By Carolyn Malcoun

This vegetarian sloppy joe recipe uses pinto beans and a heap of veggies tossed in a sweet, tangy sauce for the filling of a tad messy kid-friendly sandwich you can make in your slow cooker.

Vegetarian Pinto Bean Sloppy Joes

Serves: 10
Serving Size: About 2/3 cup and 1 bun
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 1/2 hours to 9 1/2 hours

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 large white onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup dry pinto beans, soaked
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)
3 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10 whole-wheat hamburger buns

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and chili powder; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and scrape up any browned bits.

Coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Drain and rinse the soaked beans; transfer to the slow cooker. Stir in bell pepper, tomato sauce, water, soy sauce (or tamari) and tomato paste to combine. Spread the carrot-onion mixture over the bean mixture, but don’t stir the two together. (The layer on top helps keep the beans submerged during cooking so they don’t dry out.) Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 9 hours.

Stir in cabbage, zucchini, corn, honey mustard, brown sugar and salt; cook on high for another 30 minutes.

Serve the mixture on buns.

Recipe notes
Before using beans in a slow-cooker recipe, soak them to ensure even cooking. Start by sorting beans to remove any pebbles; rinse well with cold water.

To soak overnight, place beans in a large bowl, cover with 3 inches of cold water and soak at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours.

To “quick soak,” place beans in a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.

To make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to two days; reheat before serving.