, just to blend them with the sauce, and heat them through.

We like our Sloppy Joe's prepared the way we had them as kids—just a bun stuffed with Sloppy Joe goodness!

For the Basic Tofu Crumbles:


1 14 oz. block extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon tamari
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, for a little heat
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast


  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

  2. ​​First, let’s press the tofu. If you don’t have a tofu press, you can easily do it yourself. Rinse the tofu, wrap it in a clean dish cloth, and place it on a large plate. Place a cutting board on top of it, stacked with a couple of cookbooks or a heavy pot. Let this sit for about 20 minutes so the water can drain from the tofu. Remove the tofu from the plate, and pat it dry with a clean dish cloth.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the tamari, coconut aminos, tahini, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, if using.

  4. Crumble the tofu into small pieces with your fingers, and add it into the large bowl with the spices. Add the onions and the nutritional yeast and mix well.

  5. Spread the tofu mixture evenly onto your baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, and then stir your Crumbles, and put them back into the oven for another 15 -20 minutes. You want them nicely browned, crispy, but still a bit chewy. Keep an eye on them so the littlest bits don't burn!

Recipe Notes

You can make our Basic Crumbles, let them cool, and freeze them to use later.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Clean Food Dirty Girl. They were the first to introduce us to the beauty of tofu that is crumbled and baked!

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