Sloppy Mia’s Sloppy Joes

My wonderful partner, Mia, loves Sloppy Joes. She grew up deep in the midwestern United States in Minnesota, and while she doesn’t have many midwestern quirks, I guess you can’t grow up there and not like some American culinary staples. She is particularly fond of Sloppy Joes, always citing one specific instance where she ate what must’ve been a euphoric Sloppy Joe, given that she still talks about it 10+ years later. 

One evening, Mia looked at me and told me she was really craving Sloppy Joes, so I decided to take on making a vegetarian Sloppy Joe. After more Sloppy Joes than I think Mia wanted to eat, the recipe had been refined and honed. While I don’t think my version lived up to the original one etched into her memory, it makes a damn good sandwich.

A few quick notes before we get right into the recipe. First off, do not be intimidated because of the seitan, this recipe is as easy as can be and a nice foray into making seitan if you have never done so. Second, the quality of the buns you use will make a big difference, so I highly recommend going to your local bakery and picking up high quality burger buns. Additionally, in this recipe, we call for vegan worcestershire sauce which can be found in health stores or online.  Lastly, as the name suggests, these sandwiches will be sloppy, so don’t be shy and have lots of napkins ready. Enjoy! 

Active Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Seitan

  • ⅔ cup water
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 ¼ cup vital wheat gluten, separated
  • ¼ cup soy sauce

Sauce

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

The rest

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 burger buns
  • Butter or alternate for buns
  • Red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil, seperated

Directions

  1. Start by making the seitan dough. In a medium mixing bowl combine the water, oil, liquid smoke, worcestershire, tomato paste, sugar, salt and onion powder. Whisk until smooth. Now, add in a cup of the vital wheat gluten and combine with a wooden spoon. Once combined, add in the last ¼ cup and combine with your hands, stretching and pulling at the dough to make it stringy. When completed it should look like the picture included at the bottom of the recipe. 
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add in 1 tbsp of neutral oil and add in the dough. Sauté on each side until nicely browned, about 3 minutes a side. Afterwards, add the soy sauce and water until the dough is mostly submerged. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes is up, cut open a piece and check it is cooked all the way through. Strain and set aside. 
  3. While the dough is cooking, prepare the sauce by mixing together all the ingredients and whisking until smooth. 
  4. Once the seitan has cooled and drained slightly, add it to a food processor and pulse until it has the consistency of ground-beef.
  5. Heat up the skillet once again to medium heat. Add in 1 tbsp of neutral oil and then sauté the bell pepper, carrot, onion and garlic until tender for about 5-6 minutes. Add in the seitan as well as the sauce and combine. Once everything is hot, turn off the heat and set aside. 
  6. Toast your buns in your preferred method. I recommend cutting them in half, adding a light coating of butter and putting them into the oven on broil-high for 2-3 minutes. Serve the sloppy joes while warm with a mountain of filling topped with sliced red onion, enjoy!

The raw seitan before being cooked should look like the following:

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