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Homemade Sloppy Joes come together in less than 30 minutes for a quick and easy dinner — even on your busiest nights. A handful of simple pantry staples like ketchup, mustard, and cider vinegar create a made-from-scratch sweet and tangy Sloppy Joe sauce that’s so much better than the canned stuff!

Front shot of a homemade sloppy joe sandwich on a blue and white plate
Table of Contents
  1. How to Make Sloppy Joes | 1-Minute Video
  2. Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe
  3. Ingredients for Classic Sloppy Joes
  4. How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joes
  5. How to Thicken Sloppy Joes
  6. Serving Suggestions
  7. Sloppy Joe Toppings
  8. Preparation and Storage Tips
  9. Unique Ways to Use Leftover Sloppy Joe Meat
  10. Recipe Variations
  11. Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe

How to Make Sloppy Joes | 1-Minute Video

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

I’ve got nothing against store-bought Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce, but these homemade Sloppy Joes are so much tastier — and almost as easy as popping open a can! The old-fashioned recipe is a classic American comfort food that dates back to the early 20th century, and it’s no surprise that the sweet-and-savory sandwiches have been loved for generations.

In fact, Marilyn Brown, the Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.J. Heinz, suggests that Sloppy Joes originated with the “loose meat sandwiches” sold in Sioux City, Iowa in the 1930s. Those sandwiches were created by a cook named Joe, which might explain today’s term for the simple recipe, Sloppy Joes. These sandwiches consist of a combination of ground beef (or other ground meat) in a tomato-based sauce, piled high on hamburger buns. What’s not to love?!

Cooked ground beef with garlic and onion in a cast iron skillet

Ingredients for Classic Sloppy Joes

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a super easy sloppy joe recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Lean ground beef: you can sub with ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork if you prefer.
  • Onion and garlic: for savory flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce: adds salty, umami flavor.
  • Brown sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness.
  • Apple cider vinegar: for a bright, acidic note.
  • Yellow mustard: adds a bit of subtle tang.
  • Ketchup: the base of the sauce, this adds flavor and sweetness.
  • Salt and pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the recipe.
  • Sandwich buns: for serving.
Homemade sloppy joe sauce in a glass measuring cup with whisk

The Best Bread for Sloppy Joes

We serve this old fashioned sloppy joe recipe on classic hamburger buns. Sesame seeds or not, you choose! You can butter the buns and toast them on a griddle for a fancier restaurant-quality touch. You might also like brioche buns, pretzel rolls, or even kaiser sandwich rolls for a tasty twist!

Horizontal shot of homemade sloppy joes in a skillet

What can be used instead of ketchup?

Substitute with barbecue sauce or tomato sauce in lieu of the ketchup. The tomato sauce is not sweet like ketchup, so you will need to add some extra brown sugar to taste. You can also use a can of condensed tomato soup if that’s what’s in your pantry. Stir in a dollop of tomato paste for a richer tomato flavor.

How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joes

Not only is this old fashioned sloppy joes recipe quick to prepare, but you probably already have all of the ingredients that you need. Skip a trip to the grocery store and get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes! I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version:

  • Brown the meat, onion, and garlic.
  • Whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the sauce.
  • Add the sauce to the ground beef mixture in the skillet and stir to combine.
  • Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • Spoon the mixture onto hamburger buns and serve warm.
Sloppy Joe mixture in a skillet with a wooden spoon

How to Thicken Sloppy Joes

This recipe is very flexible, so you can make your homemade Sloppy Joes as thick or as “sloppy” as you like. For a thinner sauce, keep the skillet covered while you simmer the meat in the sauce. If the sauce is still too thick, gradually stir in a small amount of warm water or beef broth until it reaches your desired consistency.

To thicken the Sloppy Joes, simmer the sauce a little bit longer uncovered, or gradually sift in a small amount of flour while stirring vigorously.

