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Sloppy Joes

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Quick, easy, and always a crowd-pleaser, Sloppy Joes make an easy weeknight dinner or game day dish.

A Sloppy Joe is a beloved American sandwich made from ground beef cooked in a tangy and slightly sweet tomato-based sauce and served on a hamburger bun. The name “sloppy” aptly describes the sandwich’s messy nature, as the filling tends to spill out of the bun. My homemade Sloppy Joes, which my kids have playfully nicknamed “Sloppy Jenns” (although I’m not a fan of that name!), is an upgrade on the classic recipe. Instead of using ketchup or seasoning packets, I create a smoky sauce entirely from scratch. The recipe is quick and always a crowd-pleaser, and it can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd or frozen for another meal. To serve, I suggest toasting buttery brioche buns and pairing the sandwiches with either my sweet and tangy citrus slaw or classic coleslaw, crispy potato chips, and some pickles on the side.

What you’ll need to make Sloppy Joes

ingredients for sloppy joes

How to make Sloppy Joes

To begin, combine the beef and baking soda in a medium bowl. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and keep the beef tender. (I use this technique for many ground beef recipes, including beef enchiladas, stuffed peppers, stacked beef enchiladas and ground beef chili.)

beef and baking soda in bowl

Mash with your hands until well combined, and then let sit on the counter for 20 to 25 minutes to tenderize.

mashed beef mixture

While the beef rests, chop the veggies. I use a food processor to speed this process along, but it’s fine to chop by hand.

vegetables in food processor for easy chopping

If using a food processor, be sure to pulse only until the vegetables are finely chopped, not puréed.

chopped veggies for sloppy joes

When the meat is just about ready, melt the butter in a large skillet.

melting the butter

Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic.

onions, bell pepper and garlic in pan

Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

softened veggies

Add the beef, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, and dry mustard.

beef and seasoning added to skillet

Cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until mostly brown, about 3 minutes.

browned beef mixture

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.

adding the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce

Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.

sloppy joes mixture in skillet

While the sauce simmers, butter the inside of the buns and place on a baking sheet, butter side up.

buttered buns for sloppy joes on sheet pan

Toast in the oven until warmed through and lightly crispy, about 5 minutes.

toasted buns

Taste the sloppy Joe mixture and adjust seasonings. (If you like your Sloppy Joes sweet, feel free to add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar.) Spoon the mixture onto the toasted hamburger buns and serve. Enjoy!

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Sloppy Joes

Quick, easy, and always a crowd-pleaser, Sloppy Joes make an easy weeknight dinner or game day dish.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes


  • 1¼ pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buns
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 (14-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Frank's, or to taste
  • Hamburger buns


  1. In a medium bowl, using your hands, mash the beef with the baking soda. Let it sit on the counter for 20 to 25 minutes to tenderize.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set a rack in the middle position.
  3. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add the beef, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, and dry mustard and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until mostly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, butter the inside of the buns and place on a baking sheet, butter side up. Toast in the oven until warmed through and lightly crispy, about 5 minutes.
  6. Taste the sloppy Joe mixture and adjust seasonings. (If you like your Sloppy Joes sweet, feel free to add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar.) Spoon the mixture onto the toasted hamburger buns and serve.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The meat mixture can be frozen for up to 3 months and reheated in the microwave om on the stovetop until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (5 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 sandwich
  • Calories: 406
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32 g
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 29 g
  • Sodium: 887 mg
  • Cholesterol: 86 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • The last time I had a Sloppy Joe was as a teenager–Manwich, of course! Definitely elevated with this version! Perfect weeknight meal!

    • — Kelly McBride on March 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this today as written and it was a hit! Leagues better than Sloppy Joes I’ve had in the past, most of which came from packages or cans 🙁 Pretty easy to prepare, as well. The spices blended together very well, with no one spice dominating (I was concerned about the cumin). I even toasted the ciabatta bread as written and it worked really well. Thanks again, Jenn.

    • — John M. on March 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • I always make your recipes exactly as is and unfortunately, this is the first and only of the 30+ I’ve tried that was not a hit. I think it was mostly because it didn’t taste like grandma’s recipe that was a sweeter sloppy Joe (even with the brown sugar) and the other reason was it was just too wet, too tomatoey for our taste. Perhaps too much liquid from using the food processor for chopping the veggies or perhaps the tomato sauce didn’t cook down enough. But I thank you for putting this one out there as we love your family friendly meal ideas! We also made the pumpkin bread that day and the boys said it’s even better than Starbucks 🙂

    • — Michelle on March 13, 2023
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  • Can’t fault this dish, its one we keep going back to. Simple and easy to prepare. Plus, delicious.

    • — Liz on March 9, 2023
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  • Made this last night along with the slaw recipe and it was a big hit. Only tweak I made was to the slaw – no oil and no honey – carrots were sweet enough.

