Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Best Homemade Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are more than just a meal; they’re a trip down memory lane. This homemade version retains the classic appeal of the sandwich but with a fresher, more flavorful twist. The combination of lean ground beef with onions, green bell peppers, and celery adds texture and depth of flavor, turning this historically mushy sandwich into a hit with adults and kids alike. It’s a simple and satisfying dish that the whole family will love.

  • Rich, Homemade Sauce: You’ll savor the unique blend of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar that creates a sauce bursting with depth and flavor.
  • Common Pantry Ingredients: This recipe uses everyday items like onions, garlic, and ground beef, making it accessible any day.
  • A Hit with Kids and Adults: With its familiar, savory-sweet taste, this recipe is a proven favorite among all age groups.
  • Ideal for Large Groups: You can easily scale up the recipe for parties or family gatherings.
  • Great as Leftovers: The flavors meld and intensify overnight, making for delicious next-day meals.
  • Balanced and Nutritious: Packed with protein and sneakily incorporates several vegetables for both nutrition and added texture.
  • Lean Ground Beef: The main protein source of the dish. For a lighter version, use ground turkey or chicken. Vegetarians can opt for a plant-based ground meat alternative or lentils for a similar texture.
  • Onion and Green Bell Pepper: These vegetables add a subtle sweetness and crunch. Feel free to replace them with red or yellow bell peppers for a different flavor profile or omit them entirely if you prefer.
  • Celery: Adds a fresh, crisp texture. If celery isn’t your thing, try chopped carrots or even a bit of chopped fennel for a similar crunch.
  • Tomato Sauce & Paste: They provide the rich, tangy tomato base. If you don’t have tomato paste, increase the sauce slightly and simmer longer for thickness.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: It adds depth and umami. Soy sauce or a dash of balsamic vinegar are great substitutes. For a gluten-free option, use tamari.
  • Garlic Cloves: Essential for flavor. Garlic powder (1/8 teaspoon per clove) or granulated garlic (1/4 teaspoon per clove) can be used as a substitute.
  • Brown Sugar: Offers a hint of sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Maple syrup, honey or even a small amount of molasses are good alternatives.
  • Hamburger Buns: The traditional vehicle for sloppy Joes. Toast the buns to elevate your sloppy Joes if desired. Opt for gluten-free buns if needed.

Can I make this dish vegetarian?
Yes, you can substitute the ground beef with a plant-based ground meat alternative.

How can I make sloppy Joes spicier?
Increase the amount of red pepper flakes or add a diced jalapeño for extra heat.

What if I don’t have Worcestershire sauce?
Soy sauce or a dash of balsamic vinegar can be used as a substitute.

Do I have to add all of the vegetables? Can I use different vegetables?
You can adjust the amount of vegetables to your personal taste. However, the vegetables add extra flavor and amazing texture to this historically mushy sandwich of our childhood, and we do recommend sticking to the recipe as closely as possible. Feel free to add other vegetables like carrots or zucchini.

Can I freeze the sloppy Joe mixture?
Yes, it freezes well. Store in an airtight container for up to three months.

What kind of ground beef should I use?
A lean ground beef (93/7) mixture is a great option for sloppy Joes. There’s hardly any fat, which means you probably won’t even need to drain the grease off your meat. If you like your sloppy Joes on the greasy side, feel free to use ground beef with a higher fat content.

There is much debate over who originally created the sloppy Joe. It is said that a man named Joe in Iowa possibly created the sloppy Joe in 1930. Another possibility, Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida, has been serving sloppy Joes since they opened in 1933. Last but not least, Sloppy Joe’s Saloon in Havana is another contender for the original creator.

So, who actually invented this favorite loose meat sandwich? The world may never know.

Filling too runny? Simmer for a few extra minutes to reduce and thicken.

Too spicy? Add a bit more brown sugar or tomato sauce to balance the heat.

Filling too thick? Stir in a splash of water or more tomato sauce.

  • Brown the meat well: Browning the meat adds flavor.
  • Drain excess fat: For a less greasy filling, drain excess fat.
  • Let the mixture simmer: Letting the mixture simmer enhances texture and taste.
  • Toast the buns: Toasting the buns adds an extra touch of deliciousness.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. For freezing, cool the mixture completely and store in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating on the stovetop or in the microwave.

More Classic American Dinner Recipes

  • Momma’s Meatloaf
  • Old Fashioned Beef Stew
  • Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
  • The Most Amazing Lasagna Recipe

Watch the video below, where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.

“I’ve made this twice my family loves it!” – I spread roasted garlic on the buns before serving 😉 yum

“I doubled this recipe and it did take a little longer to get the diced green peppers soft… I added about a tablespoon more of Worcestershire sauce and 5 tablespoons of brown sugar. I didn’t use the celery. I took someone’s advice and added 1/8 tsp. of baking soda to cut down on the acidic tomato taste (unsure if it was really needed though). This is a keeper. Perfect amount of sweetness too.”

“My husband and I really enjoyed this recipe. I did have to make a couple swaps as I don’t have or like celery and green bell pepper. I used diced carrot and red bell pepper.”