Sloppy Joes

Tested & Perfected Recipes

These smoky, spicy Sloppy Joes are made completely from scratch — no ketchup or seasoning packets — and they make an easy weeknight dinner.

These smoky, spicy Sloppy Joes (or “Sloppy Jenns” as we call them around here) make a great weeknight dinner or game day dish. Unlike most Sloppy Joes, they’re made entirely from scratch — no ketchup or mystery seasoning packets — and they’re not sweet.

The ingredient list looks long but don’t let that deter you. It’s mostly just a lot of spices, and the recipe is quick and easy to throw together. I like to pile the beef onto buttery toasted buns and serve the sandwiches with 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 freeze some for later.

What you’ll need to make Sloppy Joes

how to make sloppy joe's

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, such as Stacked Beef Enchiladas and Ground Beef Chili.)

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

These smoky, spicy Sloppy Joes are made completely from scratch — no ketchup or seasoning packets — and they make an easy weeknight dinner.

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


  • 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


  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

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  • 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, 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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Reviews & Comments

  • Absolute favorite sloppy joe recipe! Made my husband a sloppy joe convert!

    • — Megan on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I will never eat sloppy joes made from store bought sauce again. This recipe is wonderful. I added 1/2 tsp. thyme, a pinch of cloves and cayenne pepper, a cup chopped onion, a cup of chopped red bell pepper, and Trader Joe’s Green Sauce since I didn’t have hot pepper sauce. Yummy! Thanks again for another great recipe! Selena.

    • — Selena on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Another go-to recipe in our family, very flavorful! Jenn – I never know if I’m supposed to use dried or ground oregano…I have both in my spice drawer but always hesitate on which to use. Thanks!

    • — Arijaan on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Dried 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
      • You’re the best, thank you!

        • — Arijaan on January 28, 2021
        • Reply
  • Have made this a number of times. Very tasty, works up quickly, and freezes well.

    • — Maureen on January 28, 2021
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  • I was craving a childhood classic for nostalgia and comfort, but without all the processed sauce. This recipe hit the spot, was easy to make, and was really interesting science. Putting baking soda on the beef, really did make the ground beef soft, without having to have a high fat content.

    • — MoCoco on January 28, 2021
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  • We love this recipe and are so glad we found one without ketchup! We substitute ground turkey for the beef, but otherwise nothing else needs changed! We make these joes at least once a month.

    • — Daun on January 28, 2021
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  • Oh boy. Sloppy Joes are amazing. I was using the canned sauce but these are so much better. My family loves them. Something I keep in the freezer for Friday nights.

    • — Jacqueline on January 28, 2021
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  • I remember growing up loving sloppy joes as a kid, but this new version knocks it out of the park! The smell of the peppers, onions, garlic, and smoked paprika are enough to make a girl swoon.

    I’ve made this a handful of times, and it’s always a hit! Take the time to toast the buns – it really makes a difference.

    We’ve also started adding a slice of pepper jack or Monterey Jack and that also brings it to another level! Thanks Jenn!

    • — Katie on January 28, 2021
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  • Very good.
    This is our go-to recipe for Sloppy Joes. We substitute ground turkey or chicken and omit the baking soda. Plan on making a double batch and freezing some for a quick meal.

    • — Filbert on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made these for dinner. After the “mmmmmm’s” of happy eaters, my son asked, “Why didn’t you ever make these before?” And my daughter added, “And when will you make them again?” A great after work dinner that doesn’t take much time but tastes like it does. Thank you, again, Jenn.

    • — Bonnie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Seriously, these are so savory and yummy it’s a shame to put them in the category of a regular sloppy Joe. We really enjoy these on a cold night.. easy to whip up and very satisfying.

    I’ve made them a couple times now, and enjoyed them both times. Highly recommend!

    • — Julie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • It is pretty good, turned out well and directions very clear. However on the second making of this I was curious about something because the spice blend essentially smelled like taco seasoning. So second time I skipped all the spices except the oregano and used a old taco seasoning pack that was in the cupboard, I also hate when recipes tell you to use a couple spoons of tomato paste assuming you have the tube type which is over priced so I skipped it. In the end it had no real discernible difference other then the taco packet had more chili powder so it was hotter. I gave it 4 stars because it does taste good however the recipe to me has an overkill amount of ingredients where there didn’t have to be.

