How to Make the Best Sloppy Joe

Dinner Recipe – last updated MARCH 2023

There’s nothing quite like the warm and comforting taste of homemade Sloppy Joes. This classic dish is a nostalgic favorite for many, and for good reason. It’s easy to make, filling, and perfect for a cozy night in. If you’re looking to recreate this beloved recipe at home, we’ve got you covered with some practical tips for making the perfect classic Sloppy Joe.  And don’t forget to pair your dinner with some French fries or a crisp salad for the ultimate comfort food experience. 

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Classic Sloppy Joe Recipe

This old-fashioned sloppy Joe recipe is a classic and easy meal made with ground beef, peppers, and tomato sauce. Served on hamburger buns, you can top it with shredded cheese, sliced onions, or even a dollop of sour cream.
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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Dinner
Servings 6


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 yellow onion minced
  • 1/3 green bell pepper chopped, optional
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp chili powder optional
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp brown sugar optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 hamburger buns


  • In a large skillet or cooking pot, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat while breaking it apart with a wooden spoon. Once the meat is cooked, drain the fat.
  • In the same pot, add the chopped onion and bell pepper.
  • Once the vegetables are browned and tender, add the remaining ingredients. Simmer the mixture over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and black pepper as needed.
  • To serve, spoon the mixture in toasted hamburger buns and match your favorite toppings.
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How to make Sloppy Joes?

To make a classic sloppy joe, start by browning ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the beef is cooked, add chopped onions, green peppers, and garlic to the skillet and cook until the vegetables are soft. Then, add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Finally, spoon the mixture onto hamburger buns and enjoy the warm, comforting flavors of this classic American dish. You can also customize the recipe by adding different toppings or swapping the ground beef for turkey. Serve with a side of sweet potato fries or coleslaw to create the perfect dinner.

Key ingredients for this easy sloppy Joe recipe

Ground beef: Start by browning one pound of lean ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the meat is browned, drain the excess fat from the skillet. If you prefer, you can use ground pork or turkey instead of beef.

Bell pepper: We use green pepper in the classic recipe, but feel free to use a red pepper or any other color pepper of your choice if you prefer. Adding vegetables like peppers to the dish is a great way to add nutrition and flavor, but if you’re not a fan of peppers, you can simply leave them out.

Yellow onion: You will need a medium onion chopped into small cubes.

Garlic: You will need two minced garlic cloves. If you don’t have fresh garlic, you can use garlic paste or garlic powder instead. To substitute fresh garlic cloves with garlic powder, use 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder for each clove of garlic.

Worcestershire sauce: If you find yourself without Worcestershire sauce, you can easily replace it with soy sauce. To mimic the unique flavor of Worcestershire sauce, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the soy sauce. This simple swap will give you a similar taste experience in your homemade sloppy joes.

Mustard: You can put either 1 teaspoon of prepared yellow mustard or dry mustard.

Spices: Adding 1 tablespoon of chili powder will give your dish a rich and savory flavor, but it’s optional. If you prefer a milder taste, you can skip the chili powder altogether. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ketchup: If you don’t want to use ketchup sauce, you have a few ways to replace it with.

If you don’t want to use ketchup sauce, you can replace it with tomato sauce or tomato paste. A You can also add a tablespoon of mustard to give the sauce a tangy flavor. 

BBQ sauce: The best option is to use barbecue sauce, which adds a smoky flavor to the dish. Swap ketchup with the same amount of your favorite barbecue sauce. 

Tomato sauce: Use 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce instead. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomato.

Tomato paste: Add a small can of tomato paste along with 1/2 cup chicken broth. Add 1 tbsp. brown sugar.

Sugar: Reduce the acidity of the tomatoes by adding a touch of sweetness with brown sugar or granulated sugar. If you prefer a less sweet version, you can omit the sugar entirely.

Bread: Serve your sloppy Joe on toasted buns. As a change from traditional hamburger buns, try brioche buns, pretzel buns or even a crusty French baguette. If you want to go carb-free, try serving it over a bed of lettuce, or use portobello mushrooms as a bun substitute.


How to make the best Sloppy Joes?

To elevate your homemade sloppy joes, adding toppings to your sandwich can make all the difference. Here are some delicious and creative ideas to help you create the ultimate comfort food experience:

  • Shredded cheese or sliced cheese for a cheesy gooey sandwich.
  • Sliced tomatoes or lettuce for a refreshing crunch
  • Avocado or guacamole for a creamy, fresh taste
  • A dollop of sour cream for extra creaminess.
  • Crispy onion strings or fried onions for a satisfying crunch.
  • Bacon bits or crispy bacon strips for a smoky flavor.
  • Pickles or pickled jalapeños for a tangy kick
  • A dash of hot sauce or Sriracha for an extra spicy kick.

What to serve with sloppy Joes?

Looking for some ideas on what to serve with your sloppy Joes? Why not add a side dish to complement this classic comfort food? Here are some delicious recipes that pair perfectly with sloppy Joes:

  • French fries or sweet potatoes fries
  • Mashed potatoes or oven-baked potatoes
  • Baked beans
  • Salads such as coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, or a simple garden salad
  • Corn on the cob
  • Mac and cheese

How long does sloppy Joe last?

To store your leftover sloppy Joe mixture, place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the mixture for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. To thaw frozen sloppy Joes, place the container in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat individual portions on the stovetop or in the microwave until heated through. Enjoy!

What to do with leftover sloppy Joes?

If you happen to run out of hamburger buns or simply want to get creative with your leftover sloppy Joe mix, here are a few ideas to try out:

Stuffed Peppers: Take your sloppy Joe mixture to the next level by using it as a filling for stuffed peppers. Mix the meat with rice or breadcrumbs, stuff it into hollowed-out bell peppers, top with cheese and bake until tender.

Nachos: Turn your leftovers into a crowd-pleasing snack by using them as a topping for nachos. Simply sprinkle the mixture over a bed of tortilla chips, add your favorite toppings like salsa and shredded cheese, and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Grilled Cheese: Transform your classic grilled cheese into a hearty and flavorful meal by adding a scoop of homemade sloppy Joe mixture. The combination of gooey melted cheese and savory meat will satisfy any comfort food craving.

Recipe Variations

Turkey Sloppy Joe Recipe

If you want to make a healthier version of sloppy joes, consider using ground turkey instead of traditional beef. This leaner protein option reduces the fat content in your meal. We recommend using red pepper instead of green pepper in this recipe to add a pop of color and sweetness. This variation also goes well with whole wheat buns or lettuce wraps to add more fiber and nutrients to your meal.

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes Recipe

If you’re looking to add a twist to your classic sloppy Joe recipe, try making a Philly cheesesteak version. Simply reduce the amount of ketchup to 2 tablespoons and add 1/2 cup of beef broth to the classic recipe. Serve your loose meat sandwich with Provolone cheese for an authentic Philly flavor. You can also top it with sautéed onions and peppers to take it to the next level. Give it a try and impress your taste buds with this delicious variation.

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