Sloppy joes are feel good nostalgia on a bun. Forget the canned sauce, these homemade bad boys are where it’s at!
Homemade sloppy joes are so easy to make (and a great way to slip veggies into lunch or dinner). Serve them up on a bun or over some creamy mashed potatoes.
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Sloppy Joe Ingredients
- Ground beef – You could also use ground chicken, ground turkey, or even ground sausage.
- Onion – Diced.
- Bell pepper – Diced.
- Celery – Diced.
- Tomato sauce – Plain, canned.
- Tomato paste – Plain, canned.
- Red wine vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Brown sugar – You can use less or skip this entirely if you don’t like a sweet sauce.
How do you make homemade sloppy joes? (Step-by-step)
⭐ First, in a large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain. Add onion, bell pepper and celery and continue cooking.
⭐ Then, add remaining ingredients, mix well.
⭐ Next, bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook until heated through and liquid has cooked off to your liking.
⭐ Finally, serve on a fresh bun.
What is the difference between a Manwich and a sloppy joe?
Manwich is the brand name of a canned sloppy joe sauce. We like to use it as a shortcut when making our sloppy joe casserole recipe.
How do you thicken up sloppy joes?
My preferred method for thickening is just to continue simmering the sauce until enough liquid has cooked of, but alternatively, you can add a cornstarch slurry to the simmering sauce.
Mix together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water and stir it into the cooking sauce. Repeat until desired consistency is reached.
Do you drain the grease when cooking sloppy joes?
Yes, it is best practice to drain off any excess grease before adding more ingredients.
Storage and leftovers
How long does sloppy joe meat last?
It will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.
Can you freeze sloppy joe meat?
Absolutely! Allow it to cool, then store in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 12 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or just cook from frozen in a skillet.
How do you reheat sloppy joes?
They are easily reheated in the microwave in 30 – 60 second increments at high power. Alternatively, you can reheat on the stove top in a skillet over medium heat.
Frequently asked questions
Why are they called Sloppy Joes?
It is said that a cook named Joe at Floyd Angell’s café in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches and the “sloppy joe” sandwich was born.
What can you do with sloppy joe meat?
Well first and foremost, I like it on a bun, but there are many other ways to enjoy it! Try over a baked potato (or over a baked sweet potato), as the sauce for your homemade egg noodles, or even baked on pizza dough with a heap of shredded cheddar cheese!
What to serve with sloppy joes (serving suggestions)
Ground beef is classic Americana! Serve it with baked potato wedges and homemade dill pickles. And don’t forget the best chocolate chip cookies for dessert!
More ground beef recipes
- Beef enchiladas
- Frito pie recipe
- Instant pot spaghetti
- Homemade tortellini soup
- Italian sloppy joes
- See all our recipes with ground beef!
Tools we love
- 12 inch cast iron skillet – This one’s a classic. Every kitchen should have a good skillet.
- Wooden spatula – I love a wooden spatula for breaking up ground beef in the pan.
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How to Make Sloppy Joes
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 can tomato sauce 15 oz
- 1 can tomato paste 6 oz
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar*
- OPTIONAL slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water whisked with a fork
STOVE TOP DIRECTIONS
- In a large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain excess grease.
- Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Sautee 3 - 5 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients, mix well.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook until heated through and liquid has cooked off to your liking.
- Whisk in corn starch slurry to further thicken sauce if desired.
INSTANT POT VARIATION
- On saute mode brown ground beef. Drain excess grease.
- Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Sautee with beef 3 - 5 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients, stir to mix, then cover and set to "sealing". (If your pot is prone to giving a burn notice, add an additional ½ cup of water. Cook on manual pressure (high) for 5 minutes then carefully quick release, pausing if the pot begins to sputter.
- If the sauce is too thin, cook of some of the liquid on saute mode, and/or stir in the corn starch slurry while still simmering hot.
SLOW COOKER VARIATION
- If desired, brown ground beef on the stove top. Drain excess grease. Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Sautee with beef 3 - 5 minutes.
- (You can skip this first step and put the ground meat and vegetables in the slow cooker raw if you'd like. I strongly suggest using a lean ground meat if you go this route).
- Place ground beef and vegetables in slow cooker. If meat is raw, break it up with a spatula.
- Add remaining ingredients, stir to mix, then cover and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or high for 4 - 6 hours. In the last 30 minutes, uncover and stir every few minutes. Replace lid askew for remaining cook time so excess liquid simmers off.
- This makes a THICK sloppy joe. If you like yours a little on the sloppier side, you can add an extra can of tomato sauce.
- *This is a bit on the sweeter side. If you don't like that, you can decrease the amount of brown sugar or leave it out entirely.
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Lori J Jankowski says
This Sloppy Joes recipe was probably the best I’ve tried so far! Nice and thick so they stuck to the buns well, excellent flavour! Will be my go-to Joes recipe from now on!
JR Phelan says
This Sloppy Joes recipe is delicious, and way better than any store bought. I only made a half recipe and used our cold smoked hickory Kosher salt instead of plain salt. Hard to beat a fresh sloppy joe on toasted bun, pork&beans, potato chips, and a pickle. Thanks once again April!!!
What can you use in place of the red wine vinegar?