A nostalgic, economical and easy recipe that feeds the whole family. These easy sloppy joe recipe is hearty, savory and have the best flavor!
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The Best Homemade Sloppy Joes
This is one of those dishes that almost everyone grew up eating. It may not be the prettiest, but it sure is delicious. It was a childhood favorite in our house, as well as meatloaf, chicken pot pie and pot roast.
This sloppy joe recipe was always a childhood favorite. There’s just something about family time and sloppy joes! It’s a classic 30-minute meal like easy salisbury steaks that’s super economical and easy to feed the whole family. My kids love this meal as well as goulash recipe!
Making these sloppy joes from scratch was just as easy as popping open a can, but they have more nutrition from using fresh ingredients (and the more fresh veggies I can sneak into dinnertime, the better!). They’re hearty, savory and have the best flavor. Plus the brown sugar adds just the right amount of sweetness.
Why is it Called a Sloppy Joe?
Sloppy Joes have been around for as long as I can remember. The name is definitely unique, so many wonder how the sandwich got it’s name.
Many claim that it was actually invented by a cook named Joe in an Iowa cafe in the early 1900’s. He created a “loose meat” sandwich made of beef and tomato sauce, which is now known as the sloppy joe. Over the years, the dish has evolved and now typically includes beef, tomato sauce or ketchup, veggies, mustard, Worcestershire and other seasonings.
Below are the main ingredients (amounts included in printable recipe below), but feel free to sneak in even more veggies if you’d like. We love to serve them on fresh hamburger buns too.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Ground beef: I use 80-90% lean ground beef. It still has enough flavor, without being overly greasy. You could also use ground turkey.
- Onion: I prefer to use a white or yellow onion when making sloppy joes. If you don’t have an onion on hand, feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon onion powder.
- Red bell pepper: Diced red bell pepper is my go-to veggie to add in. Feel free to add in others like chopped yellow bell pepper, a green bell pepper, celery or chopped carrots.
- Minced garlic: Fresh minced garlic adds so much flavor. You could also use 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder if you don’t have fresh garlic on hand.
- Ketchup: This gives the sloppy joes that famous red color and tangy taste. The bulk of the sauce is made of ketchup.
- Brown sugar: You don’t need a lot…just enough to balance out the acidity from the ketchup and add a slight hint of sweetness.
- Mustard: Plain yellow mustard works best.
- Worcestershire sauce: Adds a savory umami flavor to the sauce. If you want to take up the heat, dd a pinch of red pepper flakes.
How to Make a Sloppy Joe
- COOK. Brown the beef in a large skillet with chopped onion, red bell pepper and garlic. Drain any excess grease from the meat mixture.
- MIX. Add in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper.
- SIMMER. Cover and let simmer for 10 to 20 minutes (stirring occasionally). If more liquid is needed, add more ketchup or a couple Tablespoons of water.
- SERVE on toasted hamburger buns with your favorite sides (we love homemade french fries or mac and cheese). Potato chips and pickles also make a great side.
- Thickening the sauce. The sauce will continue to thicken as it simmers. If for some reason your sloppy joes have too much liquid after simmering, try adding in some corn starch. Just mix about a Tablespoon of both cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and combine. Then add the mixture to the sauce and stir until it thickens.
- Toast the buns. This makes all the difference! Not only does it give a nice flavor, but it helps soak in the sauce without getting soggy. I love to toast mine on a buttered griddle for a few minutes until golden.
- Repurpose your leftovers. Use leftovers to make a whole new dish! Serve over a baked potato, in a grilled cheese or on top of nachos.
Frequently Asked Questions
The sauce is made of ketchup, water, brown sugar, mustard and seasonings.
Many attribute the original sloppy joe to Sioux City, Iowa where a cook named Joe added tomato sauce to some loose meat and turned it into a sandwich.
A sloppy jane is a ground turkey sloppy joe instead of cooked with ground beef.
Manwich is the name of a canned sloppy joe mix. The can contains seasoned sauce that can be added to the cooked ground beef.
Storage + Freezing Leftovers
Store leftovers in airtight container for up to 3 days.
This recipe makes a great freezer meal. I love to double the batch and freeze half for a busy night. Let the meat cool, then place in a freezer bag (make sure to seal out any air) and freeze for up to 3 months.
To reheat, let thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in a skillet or microwave until warm. Add more water and seasonings if needed.
More Easy Dinner Ideas
Sloppy Joe Recipe
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ⅓ cup chopped onion
- ⅓ cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar , more to taste
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce , more to taste
- Salt and Pepper
- 4-6 hamburger buns , toast if desired
- In a large skillet over medium heat brown the ground beef with onion and red pepper. Sprinkle salt and pepper over top. Drain any grease from the meat mixture. Add garlic the last minute of cooking.
- Add in ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on low for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more ketchup or water if you need more liquid.
- Serve warm on fresh hamburger buns.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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