Our easy Homemade Sloppy Joes are made from scratch in under 30 minutes for satisfying, saucy dinner sandwiches that the whole family loves! Pile the meat on your favorite soft buns and get ready to get messy with this classic comfort food!

If you are looking for more easy weeknight dinner ideas that use up a package or two of ground beef, some of our other favorites are our Best Ground Beef Stroganoff, Enchiladas, and Homemade Hamburger Helper.

A sloppy joe sandwich on a plate next to a linen napkin and in front of a bag of chips and more sloppy joe sandwiches.

I remember having sloppy joes for hot lunch at school in Nebraska as a kid or for dinner using a can of Manwich sauce. I have nothing against Manwich's because that's what I grew up with, but it's so simple to make sloppy joe sauce with what's in the pantry that I stopped buying it a while ago.

Sure you can grab a packet of sloppy joe seasoning or can of Manwich sloppy joe sauce from the store, but when you already have all the spices in your cupboard at home, why not just make this homemade sloppy joes recipe from scratch and save yourself the trip to the store!

Some people think of sloppy joes as summer fare but for me they were always a cold weather favorite when we couldn't grill outside. Sort of like a burger, but so much saucier and fun!

Why this recipe works

  • It's this balance of tangy, sweet, and smoky flavors that's sort of barbecue but with a distinct taste that is just...sloppy joe.
  • The ingredient list might look lengthy, but you can pull everything out and throw these together in about 15 minutes of actual work time. The rest of the time is spent letting everything simmer for the flavors to meld.
  • Just like with our pulled pork sandwiches, we like to butter and toast our buns before adding the sloppy joe meat. Not only does it add delicious flavor, but it holds together a bit better against the sauce.
  • The little bit of sweetness from the brown sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes and depth of the mustard.
A soft hamburger bun with loose meat in sloppy joe sauce for a quick and easy dinner sandwich.

Ingredient Notes

  • Ground beef: I prefer to use a lean ground beef like 85/15 for sloppy joes, but you could even make these with ground chicken, ground turkey, or ground bison.
  • Bell pepper & onion: It's easy to get in some extra veggies when you dice and saute them with the ground beef before adding the sauce. We like red peppers, but any color will work, even green.
  • Tomato sauce: The base of the sloppy joe sauce is tomato sauce, but it's thickened a bit with some tomato paste and ketchup, which also adds a hint of sweetness. If you don't have tomato sauce on hand, you can use a full can of tomato paste with an extra ½ cup of water.
Ingredients for making homemade sloppy joes from scratch with the best sloppy joe sauce.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Start by heating a little oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and break it up. Let it cook for a few minutes without stirring to let the meat sear and develop a slight crust on the bottom.
  2. Continue to cook the ground beef by breaking it up and stirring until mostly browned.
  1. Add chopped peppers, onion, and garlic to the ground beef and continue to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
Adding onions, garlic, and red peppers to browned ground beef in a pan.
  1. Add brown sugar, mustard, tomato sauce, ketchup, tomato paste, and spices. Stir well to combine, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes to thicken slightly and let the flavors mix together. The longer it simmers, the better the flavors meld together. If it simmers too long, you can always add a little more water to loosen it up a bit.
  1. Once thickened to your liking, butter and toast your favorite hamburger buns on a hot griddle. This helps the sloppy joe meat and sauce not soak into the bread as quickly. Or you could use smaller rolls for sloppy joe sliders. Assemble your sloppy joes and serve immediately with your favorite sides.
A close up image of browned ground beef and vegetables in homemade sloppy joe sauce.

Recipe FAQ's

Where did sloppy joes come from?

One popular origin story is that sloppy joes go back to the 1930's in Sioux City, Iowa when a cafe cook named Joe took the "loose meat sandwich" made with ground beef and onions that is popular in that state and added tomato sauce and some seasonings to it.

What's in a sloppy joe seasoning packet?