Horizontal shot of a homemade sloppy joe sandwich on a plate

Serving Suggestions

Serve this old fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe with any of the following easy side dishes:

Sloppy Joe Toppings

We keep them simple with just the meat inside a bun; however, you can feel free to pile on any of your favorite sandwich toppings. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Cheese: place a slice of American cheese on top of the warm meat — it will melt almost instantly
  • Pickles: dill slices or bread and butter pickles are both delicious
  • Coleslaw: a cool and crunchy contrast to the warm meat
  • Lettuce, Tomato and Red Onion: just like a hamburger!
Homemade sloppy joes on a blue and white plate with potato chips on a wooden table

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • This is a great make ahead meal for busy nights! You can prepare the Sloppy Joe meat in advance, let it cool to room temperature, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • The prepared Sloppy Joe meat will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  • How to Reheat: Place the meat in a saucepan, cover, and warm over a low flame, stirring regularly just until heated through. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of warm water, beef broth, or additional ketchup to thin. Spoon onto buns and enjoy!

Unique Ways to Use Leftover Sloppy Joe Meat

Instead of the traditional Sloppy Joe sandwich, try using the leftover meat in these other ways:

  • Serve the meat on top of rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes
  • Use the Sloppy Joes as a topping for baked potatoes with sour cream and cheddar cheese
  • Combine with macaroni and cheese for a Sloppy Joe Pasta
  • Stuff the meat inside quesadillas or tacos
  • Pile it high on top of cornbread
  • Spread it on flatbread and top with grated cheese, then bake for a Sloppy Joe pizza
  • Wrap in crescent roll dough and bake in the oven

Recipe Variations

  • Homemade Sloppy Joes with Ketchup and BBQ Sauce: for a zesty spin, swap out half of the ketchup with barbecue sauce instead.
  • Sloppy Joe Recipe with Tomato Sauce: For a slightly less sweet Sloppy Joe sauce, replace half of the ketchup with tomato sauce. You can even omit the ketchup entirely and use tomato sauce instead. Just sweeten with brown sugar to taste.
  • Homemade Sloppy Joes with BBQ Sauce: If you love the zippy flavor of barbecue sauce, swap out the ketchup and replace it with your favorite brand of store-bought (or homemade) bbq sauce.
  • Add Seasoning: Use your favorite seasonings like chili powder or cumin, or herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil, or parsley.
  • Include Vegetables: Make healthy Sloppy Joes by sneaking in extra veggies. Try diced bell pepper, shredded zucchini or squash, or grated carrots.
  • Try Different Meat: Instead of ground beef, use ground pork or ground turkey, or a blend of meats.
  • Make Them Spicy: Add crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne to your sauce.
  • No Sugar Sloppy Joe Recipe: omit the brown sugar and use no-sugar-added ketchup.
Homemade sloppy joes with ketchup on a hamburger bun and potato chips in the background

More Sloppy Joe Recipes to Try

Slow Cooker Turkey Sloppy Joes

3 hours hrs 15 minutes mins

Sloppy Joe Casserole {5 Ingredients!}

40 minutes mins

Slow Cooker Italian Sloppy Joes

4 hours hrs 15 minutes mins

Square side shot of homemade sloppy joes on a plate.

Homemade Sloppy Joes

5 from 15 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings 4 – 6 people
Calories 226 kcal
Homemade Sloppy Joes come together in less than 30 minutes for a quick and easy dinner — even on your busiest nights!

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Drain.
    Cooked ground beef with garlic and onion in a cast iron skillet
  • Whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Add to the skillet with the beef, onion, and garlic.
    Homemade sloppy joe sauce in a glass measuring cup with whisk
  • Simmer uncovered over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mixture reaches desired consistency. You can keep the skillet covered if you like the sauce “sloppier.” If the sauce is too thick, gradually stir in a small amount of warm water or beef broth. If the sauce is too thin, gradually sift in a small amount of flour while stirring vigorously to thicken.
    Sloppy Joe mixture in a skillet with a wooden spoon
  • Spoon beef mixture onto buns and serve!
    Square side shot of homemade sloppy joes on a plate.

Video

Notes

Make Ahead: Prepare the meat mixture in advance, cool to room temperature, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Serving a Larger Family? Double all of the ingredients.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the meat mixtureCalories: 226kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 25gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 1122mgPotassium: 583mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 231IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 3mg
Keyword: homemade sloppy joes, old fashioned sloppy joes recipe, sloppy joes recipe, super easy sloppy joe recipe
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have never made Sloppy Joes until tonight and it was amazing. My husband was so pleased! Thank you for your delicious and easy to follow recipes.

  2. 5 stars
    So easy and delicious!

