The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe

The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe is for the old fashioned ones you adored as a kid; made from scratch, piled high on a toasted bun— every meaty bite messy and delicious. Grab some ground beef and get ready to win some awards at the dinner table tonight, all in under half an hour.

Need some lightening-fast, super-easy ground beef dinner ideas? Try Iowa’s original Loose Meat Sandwich, Cheesy Meatloaf, Turkey Meatballs, or pasta with Homemade Meat Sauce.

The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe is for the old fashioned ones you adored as a kid; made from scratch, piled high on a toasted bun— every meaty bite messy and delicious. Grab some ground beef and get ready to win some awards at the dinner table tonight, all in under half an hour.

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This is one of my all-time favorite ground beef recipes. My mom would make a huge batch of her homemade Sloppy Joes for our annual trip to northern Wisconsin, and freeze it for the car ride up.

When we got to the cabin, dinner was already made for the kids, cousins, aunts and uncles, and parents. The kids practically licked their plates clean—which is helpful, when you think about it—less to wash off the dish!

Just to be safe, better do what my mom would do, and triple the recipe.

The Best Sloppy Joes are even better in big batches, frozen until you need then for completely satisfying last-minute dinners. Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

A little Sloppy Joes wiki:

Like all famous recipes, there are many who claim responsibility for inventing the Sloppy Joe sandwich, including a bar down in Key West.

Much more likely, however, is that the original Sloppy Joe came from a type of sandwich popular in early 20th century and the Great Depression: cooked loose meat and onions on a bun.

For almost a hundred years, it’s easy to see why people have loved Sloppy Joes. It’s simply a  thrifty, filling, and delicious meal.

The addition of tomato sauce to the ground beef may have come from Cuban dish called picadillo, a sweet and spicy ground meat sauce eaten on top of rice.

Sloppy Joes ingredients:

Here’s what you need to skip the Manwich and go straight to the best.

  • Ground beef. Or ground turkey, for a healthy Sloppy Joe.
  • Onion. My mom always adds finely chopped celery, too.
  • Tomato sauce. Canned tomato sauce is perfect.
  • Ketchup. Buy organic if you like.
  • Brown sugar. Because it tastes so good!
  • Ground mustard. (An equal amount of Dijon mustard works if you don’t have it.)
  • White vinegar.
  • Worcestershire sauce. This fermented British condiment, packed with umami flavors, is your sloppy Joe secret weapon. Just a little bit gives the sauce extra body and makes it rich and savory. Look for Lea & Perrins brand, if you can. 
  • Salt and cracked black pepper.
  • Buns. Split and toasted, if you please.

    The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe is for the old fashioned ones you adored as a kid; made from scratch, piled high on a toasted bun— every meaty bite messy and delicious. Grab some ground beef and get ready to win some awards at the dinner table tonight, all in under half an hour.

     

How to make old school Sloppy Joes in a Slow Cooker:

When you want dinner as soon as you walk in the door, get out your crock pot.

  1. First, brown your meat in advance, then throw the rest of the ingredients in the cooker.
  2. Cook on LOW for 6-7 hours, or HIGH for 3-4 hours.

The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe is for the old fashioned ones you adored as a kid; made from scratch, piled high on a toasted bun— every meaty bite messy and delicious. Grab some ground beef and get ready to win some awards at the dinner table tonight, all in under half an hour.

How to make vegetarian Sloppy Joes:

The impossible is possible. Vegetarians can get messy, too! Make this recipe with your favorite plant-based protein, such as…

  • Crumbled firm tofu
  • Veggie patty
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Seitan or tempeh
  • Cooked lentils

Sloppy Joe sides:

What to serve with Sloppy Joes? This all-star sandwich is almost a meal, but needs a little something else to round out the menu.

Brilliant Sloppy Joe ideas:

  • Homemade Sloppy Joes with BBQ sauce. Your favorite barbecue sauce can be added in place of ketchup for a smoky version of a classic Joe.
  • Mix up the meat. In case you’re wondering, ground chicken, turkey, or even lamb can get sloppy, too. Got a venison connection? By all means, get wild and use it.
  • Sloppy Joes with peppers and onions. Diced bell peppers, extra onion, even garlic make this simple recipe a little more unique.
  • Tomato soup. A can of tomato soup can be added to the ground meat if that’s what you have. Add a little extra ketchup to give it some extra tomato flavor.
  • Sloppy Joe without ketchup. Substitute out barbecue sauce or tomato paste.
  • Healthy Sloppy Joes. Sneak some extra veggies in there. Go on, do it! Get your kids to eat more vegetables  by sneaking in shredded zucchini, carrots, or finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes. No one will be the wiser!
  • 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; it might bring your Joe to the next level.
  • Wine is fine. As it does in a bolognese sauce, a splash of wine adds a wonderful depth of flavor and some acidity to balance the natural sweetness of a Sloppy Joe. Don’t worry, the alcohol will cook out over time.
  • No sugar Sloppy Joe recipe. Leave the sugar out, and make this recipe with no-sugar-added ketchup. If you want a little sweetness, try monk fruit sugar or a tiny bit of honey.
  • Sandwich toppings. Because I’m from Wisconsin, a Sloppy Joe wouldn’t be complete without a thick slice, or wonk, of Wisconsin cheese, put right on top of the meat to melt.