A sloppy joe seasoning packet is just a combination of spices like chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, and minced onion. They also include dried green pepper flakes, cornstarch, and (¼ teaspoon) celery seed. But a lot of people also don't like the preservatives and additives in prepackaged mixes.

Is there a way to make sloppy joes vegetarian?

Slightly mashed black beans and chopped mushrooms can make a good vegetarian substitute or just be added to your ground beef to make it stretch farther. You could also finely chop celery and carrots to saute with the onions until soft for bulking it up with even more veggies.

A sloppy joe sandwich with a bite taken out of it.

Recipe Tips

  • Serve your sloppy joes with coleslaw, green veggies, pasta salads, cottage cheese jello salad, chips, or homemade french fries.
  • We tend to eat our sloppy joes plain, but you can also top them with provolone, swiss, or cheddar cheese. Pickles, thinly sliced red onions, crispy fried onion strings, and other burger toppings would also be tasty additions.
  • Feel free to add in a can of diced green chilies for even more veggies and a slightly tangier flavor.
  • Slow cooker sloppy joes: Brown meat, onions, and peppers, then add sauce ingredients and spices and cook for 2 hours on low.
  • Instant pot sloppy joes: Brown the meat and saute the onions and peppers in the Instant Pot using the saute feature just as you would on the stove. Then add all of the sauce ingredients and spices and close and secure the lid. Make sure the valve is set to "seal" and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes, followed by a quick release. If your sauce is still too thin, turn the instant pot back onto saute mode and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens to your liking.
  • Storage: You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • Freezing: This meat freezes well. Let it cool first than transfer to ziploc bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a little water to thin it out, if needed.

Whenever I make sloppy joes for dinner I have to turn on Adam Sandler's classic "Lunch Lady Land" and we all sing to it. Cause we all like our sloppy joes extra sloppy!

A homemade sloppy joe sandwich on a plate with pickles and potato chips.

More Ground Beef Recipes

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa • KansasKentuckyLouisiana • MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMontanaNew YorkOregonPuerto RicoSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTexasUtahWisconsin

More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

Stay in the know

Best Homemade Sloppy Joes

5 from 4 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Our easy Homemade Sloppy Joes are made from scratch in under 30 minutes for satisfying, saucy dinner sandwiches that the whole family loves! Pile the meat on your favorite soft buns and get ready to get messy with this classic comfort food!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (85/15 or higher)
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • ½ red, yellow, orange, or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup beef broth or water
  • cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ground beef, breaking it up into large chunks, but leaving it alone otherwise for a minute or two to sear on the bottom. Once the ground beef has started to develop a crust on the bottom, continue to break it up and cook until browned through. Drain off excess grease, if necessary.
  • Add the onion, chopped bell pepper, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
  • Add tomato sauce, beef broth or water, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, and red pepper flakes. Mix until combined.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened but saucy.
  • Serve on your favorite buns. A slice of cheese and pickles on top are optional, but delicious!

Video

Notes

  • Healthier version: These could also be made with ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground bison for a healthier option. 
  • Slow cooker sloppy joes: Brown meat, onions, and peppers, then add sauce ingredients and spices and cook for 2 hours on low.
  • Instant pot sloppy joes: Brown the meat and saute the onions and peppers in the Instant Pot using the saute feature just as you would on the stove. Then add all of the sauce ingredients and spices and close and secure the lid. Make sure the valve is set to "seal" and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes, followed by a quick release. If your sauce is still too thin, turn the instant pot back onto saute mode and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens to your liking.
  • Storage: You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • Freezing: This meat freezes well. Let it cool first than transfer to ziploc bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a little water to thin it out, if needed.
  • The nutrition facts are calculated without the bun.

Nutrition

Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 1065mg | Potassium: 540mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 872IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

Share This With the World

PinYummly

Related Recipes

About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

How many stars would you give this recipe?




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reader questions and reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious… I’m not a great cook so when I can make something so easy and taste delicious it makes me happy.. and my family too