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This old fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe comes 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 homemade sweet and tangy sauce that’s so much better than the canned stuff!

Side shot of an old fashioned sloppy joes recipe served on a sandwich bun with pickles and potato chips.
Table of Contents
  1. How to Make this Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe | 1-Minute Video
  2. Why You’ll Love this Recipe
  3. Ingredients
  4. The Directions
  5. Serving Suggestions
  6. Sloppy Joe Toppings
  7. Preparation and Storage Tips
  8. Unique Ways to Use Leftover Sloppy Joes
  9. Frequently Asked Questions
  10. Recipe Variations
  11. Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe Recipe

If you love Sloppy Joe recipes as much as we do, be sure to try these Crock Pot Sloppy Joes, a dump-and-bake Sloppy Joe casserole, and this Sloppy Joe cornbread casserole, too!

How to Make this Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe | 1-Minute Video

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!

– Morgan

Why You’ll Love this 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?!

Homemade sloppy joe sauce in a glass measuring cup with a whisk.


This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an old fashioned 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.
Wooden spoon in a skillet of the best homemade sloppy joes recipe.

The Directions

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 — perfect for busy weeknights! You’ll find detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version:

  • Brown the meat, onion, and garlic, and drain off the excess grease.
  • 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.
Close up side shot of the best old fashioned sloppy joes recipe served on a bun with potato chips on the side.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the homemade sloppy joes with any of these easy side dishes:

Horizontal side shot of the best old fashioned sloppy joes recipe.

Sloppy Joe Toppings

We keep them simple with just the meat inside a bun, which is ideal for a picky eater; 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!

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 Joes

Instead of the traditional Sloppy Joe sandwich, try using the leftovers 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
  • Use it in a casserole or bake it on top of crescent roll dough.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s 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 buns, or even kaiser sandwich rolls for a tasty twist.
  • What can I use in the sauce 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, thicker tomato flavor.
  • How can I thicken Sloppy Joes? This recipe is very flexible, so you can make your 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.

Recipe Variations

  • Use both Ketchup and BBQ Sauce: for a zesty spin, swap out half of the ketchup and replace it 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.
Side shot of homemade sloppy joes on a blue and white plate.

More Sloppy Joe Recipes to Try

Square side shot of old fashioned sloppy joes recipe on a bun.

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

5 from 16 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 226 kcal
An easy dinner that comes together in less than 30 minutes!


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion (frozen is fine)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or ⅛ teaspoon dried garlic powder)
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Dash of ground black pepper
  • For serving: sandwich buns


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Drain.
    Browning ground beef 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 a 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.
    Process shot showing how to make an old fashioned sloppy joes recipe.
  • Spoon beef mixture onto buns and serve!
    Horizontal side shot of the best old fashioned sloppy joes recipe.



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.


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

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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  1. Adela Lynn Reinke says:

    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.

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Adela! So glad that you liked this version!

  2. Jina says:

    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. Blair says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Jina! I’m so glad that it was a hit!

    2. Cathy says:

      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.

      1. Blair Lonergan says:

        Wonderful! Thanks, Cathy!

    3. Kaitlynn says:

      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. Blair Lonergan says:

        Great tips, Kaitlyn! That vegetarian option is good to know! 🙂

      2. Beverly Blackwelder says:

        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. Morgan says:

    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. Blair says:

      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. Kimberly Frampton says:

      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 !!!

      1. Blair says:

        That’s great, Kimberly! It’s on our dinner menu this week, too. 🙂

  4. Denise says:

    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. Blair says:

      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. Lori says:

    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.

    1. Blair says:

      Yessss! The frozen chopped onion and the jars of pre-minced fresh garlic are such great time-savers!

  6. Don says:

    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. Emily says:

    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!!

    1. Blair says:

      That’s great to hear, Emily! Thanks for taking the time to come back here and leave me a note. 🙂

  8. Dianna says:

    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!

    1. Blair says:

      Yay! Thanks, Dianna! I’m so glad that your daughter approves, too. 🙂

  9. Nata says:

    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. Blair says:

      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. sharon says:

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

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      That’s so good to hear, Sharon. Thank you!

  11. Melode says:

    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.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Melode!

  12. sharon says:

    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. Blair Lonergan says:

      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. Mary Zus says:

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

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thanks, Mary!

  14. Debbie Hill says:

    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. Blair Lonergan says:

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

    2. Rose says:

      Great idea, but how so you keep it from spreading when you serve it?

  15. Sarah Mitchell says:


    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      We hope you enjoy, Sarah!

  16. Marion says:

    Could I use this sauce as a substitute in the Dump and Bake Sloppy Joe Pasta Casserole, omitting the ground beef and using thawed frozen meatball? If so, should I double or triple the sauce ingredients to make the casserole? And should I simmer the ingredients before adding them to the casserole or just stir them together? Thanks!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Hi Marion! We haven’t tested this in the casserole but don’t see why it wouldn’t work. We would probably recommend doubling the recipe and allowing it to simmer before adding it to the casserole. If you wanted to triple it just to be on the safe side you could always freeze leftovers!

  17. Marilyn Thomas says:

    I am having trouble copying. I think to many ads.

  18. Gayle says:

    5 stars
    I can’t wait to make this one again! So quick and easy. Why anyone would use that stuff from a can is beyond my comprehension. This recipe requires hardly any effort.
    Perfect for the summer too, when we want a hot meal but don’t want to heat the house to accomplish it.
    We made ours using vegetarian “burger” crumbles. Some recipes don’t translate very well going the meatless route. No issues with this one. These sloppy joes are amazing!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Gayle. I agree, this couldn’t be easier or tastier. So glad that you enjoyed it! 🙂