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Published January 2, 2024. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe is made from scratch and served with caramelized onions and pickles for the ultimate sandwich. These are much easier to make than you may have thought, so learn how simple it is to do right from your kitchen.
If you’re like me, you grew up eating sloppy joe sandwiches as it’s a great simple weeknight meal for the family. Instead of popping a can of who knows what’s in there, learn how to make it from scratch. It’s way more delicious and easier than you’re thinking, and if you love cooking with ground beef, then definitely check out my meatloaf recipe or my loco moco.
Sloppy Joe is a simple American dish of seared ground beef with tomatoes and seasonings that is commonly served on a bun or as an open- sandwich. My recipe is homemade, and the flavors are far superior to anything pre-made. In addition,
This recipe has been around since the 1950s and was created by a cook named Joe at a restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa, who put a bit of tomato sauce onto some ground beef, served it up on a bun, and called it a “sloppy joe.” It’s also messy to eat, so the name works perfectly.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Fat – You can use avocado oil, olive oil, lard, or beef tallow.
- Ground Beef – I prefer a fattier, more flavorful beef like 80/20 ground chuck. However, you can lean to fat-ratio beef if you like.
- Peppers – I used red and yellow bell peppers. You can also use green peppers.
- Garlic – A few minced garlic cloves bring out many flavors in this Sloppy Joe.
- Tomato Puree – You can puree fresh or canned tomatoes or purchase them already pureed.
- Tomato Paste – Plain tomato paste is needed to help thicken the mixture.
- Mustard – Yellow is best, but you can use Dijon if you want something zestier.
- Brown Sugar – I used light brown sugar, but dark brown can also be used.
- Worcestershire Sauce – There is no replacement for this.
- Vinegar – White distilled vinegar works great. However, you can use apple cider or even red wine vinegar.
- Chili Powder – I used regular chili powder. However, you can use a spicier chili powder like Chipotle.
How to Make a Sloppy Joe
- Sweat some garlic and bell peppers in some oil in a large pot.
- Add in your beef and cook until all the pink is gone.
- Stir in the tomato puree, tomato paste, mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and chili powder, and simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes.
- Finish with salt and pepper and serve on a bun. I recommend taking this further and adding all the delicious toppings I did, such as cheese, caramelized onions, and pickles.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten when it’s done cooking. However, keep it warm and covered over low heat for up to 30 minutes before serving.
How to Store: Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep it covered in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw for 1 day in the refrigerator before reheating it.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of sloppy joe into a saucepan and cook over low heat until hot. You can also heat it in the microwave until hot.
chef notes + tips
- This recipe makes a lot of sloppy joes, so please scale down or up to fit your needs. Place your cursor over the serving amount in the recipe card and slide up or down to scale.
- Try serving this with Southern Potato Salad or Pasta Salad.
- Manwich is a processed and canned sauce that has attempted to replicate the original sauce with its take. It can be purchased from the grocery store, but I can promise you the homemade version is far superior to this.
More Beef Recipes
Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe
For the Sloppy Joe:
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 each seeded and small diced red and yellow bell peppers
- 6 finely minced cloves of garlic
- 4 pounds ground beef
- 2 cups tomato puree
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
- ¼ heaping cup light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tablespoons distilled vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- Sea salt and cracked pepper
- 10 buns
For the Toppings:
- caramelized onions
- dill or bread and butter pickles
- Colby jack cheese
- pepper jack cheese
- Add oil to a large pan over low to medium heat and sweat the peppers and garlic for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add in the ground beef, turn the heat to medium and cook until all of the pink is gone, about 7-9 minutes.
- Next, pour the tomato puree, mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, and chili powder and simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes.
- Finish by stirring in salt and pepper and serve on buns with optional toppings.