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School Lunches Revisited: Vegetarian Extra Sloppy Sloppy Joes

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

I keep multiple lists of all foods I want to make. Vegetarian Sloppy Joes were actually on two lists: things I wanted to try in general and recipes I thought might be perfect for camping. I’ve been wanting to give them a makeover and a second chance because I’ve never been a fan of traditional sloppy joes. First, because the meat was always chewy and filled with tiny slivers of bone, and because let’s face it, anything served as part of the school lunch program during the ’80s might as well have been served on the floor, because there was no where to go but up. School lunch sloppy joes were even depicted in all their horror in the movie Billy Madison. Accurate? I think so.


Recipe adapted from the USA Rice Federation
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (we actually forgot this and were trapped by the blizzard)
3 cups short grain brown rice, cooked
2 (16 oz) cans Mexican style pinto beans
3/4 cups hickory smoke BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper to taste
4 to 6 whole grain buns
Serve with lettuce, pickles, cheese, or any of your other favorite toppings


Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice, beans, spices and BBQ sauce. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until heated through. Serve on buns with choice toppings. Makes 4-6 servings.

Be prepared to add extra barbecue¬†sauce to make them extra sloppy! We really liked these, and because they are meatless and super hearty they’ll be perfect for a short backpacking trip (cans are too heavy for longer trips) or just a way to break up another day of the frigid monotony that is this seemingly never ending winter. A cool variation would be to grate a little mozzarella or pepper jack cheese into them and make the whole consistency a little stickier.

Is there a school lunch meal you’d like to offer a makeover and second chance to? Leave us a comment!


  • Elizabeth says:

    Yummy. I am going to have to try these. I make the Fantastic Foods vegetarian sloppy joes often. I actually make them for the kids and don’t tell them that they are vegetarian (sneaky mom) and they eat them right up. Your version looks quite tasty and much healthier.

  • Jessica says:

    yeah, they were great, essentially almost like putting red beans and rice between a bun. In subsequent batches, I’d like to squeeze more vegetables in, definitely more peppers, carrots, etc.

  • Nego says:

    yum this looks good! I, too, made a sloppy joe-esque meal and fogrot the rolls! I just used toast, haha good for you for turning it around!