    Made it tonight, and added an entire bell pepper, half an onion, and some minced garlic. I did half leftover tomato sauce, and a few tablespoons of ketchup. Also added dried oregano and thyme. Added only a bit of brown sugar, and it was perfect.

    Adding it to the rotation!

    1. 5 stars
      I appreciate having measurements and using worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. (I had always used white vinegar.) I usually just wing it on amounts This recipe has a good balance of flavors. Thank you.

    2. 5 stars
      So yummy! I love a good homemade version as opposed to a mystery can! We always assemble our sloppy joes on the bun with fresh slices of onion, a drizzle of yellow mustard, and a piece of American cheese. Don’t knock it until you try it 🙂 Also, I make a vegetarian option when my brothers come over (which I learned from them) with two cans of drained lentils. The lentil version is also really yummy!

      1. 5 stars
        I’m not a vegetarian, but always looking for more ways to do meatless meals for the sake of our health and pocketbook!! Thanks for the suggestion!!!!!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight, and it was delicious! So easy too. It will definitely be one that I make again and again. Thanks for creating and sharing such a wonderful recipe!

    1. Thanks, Morgan! It’s on our menu this week, too. My kids love this meal! 🙂 So glad that it was a hit in your house. Thanks for taking the time to leave me a note and let me know!

    2. Just finished making a large pot of this. Hubby and I will eat it a couple of times this week. It smells so good in the kitchen !!!

  4. 5 stars
    Wow, Blair! Delicious! I usually make Sloppy Joe’s the way my mom did which is basically the same as this except uses a can of undiluted Campbell’s Tomato Soup for the sauce. I didn’t have the soup so I tried your recipe and although a little sweeter it was spot on! I’m so happy to find a recipe where I don’t have to use the canned soup. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Denise! I’m so glad to hear that these live up to your mom’s recipe! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Have a great week!

  5. I have made many of your recipes, including this one. All have been a hit with my husband AND two year old. But the best discovery by far is that you can buy frozen chopped onions!!! Such a game changer.

  6. 5 stars
    This is pretty much the way my family has always made sloppy joes…..but you should also put potato chips on the sandwich when you serve it….the it adds a nice crunch.

  7. 5 stars
    We’ve made these quite a few times now, they are seriously SO delicious! I love how easy the recipe is and the first time we made them I was honestly shocked by how flavorful and “not heavy” they were. Thank you so much for sharing this one!!

  8. 5 stars
    This is NOT your Mama’s recipe! I don’t remember Sloppy Joe’s tasting SOOO GOOD. This recipe is flavorful, thick, and a new staple in our household. Our 9 year old daughter likes it, so it’s a win-win. Thank you for sharing this recipe and making Sloppy Joe’s a new/old favorite! So delicious!

  9. 5 stars
    I hadn’t made Sloppy Joes for years, but I made your recipe last night. It was terrific. I used Barbecue Sauce. Will make these again.

    1. Awesome! I need to bring them back, too. It’s been a little while, and they’re always a hit. 🙂 Thanks for your note, Nata!

  10. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe multiple times and it could not be any easier or more flavorful. Great yummy recipe! Thank you!

  11. 5 stars
    Have made this recipe several times now. Always a hit. I make it with bbq sauce when I don’t have enough catsup. Great both ways.

  12. 5 stars
    Just wanted to drop you another line. I made your sloppy joe recipe for a large crowd (I doubled the recipe) yesterday. It was such a big hit and multiple people asked me for the recipe. I referred them to your website. Everyone enjoyed it and I went home without any left overs. Thanks again for a delicious and easy recipe.

    1. That’s so good to hear, Sharon! Thank you for sharing the recipe with your friends, and for taking the time to let me know that the sandwiches were a hit!

  13. 5 stars
    Tastey! Husband likes sweeter so added more brown sugar. But I like it plain, with dill pickle slices on top. Thanks!

  14. Good morning. I have another use for Sloppy Joe’s. I use it for my Shepard’s Pie.
    I just put Sloppy Joe’s in a casserole dish. Top with drained canned corn. Then top with mashed potatoes. I’ve always used Manwich but your recipe is so easy and I always have all the ingredients so next time I’ll use your recipe. Shepard’s Pie is even easier now to make with the Ready to Eat mashed potatoes in the grocery stores!

    1. Hi, Debbie! That does sound delicious! I agree — the refrigerated mashed potatoes are such a time-saver!