    • — Andrew on November 9, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made this tonight and it was a HIT! My 3 year old twins (who rarely take two bites of their dinner) both pulled for seconds!! This meal was delicious, came together in no time, and is such a classic 🙂 You will not be disappointed!!!

    • — Vicki R. on September 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Just letting you know you have a big fan from Africa. This recipe was great. I used chicken and it worked really well. I added a little honey and my kids loved it. Thank you for remaining true and making cooking so easy and fun. Karen

    • — Karen on September 17, 2020
    • Reply
  • I do not like sloppy Joe’s and this was awesome! ☺️ I thought I had tomato paste and tomato sauce but I did not. Found a can of tomato soup… did not know that I had …and used that and it came out great. Also added Anaheim peppers from my garden instead of the green peppers. Delish👌

    • — Renee on September 16, 2020
    • Reply
  • Another fantastic recipe! Most of what I cook are your recipes as literally all are yummy and easy! My 6 yr old kept asking for sloppy joes and I find most too sweet for my liking to make for just him and I then found your recipe and didn’t see sugar as an ingredient. My son ate and said mama, it’s really good. Sold! In meal rotation! I never worry about any of your recipes! We’re making your challah bread tomorrow, thanks much for sharing all your recipes with us!

    • — Phung on September 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Your sloppy Joe recipe arrived in my email today and I made It.
    It was awesome!

    • — Rick starling on September 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • This recipe worked out great! Better than mom used to make. I am very excited to find Jenn. I struggle(hate) with cooking! So much so that my recent husband(Hispanic descent) would throw away my prepared meal or feed it to the dog. 🙁 Now he really likes them – I even get compliments.
    My 14-year-old is my taste tester. She liked the flavor but thought it needed a little sweetness. I added a rounded teaspoon of raw honey. She loved it! Next time I will throw in chopped carrots with the veggies for some natural sweetness.

    • — Pamela Feenstra on August 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • My family loves these Sloppy Joes. I was surprised because they have so many vegetables in them. I didn’t not change the recipe at all. Thank you for a terrific recipe! -Patty, Wilmington DE.

    • — Patty S. on July 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made these last night and they were soooo good. I had to make a couple of minor adjustments because of what I had on hand — no tomato sauce, so substituted 1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilis, pureed it a little with an immersion blender, and left out the tabasco sauce. I used hot dog buns and some hoagie rolls I’d made two days before instead of the hamburger buns. The kids briefly objected to the spiciness, but then the younger one, normally a picky eater, asked for seconds. I kept going for more.

    • — Amelia on July 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn I’ve made this three times over the past couple of months because my husband loves it and it’s so quick and easy to make. I thought I’d try ground pork the next time. Would I change anything or can I just substitute the meat? Love your recipes. Sharon

    • — Sharon on June 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you both enjoy it! It’s fine to use pork here; you won’t need to treat it with baking soda like you do with ground beef, but other than that, no modifications are necessary. I’d love to hear how it turns out with pork!

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2020
      • Reply
  • I made these with ground lamb, and they are amazing!

    • — Robin on June 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • Thanks for this! I can usually tell by the ingredients whether or not my family and I will like a dish. This is literally the only sloppy joe recipe I’ve looked at that isn’t loaded up with ketchup and sugar. The rest all sound like recipes for candy. This one will be dinner tonight.

    • — Skeezix on May 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Because of the crazy time we’re in my store is out of 90% lean ground beef. Should I make any adjustments using 85%?

    • — Sharon on May 19, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharon, I think it should be fine with no adjustments to the recipe. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 19, 2020
      • Reply
      • These are the best sloppy joe’s I’ve ever had! I had to simmer about 25 mins. for it to thicken up. Probably because of the higher fat content. I did add the sugar and a little extra heat. Thanks for another great recipe. 🙂

        • — Sharon on May 21, 2020
        • Reply
  • I’ve made these twice now and they are really, really good. They take me back to my childhood. I love their smokiness. These are total comfort food. The second time I made these I was looking for a way to do something new with ground beef to perk up dinner in these trying times. Thanks!

