The Best Sloppy Joes

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When it comes to easy homemade dinners, it doesn’t get any better than the best Sloppy Joes, a longtime family favorite. This 30-minute meal is perfect for busy weeknights, backyard barbecues, and birthday parties. Every bite is meaty, messy, and delicious.

Plates of Sloppy Joes on plates with chips and pickles nearby.

Sloppy Joes take me back to the good old days of summer vacations. Every year my mom would make a giant batch of this recipe, freeze it, and stow it in the car during our annual trip to northern Wisconsin. When we got to the cabin, dinner was already made. All we had to do was toast up some buns and set the table. Summer meant lots of Sloppy Joe sandwiches, which was fine by me.

Of course, you can fiddle with the recipe. Make it spicy, with some green chilies. Keep out the sugar if you prefer things less sweet, or add some smokiness with a little BBQ sauce. Fill it full of hidden veggies, or leave it as-is. Throw in some ground turkey, lamb, or venison. There’s simply no wrong way to make a Sloppy Joe.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for the best sloppy joes.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Ground beef: Or substitute ground turkey or venison.
  • Onion: Finely chopped celery and bell peppers are great too!
  • Brown sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of brown sugar in your Sloppy Joe, please leave it out!
  • Worcestershire sauce: In a pinch, you can substitute soy sauce.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine beef and onion. Cook until the meat is mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
Ground beef and onion cooked in a saucepan.
  1. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper). 
Sloppy joe sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  1. Pour sauce ingredients over drained beef and stir until evenly coated.
Pouring sloppy joe sauce over cooked ground beef and onions.
  1. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (cover if you prefer a sloppier Sloppy Joe).
A pan of Sloppy Joe meat mixture.
  1. Serve in buns.
Someone holding a sloppy joe over a plate with pickles and chips.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 4 to 6 cups of Sloppy Joe meat mixture, enough for 8 heaping sandwiches.
  • Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Cool completely, then add to freezer containers (one big batch or individual portions), label and date, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • BBQ sauce. Your favorite barbecue sauce (or my favorite bbq sauce, based on Sweet Baby Ray’s) can be added instead of ketchup for a smoky version of a classic Joe.
  • Spicy: If you love some heat, throw in a tablespoon of ancho chili powder, a teaspoon of ground cumin, or a half teaspoon of chipotle powder. Or, splash on your favorite hot sauce to taste.
  • Slow cooker: In a skillet, brown the ground beef. Drain well and add the bottom of a slow cooker. Add all the other ingredients (except the buns), cover, and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  • Casserole: For a fork-friendly version, try my One Pot Sloppy Joe Casserole.

Recipe FAQs

Is sloppy joe and Manwich the same thing?

Manwich is a specific food product that is marked at Sloppy Joe filling. However, as many commenters will attest, you needn’t open that can of Manwich ever again. This recipe is easy and delicious and miles ahead of Manwich!

More quick dinner ideas

Plates of Sloppy Joes on plates with chips and pickles nearby.

The Best Sloppy Joes

When it comes to easy homemade dinners, it doesn’t get any better than the best Sloppy Joes, a longtime family favorite.
Author: Meggan Hill
5 from 267 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 294

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound ground beef (see note 1)
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped (see note 2)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (see note 3)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (see note 4)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 Sandwich buns split

Instructions 

  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine beef and onion. Cook until the meat is mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper). 
  • Pour sauce ingredients over drained beef and stir until evenly coated. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (cover if you prefer a sloppier Sloppy Joe). Serve in buns.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ground beef: Or substitute ground turkey or venison.
  2. Onion: Finely chopped celery and bell peppers are great too!
  3. Brown sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of brown sugar in your Sloppy Joe, please leave it out!
  4. Worcestershire sauce: In a pinch, you can substitute soy sauce.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes 4 to 6 cups of Sloppy Joe meat mixture, enough for 8 heaping sandwiches.
  6. Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Freezer: Cool completely, then add to freezer containers (one big batch or individual portions), label and date, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sandwichCalories: 294kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 14gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 412mgPotassium: 292mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 77IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 92mgIron: 3mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. This is an absolutely delicious Sloppy Joe recipe. I made it numerous times as written, but recently I started making it a little more adult-friendly by adding about a tablespoon or so of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) and that just makes it out of this world! Definitely try it!5 stars

  2. Meggan, I have made this recipe tons of times and we love it! I was planning this for dinner and defrosted my meat but in the meantime, we were asked to dinner. My question: if I make this today will it be okay to freeze it for another night’s dinner? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Diane, I’m so happy you love it! Yes but eventually the quality will suffer. But as far as food safety goes, I would say you’d want to eat it in 3 months, but I haven’t actually tested this to know for sure. Hope this helps! – Meggan

    2. I do all the time so I know my hubby and kids will have dinner if I’m not home, and her recipe is no different than mine except I use apple cider vinegar instead.

  3. This is similar to the Sloppy Joes I make except I use Splenda brown sugar as I am Diabetic. I also like to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped homemade dill pickle to the mix. This is also great using ground turkey.

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