Best Sloppy Joes

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All these years I’ve thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it’s the best sloppy joes recipe you’ll ever make!

 

Why Are Sloppy Joes Called That?

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!

 

Is Sloppy Joe  Chili?

Sloppy Joe is not chili. 

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.

 All these years I've thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it's the best sloppy joes recipe you'll ever make!

Every time I heard that I was 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.

 

All these years I've thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it's the best sloppy joes recipe you'll ever make!

 

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. The Best Sloppy Joes recipe didn’t exist for me, yet…

 

All these years I've thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it's the best sloppy joes recipe you'll ever make!

 

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 the recipe in the past, and almost complete despair of ever finding the Best Sloppy Joes recipe.

 

All these years I've thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it's the best sloppy joes recipe you'll ever make!

 

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.

 

All these years I've thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it's the best sloppy joes recipe you'll ever make!

 

 

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 recipe out there! Not just the best, but a totally craveable recipe! This is Cade signing off, Carrian clearly won me over with this one.

Can Sloppy Joes Be Frozen?

Cool the Sloppy Joes 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.

 

 

The Best Sloppy Joes

The #1 Recipe out there for Sloppy Joes and we agree, it's the best! ohsweetbasil.com

 

All these years I've thought sloppy joes were the worst dinner and then we spent months testing and now it's the best sloppy joes recipe you'll ever make!

 

Are Sloppy Joes Healthy?

Well, not really as you’ve got all of those condiments and sugar in there, but they aren’t as bad as many other meals you’re enjoying, hello creamy alfredo sauce…

 

Can Sloppy Joes Be Frozen?

If you’ve ever wondered, can sloppy joes be frozen I’m here to tell you that they totally can! Sloppy joe meat can be frozen using a food saver for up to 4 months, or in a freezer zip top bag for 2 months. This is exactly why I’m so obsessed with our Food Saver. So worth the investment!

 

Best Sloppy Joes

 

The Best Sloppy Joes

After testing for months this is literally the BEST sloppy joes recipe out there!

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter.
  2. Once melted, quickly add the onion and stir occasionally until translucent.
  3. 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.
  4. Allow to cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the brown sugar, mustard, worcestershire, liquid smoke, chili powder, and paprika.
  6. Stir for 30 seconds and then add the ketchup and vinegar.
  7. 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.
  8. Scoop onto buns that have been brushed with butter.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 4-6, Serving Size: 1

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 441 Calories
  • Total Fat: 23g
  • Cholesterol: 68.9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 40g
  • Fiber: 2.5g
  • Sugar: 17.1g
  • Protein: 18.4g
All images and text ©Carrian Cheney for Oh Sweet Basil.

What Sides Go With Sloppy Joes?

We love to make Our Best Broccoli Salad!

Everyone's favorite quick and easy broccoli salad recipe that's perfect for potlucks and BBQs. Plus, it has bacon in it!! ohsweetbasil.com

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Carrian Cheney

Lover of all things beautiful, good and delicious. Wife, mother, friend, foodie.

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135 comments on “Best Sloppy Joes”

  1. Made these with ground turkey, you would never know. Delish!

  2. is this sloppy jo sweet ??

  3. I made these a couple nights ago. I don’t have liquid smoke, but the smoked paprika still added that delicious smokiness. My husband and I enjoyed them.

  4. Making now, didn’t have bell peppers, used jalapeno peppers instead, fingers crossed 🤞🤞🤞😁 the apple cider vinegar is strong at first but mellows after it cooks for a little while 😉

  5. Holy vinegar! After adding the vinegar I ended up having to throw away the entire meal. If I try this again I will not be adding any of the Apple cider vinegar. My whole house smells like it! 1/4 cup seemed a bit extreme for me but I tried it anyway…. I wish I would have started with 1/2 tsp! 

    • I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy it! Vinegar is one of those ingredients that people taste more strongly than other people. We’ve had a lot of readers say they cut the vinegar in half. Luckily this recipe is easily adapted to different tastes!

  6. LOVED IT! Making it again tonight in fact! (I had to re-find the recipe)

    The only change I made was a personal taste one. I left out the smoke liquid flavor just because I don’t like anything smoked and it was SOOOOO good.

    Thanks for your efforts in tweaking for months until you found just the right mix 😁

    Everyone went for 2nds and even the boys ate a 3rd. That NEVER happens so I know they loved it.

