All these years I’ve thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner ever, but after months of testing I’ve finally found a recipe I LOVE!
Creating the Best Sloppy Joes Recipe
Every time I heard that we were having Sloppy Joes for lunch at school as a kid, I cringed. I was never too excited for sloppy joes at home either. Not knowing what was in the sloppy joes made it harder for me to eat — it should have been called Mystery Joes or something along those lines.
For years, we tried new recipes and each one was getting closer and closer to me finally accepting the sloppy mess of a meal. Everyone went crazy for them at school and families we knew loved them, clearly I was missing something.
As a teenager, I watched Adam Sandler and Chris Farley perform “lunch lady land” on Saturday Night Live. Interestingly enough, this skit gave me a new outlook on sloppy joes, not sure why.
Well, a couple decades later this bad boy lands on my plate and a whole slew of feelings came rushing back: disgust, anxiety, unpleasant crunchy things, failure after failure of trying this recipe in the past, and almost complete despair of ever finding a Sloppy Joes recipe that actually tasted good.
Would this one be another flop? I sat down to the dinner table with that fake smile, that “thanks honey, this looks great” face on that I had nailed down over my childhood years. The smells began to hit my nostrils and to my surprise they were pleasant, smokey richness, grilled onions and peppers, almost like a bbq restaurant smell.
I began to feel a little excitement in this Mystery Joe. I went in for the first bite and it was all over from there, seconds and thirds landed on my plate and my taste buds were chest bumping each other.
We have finally found the best sloppy joe recipe EVER! Not just the best, but a totally craveable recipe!
What is a Sloppy Joe?
To be clear, a sloppy joe is not a sandwich with chili piled on top. A sloppy joe is a sandwich consisting of ground beef or pork, onions, tomato sauce or ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings, served on a hamburger bun.
The dish originated in the United States during the early 20th century. According to legend, a cook named Joe at Floyd Angell’s café in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches and the “sloppy joe” sandwich was born. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Sloppy Joes Ingredients
For this easy sloppy joe recipe, you’ll need a handful of ingredients. I bet most of these ingredients are in your pantry already! For the sloppy joe meat mixture, you’ll need butter, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and ground beef.
Although you can’t have sloppy joes without the meat, the sloppy joe sauce is what really makes this recipe. For the sloppy joe sauce, you’ll need brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and a few spices.
What makes this sloppy joe sauce so amazing is its blend of sweet and smoky flavors. The sauce has so much depth to it, which you wouldn’t expect for such a simple dinner recipe!
How to Make Sloppy Joes
I’m not sure we could have made this sloppy joes recipe any easier! Here’s the basic rundown of how to make the best sloppy joes and how to make sloppy joe sauce:
- In a Dutch oven, saute the onion in a little butter until translucent.
- Add the diced bell pepper and garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add in the ground beef and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
- The sloppy joe sauce ingredients are added next. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes, or up to an hour.
- Scoop the sloppy joe mixture onto buttered buns and enjoy!
Can I Make Sloppy Joes with Ground Turkey?
Absolutely! You can use pretty much any ground meat you’d like in these easy sloppy joes. If you’d like to use ground turkey in particular, we recommend making our Healthier Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes instead.
Can I Make Sloppy Joes in a Slow Cooker?
Most definitely. You’ll need to brown the beef first, then you can add everything into the slow cooker and let it cook low and slow for up to three hours. You’ll need to stir it occasionally though! If you have a regular sized slow cooker, we recommend doubling this easy sloppy joe recipe to fill the entire thing.
Can I Omit the Liquid Smoke?
We love the hint of smokiness it adds to these sloppy joes, but you can omit it if you don’t have any on hand.
Can Sloppy Joes Be Frozen?
Cool the sloppy joes filling completely in the refrigerator before you freeze it. Freeze it in labeled freezer bags and lay it flat in your freezer so you can stack your frozen meals. You can freeze it for 3 – 6 months. When you’re ready to eat the frozen sloppy joes filling, place it in the fridge overnight to thaw and then warm it on the stove.
What Goes With Sloppy Joes?
Not sure what to serve with your sloppy joes from scratch? Here are a few of our favorite sloppy joes sides:
- Classic Grilled Corn
- Best Baked Beans
- Macaroni Salad
- Best Potato Salad
- Classic Broccoli Salad with Bacon
Tips for the Best Sloppy Joes
We prefer using 80% lean ground beef to make these sloppy joes from scratch. You don’t want to use beef that’s too lean, as the fat adds lots of moisture and flavor to this dish.
The sloppy joe mixture can be prepped in advance and enjoyed the next day. Simply reheat on the stove or stick in a Crockpot to keep warm.
If needed, this easy sloppy joe recipe can be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd!
More Ground Beef Dinner Recipes:
You can find all of our beef recipes here.
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The Best Sloppy Joes
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/2 Cup Onion diced fine
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Garlic minced
- 1 Pound Ground Beef we use 80% lean
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons Dark or Light Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 3/4 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 Cup Ketchup
- 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Buns for serving
- Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter.
- Once melted, quickly add the onion and stir occasionally until translucent.
- Add the peppers and garlic and stir occasionally for 1 minute then add the ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon, stirring it all together.
- Allow to cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the brown sugar, mustard, worcestershire, liquid smoke, chili powder, and paprika.
- Stir for 30 seconds and then add the ketchup and vinegar.
- Allow to cook for 5 minutes, season to taste and serve or cook up to 1 hour on low and then serve. The longer it cooks the better the flavor.
- Scoop onto buns that have been brushed with butter.