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Sloppy Joes

5 stars based on 40 votes

These smoky, spicy Sloppy Joes — or “Sloppy Jenns” as we call them around here — are great for back-to-school and football season. Unlike most Sloppy Joes, they’re made entirely from scratch (read: no ketchup or mystery seasoning packets) and they’re not sweet. The ingredient list looks long but don’t let that deter you; the recipe is easy to throw together on a busy weeknight. Promise! I usually pile the beef onto buttery toasted buns and serve the sandwiches with a Sweet & Tangy Citrus Slaw but the beef mixture is also delicious over rice or pasta. Feel free to double or triple the recipe for a crowd or to freeze some for later.

how to make sloppy joe's

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.

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

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.

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic.

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

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

how to make sloppy joe's

While the sauce simmers, 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.

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!

how to make sloppy joe's

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Sloppy Joes

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

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 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
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 (14-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Frank's, or to taste
  • Hamburger buns

Instructions

  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.

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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.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Someone must have gotten me a food processor for my wedding (12 years ago) because I don’t know where else it could have come from. I finally took it out of the cabinet for this. I’m glad I did. I try to stay away from processed food and recipes like this make it easy. I’ve never had the canned version but it couldn’t possibly be this good. Thanks Jen.

    - Stacy on November 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! I added the sugar. So glad I don’t need to rely on the packets anymore. Thank you for another tasty family dinner!!

    - mindy gillum on November 19, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Nice, added sugar. Formidable!!

    - Tay on November 11, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Supposedly, sloppy joes (aka Taverns) were “invented” simultaneously in two cities including my small hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. Sloppy Joes are a big hit there. I’ve tried a lot of recipes for Sloppy Joes over the years, and I have sampled a lot of recipes. This concoction is the best by far. Thanks.

    - Alicia on October 19, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My husband and son loved these! I thought they were delicious too- and great the next day as well. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you!

    - Kristen on October 10, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jen, I’m from Australia and I’m not familiar with tomato sauce. I see it in a lot of recipes. What we call here tomato sauce is the equivalent to ketchup in the US. Do you know what would be a good substitute for tomato sauce in this recipe? Here we have something that’s called pasata but I’m not sure if this is what you call tomato sauce. Thank you

    - Mim on October 9, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Mim, Canned tomato sauce is simply cooked puréed tomatoes, sometimes with added spices. I think passata is raw? But even if so, it will work. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on October 9, 2017 Reply
      • 5 stars

        This was so yummy. I made it with the citrus slaw and it was the perfect match. Thank you for all your great recipes. I can’t wait for your book to come out

        - Mim on October 13, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I❤️ChefJenn! As usual, another excellent recipe from Jenn! In fact, so satisfying was her Sloppy Joe’s recipe, I have added it to my menu plan! Most importantly, my husband loves it too! Thanks again, Jenn!

    - Sarah on October 5, 2017 Reply
    • 😊

      - Jenn on October 5, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My family loved it! I also left out the hot sauce.

    - Karen on September 25, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    family loved them, left out the hot sauce

    - Taryn on September 23, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made this,
    It is excellent, followed the recipe exactly as written, I used chicken instead of beef because that is what I had on hand.

    Thx, Jenn

    - Dave on September 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipie “as is” for a dinner with friends. The adults and children all loved it! I’m a vegetarian so I love recipes that are simple for me to prepare for my meat loving friends and family. I served these with your sweet & tangy citrus Cole slaw. The entire meal was a hit, thank you, Jenn!

    - Cassandra on September 21, 2017 Reply
  • Will this recipe work with ground turkey?

    - Bonnie on September 21, 2017 Reply
    • Sure, Bonnie, but no need to treat the turkey with baking soda. I’d use a mix of white and dark meat, if possible.

      - Jenn on September 21, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this as written except I discovered I was out of dry mustard so added a squirt of yellow mustard. This was delicious. My husband loved it so much he printed it out so I’d be sure to make it again. Loved a sloppy joe that wasn’t sweet.

    - Terry on September 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Somehow I missed out on sloppy joe’s growing up…. and have been making up for lost time! I like all the veg. mixed in. This was super easy to make and tasted delicious!

    - Maria on September 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I had planned to make these for a neighborhood get-together this weekend but needed a quick meal after returning from an out of town trip. That was the first great thing about this recipe–simple ingredients that I had on hand. Minutes later my husband and I were amazed that something so simple and quick to prepare tasted so good. Like all of Jenn’s recipes, this is a “keeper.” Will be making these again for the neighbors–there aren’t any leftovers.

    - Barbara on September 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I would call this adult sloppy Joe. Myself and my husband loved this recipe. I really liked that it didnt include sugar or ketchup like most sloppy Joe recipes do. I bought an 8oz of tomato sauce instead of 14oz but just added a bit of water to make up the difference and it was fine, also added a bit extra hot sauce. Quite tasty!

    - christina on September 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Wow, this recipe completely rocks! A very balanced melange of spices. No sugar needed (for us), and garnished with a touch of fresh thyme and parsley since it was in the refrig. My kids gave it a double thumbs up. Will definitely make again and again.