  7. The sloppy Joes were a little too tangy for me I’d add a little more brown sugar and recommend draining the fat after browning ground beef otherwise definitely a keeper 

  8. My husband just came and thanked me for finding your recipe. He and my adult son have called it their favorite new meal. They ask to have it every week, and they rave about it every time. I like it because it is not as sweet as some other recipes I have tried. We liked this recipe so much that I subscribed to your mailing list. Looking forward to trying many other of your recipes.

  9. We are not big sloppy joe eaters either just because they seem to be so tangy. But we did actually really enjoy this recipe. Thanks for sharing 😉

  10. I’ve made these several times and they are The Best. The only change I made was to add one small stalk celery finely diced. I love these sloppy joes. Thank you for the recipe.

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  12. Way way way too sweet. Not a bad recipe, but I’d cut out the brown sugar at a minimum. 

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  14. Multiplied the amounts by five (oy!) for a work lunch. Made it the night before, stored in the fridge, and reheated in the crock pot the day of. The flavors intensified as it sat overnight; I think it’s even better the second day. It’s pretty sweet (I might use less ketchup next time), but the tangy bite really does balance it well. I especially like that it doesn’t taste like chili, sweet spaghetti sauce, or barbecue – like some of the homemade recipes end up like. It’s distinctly sloppy joes, without using a canned sauce. Great recipe. Very pleased!

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  17. My husband works in fine dining, so it can be overwhelming to find recipes that meet what he sees on the regular. However, it pushes me to keep searching. And wow! What a happy little find! This recipe isn’t lacking in any area. I’m almost 100% sure that it’s perfect – and I haven’t even made it yet! Thank you for a confidence boost. Serving oh sweet basil sloppy joes tonight! Thank you! 

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  19. I’m thinking of trying to do this with lentils and making it vegetarian.   I’ve had great lentil sloppy joes but can’t find my go to recipe.  This one sounds great.  However I’d like to put it in the crockpot.   Any thoughts on if liquids should be adjusted depending on if I use dry or canned lentils?

  20. What kind of chili powder do you use? Hot or powder blend?

  21. I made your sloppy joe’s for my BF last night and he said they were so good I should open a resturant and serve nothing but these!

  22. My husband has requested sloppy joes for dinner tonight. Your recipe and comments really excite me! Can’t wait to make this for dinner tonight. I will be using potato buns.

  23. Happy to report back….it was a big hit!! Followed it to the letter & everyone commented on the texture & taste..thanks again. And yes, Eagles DO fly 😎

  24. I made this for the superbowl and it was great. My one mistake is I didn’t use the lean hamburger. Big mistake! Too much grease. I served them as a slider using the hawaiian rolls. Big hit! I will be making these again. Thanks for the recipe

    • Hi Sue, glad you liked them! If you don’t use lean you can just drain out the grease or even move the meat to a paper towel lined plate after draining to soak up even more of the fat. 🙂

  25. Ok, I’m in. Living in PA & diehard Eagles fans, I am going to make this for the first time for Super Bowl today! Ingredients look great, love the reviews….so here we go. Thanks for the recipe & feel free to cheer for Philadelphia (as long as you’re not Patriot fans) I’m sure the sloppy Joe’s will ease our pain if we don’t take the ring ~ Cheers!!

  26. Do you think you can make these in a crock pot?

  27. Very tasty we did not have the liquid smoke so added about a tsp of pureed chipotle in adobe sauce for some smokiness and one seeded and diced fresno chili. When we tasted the sauce it was a tad off balance on heat and vinigar so added a drizzle of mollasses. Plan on getting the liquid smoke for next time but this variation was very tasty full of flavor with a warm sweet heat that lingered. Even my daughter who is not a ground beef anything person ate it right up. Thanks for sharing.

  28. So I’d only ever had cafeteria Sloppy Joes. And by had I mean that I took one, awful bite 20-something years ago and only ate the soggy fries that came with it or brought my lunch if it appeared on the menu from that moment on. For some reason, I decided I was curious to give this much hated school menu item a chance as an adult. This recipe. Omg. I love this Sloppy Joe. Just this one. Because it’s absolutely delicious and so perfectly sloppy in the best way. I told my husband I wanted to use the sauce with shredded chicken or pork, but he just looked at me and said, “Don’t you go messing with perfection.” The tiny human loved it, as well. Definitely the best Sloppy Joe of all the Sloppy Joe’s that ever were.

    • We are both sitting here trying to think of a good response to your comment and all we can say is, you are seriously the best. I (Carrian) was soooo on board with you, gross sloppy as a kid and now I’m a die hard fan. Your comment totally made our day. Thank you!!!

