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!

Table of Contents
  1. Why this Easy Sloppy Joe Recipe works
  2. Sloppy Joe Ingredients
  3. How to make Sloppy Joes
  4. Sloppy Joe Recipe easy tips
  5. Homemade Sloppy Joes Variations
  6. What to serve with Sloppy Joes
  7. Storing leftover Homemade Sloppy Joes
  8. Sloppy Joes Recipe FAQs
  9. You'll love these extra sloppy Homemade Sloppy Joes
  10. More Ground Beef Recipes
  11. More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series
  12. Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe (Easy!) Recipe

Why this Easy Sloppy Joe 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.

Sloppy Joe Ingredients

  • 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 Sloppy Joes

  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.

How to make Sloppy Joe Sauce

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

Sloppy Joe Recipe easy 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.

Homemade Sloppy Joes Variations

  • Sloppy Dorothy Sandwiches - Like regular sloppy joes but made with Dorothy Lynch dressing.
  • Pizza Sloppy Joes - Add pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese for an instant hit!
  • Turkey Sloppy Joes - A lighter, healthier alternative!
  • Vegetarian Sloppy Joes: Replace the ground beef with plant-based alternatives like lentils, mushrooms, black beans, or tofu. Season and cook them in a tomato-based sauce for a meatless version.
  • Sloppy Joe Sliders: Make mini Sloppy Joes using slider buns for a party or appetizer option.
  • Spicy Sloppy Joes: Add heat with jalapeños, hot sauce, or crushed red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
  • Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes: Top your Sloppy Joes with slices of cheese or melt cheese into the meat mixture for a cheeseburger-inspired version.
  • Mushroom and Swiss Sloppy Joes: Add sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese to your Sloppy Joes for a rich, earthy flavor.
  • Sloppy Joe Tacos: Spoon the Sloppy Joe mixture into taco shells instead of buns for a taco-inspired twist.
  • Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes: Season the meat with Tex-Mex spices like cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Add ingredients like black beans, corn, and diced tomatoes for a Southwestern flair.
  • Asian Sloppy Joes: Use ground pork or beef seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Top with my Asian slaw or pickled vegetables for an Asian-inspired twist.
  • Buffalo Sloppy Joes: Mix ground chicken with Buffalo sauce and serve with blue cheese dressing for a spicy and tangy variation.
  • Sloppy Joe Stuffed Peppers: Fill bell peppers with the Sloppy Joe mixture and bake them for a unique and flavorful dish.
  • Sloppy Joe Pizza: Use the Sloppy Joe sauce as a pizza topping along with cheese, onions, and bell peppers for a Sloppy Joe-inspired pizza.
  • Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese: Combine your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe with Sloppy Joe sauce for a creamy and savory combination.
  • Sloppy Joe Casserole: Layer Sloppy Joe meat mixture with crescent roll dough, mashed potatoes or tater tots and bake it for a comforting casserole.
  • 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.

What to serve with Sloppy Joes

  • French Fries or Sweet Potato Fries: Crispy fries are a classic choice to serve with Sloppy Joes. You can make them at home or use frozen ones for convenience.
  • Coleslaw: A creamy or vinegar-based coleslaw can provide a cool and refreshing contrast to the savory Sloppy Joes.
  • Potato Salad: A hearty potato salad with a tangy dressing can complement the flavors of Sloppy Joes nicely.
  • Baked Beans: The sweetness and smokiness of baked beans pair well with the savory Sloppy Joe filling.
  • Corn on the Cob: Grilled or boiled corn on the cob with butter and seasonings can be a tasty and easy side dish.
  • Pickles: Dill or bread-and-butter pickles can add a crunchy, tangy element to your meal.
  • Side Salad: A simple green salad with your favorite dressings and toppings can balance the richness of Sloppy Joes.
  • Onion Rings: Crispy onion rings offer a satisfying crunch and a hint of sweetness to contrast with the Sloppy Joe flavors.
  • Macaroni and Cheese: Creamy mac and cheese is a comforting side dish that complements the meaty Sloppy Joe filling.
  • Garlic Bread or Toast: Toasted garlic bread or rolls are perfect for making Sloppy Joe sandwiches, and they soak up the sauce nicely.
  • Vegetable Platter: Serve a platter of fresh vegetable sticks, like carrots, celery, and bell peppers, with a dipping sauce or hummus for a lighter option.
  • Tater Tots: These crispy potato bites are a fun and kid-friendly side dish for Sloppy Joes.
  • Fruit Salad: A refreshing fruit salad can provide a sweet contrast to the savory Sloppy Joes.
  • Chips or Pretzels: A side of chips or pretzels can add a satisfying crunch to your meal.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Season and grill a variety of vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplant for a healthy and flavorful side dish.

Storing leftover Homemade Sloppy Joes

  • 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.

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

Sloppy Joes Recipe FAQs

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.

You'll love these extra sloppy Homemade Sloppy Joes

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!

More Ground Beef Recipes

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More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

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Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe (Easy!)

5 from 15 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
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!

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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.

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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

  2. 5 stars
    My dad loves when I make him this! So happy to have found this to have in regular rotation! I can’t wait to try your other recipes 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    This is a very good recipe. I serve it with a thin slice of raw onion and a thick slice of ripe tomato. All my grandkids love it!

  4. 5 stars
    Yummy! Was craving sloppy joe’s, only thing I didn’t have was some bell pepper. I buttered and toasted the buns as suggested and holy moly! So good! My husband said they were the best he’s ever had. Thanks for a great recipe, definitely saving this one!

    1. Oh man there is nothing better than a good sloppy joes sandwich! I'm glad you and your husband liked it!

  5. 5 stars
    Had company over to watch the football play-offs, and served these yummy sandwiches at half time from the crockpot. It's an old fashion recipe that everyone remembers, Just the right amount of "kick" spice wise. Good with a tossed salad and potato chips. Thanks for sharing, much tastier than the kid version (ketchup/mustard/meat etc).