But when it comes to other Sloppy Joe toppings, the sky is the limit: chopped scallions, pickles, green olives, a dollop of sour cream, or even a handful of crushed potato chips. This is your sandwich, after all!

The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe is for the old fashioned ones you adored as a kid; made from scratch, piled high on a toasted bun— every meaty bite messy and delicious. Grab some ground beef and get ready to win some awards at the dinner table tonight, all in under half an hour.

Best bread for Sloppy Joes:

I love soft, toasted buns for Sloppy Joes, especially when they’re buttered. Some readers prefer pretzel buns, or pillowy soft brioche rolls.

But don’t let that stop you if you forgot to buy buns at the store: Serve it on pasta or rice (I even have a crazy One Pot Sloppy Joe Casserole).

Embrace the herbs: A touch of thyme or oregano from the garden can only be a good thing.

Don’t forget the toppings: Because I’m from Wisconsin, a Sloppy Joe wouldn’t be complete without a thick slab of Wisconsin cheese (referred to as a "wonk" in my family), set right on top of the meat to melt.

How to freeze Sloppy Joes for meal prep and last minute dinners:

  1. Leftover Sloppy Joes can be turned into a casserole with a tater tot crust, but the filling also freezes beautifully.
  2. Once cool, freeze the ground meat mixture into smaller portions to thaw when you’re craving the best dinner ever.
  3. Or freeze one giant batch and serve it up at your own cabin, as soon as you get there!

4.99 from 71 votes

The Best Sloppy Joes

The Best Sloppy Joes are easy to make, so delicious, and ready in 30 minutes or less! Triple or quadruple the recipe for parties, backyard barbecues, and giant family vacations.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword sloppy joe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 183kcal
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 Sandwich buns, split
  • 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, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 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 Notes

Some popular reader variations including adding finely chopped celery, bell pepper, or carrots.

Nutrition

Calories: 183kcal

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  1. Gary Johnson

    Actually, tho’ I  may be a little biased,  the best Sloppy Joes I’ve ever had are my Mom’s!  And they are by far the easiest. The ingredients are One Of Everything’ in logical order. 
         One lb. of ground beef
         One onion diced
         One red or green pepper diced
         One cup of ketchup
         One tbs of yellow mustard
         One tsp of white vinegar
         One shake of black pepper to taste
         One shake of salt to taste
    Brown and Drain Ground Beef
    Sauté onion and pepper til translucent
    Mix all ingredients and simmer for forty-five
          minutes
    Serve with American Cheese on a bun

  2. Shannon

    I’m eating these right now as we speak (type)!  These are so nummy!!!  I used lean ground turkey. Didn’t have onion or green pepper on hand. Added a little garlic (I’m a garlic freak)!!!  Absolutely delicious!!! 5 stars

  3. Tami

    OH EM GEE! I just made this, didn’t change a thing, as it is wonderful!!!! My guy liked Manwich – until now!! He’s already upset that we only had 1 pound of ground beef on hand, lol, so guess what?? Because of you and your darned good recipe, I’m trekking it to the store for more ingredients!!! Thanks Meghan, this is truly my go to from now on!!!5 stars

  4. Kristy

    I’ve made this recipe a couple of times and my family loves it. This time I used ground Turkey instead of beef. A-maz-ing!!5 stars

  5. Sonja

    Great sloppy joe recipe! So easy and delicious. Mine was a tad bit acidic (may have been the ketchup or tomato sauce I used), but an extra 1 tbsp of brown sugar cut the acidity down, and it was so yummy. Thank you for this recipe! 5 stars

  6. Hi!  Does the nutrition show for one serving size? If so how much is a serving size? I’m guessing 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Also, does it include the bun (guessing not)? Thanks!!

    1. meggan

      Hi Britt! Sorry to take so long getting back to you, I finally got around to testing this so I can tell you the answer! The recipe makes just under 4 cups total, so there are 8 servings of approximately 1/2 cup each. That was based on the size of my onion though. I am going to change the recipe to say 1 medium onion, instead of a small onion, to hit that even 4-cup mark. If that makes sense. And the calories iare based on including a bun, yes (a Pepperidge Farms hamburger bun). Without the bun, 1/2 cup sloppy joe meat is 190 calories. If you need anything else please let me know! Sorry again for the delay.