  29. Trying this tonight,  my daughter  insisted we have Sloppy Joes saw your recipe and all I need is buns and red peppers. Read comments from users and most are favorable so here goes. Sounds delicious” I’ll be back “ joeseppi  

  30. This was absolutely delicious! The hubs and kids agreed that this was the best sloppy joes we’ve ever had!!!!

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  33. So, how necessary is the Liquid Smoke??

  34. My mother-in-law (who I believe is related to you somehow, a cousin of a parent, or some such thing…), made these for us last week when we were visiting in Utah. As a lifelong Sloppy Joe fan (the homemade kind, that is), these were the best Sloppy Joes I have ever had! I couldn’t get enough. I begged her for the recipe and she directed me to your blog. Can’t wait to make them again for my own family. Well done!

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  37. Just made this for dinner and YUM! We used 90% lean ground beef, 2 Tb butter, 2 Tb light brown sugar, forgot the red bell pepper (haha… oops) and let it simmer for an hour uncovered and it was amazing! My husband gives it 2 thumbs up (and so do I)! Also, for anyone deliberating whether or not to buy smoked paprika and/or liquid smoke… BUY them! They are so essential to the BBQ sauce! Which, by the way, is one dang good BBQ sauce. You could just keep it in a bottle in the fridge and put it on everything. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  38. Should the hamburger be drained at any point?

  39. Should the hamburgert be drained at any point?

  40. Made this recipe and would definitely make it again but wit a lot less brown sugar and a little less vinegar. Next time I will add both to taste at the end.

  41. Since it states in the recipe that the longer it cooks the better would it be possible to throw this n the crock pot? I apologize if this has already been asked- I see a lot of comments and am being lazy.
    How long would you be willing to keep it in the slow cooker on low?

    • Hi Bethany,

      I’ll add a note to the recipe, that’s such a great idea. I would double it if you have a regular sized crock pot (this freezes really well) and cook it on low for up to 3 hours. Ours still boils on low, so stirring occasionally will be key.

  42. This was very lovely and my whole family loved it. I did cut back the sugar and apple cider vinegar back by half and ketchup to 2/3 c.

  43. One question! One night a week I have night classes, so I always have to premake the meals so that when my boyfriend and kids come home he can just pop it in the oven. I do enchiladas a lot, and pulled pork in a crockpot… Could I do this recipe and then move it to a crock pot? Would it be okay to let it sit on low heat for an hour? Thanks for the awesome recipe!! Super excited to make it! 🙂

  44. They are the best sloppy joe’s. I made them twice this week. I can’t get enough.Thanks for taking the time to share.

  45. I am so excited that I found your site. I have tried several recipes, and they’ve all been fantastic…this was no exception! They truly are THE BEST SLOPPY JOES! Even my son claims to hate sloppy joes, loved them. These will definitely be on our regular meal rotation. Thank you for an another amazing recipe!

  46. I am confused by those saying there was too much apple cider vinegar. My fiancé and I doubled the recipe and let it simmer for 40 minutes to cook down the liquid, and we both loved it!

    • Hi Melissa, thanks for your comment. We love it too, but vinegar is one of those ingredients that people can sometimes taste more strongly than others. I’m so, so glad you like it how it is. We really do love it! xoxo

  47. I made this recipe a while ago and loved it!! Do you think this would freeze well? Sloppy joes have a similar texture to chili and I’ve frozen chili with good results, just wondering if you’ve tried it before. Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

  48. This is a great sloppy joe recipe! My daughter and I both dislike sloppy joes..but yours have changed our minds and taste buds thanx!

  49. I fixed these one night last week and thought that they were wonderful! Based on other reviews, I halved the cider vinegar…but I love cider vinegar and will try the entire amount next time. I used 90/10 beef blend since that’s what I had, and it was fine. As a bonus, I made fresh hamburger buns. What a treat meal!!

  50. These were definitely not my favorite – the apple cider was way too much! I will stick to making mine with the seasoning packet and a can of tomato soup.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment even if you didn’t enjoy them. If the cider isn’t your favorite you can always cut back a little. 🙂 Then again, everyone has their own idea of what’s delicious so maybe the packet is just what will be your favorite. My friend loves the canned version, though I just can’t love it like she does.

  51. The recipe was so-so. I prefer the packet of sloppy joe seasoning where you add a 6oz., can of tomato paste and a little bit of water over this recipe.

