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 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup green bell peppers, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried basil
4 large Medjool dates, pits removed, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 sprinkles sea salt, more to taste
6 turns freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6  100% whole grain buns


  1. Begin by preparing the Tofu Crumbles, according to the recipe and instructions below.

  2. Next, heat a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onions for 5 minutes, stirring frequently and adding a splash of water when they start to stick to the pan.

  3. Add the bell pepper, celery, garlic, and dried basil, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a splash or two of water as needed for sticking.

  4. While the veggie mixture is cooking, drain the dates from the water and place them in a high-speed blender, along with the tamari, coconut aminos, smoked paprika, water, and apple cider vinegar, and blend for about a minute or until smooth.

  5. Pour the date mixture and the tomato sauce in with the veggie mixture and mix.

  6. Simmer on low, uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently. It thickens as it cooks and the consistency should be nice and thick.

  7. Add the Tofu Crumbles and cook over low heat just to heat up for about another 2 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

  8. Scoop a generous amount of Sloppy Joe mixture onto a whole grain bun and serve with our Crispy Seasoned Baked Fries and dill pickles!

Recipe Notes

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 mix everything up and heat it through.

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. Rinse the tofu, wrap it in a clean dish cloth, and place it on a plate. Put a cutting board on top with something heavy on it—maybe a couple of cookbooks. Let this sit for about 20 minutes so the water can drain from the tofu. Feel free to use a tofu press if you have one. After at least 20 minutes, remove the tofu from the plate, and pat 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. Now that your tofu is ready to go, crumble it into small pieces with your fingers, and add it into the large bowl with the other ingredients. Add the onions and mix well.

  5. Mix in the nutritional yeast, while continuing to break apart the larger pieces of tofu.

  6. Spread the tofu mixture evenly onto your baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, and remove the sheet from the oven. Stir and toss your tofu mixture so the other side can crisp up, and put the sheet back into the oven for another 15 -20 minutes. You want them nicely browned, slightly crispy, with a chewy bite.

Recipe Notes

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

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Clean Food Dirty Girl!

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