Quick and Easy Sloppy Joe Recipe is made with delicious, budget-friendly ingredients like ground beef, onion, green bell pepper, ketchup, and tomato paste. A family favorite and easy weeknight dinner, these homemade sloppy joes are ready in less than 30 minutes, freeze well, and taste amazing over toasted buns.
Kids love ’em. Grown-ups love ’em. And dogs love licking up the leftovers that fall on the floor thanks to said kiddos (and sometimes adults). Yes, I’m talking about the beloved childhood favorite, the sloppy joe.
Filled with ground beef and hidden veggies in a flavorful tomato sauce, sloppy joes are one of the most delicious and classic comfort foods loved by the whole family. Today I’m sharing how to make my favorite homemade classic sloppy joe recipe. It’s quick, easy, and so delicious served on warm toasted buttery buns.
- Trying to eat less meat? Try these Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes
What is a Sloppy Joe?
A sloppy joe is a popular American sandwich made by combining ground beef, onions, tomato sauce (or ketchup), and seasonings on a hamburger bun.
The sloppy joe originated sometime in the 1930s when “loose meat” sandwiches were popular. At this time, “loose meat” sandwiches (also known as tavern sandwiches) were made with ground beef on a bun, sometimes mixed with onions and topped with cheese.
The sloppy joe found its place when a cook named Joe, working at a cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches. References to the sloppy joe sandwich start appearing by the 1940s.
- Olive oil and butter
- Ground beef
- Green bell pepper
- Tomato paste
- Worcestershire sauce
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder (non-spicy), red chili flakes (optional), salt and pepper
- Hamburger buns
Feel free to modify the recipe to suit your own personal tastes and preferences.
For example, omit the onion or green bell pepper if you prefer a meatier sloppy joe. Skip the sugar if you prefer a less sweet sauce. And finally, ditch the red chili flakes if you’re sensitive to spicy food.
On the other hand, if you like a tangier tomato sauce, add a tablespoon (or two) of apple cider vinegar.
How to Make Sloppy Joes
1. Brown the ground beef – Grab a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Add some olive oil, approximately 1 tablespoon. Once hot, brown the ground beef, breaking it apart into smaller pieces as it cooks. Once cooked transfer the meat to a fine-mesh strainer to drain.
2. Cook the veggies – Wipe any stuck-on bits from your skillet and return the skillet to medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook until soft – approximately 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds.
3. Return the meat – Return the cooked beef back to the skillet and stir in the tomato paste. Mix well to combine.
4. Prepare the sauce – Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and water.
5. Add the sauce and season – Add the ketchup mixture to the meat mixture, thoroughly mixing to combine. Season with chili powder, red chili flakes (if using), salt, and black pepper.
6. Cover and cook – Reduce heat to medium-low. If your mixture appears dry, add a bit more water. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
7. Serve – Remove from heat and serve sandwiched between your favorite toasted bun.
What is the Difference Between Manwich and Sloppy Joes?
Manwich is a premade, shelf-stable, store-bought can of tomato-based sloppy joe sauce that is meant to be added to ground beef and onions that have already been cooked in a skillet. This combination of Manwich with ground beef on a bun makes a sloppy joe.
The original Manwich was invented in 1969 by ConAgra Foods and Hunt’s.
Leftovers and Freezing
Store leftover sloppy joes in a sealed air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To freeze leftover sloppy joes, allow the mixture to cool completely before transferring it to freezer-friendly bags or containers. Freeze for up to 4 months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving.
What Goes with Sloppy Joes?
My grandmother often served her sloppy joe recipe with corn on the cob, potato chips, pickles, and coleslaw (for the adults). If you want to be extra fancy, consider serving yours with a simple green salad or a fresh fruit salad.
Have you tried making this Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Sloppy Joe Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large yellow onion - minced
- 1 large green bell pepper - seeded and minced
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoon mustard - (yellow mustard or brown mustard)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes - (optional)
- salt and black pepper - to season
- 6 hamburger buns
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, breaking it apart into small crumbles with a wooden spatula as it cooks, approximately 5-7 minutes. Transfer the cooked ground beef to a fine-mesh strainer to drain.
- Return the skillet to medium heat and add the butter. Add the onion and bell pepper, stirring well to coat. Cook, stirring often, until soft, approximately 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds.
- Return beef back to the skillet and stir in the tomato paste. Mix well to combine.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and water. Add to the skillet, mixing well to combine with the beef. Season with chili powder, red chili flakes (if using), salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Remove from heat and serve the prepared sloppy joe meat sandwiched between your favorite toasted bun.
- Ground beef may be substituted with ground turkey, chicken, lamb, or pork.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Sloppy joe mixture can be frozen! Allow mixture to cool completely before transferring to freezer-friendly bags or containers. Freeze for up to 4 months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)