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Get ready to indulge in the delicious messiness of Sloppy Joes! This classic American sandwich is a crowd-pleaser that combines savory ground beef cooked in a tangy tomato-based sauce with a hint of sweetness.

Open bun with sloppy Joe filling on cutting board.
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About This Easy Sloppy Joes Recipe

Ah, the Sloppy Joe. Perhaps the most underrated school cafeteria meal out there. These easy sloppy joes are truly a simple meal to make, any night of the week and they hold up particularly well when refrigerated or frozen.

The flavorful meat mixture is piled high onto soft hamburger buns, creating a mouthwatering combination of textures and tastes. Topped with your choice of condiments such as melted cheese, sliced pickles, onions, or a dollop of coleslaw, each bite is a satisfying explosion of flavors.

Whether you’re hosting a casual gathering or simply craving a comforting meal, this easy-to-make and versatile dish is sure to satisfy. Get ready to savor the messy goodness of Sloppy Joes and experience the timeless joy of this beloved comfort food classic.

A homemade sloppy joe is:

  • Fast and Kid-Friendly – These make a wonderfully quick, easy dinner during the week and are definitely a hit with the kids. When you’ve had a long day and fighting about eating is not on your “to-do” list, making these sloppy dinner joes will ensure everyone is happy!
  • Customizable – You can use hamburger buns, or even hot dog rolls, and various fixings for some added fun!
  • Easy and versatile! If you don’t have ground beef, you could use ground turkey or ground chicken instead.

Homemade Sloppy Joe Ingredients

  • Ground Chuck – This is an 80/20 ground beef which includes a little more fat to keep the meat juicy and flavorful.
  • Onion – Diced or chopped to saute and add to the meat mixture.
  • Hamburger buns – You want a more dense bun to be able to hold that sauce, so a thick brioche or crusty seeded bun would be perfect.
  • Sauce – Ketchup, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar.

How to Make Sloppy Joes

See the recipe card below for full, detailed instructions

Sloppy Joes in pan.
  • Saute onion and ground beef until browned and cooked through.
  • Stir in ketchup, seasonings and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes, slightly covered so steam can escape.
  • Toast the buns, then top with the sloppy joe meat mixture and other desired toppings.

Sloppy Joe Toppings Bar

Since their flavor is comfortingly simple, so they are the perfect backdrop for various toppings.

When I make these for my family, I like to give them a few options so I will put together a fixins’ bar that includes

  • diced onion
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sliced pickles
  • sliced avocado
  • lettuce and tomato
  • sliced jalapenos
  • coleslaw
  • mustard
  • hot sauce
  • Fritos or potato chips

What is a Sloppy Joe?

A Sloppy Joe is a classic American sandwich with ground meat (typically beef), tomato-based sauce or seasoning, and various spices and flavorings. It is known for its messy and saucy nature, hence the name “Sloppy Joe.” It’s sometimes called a loose meat sandwich.

FAQs

What type of buns are best for serving sloppy joes?

The choice of buns for serving sloppy joes can depend on personal preference and the desired texture and flavor. However, there are a few types of buns that are commonly used and work well with sloppy joes:

Soft hamburger buns: Traditional soft hamburger buns are a popular choice for serving sloppy joes. They have a light texture and are sturdy enough to hold the saucy filling without falling apart. Look for buns that are fresh and slightly toasted for added texture.

Brioche buns: Brioche buns are a slightly richer and sweeter option. They have a soft and buttery texture, which can add a nice contrast to the savory and tangy flavors of the sloppy joe filling.

Kaiser rolls: Kaiser rolls are larger and denser than regular hamburger buns. They have a slightly crusty exterior and a soft interior, making them a sturdy choice for holding the hearty filling of sloppy joes.

Pretzel buns: Pretzel buns have a chewy texture and a slightly salty taste, which can provide an interesting twist to traditional sloppy joes. Their sturdy nature makes them a good option for holding the saucy filling without becoming too soggy.

Whole wheat or whole grain buns: If you prefer a healthier option or want to add more fiber to your meal, consider using whole wheat or whole grain buns. These buns offer a heartier texture and additional nutritional benefits.

Can I make sloppy joes ahead of time?

You can cook the sloppy joe meat mixture ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. When ready to serve, simply reheat the mixture on the stovetop until warmed through.

In fact, go ahead and assmble the sandwiches, too. I find that they taste even better once they’ve hung out in the fridge for 24 hours. You can make the sandwiches ahead of time, and then quickly reheat them when it is time for dinner.

Are there any vegetarian or vegan alternatives to traditional sloppy joes?

You can replace the ground beef with a vegan alternative, like lentils, black beans or chopped mushrooms.

