If you find yourself looking at this sloppy Joe recipe, it’s possible you might be hosting a get-together soon or planning to celebrate National Sloppy Joe Day (March 18). If so, our simple recipe will fit in perfectly with your busy schedule.
If you want to make sloppy joes in the Instant Pot, check out this recipe.
What Is Sloppy Joe?
In the 1950s there was a chef called Joe, who worked at Floyd Angell’s café in Sioux City, Iowa. At the time, the “loose meat” sandwich was a popular thing, and that’s what appeared on Joe’s orders the most.
A “loose meat” sandwich is a burger with crumbly beef patties instead of formed ones. One day, Joe decided to get creative with this type of food.
He started by adding a glob of tomato sauce to the filling and a spoonful of it onto the bun. To his surprise, customers welcomed it with open arms.
The meat filling with tomato sauce looked like a mess and would fall off the bun at any moment. Thus, Joe decided to come up with the name “sloppy Joe” for his glorious creation.
As the original recipe was so simple, it’s easy to modify and add to. Before getting into the how-tos, let’s look at how flexible these delectable buns with filling are.
Is Sloppy Joe Healthy?
This sloppy Joe recipe has 97% lean ground beef, unsalted chicken broth, and homemade tomato sauce as the main ingredients. Therefore, we believe it’s a nutrition boost with all the values following our health guide limits.
That’s before we even mention the addition of various vegetables into the filling. The topping is also filled with nutritious ingredients to create a balanced flavor.
Keep scrolling for more information about them.
Sloppy Joe: Ingredients
You can jump to the recipe card at the bottom of the article to get the grocery list right away. But if you’d like to read a little more, we’ll cover ingredients, method, and substitutions in more detail.
1. Ground Beef
The original recipe calls for beef. Although we do prefer to keep things simple, you can change things up a bit with other choices.
Chicken should be the first option to turn to, especially chicken breast which works well shredded in the sauce. It can go with most dishes and only needs a little prepping beforehand.
Turkey is also a fine alternative as a source of protein. To make these substitutions in this recipe, simply replace ground beef with chicken or turkey and you’re good to go.
Pork can be served as an alternative to beef, although the two aren’t exactly the same. Pork tastes better when mixed with Worcestershire sauce, so you might want to add some to enhance the flavor.
If you’re in the mood for beef, we also use lean ground beef in our stuffed pepper soup recipe. It’s warming, hearty and delicious too!
In this sloppy Joe recipe, we used no sugar or sweetener. The mild sweetness of the sauce relies heavily on the original flavor of beef, tomato sauce, and ketchup.
As a matter of fact, for a sloppy Joe, ketchup can be used interchangeably with barbecue sauce or tomato paste.
3. Hamburger Buns
It comes down to two simple prep steps for the hamburger buns: split into halves, and then toast. If you love pillowy soft buns, feel free to skip the toasting— but note that they’ll get soggy very easily.
Alternatively, you can see this ground beef and cabbage recipe to replace the hamburger buns.
Calories in a Sloppy Joe
One serving of sloppy Joe delivers 448 calories. This includes both the beef filling and the burger buns.
If you wish to cut down the carbohydrate content, you can swap burger buns for mashed potatoes. In the same vein, you can also wrap up tasty burritos with beef filling.
Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about this in the below sections.
How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joe: Recipe
Step 1: Make the sauce
Add the following ingredients into a cast-iron pan over medium heat: onion, olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, ground black pepper, brown gravy mix, salt, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tomato sauce, and chicken broth. Stir.
Step 2: Cook the vegetables
On the same pan, over medium heat, add green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, carrot, and butter to the pan. Stir for 3 minutes.
Step 3: Add ground beef
Continue to add ground beef, 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to the pan.
Step 4: Add sauce
Pour the sauce back into the pan with vegetables and beef, let simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Sprinkle cheese
Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top, stir for a minute. Remove the pan from heat.
Step 6: Toast buns
Slice the hamburger buns in half, toast them in the oven at 350°F for 5 minutes.
Step 7: Serve
Spread the sloppy beef on top of the toasted bun halves. Serve immediately.
Sloppy Joe: Seasoning
In this sloppy Joe recipe, the seasoning is already included in the sauce mixture. It’s also cooked together with the ground beef to make the filling.
The spices we use are garlic powder, brown gravy mix, mustard, ground black pepper, and salt.
Sauce for Sloppy Joe
Sloppy Joe sauce is usually a tomato-based sauce with many ingredients contributing to its sweetness and tartness. It’s easy to make a homemade sauce with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.
The sauce for the sloppy Joe’s filling is supposed to be slightly sweet and bold in flavor. Of course, you’re allowed to alter it to your taste by adjusting a few ingredients.
If you prefer it sweeter, don’t hesitate to add a pinch of brown sugar to the sauce mixture. Otherwise, double up the Worcestershire sauce or add BBQ sauce if you want a more enhanced smoky savory flavor.
Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce
In this sloppy Joe recipe, we created the sauce by cooking together a variety of vegetables and spices. This includes onion, garlic, ground black pepper, brown gravy mix, salt, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tomato sauce, and chicken broth.