    - JennyCooks on September 19, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this and the tangy citrus slaw this weekend for a family dinner with my Dad. Everyone loved the meal!! I have to say these are the best sloppy joes I have ever had, delicious comfort food! The slaw is flavorful, refreshing as well as healthy and both dishes together are good enough for company or a dinner to take to someone! I used ground beef as I was curious about the baking soda effect , and it really made these moist next time I will try ground chicken!!

    - Ruth Harris on September 19, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The recipe was simple and at tge same time very yummy ! They turned out one of the famous in my family ❤️
    Keeping the recipe for future too !
    Thanks for sharing

    - Sabrina on September 19, 2017 Reply
  • Made these last night and my child who is convinced he didn’t like sloppy joes ate it up! Favorite sloppy joe recipe I have ever tried.

    - Carrie Funk on September 19, 2017 Reply
  • OMG, I made these last night, following your recipe to a T. (It did not need a splash of cider vinegar or anything else for that matter.) This is the perfect Sloppy Joe’s recipe. It transported me back to my childhood–in a good way. My mom used to call them Wimpies.

    - Lisa on September 19, 2017 Reply
  • 3 stars

    This was the first recipe I have tried from your blog that hasn’t blown me away. I made it as written, but next time I will definitely use regular paprika in place of smoked and play around with the seasoning mix more. Certainly a good base recipe for homemade sloppy joes from scratch, which I have been searching for. Thank you, as always!

    - Ally Taft on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent recipe! I made it exactly as written and the sloppy joes were delicious. It was almost more like a chili.

    The seasoning was perfect (and you could build the heat to your preference). It was juicy and tasty! I wouldn’t add the sugar.

    - Maria Ciniglio on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These are what Sloppy Joe’s should be; tangy, flavourful, the right amount of spice and heat, and just a wee bit sloppy!
    We used our favourite butter tray buns and they were perfect (for us, at any rate). I see where Celeste used brioche slider rolls – brilliant!
    I also notice that substitutions for the beef include chicken and turkey, I may try these with ground pork but they are so delicious it will hard to deviate from the recipe.
    Thanks Jenn!

    - Dave B. on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • I made these exactly as written and they were So SO good. Definitely a little spicier than what my mother made (That is a good thing!) Also, she called them wimpies. Thank you, Jenn, for a blast from the past.

    - Lisa on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this sloppy Joe recipe this week. It was fantastic! I have also made your bolognse sauce, also outstanding. You are my go to spot for great recipes. Thank you!
    Pam

    - Pam on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made it tonight for family dinner. Was just right for 4, 2 of whom are on low carb diets so skipped the hamburger bun.
    Wonderful flavours, even sophisticated, and no need for sugar unless like too many people you are addicted.

    - Walter Rilkoff on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi,
    I made your recipe for company tonight and everyone loved them! I followed the recipe and only had a little left over. I made the slaw to go with the sloppy joes and it was a perfect side. Thanks for all the good recipes.
    Mary

    - Mary Thorgersen on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Cooked the sloppy joes for supper tonight. I left out the salt and used no salt tomato since I am on a low salt diet. Very Good! Nice Sunday night supper.

    - Debi Stuart on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made this recipe today for lunch and served it on little slider brioche rolls and have to say absolutely amazing! This is another one to add to my working mother weeknight dinner recipe repertoire. Thank you so much Jenn for your great recipes!

    - Celeste on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Love it. It is the best I’ve ever tasted. Could eat it every night.

    - Julie Cervini on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenny(my favorite chef)
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and skills with rest of us. I look forward to your subscription. My bugging question is : can baking soda be used to tenderize cheap cut beef if yes ,please advice ratio and duration for effectiveness.
    I made sloppy Jo this morning , substituted with ground turkey , it also worked very well.

    - Nikki Johnson on September 17, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Nikki, Sometimes baking soda is used as a tenderizer in Asian cooking for tougher cuts like flank steak. Here’s a tutorial on how to use it.

      - Jenn on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just as an addition to my last comment: I used regular paprika and did add the tsp of sugar.
    Thanks again!

    - Karen on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Once again your recipe came just when I needed it! We made these last night for dinner and now I FINALLY have the Sloppy Joe taste I’ve been looking for! I left out the hot sauce for everyone to add later and that was fine. The dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce gives it enough spice for me. Next time I’ll double the recipe, though; the portions were a little small.

    - Karen on September 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    And to think that I thought the packet Sloppy Joe mix was good. This was SO MUCH BETTER and so simple. I am beginning to enjoy cooking again since all of Jenn’s recipes are delicious and easy to follow.

    - Susan on September 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Amazing! I followed recipe exactly as written except omitted tomato paste. I did not add the optional sugar. This was the Best sloppy joes we ever had. My son who has traveled all over the country stopped by and commented he normally is not impressed with sloppy joes but these were amazing. He ended up having a second serving. Thanks so much.