    Will be making this regularly. Thanks Jenn

    • — Josephine on March 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • 1000% agree with the last reviewer – this is another excellent recipe! Prepared it for dinner tonight and it was perfect. The balance of seasonings is spot on. Follow this exactly as Jen says, and you (and your family) will be very happy! Perfect for a chilly night.

    • — Susan on March 7, 2023
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  • Thank You Jen for yet another delicious and easy to follow recipe. A few personal changes: left out the hot sauce and added the brown sugar. Yummy! Served with sweet potato fries. Will absolutely make again!!

    • — Renee Orozco on March 6, 2023
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  • Do you think Impossible Burger could be substituted with success? If so, would you still use the baking soda?

    • — Judy on March 6, 2023
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    • Hi Judy, I’ve never worked with Impossible burger before so it’s hard to say for sure, but I suspect it will work (and you wouldn’t need to use the baking soda). Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on March 6, 2023
      • Reply
  • Can the meat “rest” for longer than 25 minutes? It often takes me longer to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Just wondering if this was time sensitive. Thanks!

    • — Andrew on March 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yes that’s fine, Andrew. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 6, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is my go to recipe for sloppy joes. It appeals more to my adult taste buds than the ketchup based recipe I used before. I’ve added nothing nor changed anything. It’s great!

    • — Sharon on March 5, 2023
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  • I forgot to add 5 Stars.

    • — Eric on March 5, 2023
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  • This recipe is a home run. We have two of our grown sons staying with us and when they raid the pantry, it looks like a biblical plague hit our house. I used toasted ciabatta sandwich buns and we all devoured it. It was just enough and everyone got full. I’ve said it before, my wife’s cooking and Jenn’s recipes are the reasons I have a gym membership. Awesome recipe!

    • — Eric on March 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • So good nobody would think its also healthy

    I used to make ground beef BBQs with a lot of sugar so I was a little skeptical when I made this recipe. One teaspoon of sugar? Really? Yes! Great flavors with the right textures.

    • — Judith on February 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Any chance I could make this in a slow cooker? If yes, would I need to change anything?



    • — Sharron Scheibel on February 10, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharron, I think it should work with no changes other than the cook time.

      • — Jenn on February 11, 2023
      • Reply
  • I have made this recipe many times and it is always a hit. Super easy weekday dinner. I love the low sugar content and I usually swap 1/4 lb beef for about a half a cup of cooked lentils, which totally absorb the bold flavor.

    • — Liv lee on February 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • Just looking at making the Sloppy Joes for visitors this weekend. Looks fantastic. What is the equivalent of canned tomato sauce in Australia? I’m thinking tomato soup or passata?

    • — Annie on December 6, 2022
    • Reply
    • From what I see online, I think that the closest equivalent to canned tomato sauce in the US would be passata. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 7, 2022
      • Reply
    • I made this last night and it was excellent as written although I didnt use the baking soda.
      After tasting it I seasoned it to my liking with a touch of cinnamon which I find adds warmth and another layer of flavoring.
      Won’t go back to store bought! Thank you!

      • — Nicola Morgan on March 10, 2023
      • Reply
  • I loved the flavors and how easy it was to put together! Thanks for a great weeknight dish!

    • — Ellen Varsek on October 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Excellent! Family loved, so glad I doubled the recipe! Once again a keeper!

    • — Ria Klein on September 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve been searching for the perfect sloppy joe recipe, and this is it! Loved the smoky flavor and the fact that it doesn’t use ketchup or any sugar. I paired it with homeade, pillowy hamburger rolls, which took it over the top. Next time, I’ll try the coleslaw recipe with it.

    • — Marin on April 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • These were delicious as is, but my mom always made sweeter sloppy joe’s so I’m glad there was the option to add sugar if you want. The added sugar definitely made the recipe more nostalgic for me, but either way this is way more elevated than your traditional sloppy joe. I am totally making this again.

    • — Joseph on April 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made as written and husband and I really enjoyed this. Will kick it up next time with more heat (we like spice). Definitely in my meal rotation. Thank you 🙂

    • — Theresa on March 12, 2022
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  • Made this today. I had to adjust the quantities of everything because I made a bigger batch, but this turned out great. I used 80/20 and skipped the baking soda. Everyone really like it.

    • — Joan on February 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Great recipe!
    It’s easy to make and taste delicious. I highly recommend adding this one to your repertoire.

    • — Grace on February 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe. Instead of adding sugar I add a grated carrot. It provides the sweetness but adds nutrients.

    • — Tracie on January 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this twice now, and it was wonderful both times. Hadn’t made sloppy joes in years but was oddly craving them. These were terrific. We use slider buns with them, and the buttered, toasted buns make them even better. Thanks for sharing this!