  52. I wish I had tried your version of sloppy joes first!! I made some tonight and they needed so much help. I started searching for another version to see how to save our dinner. Thank goodness I found this one!!!!! I modified my first attempt as much as I could to resemble this one….it was sooooo much better.
    Thank you thank you thank you.

  53. This is a firehouse favorite! I pre-cut all the veggies and put all the spices and such in a baggies and ship my firefighter off with some buns and 80/20 ground beef (and he insists american cheese) when he goes onto shift. He says they haven’t been disappointed yet- and its super easy! Woohoo!

    • That’s so fun! And we are totally laughing because who knows why, but knowing they are being made in a firehouse totally made us both so happy. lol thanks!

  54. I made these for my sons 1st birthday party. They were DELICIOUS! I followed the recipe to the T. I tripped the recipe and let them cook/ simmer for about 2 hours. There was so many compliments and 2 people asked for the recipe. I will definitely be making these again! Thank you!

  55. So I am really excited to make these for my son’s birthday party. I’m needing to triple the recipe and that scares me! Can u make the day before the party do you think?

    • Hi Santana,

      We’ve done two ways, I’ve made it all ahead and reheated it, which was fine. And I’ve also made the sauce and then the next day cooked the beef and added the sauce to simmer until company. Both ways have helped me cook large portions without the stress of slaving before company came and it was able to cook it all evenly since it was tripled. But yes, you can do it, haha!

  56. I just made this recipe and it is fantastic! I think the apple cider vinegar is a bit strong but not nearly as bad as some of the previous commenters make it sound. I will definitely make this one again!

  57. Made this for dinner tonight and reduced the vinegar by about 3 Tbsp. and it was delicious. My husband wants me to double the recipe minus the hamburg and use it as a barbecue sauce. I am going to try it on chicken. Thanks fr the recipe.

  58. I was really looking forward to these but I just didn’t love them and I couldn’t get my kids to eat them. I think I’d cut down the vinegar and the sugar and possibly even the liquid smoke.

    • Just goes to show that we all definitely have different taste buds. 🙂 I agree, if it wasn’t for you I’d cut down on the vinegar and smoke. 🙂 Thanks Michele!

  59. When my kids were small, they would cook Sloppy Joes from a recipe in their kids’ cookbook. This recipe is more complicated than theirs was, turns out a wonderful result, and brings back a slew of fond memories.

  60. This was part of dinner tonight for my husband and son and they both really liked it. My husband, as usual, would have liked more spice, but I think I will just put a bottle of sriraha on the table next time to suit everyone. Thanks for a great recipe!

  61. Hey! Great recipe! Making it for dinner tonight!! When you cook it on low for the hour, do you cover it or leave it uncovered??

  62. I can’t wait to try these- Must confess I love any Sloppy Joe- even from a can!

  63. Best sloppy joes we’ve ever had! Definitely going in the recipe book!

  64. I just made this last night….loved!!!!

  65. I liked it, but like the rest of the comments above, I would not add as much apple cider vinegar. I would cut back on some of the brown sugar too. I made 3 lbs of hamburger to share and we also put some on hot dogs which went over well. Overall, my family liked it.

    • I agree. Fabulous recipe, but way too much cider vinegar. I’d reduce it by half or more. I ended up putting in a lot more brown sugar to counteract the acid, and it ended up sweeter than I wanted it.

  66. This was awesome! I’m another one that hated the sloppy joe stuff from a can. But this was delicious! I used some spicy ketchup because I had it on hand and it was great. Definitely a keeper!

  67. Do you drain the fat out of the ground beef before you add the rest of the ingredients?

  68. I really liked this recipe, but it makes so much sauce that I think the hamburger needs to be doubled, and I thought the cider vinegar was a bit too much so I’ll probably half that next time.

  69. I made these tonight and they were very good. The next time I make this i will use less apple cider vinegar.

  70. I don’t know where to get the liquid smoke in my country!
    Would the recipe be affected without it!! Would it taste totally different?
    Is there a substitute?

  71. We just happened to have everything at home to make this recipe, so we’re making it tonight! My family never really did sloppy joe’s regularly, but my husband LOVES them, so we’re excited to try a homemade recipe!!

  72. I’ve actually never tried a sloppy joe before.. think it is definitely an American tradition/thing? I do have to try it though – looks SO delicious.

    • Oh gosh, I HATED them growing up so I actually ate bread and jam when they were served and didn’t try them again until I was well into my adult years lol. They are actually really good!