    - Lynn on September 16, 2017 Reply
  • 3 stars

    I was so excited to see a sloppy joe recipe in my inbox that didn’t use tons of ketchup/sugar so we made these today. The recipe was extremely easy to make. I followed the recipe exactly & we did add the 1 tsp of brown sugar since I thought my family would prefer it in there for our taste. Our thoughts during our meal was that they were good but not the sloppy joe taste we are used to. This recipe was nice but we didn’t love the smoked paprika. But in saying that my kids preferred this version over the sugary ketchup one I normally make so it’s a winner in my books – lol.

    - TracyV on September 16, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Tracy, Feel free to replace the smoked paprika with regular paprika next time. And for a more typical Sloppy Joe flavor, you might replace the tomato sauce and tomato paste with 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce and 1/2 cup ketchup. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on September 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jenn, I love your site and recipes! In fact this is the only foodie site I look forward to reading and trying the new recipes on a regular basis!! The Sloppy Joe’s are delish and I Loved learning about the use of soda which I will now incorporate in other recipes. Thank you!

    - Anne on September 15, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These Sloppy Joes are the best I have ever had! So quick and easy to make too. I served them on toasted Hawaiian Rolls to add a little sweetness. Served Jenn’s fantastic Curried Roasted Carrots as a side dish for a total finger food dinner. Everyone at my football game night dinner begged for the recipes!! SCORE!

    - Gwen on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve always made Sloppy Joes with white vinegar to give it some bite, but love this recipe without it! Adding baking soda to tenderize the beef was new to me – it worked great! I plan to try it with other beef dishes!

    Thank you for your great ideas! I love receiving your recipes. It takes the boredom out of cooking!

    - Renee Hartwig on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • I used to love Manwich Sauce for Sloppy Joe’s (I know, shoot me), but the last couple of times I used it, it seemed blah. I’m going to try this when I pick up some ground chuck at Coop this week. Will report back!

    - Sandra D on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    loved the sloppy joe recipe could not find smoked paprika so I just used the regular kind my family was okay wit that served it with citrus salad which was also very good. would make this again

    - Denise on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • Can you freeze this?

    - Cathy on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • Yes, Cathy, it freezes nicely!

      - Jenn on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Really good! Not overly sweet like some recipes. I thinks it’s a new favorite and can’t wait to try it out on the grandkids!

    - Trish on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love all your recipes, and I’m sure this one is as delicious as the rest. Please pardon me…as a grammar & punctuation fiend: no apostrophe….SLOPPY JOES. Apostrophe S (‘s) is the possessive form, not the plural. That being said, I love your website.

    - Kathy on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • Oops! Thank you, Kathy — I missed that one but it has been corrected :).

      - Jenn on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I have been “converted” from using the packet! Easy and delicious!

    - Kristen on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • I made the Sloppy Joe’s / Sweet & Tangy Citrus Slaw (with cilantro.) It was amazing! like a party in your mouth! The Sloppy Joe’s are very easy to make and freeze great for an easy delicious meal on those nights you don’t have a lot of time to cook!
    I’m going to thaw the remainder Sloppy Joe’s in my slow cooker on the 24th for the Pat’s game and serve them tortilla chips and guacamole! Can’t wait!

    - G. Sweeney on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • Oops, one question: No vinegar? It seems to cry out for a splash of maybe cider vinegar, or is that overkill with the worceshire?

    - Lisa on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • I don’t think it needs it, Lisa – there’s already quite a bit of tang from the tomatoes and Worcestershire, and since there’s no sugar you don’t need vinegar to balance the sweetness. But if you think it’s missing something, there’s no harm in adding a little cider vinegar.

      - Jenn on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • Any suggestions on how to make this vegetarian? tofu or beans?

    - Sandy on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Sandy, perhaps this could be made with tofu, but I don’t have any experience cooking with it, so I’m not a great resource there! I do think that beans would work. I’d add them at the same time you would add the beef. (And I’d suggest cutting back on the salt in the recipe if you’re using canned beans.) LMK how they turn out!

      - Jenn on September 15, 2017 Reply
  • Sometimes I think you read my mind. I was just recently looking for a Sloppy Joe’s recipe and all of them seemed way too sweet (or called for Ketchup–big No). I will report back when I make these.

    - Lisa on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • Hi. I noticed that you said it would be great with ground chicken, but didn’t mention ground turkey in either of your replies. Would it be OK with that? And I usually just use white meat but would it need some dark turkey in the grinding or am I fine with just white meat? Thanks!

    - Jane on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Jane, I prefer ground chicken to ground turkey, but I do think a blend of white and dark meat turkey would work too. Please lmk how it turns out if you try it that way.

      - Jenn on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • How do you think these would be with either ground turkey or ground chicken?
    Thank you.

    - Mary Manzer on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Mary, I think it’d be wonderful with ground chicken – and no need to treat it with baking soda if you go that route.

      - Jenn on September 14, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jenn…question. Have you tried this recipe with ground turkey or chicken instead of beef? If so, would you make any modifications to the other ingredients or leave everything as is?

    Thanks!
    April

    - April on September 14, 2017 Reply
    • I haven’t April but it would be great with chicken. And you can omit the baking soda step if not using beef.

      - Jenn on September 14, 2017 Reply

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