Chicken Gumbo Sloppy Joes with Beef and Lentils

by | Feb 13, 2024

Chicken gumbo sloppy joes, otherwise known as a loose meat sandwich (kind of weird), is a midwestern classic dinner I grew up enjoying both at school and at home. The difference between the sloppy joes at school and my moms sloppy joes made a big difference; chicken gumbo soup

Over the years, I’ve mastered my own chicken gumbo sloppy joes with a secret ingredient to make them even better and add more nutritional value; lentils!

If you’re a sloppy joe fan, or maybe you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying a sloppy joe (or untidy joseph if you’re asking my husband’s late grandma), you have to give this sloppy joe recipe a try.

My kids love these chicken gumbo sloppy joes and the added lentils help them get just a little more fiber, folate, and choline too!

Health Benefits of Lentils

I don’t think I tried lentils until I was in my thirties.  Even as a dietitian I wasn’t familiar with how to cook them or what they tasted like, but once I did, I realized they were one of the most versatile, nutrient-dense foods that everyone should have in their pantry.

Lentils, similar to beans and peas, belong to a group of vegetables called pulses. They’re inexpensive and versatile, not to mention protein-packed and a good source of iron, zinc, folate, and fiber. 

Nutritional Benefits of Lentils

  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Choline

Another benefit to using lentils is they don’t require soaking, unlike many other dried beans, so they don’t take as long to prepare.

Whether you’re looking to add more beans and legumes into your diet, or completely transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet, lentils are a quick and easy option to replace animal protein while still providing a similar texture.

What You’ll Need to Make It

Ingredients for chicken gumbo soup

The ingredients for these chicken gumbo sloppy joes are staples in my pantry, fridge and freezer, making this an easy meal to whip up any night of the week.  If these items aren’t staples, I highly recommend adding them.

The Campbells chicken gumbo soup, along with the lentils, is really what makes these sloppy joes so delicious.

Ingredients for Sloppy Joes

  • White onion
  • Olive oil
  • Ground Beef
  • Dried lentils – find these in the dried bean and rice section
  • Tomato soup – I prefer Campbells
  • Chicken gumbo soup
  • Salt and pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Beef bone broth – I like using bone broth for even more protein, but broth works well too
  • Brioche hamburger buns – Aldi has amazing brioche hamburger buns
  • Butter for toasting the brioche buns

Equipment for Sloppy Joes

How to Make Chicken Gumbo Sloppy Joes

The great thing about chicken gumbo sloppy joes is that you can throw all the ingredients in the crock pot and walk away, or simply fry it up in a frying pan too!

For these chicken gumbo sloppy joes, I used my Caraway nonstick ceramic sauté pan to sauté diced onions in olive oil.  Once the onions were translucent, I added the ground beef and started browning it, chopping it into small pieces. Here’s where you can add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Cooking Grease Hack

One of the best kitchen hacks I’ve learned over the years was from my mother-in-law and it works perfect for these chicken gumbo sloppy joes.  

When it comes time to get rid of some of the grease in the sauté pan, push your ground beef and onion mixture to the side, take a sheet or two of paper towel, fold it a few times and place inside your sauté pan on the side without the beef and onions. 

Next you can tilt your pan slightly so the grease drips down into the paper towel, pushing down on the paper towel with a mixing spoon or spatula to help soak up the grease. 

After most of the grease has soaked into the paper towel, you can use tongs to transfer the grease-soaked paper towel to the trash. 

This trick is so slick and makes the grease clean up easy!

Once your ground beef is cooked through you’ll add the tomato and chicken gumbo soup, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, dry lentils, and broth.  Turn your heat down to medium low and let it simmer covered for 20-30 minutes, adding more broth as needed until the lentils are soft.

The Key to The Best Sloppy Joes

Toasted buns for sloppy joes

This is a very important step if you want to take your sloppy joes to the next level.  

I highly recommend using brioche hamburger buns.  They are so tasty! But that’s not the trick to the best tasting sloppy joes. 

The key is toasting your buns!

Once your sloppy joe mixture is done, you can transfer to a serving dish and use the same frying pan to toast the buns.  However, I like to use a separate griddle so I can toast all of them at the same time, but totally up to you.

Top your sloppy joe off with shredded cheese, maybe some pickles, add your favorite side and enjoy!  I highly recommend Ruffles ripple potato chips to help you scoop up the extra sloppy joe mix.

Variations to Chicken Gumbo Sloppy Joes

All Beef Sloppy Joes

If you don’t love lentils, you can omit them from the recipe.  If you decide to do this, you can also omit the broth as well since that’s what really helps cook the lentils and is otherwise unnecessary.  

