Homemade Sloppy Joes! Brimming with a hearty browned beef, hidden veggies and a rich, lightly sweet, lightly smokey tomato based sauce. This recipe is fast, flavorful and sure to satisfy those old time cravings!
Best Easy Sloppy Joe Recipe
Who doesn’t love a classic sloppy joe sandwich?
They’re saucy, messy, good ol’ shloppy (yes shloppy) deliciousness. Piled high and spilling over because it’s impossible for any bun to fully retain all that tasty goodness.
They may not be the fanciest most appealing dish but they are just good for the soul comfort food. You remember the 90’s didn’t we all grow up eating these?
You’ll love this homemade sauce! It far outdoes that pre-made sauce that comes in a can, which many of us grew up eating.
This recipe doesn’t take much more effort than a store-bought sauce and it’s seriously worth the few extra steps! Made from scratch is always better.
And I think it’s fitting to say these are one of the highlights of summer – burger buns piled high with a beefy saucy filling, then paired with all your favorite summer sides, and an ice cold drink to polish it off. This is how you do real people food.
Photography credit: Jess Larson
Ingredients for Sloppy Joes and Sauce
- Olive oil – another neutral oil will work like vegetable oil. This is just to help brown the beef.
- Yellow onion – this adds a lot of background flavor.
- Red bell pepper – green bell pepper will work too, red just tend to be a little sweeter.
- Ground beef – I prefer 85% Angus beef. Ground turkey would work here too if you are trying to make it a little healthier.
- Garlic – fresh garlic will give the best flavor.
- Chili powder – standard chili powder is what I use but if you want to switch things up try it with Ancho chili powder.
- Paprika – I use sweet paprika but if you want more smokey flavor try it with smoked paprika (not hot).
- Ground mustard – this is the dry powder you can find in the spices section, not prepared yellow mustard.
- Canned tomato sauce – this is a small can, not the standard size can.
- Ketchup – I like to use a ketchup without corn syrup. But any will do use what you have.
- Worcestershire sauce – this adds a lot of depth to the sauce, don’t skip it.
- Hickory smoke flavor – this is a natural ingredient (a liquid) usually found in the condiments section of the grocery store (by ketchup, bbq sauce, etc).
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Sloppy Joes
- Pre-heat skillet: heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Saute veggies: add onion and bell pepper, saute until nearly tender, about 6 minutes. Scoot to one far side of the pan.
- Brown the beef: crumble beef into skillet and cook, breaking up and tossing occasionally, until nearly fully cooked through.
- Drain fat and season mixture: drain excess rendered fat from beef. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika, mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste and cook beef through, about 1 minute.
- Add liquid ingredients: stir in tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, and hickory smoke flavor. Reduce heat and warm through, about 2 minutes. Thin sauce with a little water or chicken/beef broth as desired.
- Serve filling warm in hamburger buns.
Can I Make the Sloppy Joe Filling in Advance?
I think they are best served right away but you can definitely reheat the beef filling the next day. Thin with a little broth or water if needed.
Can I Double the Recipe?
Yes, but you’ll want to saute vegetables and beef in batches in a skillet, then add each batch to a pot so it will all fit before proceeding to add sauce and so forth.
How Can I Make Sloppy Joes in the Slow Cooker?
You’ll first need to saute the veggies and brown and season the beef as directed. Then pour into slow cooker along with liquid ingredients and a couple of tablespoons of broth or water. Cook on low heat 3 hours.
Want to Make them Spicy?
If you like a little kick feel free to add some cayenne pepper to the mix. Red pepper flakes will work too.
What Sides Should I Serve with Sloppy Joes?
- Coleslaw (or use the dressing and make your own vegetable blend)
- Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Potato Salad or Tater Tots
- Rainbow Fruit Salad
- Potato Chips
More Sandwiches Recipes You’ll Love:
Homemade Sloppy Joes! Brimming with a hearty browned beef, hidden veggies and a rich, lightly sweet, lightly smokey tomato based sauce. This version is fast, flavorful and sure to satisfy those old time cravings!
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
- 3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 lb lean ground beef*
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp)
- 3/4 tsp chili powder
- 3/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup**
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp natural hickory smoke flavor
- 4 hamburger buns
Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, saute until nearly tender, about 6 minutes. Scoot to one far side of the pan.
Crumble in beef, let sear until browned on bottom, about 2 - 3 minutes. Then turn and start to break up beef and toss with peppers and onions, continue to cook 2 - 3 minutes or until nearly cooked through.
Drain fat from beef. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika, mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste and cook beef through, about 1 minute, tossing occasionally.
Stir in tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, smoke flavor. Reduce heat and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes (thin with a few tablespoons water or broth as needed).
Serve warm in hamburger buns.