Easy homemade sloppy Joes that will feed a hungry crowd! Sloppy Joes are a little sweet, tomatoey-tang, and I like to kick mine up with a touch of heat! So good, you’ll make the whole family happy with this one!

Close up for sloppy joes with chips and pickles

Homemade Sloppy Joes are the ultimate comfort food.

The first thing that always comes to mind when I hear the words ‘sloppy Joes’ is Mary Kate and Ashley’s movie, It Takes Two – which let’s be honest, if you were a girl born in the mid-’80s or early ’90s was totally your jam. The epic food fight scene that ensues when a bowl of macaroni and cheese ends up on the dad was quite possibly my most favorite scene from the movie—coming in at number two: Ashley’s first experience with a Sloppy Joe sandwich.

I remember asking my mom to make me this magical thing called a Sloppy Joe. And as a grown adult, I think homemade sloppy Joes are still one of the most nostalgic dinners I’ve shared with you to date.

Sloppy Joe sandwich on a plate

If you’re looking for a homemade alternative (and one that is 1000x better, I might add) to the cans of Manwich you find at the store, look no further, this is it. It’s a meal that stretches because of all the tomatoes, onions, and peppers we use, and you could easily feed a family or 5-6 with this as long as you serve it up with a couple of sides. 

Also: I think it’s crazy that I shared a recipe for meatless sloppy Joes with you before I shared the kind with real 100% meat. How did that even happen?

Cooking Sloppy joes

What do you need to make the best sloppy joes?

  • Butter: used to help add a bit of flavor and fat to the sloppy joe filling
  • Ground beef: I prefer to use 90-92% lean ground beef here so that the meat doesn’t get too dry during the cooking process. If you have ground beef that has a higher percentage of fat than what I use, you can still use it; you may just want to omit it the butter, or drain the ground beef once you’ve browned the meat, so it’s not super oily.
  • Chopped peppers + onions + minced garlic: These are the aromatic ingredients that help flavor the meat and the sauce.
  • Seasonings: we’re adding a dash of red pepper flakes and a bit of garlic powder to amp up the flavors in this recipe. If you’re not a fan of heat or are serving little ones, you can easily leave out the red pepper flakes or use less.
  • Tomato paste + sauce + ketchup: I find that using a variety of tomato products gives this the best taste at the end. I’ve tried the recipe with all ketchup and all tomato sauce, and unfortunately, neither yielded the same results as the one with a combination of both. This (affiliate link) is the only ketchup I use now – so good.
  • Brown sugar: balances out all the salty and tangy ingredients that we use in this recipe
  • Worcestershire sauce + apple cider vinegar + mustard: These three ingredients are key, they add complexity to the meat sauce. The Worcestershire gives it umami, and the apple cider and mustard help cut through the richness of the beef.

What kind of buns work best for sloppy joes?

Though you can use just about any kind of buns for sloppy joes, I slightly prefer this recipe with brioche buns. But if you happen to have hamburger or even sandwich buns on hand, those will work as well.

Sloppy Joes cooked meat mixture in a pan

How to make the best sloppy joes?

  1. The first step to making sloppy Joes is browning the meat in a little butter until it crumbles. Then, we’ll add in the aromatics – the onions, peppers, tomato paste, and garlic. 
  2. Once the onions become translucent, we’ll proceed to the next step by adding all the remaining ingredients (so that’s the tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider, and mustard) along with a big pinch of salt and a splash of water.
  3. Then allow the meat mixture to come up to a simmer, lower the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and allow for it to cook through for 20 minutes. This is where all that wonderful flavor forms!
  4. To finish the sloppy Joe mixture, remove the lid and allow for the sauce to simmer and thicken until it reaches your desired consistency.

Sloppy Joes cooked meat mixture in a pan

Tips for making the best sloppy joes:

  • butter the buns: butter the buns gives them a nicer flavor
  • Toast the buns: once you butter them, toast the buns! The butter layer crisps up a little and adds a nice flavor to the sloppy Joe mix.
  • You can add stuff to your sloppy joes: Some people add onions and pickles, others add pickled jalapeños, others opt for cheese. And if you melt the cheese, that would most definitely give you bonus points in my book!

Wjat sides can you serve when you make sloppy joes?

close up for sloppy joes sandwich

Can I freeze the leftover sloppy joes mixture?

Yes, the sloppy joe mixture is super freezer-friendly. If you’re someone that likes to make dinner a whole lot easier to manage on weeknights, you could even double up on the ingredients in this recipe and freeze half for later when you can’t fathom the thought of having to cook. I like to allow the mixture to cool, then store in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag. Just defrost the meat mixture in the refrigerator overnight. Serve it up with a few easy to put together sides, and lunch or dinner is all taken care of!

Other recipes to make with ground beef:

Sloppy Joe sandwich on a plate

Yield: 5-6 servings

Best Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes

Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 33 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Easy homemade sloppy Joes that will feed a hungry crowd! Sloppy Joes are a little sweet, tomatoey-tang, and I like to kick mine up with a touch of heat! So good, you’ll make the whole family happy with this one!

Best Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup EACH: minced green bell pepper AND minced yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste AND Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder AND red pepper flakes (or mild chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (light brown will also work in a pinch)
  • ½ cup EACH: tomato sauce AND ketchup (I use spicy ketchup

Instructions

  1. MEAT: Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and crumble using a wooden spoon. Allow the meat to cook for 3 minutes before adding the minced bell pepper, onions, garlic, and tomato paste and cooking for another 5 minutes.
  2. SIMMER: Then, add the remaining ingredients along with ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ cup of water and allow the mixture to start bubbling, then lower the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. 
  3. FINISH: Remove the lid and give the sloppy Joe filling a stir. Then, kick the heat up to medium and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes or until the mixture thickens to your liking. If at any point the mixture dries out too much, just add a small splash of water to thin it back out. Taste and adjust with additional salt as needed (it just depends on how salty your tomato sauce and ketchup are, you may not even need anymore)
  4. SERVE: Place a big scoop of the sloppy joe mixture on buttered and toasted buns and serve with potato chips and pickles.

Have you made this recipe?

I’d LOVE it if you could take a second to rate this recipe and leave a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR 🙂

sloppy joe meat on a brioche bun close up

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