    • — Tom on May 6, 2020
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  • This really is the best sloppy joe recipe!

    • — CN on May 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • One of the reasons I love Jenn’s recipes is because they taste great even if I don’t have all the ingredients and used subs like I did for this recipe.

    I didn’t have a red pepper, and I didn’t have ground beef – I used a green pepper and ground turkey. I even skipped the hot sauce (kids don’t like it). I kept wondering if it would be ruined as I cooked it. NOPE! When I finished it, it was full of flavor and even seemed hearty as if I used ground beef (maybe it was the Worcester sauce?). It was so great not to have that ketchup taste and have that nice, rich, tomato flavor.

    No complaints and all the plates were clean! Thank you, Jean!

    • — Elsie on April 17, 2020
    • Reply
    • I love her recipes because she tells you when you can use a “cheat” – like using a store bought crust for Quiche Lorraine and when not to cheat – like only using AOP gruyere in the same recipe.

      • — Tom on May 6, 2020
      • Reply
  • No offense but this was the worst sloppy joe recipe I have made. I am shocked it has so many good reviews. Even with all the spices, etc. it had absolutely no taste. The leftovers I tried to doctor up a bit – to no avail.

    • — Holly on April 16, 2020
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  • Loved this! Followed the recipe almost exactly except I added 1 T brown sugar instead of the suggested 1 tsp. I liked it sweeter.

    • — Kathryn on April 12, 2020
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  • Great recipe Jenn. We always enjoy your recipes. This one is no different. I love old time recipes and I love that they can be made homemade. I grew up going to cousins and they made sloppy joes from the can. But that was what we had at the time. My family enjoyed it. I served them on toasted brioche rolls from Whole Foods. Delicious!!!
    I emailed you earlier regarding the dry mustard. I found out that we could use Dijon mustard.

    Thanks again

    • — Shari Giarraputo on March 22, 2020
    • Reply
    Even my husband Loves it!
    Thanks for making sloppy joes so appealing!

    • — Sara Pantoja on March 14, 2020
    • Reply
  • Very good. Fun to eat! It took me back to my childhood when we would have these. It was easy to make. I did not butter and toast the buns, however. I looked forward to eating the leftovers. My wife liked these as well. I will definitely make these again.

    • — Tom on March 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • My grown daughters and I made these for lunch today. We joked about them being “ high class” sloppy joes. They were the best we’ve ever eaten! We all enjoyed the flavor of the smoked paprika. I was out of oregano but didn’t miss it and didn’t tenderize the ground beef ( didn’t have the time). I’ll make it the exact same way next time So delicious!! Thank you once again for another great recipe!

    • — Nancy on March 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was awesome! My husband (who is low carb) ate it over cauliflower rice. My son had 3 sandwiches (“Mom! Please make this again”) & even my picky daughter loved it. I followed the recipe, minus the bell peppers, & it was delicious. I did end up adding more ground beef as it was a bit saucier than I was expecting.

    • — Amanda J on March 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • Flavorful and substantial. Make with recommended slaw. Great combination, will make again.

    • — Monica on March 5, 2020
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  • I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out great! I did add the brown sugar- tasted like a childhood memory!Thanks Jenn!

    • — Michele on March 5, 2020
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  • Another absolute winner. Thanks!

    • — Barb on March 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Although I/we love the majority of your recipes and have your cookbook that I love, with this particular recipe (with the exception of the baking soda) I fail to see the difference in this and homemade chili?

    • — Joycelyn on March 5, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Joycelyn, there are definitely a lot of similarities, but the flavor profiles are slightly different. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 5, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hello! My husband can’t eat red meat. I am planning to try these with ground chicken. Should I use the baking soda? Any other suggest you can make?

