I’ve been making this recipe for years, and I’ve found it to be the most kid-friendly plant-based recipe. As an added bonus, it only takes about 15 minutes to make, and the kids can help by mashing the chickpeas!
This is a great recipe even if you don’t have kids, because it requires ingredients you may already have on hand. It’s also perfect for those who are trying to lose weight because it uses no added oil and is tasty on your favorite greens (no need for hamburger buns!).
When I was living in Nashville post-college, I tutored inner-city high school students every Thursday night. When I realized many of them had never eaten any vegetables other than potatoes and corn, I decided to cook them vegan dinners every Thursday night. This was quite challenging at first, because new foods to high schoolers (who are used to eating fast food for most meals) are typically declined. After several weeks of rejected meals, I noticed that — even though I was repeating the same handful of recipes — the kids started eating more and complaining less. By the end of the first year, most of them were going back for seconds!
The favorite recipe I made for the kids was my chickpea sloppy joes, a recipe I found on Fork and Beans. It delighted me to hear the guys brag about how many sloppy joes they ate!
Even though it seemed hopeless that this group of kids would ever like plant-based meals, I discovered that repeated exposure to the same recipes eliminated the “Ew, what is this?” reaction and helped them learn to like most of my dinners over time.
If you have a picky kid (or spouse!), I encourage you to try this one. I serve my sloppy joes on Romaine leaves because it’s more nutritious that way, but my husband likes his on a whole-wheat bun. Figure out how your kids will eat it, and just go with it!
Adapted from Fork and Beans
Chickpea Sloppy Joes
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cans 15.5-oz chickpeas, mostly mashed
- 1 can low-sodium tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes, pureed)
- 1 T. chili powder
- 1 T. blackstrap molasses (or 2 t. brown sugar)
- 2 T. Worcestershire sauce (look for vegan, if that’s your thing)
- Hot sauce, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- For serving: whole grain buns or leaves of choice (I like Romaine)
- Saute onions and peppers in about 1/4 inch of water over medium heat until tender.
- Add mashed chickpeas and stir to heat. Add tomato sauce and stir.
- Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients, stirring on occasion, and allowing to heat to serving temperature. Taste before adding salt — you may not need any with all of the flavor this dish has!
- Serve on buns or greens with oven fries and a side salad.
If you try this recipe, let me know if your kids like it! It’s a staple in our household!