These BBQ lentils get a sweet taste and crunchy texture from shredded carrots and loads of flavor from a homemade BBQ sauce with simple ingredients that can easily be made vegan or vegetarian. They’re a delicious plant-based twist on traditional barbecue and can be used for lentil sloppy Joes and other sandwiches or just served as part of a BBQ spread.
Cookout season is in full swing, and I’m always experimenting with veggie-forward recipes to add to the typical spread of burgers, dogs, and the like. These BBQ lentils are the result of my experimentation. It turns out these itty bitty legumes taste pretty darn good in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part. This recipe is taken to a whole ‘nother level with the addition of sweet, crunchy carrots. Obviously veggies steal the show…again. In fact, the sauce on these lentils has a lot less sugar than typical BBQ sauces, in part because of the natural sweetness from carrots.
I love making a big batch and serving them with slaw, cornbread, green beans, and/or pasta salad for a barbecue-themed weeknight meal. Plus, the leftovers are great for lunch the next day. I hope you add this delish recipe to your rotation ASAP!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Lentils: I like to use brown lentils, but you can use green lentils too. Red lentils also work, but they will be softer and won’t retain their shape as well as brown or green ones. Some people prefer that kind of texture in this recipe, so it’s up to you!
- Ketchup: I recommend using an unsweetened or low-sugar ketchup. I really like using Primal Kitchen brand when making BBQ lentils. I know that most homemade BBQ sauces are typically made with tomato paste or tomatoes and added vinegar, but I prefer to use ketchup (it already has vinegar) as a shortcut.
- Shredded carrots: You can find carrots that are already shredded at most grocery stores (this is my preference to cut back on prep time!), or you can shred them yourself.
- Maple syrup: You can sub honey if needed or even a little brown sugar.
- Smoked paprika: This is key to getting the smoky flavor.
- Garlic powder: If you only have fresh garlic, you can substitute a clove or two.
- Worcestershire sauce: If you need/want these to be vegan or vegetarian, look for a Worcestershire sauce that does not have anchovies, like Annie’s brand. Use a gluten-free Worcestershire sauce if you need the lentils to be gluten-free. If you don’t have any Worcestershire sauce, you can try soy sauce as a substitute.
The full recipe card for BBQ lentils is at the bottom of the post. Here’s a preview of the steps with photos to guide you.
Combine 1 cup dry lentils with 2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain excess liquid. Transfer the lentils to a bowl.
In the same saucepan, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together and put it back on the stove.
Add the cooked lentils and carrots. Stir well, and let everything simmer together until the carrots soften and the sauce is hot.
Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy!
Storage and Reheating
Store BBQ lentils in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in a covered saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, for about 10 minutes until warmed through. You can also reheat them in the microwave for a minute or two.
The lentils are seriously SO tasty on their own, but you can use them in a million ways. Try them as a filling for sloppy Joes or tacos. You can even use them as a dip served with corn chips, mix them into macaroni and cheese, or stuff them into celery sticks, sweet potatoes, or lettuce wraps.
I like to serve BBQ lentils as part of a larger barbecue spread, featuring some of these recipes:
- Greek Yogurt Coleslaw with Radishes or Apple Jicama Slaw
- Pasta Salad with Artichokes and Spinach
- Instant Pot Mashed Red Potatoes
- Vegan Potato Salad Recipe with Fresh Dill
- Healthy Greek Yogurt Broccoli Salad
- Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese
- Slow Cooker Collard Greens
- Italian Marinated Green Bean Salad
- Grilled Sweet Corn with Cilantro Chimichurri
- Biscuits or cornbread
More Lentil Recipes
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BBQ Lentils with Shredded Carrots
- 1 cup dried lentils - can use brown or green
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup ketchup - low sugar or unsweetened
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce - look for a vegan option (like Annie's) if you need/want these to be vegan or vegetarian
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 10 ounces shredded carrots - about 3 cups
- In a large saucepan, combine the dry lentils and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook the lentils until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any excess water. Transfer the lentils to a bowl while you make the sauce.
- In the same saucepan, whisk together the ketchup, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. Place it back on the stove over low-medium heat.
- Add the carrots and lentils to the pan. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the carrots are tender and the sauce is hot.
- Remove from heat. Serve warm and enjoy!
- Leave a rating or review by tapping the stars on this recipe card (above) or in the comments section (at the end of the post)!
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove in a covered saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
- Use for sloppy Joes, sandwiches, dips, tacos, and more. They also taste great on their own as part of a barbecue spread.
- I like to use brown lentils for this recipe, but you can use green ones or even red lentils. Red lentils will get softer and won’t retain their shape as well as brown or green ones, so keep that in mind. They also take less time to cook.
This post was originally published in May 2019. It was updated with additional photos and tips in August 2023, but the recipe remains the same.