The sauce gets cooked with sautéed vegetables and ground beef. Together, they make a sloppy filling with a fantastic mix of flavors and wonderful texture.
Tips for Cooking
1. For the Buns
Be sure to always toast your burger buns. It takes only 5 minutes but will make a huge difference in taste and texture.
You can toast your buns either in the oven or in a skillet. For oven-toasting, please jump to our recipe for instructions.
Likewise, to do it on the stove, simply place the buns cut side down on a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Quickly toast them without adding any oil until slightly golden.
Any type of buns will do for sloppy Joes. Pretzel buns, brioche buns, or even regular buns like ours— you name it.
2. For the Beef Filling
To reach a desired consistency for the filling, it’s important to keep your eyes on it closely while it’s cooking. Be careful not to let it reduce too much as your sloppy Joe will get too dry.
Here are our tips on how to keep track of the beef filling’s texture.
- After adding the sauce to the pan with the beef, stir constantly and reduce heat once it starts to thicken. Next, run a spatula through the mixture slowly so it leaves a trail behind.
- If the liquid immediately flows back to the trail you created, let the mixture simmer for a little longer. As long as the ground bits of meat become noticeable in the sauce pool, it’s good to serve.
- The beef filling should not be overcooked to the point that the ground beef falls apart and the liquid nearly vanishes. It should be thick and slightly lumpy; neither too dry nor too watery.
To reheat leftover sloppy Joe mix, you need to simmer it again with extra liquid to thin it out. The liquid you use can be either beef stock or tomato sauce.
What Goes with Sloppy Joes
When it comes to toppings for sloppy Joes, there are loads of choices waiting for you. It couldn’t be easier to satisfy your appetite.
We sprinkled grated Cheddar cheese on top of the filling, wrapped it up with burger buns, and enjoyed right away. However, you can also make it with a thick slice of pepper jack cheese or dollop of sour cream instead.
Beans are a perfect source of protein. They add more fiber, filler, and texture, and can also easily replace meat in many dishes for vegetarians and vegans.
Therefore, you can try replacing meat with cooked lentils, beans, peas, etc. to make a vegan sloppy Joe recipe.
In case you forgot to put burger buns in your shopping cart, why not enjoy sloppy Joe with baked potatoes? Or even mashed potatoes if you prefer.
Though it would double the sloppiness, it’s a good sloppy after all.
How Long Does Sloppy Joe Last in the Fridge?
You can store the beef filling easily, but not with the burger buns as they’ll become horribly soggy.
The sloppy beef filling remains edible for 3 days in the fridge. After letting it cool, seal it in a glass-ware container to refrigerate and pop it in the microwave when reheat.
If frozen, the beef filling can last to up to 3 months. To thaw after freezing, simply transfer the container to the refrigerator one day before you plan to eat it.
What to Serve with Sloppy Joe
For this recipe, we believe mustard potato salad and simply orange juice will make a perfect wholesome meal combo.
1. Mustard Potato Salad
We decided to make a portion of mustard potato salad to eat along with sloppy Joe. This salad can add a good bunch of micronutrients and fiber, plus, it feels like summer combining the two dishes.
2. Simply Orange Juice
A delicious meal with wouldn’t be complete without the refreshing tang of this simply orange juice. It’s down-to-earth and super hearty— we simply couldn’t ask for more.
Sloppy Joes Recipe
This sloppy Joe recipe promises a messy and savory meal with ground beef in the simplest way. If you've got all the ingredients on hand, let's get to the kitchen and make some buns!
- cook TIME 40 mins
- prep TIME 5 mins
- total TIME 45 mins
- COURSE Main Course
- CUISINE American
- SERVINGS servings
- CALORIES 448 kcal
- 14 oz97% lean ground beef
- 1 tbspolive oil
- 0.1 tspsalt
- 1 tspground black pepper
- 1 tbspgarlic powder (divided)
- 1 tspWorcestershire sauce (divided)
- 2 tbspHeinz ketchup
- 2 tspbrown gravy mix
- 0.3 cupunsalted chicken broth
- 0.5 tspmustard
- 1 cuphomemade tomato sauce
- 2 tbspunsalted butter
- 2 ozcarrot
- 3 ozonion
- 1 ozgreen bell pepper
- 1 ozyellow bell pepper
- 1 ozcheddar cheese
- 4 hamburger buns (split)
Make the sauce:
On a cast-iron pan, turn on medium heat, add the following ingredients successively: onion, olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, ground black pepper, brown gravy mix, salt, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tomato sauce, and chicken broth.
Remove the sauce from the pan, set aside.
Cook the vegetables & beef:
On the same pan, turn on medium heat, add successively: green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, carrot, butter. Stir them around for 3 minutes until tender.
Continue to add ground beef, 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
Pour the sauce back to the pan, let simmer for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top, stir for a minute one last time. Remove the pan from heat.
Slice the hamburger buns in half, toast them in the oven at 350°F for 5 minutes.
Spread the sloppy beef on the toasted buns and serve immediately.