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Sloppy Joes

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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, including beef enchiladas, stuffed peppers, 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

Ingredients

  • 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

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.
  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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Comments

  • 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!

    • — Judi on May 27, 2021
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe! Made it tonight and everyone loved it!!

    • — Michelle Burch on May 12, 2021
    • 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.

    • — Martha M. on April 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a FABULOUS recipe! I made it with ground bison, best Joe’s ever! I can totally see using this on nachos 🙂

    • — Carrol on February 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Elizabeth B. on February 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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 on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I used to make a recipe with ketchup. This is so much more complex tasting and delicious. My family just gobbles them up!

    • — Amy on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Madeline W on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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”.

    • — Marilyn on February 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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

    • — Ed Parkinson on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Ruth on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • Yum!! Omitted green peppers (family not fans), added garlic (family loves garlic), and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. What a hit! Thanks!

    • — Glenna Maskal on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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!

    • — Jen M. on January 29, 2021
    • Reply

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