This classic sloppy joes recipe is easy to make with ground beef and a tangy, zesty tomato-based sauce that brings the perfect balance of flavor, the best! So much better than straight from a can.
How to Make the Best Sloppy Joes
It's comfort food time in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends! There are all sorts of comfort food classics out there, but when it comes to comfort food in sandwich form, it's hard to beat this particular recipe.
We're talking Sloppy Joes! Sloppy Joes are easy to make and hit all those spots that need comforting. And, when you make them like I do, you can spice them up as much as you'd like.
Never heard of a sloppy joe?
What is a Sloppy Joe?
The classic Sloppy Joe is an American sandwich made with ground beef cooked in a lightly seasoned tomato-based sauce with some sweet and tangy notes.
I ate them a lot growing up. You'll often find it made from a can, with Manwich being a popular brand.
The problem with the canned stuff is it is often overly sweet or laden with sodium. Yikes!
When you make it at home, you can not only spice it up as I've mentioned, but you can balance things out to your own preference. Want more brown sugar? Go for it! Less vinegar? Your choice.
Personally, I love adding in a few additional seasonings along with spicy chili peppers to get it to where I love it, but that's me!
I'm sure you'll love this as much as we do.
Let's talk about how to make Sloppy Joes!
Sloppy Joe Ingredients
- Oil. For cooking.
- Onion and Garlic.
- Peppers. Use bell pepper for a milder version, or use spicier peppers to heat things up. I love jalapeno or serrano peppers, or similar.
- Ground Beef.
- Brown Sugar.
- Mustard. I prefer spicy brown mustard, but Dijon is great, or use your favorite.
- Spices. Chili powder, salt and black pepper, and optional cayenne for a spicy version. You can use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, if preferred, and onion powder.
- Tomato Sauce. You can also use ketchup, or a mixture of ketchup and tomato sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar.
- Toasted Buns. For serving.
How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joes - the Recipe Method
Cook the Peppers and Onions. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet to medium high heat. Add onion and peppers and cook 5 minutes to soften.
You may need a bit more time if you're making a larger batch.
The Gorgeous Garlic. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring.
Cook the Ground Beef. Add ground beef and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the beef is cooked through.
Drain excess fat if desired. If you're using 80-20 beef, you may have some excess fat. You can leave it in for flavor, no problem, but it will results in looser Sloppy Joes.
Add Remaining Ingredients and Simmer. Add mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chili powder, cayenne (if using), salt and pepper, and tomato sauce.
This is your Sloppy Joe sauce.
Stir and simmer at least 5 minutes to bring the flavors together. If your sauce is too thin, cook a bit longer to thicken. You can easily simmer longer to let the flavors develop even more.
Simmering Time. I like to simmer for 20 minutes usually, to let the the meat mixture thicken up and let the flavors meld.
Serving Time! Serve up your Sloppy Joes on your favorite buns! Sloppy Joe sandwiches are the best. Everyone loves them.
Recipe Tips & Notes
The Peppers and Heat Factor. For the peppers, I typically prefer a spicy pepper mix, from jalapenos up through serranos, maybe toss in a habanero here and there, or a ghost pepper for myself, but you can easily dial down the heat with your preferred heat levels.
Less Spicy Version. If you want a "no heat" version, go with green peppers (bell peppers). It will be just as tasty and savory.
The Meat. I'm using lean ground beef here, but if you're looking for a lower calorie version, try it out with ground turkey. I've made this with ground turkey and it tastes great. Ground chicken is very good, too.
Consider using a mix of ground beef and Mexican chorizo for a spicier version. So god!
Get Thick Buns
This recipe is a bit like a thick no-beans chili. Serve this up on thick buns. Hamburger buns are usually fine.
Make sure the buns ARE thick, because, you know, Sloppy Joes can be SLOPPY. No joke. But very tasty!
Toasting the buns also helps keep them from getting soggy.
Double the Recipe
You can very easily double this recipe by doubling all of the ingredients exactly. Simmer in a very large pot!
Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes
To make in a slow cooker or crockpot, cook down the beef, peppers, onion and garlic in a pan for 5 minutes to brown the meat, then transfer to a slow cooker.
Add the remaining ingredients and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 3-4 hours. Enjoy!
I hope you like it! It's such a great recipe!
Serving Ideas for Sloppy Joes
Here are some other ways you can enjoy your Sloppy Joe Sauce instead of your classic Sloppy Joe sandwich!
- Sloppy Joe Pasta.
- Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese.
- Sloppy Joe Tacos. Top them with chopped tomato, roasted or pickled jalapenos, and shredded cheese!
- Sloppy Joe Hot Dog. Use it to top your favorite beef dog.
- Sloppy Joe Grilled Cheese. Use the best melty cheese and nicely buttered bread.
This recipe will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Simply reheat in a pot to enjoy it again.
You can also freeze the Sloppy Joe meat for 3 months or longer.
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy my favorite sloppy joe recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe (The Best Sloppy Joes Ever!)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 bell pepper chopped (use jalapeno or serrano for a spicier version)
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons mustard (I use spicy brown - or use Dijon)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne powder (optional, for spicy)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup tomato sauce (or use ketchup)
- Buns for serving (toasted buns are best!)
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot to medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook 5 minutes to soften.
- Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring.
- Add ground beef. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the beef is cooked through. Drain excess fat if desired.
- Add mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chili powder, cayenne (if using), salt and pepper, and tomato sauce. Stir and simmer at least 5 minutes to bring the flavors together. If your sauce is too thin, cook a bit longer to thicken. You can easily simmer longer to let the flavors develop even more.
- Serve on your favorite buns!
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 11/28/22 to include new information and photos. It was originally published on 12/27/16.