The very BEST Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe! Made with simple ingredients including ground beef, onion, green bell pepper, ketchup, and tomato paste, these childhood favorite sloppy joes take just 30 minutes to make, freeze perfectly and are loved by all ages.
What is a Sloppy Joe?
To answer this question, we first have to know what a sloppy joe is. A sloppy joe is a popular American sandwich made by combining ground beef, onions, tomato sauce (or ketchup), and seasoning on a hamburger bun.
The origin of the sloppy joe sandwich started 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.
There are several variations to this humble American sandwich, including the “dynamite” which is popular in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. In this version, you’ll often find extra onions, bell peppers, and sometimes celery.
How to Make Sloppy Joes
Let’s get started by gathering our ingredients:
- 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.
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Now, to make our Sloppy Joes,
- Brown the ground beef – Grab a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Add some olive oil, approximately 1 tablespoon. Once hot, add the ground beef and brown, breaking it apart into small crumbly bits and pieces with a wooden spatula as it cooks. Once cooked – approximately 5-7 minutes – transfer to a fine-mesh strainer to drain.
- Cook the veggies – Wipeout any stuck-on bits from your skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the onion and bell pepper. Mix it all together and continue to cook until soft – approximately 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds.
- Return the meat – Return your cooked ground beef back to the skillet and stir in the tomato paste. Mix well to combine.
- Prepare the sauce – Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and water.
- Add the sauce and season – Add the ketchup mixture to the beef, thoroughly mixing to combine. Season with chili powder, red chili flakes (if using), salt and pepper.
- 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, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Serve – Remove from heat and serve sandwiched between your favorite toasted bun.
That’s it! It’s pretty easy, right?!
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).
What to Serve with Sloppy Joes?
The best thing you can do is keep the sides simple. 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.
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.
What to do with Leftovers?
Store leftover sloppy joes in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days – just keep the filling off the bun until you’re ready to serve it up.
You can also freeze any leftovers or double the recipe and freeze the extra half for later. To freeze leftover sloppy joes, allow the 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.
More Recipes Using Ground Beef,
If you try making this Easy Sloppy Joes Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE FORKED SPOON NEWSLETTER FOR FREE AND RECEIVE WEEKLY RECIPE NOTIFICATIONS DELIVERED STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!
Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 large yellow onion (minced)
- 1 large green bell pepper (seeded and minced)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1¼ cups ketchup
- 2 tbsp mustard ((yellow or brown mustard))
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp red chili flakes ((optional))
- salt and pepper (to season)
- 6 hamburger buns
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown, breaking apart into small crumbled with a wooden spatula as it cooks, approximately 5-7 minutes. Transfer 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 in butter. 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 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.)