How can I reduce the amount of sugar in the sauce?

Sloppy Joe Sauce is notoriously sweet, so if you want to bring it more to the savory side, there are a few changes you can make: Use tomato sauce instead of ketchup, or use a sugar-free ketchup, and reduce or completely omit the brown sugar.

Serving Suggestions

I also love to serve our Sloppy Joes alongside a copycat Olive Garden Salad or other veggie to make it a complete meal. This Italian Chopped Salad is almost always a fool-proof hit that kids love.  We also love these kid-tested, parent-approved Oven Roasted Vegetables and this Roasted Broccoli. Super simple; super delicious; just like Sloppy Joes!

Make Ahead and Storage

Make Ahead: You can cook the sloppy joe meat mixture ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. When ready to serve, simply reheat the mixture on the stovetop until warmed through. Do the same with leftovers.

Freeze the meat mixture: If you want to prepare sloppy joes even further in advance, you can freeze the cooked meat mixture. After it has cooled, transfer it to a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag. Label it with the date and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the mixture in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it on the stovetop.

Assemble the sandwiches in advance: If you prefer to have the entire sloppy joe sandwiches ready to go, you can assemble them ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. However, it’s important to note that the buns may become slightly softer as they sit in the filling. To prevent excessive sogginess, you can wrap the assembled sandwiches tightly in foil or plastic wrap and store them for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, reheat the wrapped sandwiches in a preheated oven until warmed through.

Sloppy Joe sandwich held in hand.

Helpful Tips

  1. Choose the right meat: Ground beef is traditionally used for sloppy joes, typically using lean or medium ground beef. However, depending on your preferences, you can also experiment with other ground meats like turkey, chicken, pork.
  2. Brown the meat properly: When cooking the ground meat, brown it well. This adds flavor and develops a rich, caramelized taste. Use a spatula or a meat chopper to break the meat into small crumbles while cooking.
  3. Drain excess grease: After browning the meat, it’s important to drain off any excess grease. This helps prevent the final dish from being too greasy or oily. You can use a slotted spoon or transfer the meat to a colander lined with paper towels to remove the excess fat.
  4. Adjust the consistency: Sloppy joes should have a thick and saucy consistency. If the mixture is too runny, continue simmering until the excess liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens. If it’s too thick, you can add a bit of water or broth to reach the desired consistency.
  5. Toast the buns: Before assembling your sloppy joes, consider toasting the buns slightly. This helps add a nice texture and prevents them from becoming overly soggy from the sauce.
  6. Let it rest: After cooking the sloppy joe mixture, let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together and makes the meat easier to handle when assembling the sandwiches.
  7. Customize the toppings: Sloppy joes are often served with toppings like sliced onions, pickles, cheese, or coleslaw. Feel free to add your favorite toppings to enhance the taste and texture of the sandwiches.
  8. Enjoy with care: As the name suggests, sloppy joes can be messy to eat. Serve them with napkins or on plates with utensils to help contain the deliciously messy experience.
Recipe
Sloppy Joe featured image.

Sloppy Joes Recipe

4.89 from 9 votes
Classic Sloppy Joes recipe with ground beef, onions, ketchup, Worcestershire, and brown sugar sauce for the ultimate sweet and savory meal. 
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 large hamburger buns
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

for the sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
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Instructions
 

  • Saute diced onion in a large pan over medium heat with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
  • After 3 minutes add beef to pan and break apart with a wooden spoon. Cook beef until brown on all sides (about 10 minutes).
  • Once the beef is brown, add in the ketchup, water, garlic powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and simmer for 15 minutes slightly covered with a lid.
  • Serve on top of buns. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Recipe makes 4 large Sloppy Joes or 6 decent sized portions.
  • Draining beef fat is optional.  
  • If sauce gets too dry during the simmering process, just add a few more ounces of water to pan and stir to combine.
Keyword sloppy joes

Nutrition

Calories: 689kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 35gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 1500mgPotassium: 777mgFiber: 2gSugar: 23gVitamin A: 308IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 130mgIron: 5mg

Nutritional Disclaimer Kristin Maxwell of “Yellow Bliss Road” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. For accurate calorie counts and other nutritional values, we recommend running the ingredients through your preferred online nutritional calculator. Calories and other nutritional values can vary depending on which brands were used.

James Delmage

James’s love of cooking took flight at an early age when he became his grandmother’s culinary right hand, and was further fueled by jobs at various food establishments and eateries.  After college, James worked as an equities and futures trader on Wall Street for 15 years before retiring, and realizing his higher purpose: creating beautiful recipes his grandma would be proud of, and sharing them with others via his blog, Sip and Feast.

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