Vegan Sloppy Joes

To make vegan sloppy joes, you can omit the ground beef ingredient and step and skip straight to adding the lentils and the rest of the ingredients.  You’ll want to triple the lentils and broth in the recipe. Don’t forget to substitute the chicken gumbo for vegetable soup.


Can You Make Sloppy Joes in a Crock Pot?

Absolutely!  This is actually what I like to call working smarter, not harder.  Next time I whip these chicken gumbo sloppy joes up, I’ll likely do it in a crock pot so I can dump the ingredients and go get other things done on my list while it cooks.

To make these chicken gumbo sloppy joes in the crock pot, simply sauté the onions and brown the ground beef before adding to the crock pot.

Once all your ingredients are in the crock pot, you can cook on low for 3-5 hours or high for 2-3 hours.

Can I use Ground Turkey Instead of Beef?

You can easily swap the ground beef in these chicken gumbo sloppy joes with any ground meat including turkey, chicken, or bison. 

Can You Freeze Sloppy Joes?

Definitely!  Simply add your leftover mixture to an airtight container or Ziploc bag and place in the freezer.  This should last three to six months.

Sloppy Joes for Picky Eaters

Many children don’t particularly love mixed foods, including sloppy joes. If this is your child, I recommend offering the sloppy joe deconstructed and trying some of these strategies.

  • Offer a small piece of sloppy joe on a preloaded fork
  • Spoon a small portion of sloppy joe into a silicone cupcake liner for a dip
  • Have your child spoon sloppy joe mixture onto your plate
  • Ask your child to feed you a spoonful of the sloppy joe mixture
  • Ask your child what could make the sloppy joe better
  • Let them grate their own cheese onto their sloppy joe

It’s okay if your child doesn’t enjoy sloppy joes on the first, or even second, third, or fourth time. Instead of offering a completely separate meal, which can lead to even more picky eating, make sure to include at least one preferred side that your child will enjoy.

How to Store and Reheat Sloppy Joes.

Sloppy joes are one of those better-the-next-day kind of meals.  So if you don’t end up eating all of your chicken gumbo sloppy joes, you can certainly refrigerate or freeze the mixture.  

Simply add your leftover mixture to an airtight container or Ziploc bag and place in the fridge for three to five days or the freezer for three to six months.

To reheat your sloppy joes from the fridge, place desired amount in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until mixture is heated through to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. To reheat sloppy joes from frozen, thaw over night in the fridge or heat in the microwave until 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sides for Sloppy Joes

There are no rules when it comes to what sides for sloppy joes must be served, but some sides are better than others. Many times your preference may come down to what you enjoyed growing up.

For instance, whenever we had sloppy joes for school lunch growing up, it always came with potato chips. Therefore, I’m preferential to potato chips with my sloppy joes, particularly the Ruffles ripples because they’re sturdy enough to handle picking up the leftover hearty sloppy joe mix.

However, I also enjoy a good air-fried French fry or sweet potato waffle fry too.

Best Side Dish Sloppy Joes

  • Potato chips
  • French fries
  • Sweet potato fries
  • Cole slaw
  • Mac n cheese
  • Tater tots
  • Pasta salad
  • Potato Salad Baked Beans
  • Pickles
  • Shredded or sliced cheese

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Chicken Gumbo Sloppy Joes

Chicken Gumbo Sloppy Joes with Beef and Lentils

A classic, mid-western sandwich with a nutritional boost!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • Large sauté pan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Griddle
  • Tongs
  • Paper towels


  • 1 lb Ground beef
  • 1/2 White onion diced
  • 1-2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 10.5 oz Chicken gumbo soup
  • 10.5 oz Tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup Dried green lentils
  • 1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Mustard
  • 2 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1-2 cups beef bone broth or beef broth

Toasted Brioche Hamburger Buns

  • 8 Brioche hamburger buns
  • 2 tbsp Butter


  • Wash and dice onion.
  • Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat until translucent. Add ground beef and chop into small pieces. While ground beef is browning, add salt and pepper.
  • Once ground beef is cooked through, soak up the grease with paper towel (see notes above).
  • Add tomato and chicken gumbo soup, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, lentils, and broth to the pan. Let simmer covered on low for 20-30 minutes or until lentils are soft. Add more broth and stir as needed.

Toasting Buns

  • Once the chicken gumbo sloppy joe mixture is done, heat the griddle to medium-high, butter the brioche hamburger buns and place face down on griddle, toasting the bun until edges are golden brown.
  • Place roughly 1/2 cup of the sloppy joe mixture onto your bottom bun, top with shredded cheese, the top of the bun, and enjoy!

Hi! I'm Alex Turnbull. I'm a registered dietitian specializing in introducing solids and picky eating. Most importantly, I'm a mom of two so I get how stressful feeding kids can be.

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