Sloppy Joes recipe revamps messy fun, with quinoa and kidney beans


Quinoa and Kidney Bean Sloppy Joes

Active time:25 minutes

Total time:35 minutes


Active time:25 minutes

Total time:35 minutes


Placeholder while loading article actions

In the 1980s, Nava Atlas was a graphic designer and illustrator “trying to get myself into New York,” as she puts it. She was also a vegetarian, which at the time was “enough to make you a weirdo”.

When she wasn’t working, she said in a Zoom interview from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley, she cooked creative but simple meals for herself and her husband. She didn’t cook with books; she improvised, which led to the inevitable problem that plagues those of us who like to color outside the lines: if she did something big, she couldn’t necessarily repeat it. “So my husband, when I did something he loved, started going, ‘Why don’t you write this one?'”

Before long, she had her own collection of written recipes. But his interests were always broader. “I was a cook and I was an artist, and I love books, literature and reading,” she says. “That’s how I came up with the idea of ​​combining all my interests in this one book.”

Embracing the nutty flavor of quinoa is the key to unleashing its potential

By “this book,” she means “Vegetariana,” the original 1984 volume of 170 vegetarian recipes paired with her own delightfully quirky pencil drawings, food trivia, and quotes from famous people. (A Babe Ruth quote on scallions – “The greatest cure ever invented for a fall at bat” – is accompanied by a drawing of Ruth about to swing a giant scallion instead of a bat .) Late last year, Atlas released a revised and updated edition of the book that reflects one of its biggest dietary changes: Everything is now vegan.

Since publishing “Vegetariana,” Atlas has written many other cookbooks over the decades, including “Plant-Powered Protein” and “Wild About Greens.” Now in her 60s, she is busier than ever, creating books such as “The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life” and operating The Vegan Atlas and Literary Ladies Guide websites. So while she’s gained more and more experience in the kitchen — and writing recipes — her own kitchen remains attractive and streamlined.

For example, this recipe for Sloppy Joes with Quinoa and Red Beans, one of the recipes she added in the new edition (from which she removed a chapter on eggs and cheese, as well as recipes which, according to her, “sounded too much like the 80s — or even the 60s or 70s.”)

In their classic form, sloppy joes are little more than gravyed, seasoned ground beef on a bun, and have a decidedly retro comfort food appeal. (Remember the 1970s advert for Hunt’s canned sloppy Joe sauce: “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal”?)

Quinoa didn’t make an appearance in Atlas’ original 1984. It had just begun to be exported to the United States, she says, but it wouldn’t catch on for many years. In a second edition of the book in 1999 (mainly intended to improve the impression), Atlas added a handful of quinoa recipes, as well as a few paragraphs of traditions, including that, according to Inca legend, it was such a culture revered that “he came out of a celestial banquet.”

These days, quinoa – with its high protein content and quick cooking – is ubiquitous, perhaps no more so than in plant-based cooking like the one Atlas has been promoting for so many years.

I doubt the “Manwich” copywriters could have imagined that half a century later sloppy Joes would be made with quinoa and kidney beans. But in the hands of Atlas, filling them is almost as quick to make as the classic. While your quinoa simmers, you sauté the onion and bell pepper, then add the quinoa plus a can of beans, a can of tomato sauce, and seasonings. A few more minutes to blend the flavors, and you’re ready to spoon the filling onto lightly toasted buns (or into tortillas for tacos, if you like) — and make a delicious mess of eating.

Do you want to save this recipe? Click the bookmark icon under the serving size at the top of this page, then navigate to My Reading List in your user profile.

Evolve this recipe and get a printable desktop version here.

This sweet-smoky combination of quinoa, kidney beans and spices can be piled on buns to make sloppy joes or used as a taco filling with your favorite toppings. Serve with fries, pickles and/or coleslaw.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa (any color or a mix)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion (about 8 ounces), chopped
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (15 ounces) small kidney beans (can substitute kidney beans), drained, rinsed and coarsely mashed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 soft burger buns, lightly toasted

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and quinoa. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring, until onion and bell pepper are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the onion mixture, along with the beans, tomato sauce, soy sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika, agave or maple syrup, and oregano . Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and flavors begin to blend, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for another 5 minutes for the flavors to blend.

Stack about 1/2 cup filling on eight bottom buns, top with top buns and serve hot.

Per serving (1/2 cup filling on a bun, using agave)

Calories: 235; Total fat: 4 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 600mg; Carbohydrates: 40g; Dietary fiber: 6g; Sugar: 6g; Protein: 8g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Adapted from Revised and Updated Version “Vegetarian” by Nava Atlas (Amberwood Press, 2021).

Tested by Joe Yonan; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

Evolve this recipe and get a printable desktop version here.

Browse our recipe finder for over 9,700 post-tested recipes.

Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and tag us on Instagram with #eatingvoraciously.


Comments are closed.