  7. Jessica Snodgrass

    Hi! I don’t usually comment on recipes I find online, but I have to say that this was so EASY and turned out so delicious, that I had to thank you! So Thank You! I added a finely grated carrot to the onions and meat to sneak some veggies in for my kids and everyone loved it. I almost cried because it is never that easy for me to cook something that yummy so quickly and easily. This will now be in rotation with our regular meals. Thank you again and again!5 stars

  8. Hi Meggan! I had to blog about this recipe! Thank you so much for sharing! Drop by sometime!
    https://thedomesticatedrebellion.wordpress.com/2018/07/16/home-made-sloppy-joes/

    Mimi5 stars

  9. Mary Ann

    I made this with ground turkey and it was Delish!!!! I won’t be buying canned sloppy joe mix any more.5 stars

  10. Toria E Crews Johnson

    Meggan, my husband is from Wisconsin Rapids and he calls this recipe barbecues! I had always called it sloppy joes growing up. Just like macaroni in his chilli recipe!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Toria, this makes my day! LOL! I know exactly where Wisconsin Rapids is and used to have my cross country State meets there in high school. :D Have a lovely weekend!

  11. David Ress

    Found this recipe while on a mission trip with my church to Cumberland, MD. Had an awesome time with two friends preparing the sloppy joes as the main course for dinner in the kitchen of the Bruce Outreach Center in Westernport, MD. Bookmarked this site for future meal ideas. Awesome recipe, everyone loved the sloppy joes.5 stars

  12. Connie Terry

    I just made it and it was delicious.5 stars

  13. Connie

    Makes 6 servings but recipe calls for 8 buns?

    1. meggan

      Typo. Makes 8 servings!!! Sorry about that. I should say, it makes 8 servings on those cheap junky white buns… if you are doing something more substantial, like kaiser rolls, you might only get 6.

  14. Linda Marks

    I have prepared this recipe numerous times. It is a crowd pleaser. I add diced cellery(finally chopped)or a little crunch.5 stars

  15. silver

    so im not done making the accual sloppy joe 
    but i tried the sauce 🤤👌it will be good 
    we having a small party so i tripled the size 5 stars

  16. Roger

    I was browning some ground beef to make sloppy joes last week & found I did not have my trusty package of sloppy joe mix. I did not want to go to the store so I found your recipe online. I had all the ingredients on your list so I decided to give it a try. The extra 3 minutes to make this from scatch is so worth it. These sloppy joes were way beyond my old way of making them. I will never buy the packaged mix again. I served mine open faced on hamburger buns with a slice of colby jack cheese melted on top. I will be back to try some of your other recipes.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Dear Roger, THANK YOU! You made my day. And you ate it just like we do in Wisconsin – with a slice of Colby jack. :) And I’m glad it was easy for you to make. I really appreciate you! Have a great rest of your weekend.

  17. Damian

    great recipe! opted to try yours over many others on the internet based on half the amount of ketchup and less sugar than other recipes. i ended up modifying the recipe slightly. added 2 garlic cloves(minced) instead of regular salt, I used 1/2 tsp (ish) of celery salt. used 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce instead of 1, a few tbsp of red wine. seemed like it was missing a little something in the end so I added 1-1/2 tsp of liquid smoke and it was perfect! thank you very much!5 stars

  18. Mary Reyes

    Hi Megan,
    This is Mary from Wisconsin. Yes, we got hit hard with the white nasty stuff. 31″ to be exact. You must have been sending someone else a response, but I accidentally received it. Your sloppy joe recipe is to die for. My husband was the picky eater and absolutely loved your recipe.
    Take care and hope you have no need to come to Wisconsin anytime soon. So sick of snow, I’m over this. Possibly 50s and 60s this weekend though. Again take care!
    Mary Reyes5 stars

  19. Elizabeth

    This is way too sweet! How do I cut the sweetness down quickly before I try and serve this to my family? I followed the recipe to a T! Help! What do I do? Tripled the recipe cuz I thought it’d be good based on all the comments. 5 stars

    1. Laura

      …please pardon the typos…should’ve edited Before hitting POST. They LOVED it. 5 stars

    2. Laura

      I’ve subbed barbeque sauce for half of the ketch and cut the he sugar by half, because my family (I don’t eat meat so can’t really comment) tends to like things a little hotter. They LOVED it. Just a thought. 5 stars

    3. Elizabeth

      I did a quick google search which recommended lemon juice, which I just happened to have, and that did it! Now it tastes great! (Minus the salt which I added just a little too much of.) We’ll see if my family likes it! I think it tastes great now! I think I’m so used to eating manwich so the flavor was alien to me. Lol. I change my rating to 5 stars! 5 stars

    4. meggan

      Oh my gosh, you didn’t need to change your rating! The 2-star rating reflects how well my recipe served you, LOL! I’m glad you tried lemon juice and that it worked. I feel like I should have known that, but now I do. I will add a note to the recipe. I really appreciate your kindness and honesty and I’m glad you fixed the recipe. Take care!

    5. meggan

      Hi Elizabeth, you can add tomato paste to cut the sweetness. You may have to simmer longer to thicken. I’m sorry it was too sweet for you. It must be the ketchup, I’m guessing it’s not to your taste. Sorry about that! Yes most of the people who try the recipe seem to like it, but we all have our own individual preferences for food of course. Good luck and sorry about that!

  20. I usually hate sloppy joes, but wanted to make something quick for the family and I LOVE this recipe. It isn’t too sweet or too vinegary. It’s just perfect. I did sub Dijon mustard for the dry mustard and apple cider for the white vinegar, but this is a keeper.5 stars

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