    • — Karen Cable on January 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I just made this recipe with ground chicken, skipping the baking soda step. These are the most delicious sloppy joe’s I’ve ever eaten! I have now made this recipe with ground beef, ground turkey and ground chicken. All delicious, but chicken is my personal favorite. I also used brioche buns and skipped the buttering step. Perfect! Thank you, Jen!

    • — LM on December 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • We are not big fans of sloppy Joes here but this is great! I often make it with lentils instead of beef and it’s always a hit. I sometimes make it with 1/2 ground beef (or whatever I have handy) and 1/2 riced cauliflower (more veggies and it also saves me some money). My kids both like all versions, although they are not into sandwiches much (weird, I know…). Hubby enjoys it too!
    Thanks for another great recipe!
    PS: when using riced cauliflower I add it at the end, just to cook it through, so it doesn’t get mushy. I buy it frozen.

    • — Nina on December 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Also, the great thing everyone loved was the bun! I always toast buns under the broiler, but baking them was amazing! The outsides were crusty and didn’t get soggy once the meat was spooned on the bun!

    • — Barbara K on November 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • A Winner!!! I prepared this by the recipe…only adding brown sugar. I planned on freezing the left-overs, but dad took all of them to a friend!!! Guess I’ll be making a double batch next week! Everyone thought they were delicious!!!

    • — Barbara K on November 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • I just made this with ground turkey (combination of turkey breast & thigh meat, skipping the baking soda step) and it is delicious! I’ve made the beef version before, but my family might prefer the turkey to beef – the sauce really shines.

    • — LM on October 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • Fantastic. Better than a store-bought sauce.

    • — Mary on October 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • I was thinking of trying this with ground turkey. Have you ever tried it? Would you still have the baking soda? Thank you.

    • — Grandma on September 9, 2021
    • Reply
    • I do think it would work with ground turkey (although I wouldn’t go too lean), and you can skip the baking soda. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on September 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • I HATE Sloppy Joes…….oh wait……if it’s a sloppy Jenn, I’m completely changing my mind. This was delicious. I did add a bit of brown sugar, as my family likes some sweetness, but made just as described. Wonderful

    • — Lin Hamami on August 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • Really delicious and easy last-minute meal. Thanks, Jen!

  • Excellent recipe! Made it tonight and everyone loved it!!

    • — Michelle Burch
    • Reply
  • Best Sloppy Joe Recipe ever!! I have never liked sloppy joe because it is sweet. this recipe is not sweet! It is savory and delicious! Wish I found it years ago.

  • This is a FABULOUS recipe! I made it with ground bison, best Joe’s ever! I can totally see using this on nachos 🙂

  • I end up making these a decent amount. It’s a really basic tasting comfort food dinner. Somehow it’s a bit better that your regular recipe. Toasting the buns makes a nice difference too.

  • Another family favorite! Loved the Smokey spicy flavor. Another of your recipes added to dinner rotation. Your blog is first place I look for dinner ideas. Thanks for sharing!!

    • — Mary Dickinson
    • Reply
  • I used to make a recipe with ketchup. This is so much more complex tasting and delicious. My family just gobbles them up!

  • This was delicious! I used 80/20 ground beef and did not tenderize it with the baking soda but I still thought it had great flavor. Would highly recommend using a food processor to finely dice the veggies. Also, this recipe made a lot more food than I was expecting. I doubled it so we would have leftovers for several days and we probably have enough to make 14 sloppy joes! Once we finish the buns we plan to serve it over white rice as an easy meal.

  • We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel and right now I have a crock pot, electric skillet, and electric griddle to work with. These Sloppy Joes sounded so good (and quick and easy) that I couldn’t wait to make them for dinner last night. Food processor is packed up, so I chopped everything very fine (which took the most time) and made these in the skillet. They turned out marvelous. Very flavorful and I love the idea of no “package” mix. I “toasted” the buns on the griddle with a little butter… Took no time to put everything together. Thanks, Jenn, for another “winner”.

  • I love Once upon a Chef, have used it many times. Unfortunately this was disappointing for me. I always make the recipe the first time using the exact recipe, I don’t change a thing. I saw cumin in the recipe and was a little leery because it adds that Southwest taco taste. While the flavor was ok it reminded me too much of taco beef and not sloppy joe. Sorry, not my favorite

  • These sloppy joe’s are absolutely perfect and definitely a keeper! My only modification was to substitute ground turkey. Delicious on leftover homemade sourdough english muffins.

  • Yum!! Omitted green peppers (family not fans), added garlic (family loves garlic), and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. What a hit! Thanks!

  • Just made these tonight along with the recommended slaw and both were amazing! Felt like a gourmet meal at a high-end bbq spot! Loved the flavor. I added a bit of maple syrup for the sweetness. Yum. Will definitely make these again. Yummy!

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