Sloppy Joes

May 15, 2019  ·  Published August 3, 2012

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Homemade Sloppy Joes! Brimming with 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!

Close up image of a sloppy joe in a hamburger bun, it's sitting on a white tabletop and parchment paper with a jar of pickles in the background.

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 sloppy joe sauce! It far outdoes that pre-made sauce that comes in a can, which many of us grew up eating.

These sloppy joes from scratch don’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

Browning ground beef in a skillet with bell peppers and onions.

Homemade Sloppy Joes Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make the homemade sloppy joe sauce and the rest of the sandwiches:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Pouring tomato sauce into ground beef, bell pepper and onion mixture in skillet.

How to Make Sloppy Joes

  • Pre-heat skillet: heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté veggies: add onion and bell pepper, sauté 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.

Sloppy Joe ground beef filling with sauce in a large black skillet.

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 sauté 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.

Can I Use Ground Turkey Instead?

Yes, ground turkey would work here too if you are trying to make it a little healthier. Just don’t use a super lean turkey (you need some fat for flavor and to prevent the mixture from being dry).

Open face sloppy joe on a white plate with a side of coleslaw and pickles

Can I Make Sloppy Joes in the Slow Cooker?

Yes! You’ll first need to sauté 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.

What to Serve with Sloppy Joes

This easy sloppy joe recipe pairs well with almost any summer side dish. If you need a few ideas, here are my favorite sloppy joe sides:

Homemade sloppy joe sandwich in a hamburger bun with a side of coleslaw.

Tips for Making the Best Sloppy Joes

  • If you like a little kick, feel free to add some cayenne pepper to the mix. Red pepper flakes will work too.
  • If you want a smokier flavor, try the sloppy joe sauce with smoked paprika (not hot).
  • You can enjoy your homemade sloppy joes as is, or you can top with some coleslaw.

More Sandwiches Recipes You’ll Love:

Sloppy Joes
5 from 5 votes

Sloppy Joes

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!
Servings: 4
Prep15 minutes
Cook15 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

  • *Ground turkey can be substituted (don't use super lean).
  • **I like to use a corn syrup-free ketchup such as Simply Heinz.
  • Pair with grilled corn, coleslaw, potato chips, pickle spears or potato salad.
Nutrition Facts
Sloppy Joes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 413 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 73mg24%
Sodium 616mg27%
Potassium 669mg19%
Carbohydrates 35g12%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 28g56%
Vitamin A 1390IU28%
Vitamin C 40.7mg49%
Calcium 107mg11%
Iron 4.7mg26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Recipe and photos updated May 2019. If you loved the old recipe I can email you a copy, I just prefer this more simplified faster version better.