    • — Lezlie Pascoe on March 5, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Lezlie, I think it’d work nicely with ground chicken. No need to treat it with baking soda but other than that, no other adjustments needed. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 5, 2020
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! Served it with a nice side salad! It tasted perfect! I’m just so happy I found your website Jen! Tomorrow I’m making my Valentine’s Day dinner and dessert from your amazing recipes!!! Thank you!!!

    • — Monica on February 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • You’re welcome!! ❤️

      • — Jenn on February 14, 2020
      • Reply
  • So yummy! The picky husband liked them!!

    • — Melissa Riley on January 31, 2020
    • Reply
  • This recipe was delicious and quickly prepared. The baking soda to the meat was new to me but was perfect for sloppy joes. Will definitely continue doing that in the future.
    It has been 7 years since I have had sloppy joes because my husband said he did not like them at all. I finally took a chance, wanting something beside a hamburger, and am so happy I did. He actually commented how good it was and he takes back saying he did not like them. His momma only made them from the can…Thank you so much Jenn for the excellent recipes.

    • — Tara Hillman on January 16, 2020
    • Reply
    • Oops, forgot one thing. I followed the recipe only adding an extra bit of Franks Hot Sauce and a tablespoon of brown sugar. 😊

      • — Tara Hillman on January 16, 2020
      • Reply
  • Great recipe! My family loved it. Thanks so much!

    • — Joyanne Deck on December 8, 2019
    • Reply
  • Delicious! The baking powder added to the ground beef really gave it an interesting texture. Not sure how to even describe it – it held together. Spices were spot on. I like several Sloppy Joe recipes, and this will be added to my collection. I’m giving it a four only because of the tomato was a bit strong for me. However, my measuring was off. That might be why.

    • — Deborah Reed on November 5, 2019
    • Reply
  • Why 1 1/4 lbs of ground beef vs. 1 lb?

    • Hi Mary, based on the other ingredients in this recipe, 1 1/4 pounds of ground beef really works best here. Also, my grocery store sells ground beef in 1 1/4 pound packages. Crazy right?? Hope you enjoy the sloppy Joe’s if you make them!

  • Great recipe! Not one peep from the picky kids and my fiancé said he normally doesn’t like sloppy joes, but he likes mine.

  • These came out really great, so much better than that funny stuff in the can. They also came together very quickly – which is a plus. I thought I’d be simmering it forever.

    I did reduce the amount of cumin and black pepper though. I think that was the right spice mix for my family. We aren’t big cumin enthusiasts in particular. Thanks Jenn for a great, family-friendly recipe.

  • I currently live in South Korea and, consequently, have no access to canned Sloppy Joe mixes. Finding this recipe was so nice – AND it is even better than the premade mixes. What I really love about it is these ingredients are always on hand in my kitchen, so it’s very easy. We’ve grown tired of hamburgers and lasagne, so this was a nice switch for ground beef. Thanks so much.

  • Hi Jenn,

    Want to try another one of your delicious recipes for company, and am looking at Sloppy Joes. I would like to assemble everything in the morning, as my guests and I will be out all day. When we get home, I would like to make the Sloppy Joes. So…….

    -Can I put the baking soda in the meat and leave it for most of the day?
    -Can I use brioche buns or would regular hamburger buns be better?
    -Can I just make the entire recipe the day before and reheat? Or would they taste better if they were made and eaten on the same day?

    Thank you your fabulous recipes!!!

    • Hi Hannah, you can definitely make the Sloppy Joes the day before and reheat before serving. And brioche buns would be delicious if you’d prefer those over hamburger buns. Enjoy! 🙂

      • Thanks, Jenn! Would it be okay to add the baking soda to the meat in the morning, and then make the SJ later in the day?

        Thanks again for all your support and, of course, your fabulous recipes!

        • Sure, Hannah, that should be fine (and so glad you like the recipes)! ❤️

  • These came out soooo yummy! Usually, when I try a recipe, I have to make adjustments for my taste. I followed this recipe EXACTLY (except I used turkey meat because that’s what I had on hand) and tasted it … perfectly seasoned! My husband and I aren’t huge fans of sweet sauce, so this recipe was perfect for sloppy joes!! I will be using this blog as a go to for future recipes. Thanks for the great (and EASY) recipe!

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