Sloppy Joes

From the recipe archive, a warm dish for a chilly day! ~Elise

Just hearing the words “sloppy joe” from my mother used to send us kids into a tizzy. There was something wonderfully fun about getting to eat a burger/sandwich that was messy by design. I’ve been waiting to make this when my nephew was in town because sloppy joes really are a quintessential kid food. Well the kid is here, and after he explained to me that he didn’t like tomatoes with his hamburger and he wanted his onions on top, and I explained to him that sloppy joes are made with the onions mixed in with the beef, and he eats spaghetti so what’s wrong with tomatoes, anyway?, he relented. And when called to dinner he ate the whole thing (with high praise), even though he had been making and eating s’mores all day. (Wouldn’t touch the coleslaw though. Kids. Lest you think we are the ones feeding him s’mores, he knows how to make them himself and sneaks into the kitchen when we aren’t looking.)

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Sloppy Joes Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

The trick to this recipe is to brown the meat well, on high heat. Don't crowd the pan, work in batches, and don't stir the meat until it is well browned on one side. It helps to use a large cast iron pan, or an anodized aluminum pan, as these pans can handle the heat and are relatively stick-free.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots (can sub chopped bell pepper)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (or 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, puréed)
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns

Method

1 Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the carrots and sauté for 5 minutes. (If you are using bell pepper instead of carrots, add those at the same time as the onions.) Add the chopped onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from heat. Remove vegetables from the pan to a medium sized bowl, set aside.

2 Using the same pan (or you can cook the meat at the same time as the vegetables in a separate pan to save time), generously salt the bottom of the pan (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon). Heat the pan on high. Crumble the ground beef into the pan. You will likely need to do this in two batches, otherwise you will crowd the pan and the beef won't easily brown. Do not stir the ground beef, just let it cook until it is well browned on one side. Then flip the pieces over and brown the second side. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ground beef from the pan (can add to the set-aside vegetables), salt the pan again and repeat with the rest of the ground beef.

If you are using extra lean beef, you will likely not have any excess fat in the pan. If you are using 16% or higher, you may have excess fat. Strain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

3 Return the cooked ground beef and vegetables to the pan. Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and brown sugar to the pan. Stir to mix well. Add ground cloves, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Lower the heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with toasted hamburger buns.

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87 Comments

  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    When I lived in northern New Jersey during my high school years, a Sloppy Joe was something entirely different: a layered deli sandwich (like a club sandwich, but on rye bread), with layers of corned beef, turkey slathered with Russian dressing, and coleslaw. The loaf of rye was sliced horizontally, so the whole Sloppy Joe was the dimension of a loaf of bread, cut into wedges. When you bit into it, the Russian dressing and cole slaw would dribble down your chin. It was the best thing ever.

    Oh, that one sounds soooo good. ~Elise

  2. Alanna @ Kitchen Parade

    What would you think about the idea that a sloppy joe just isn’t a sloppy joe unless potato chips and dill pickles are tucked inside the buns, too? That was my favorite school lunch, still the only way to eat sloppy joes. No judging for taste, of course.

    I recall using the potato chips to scoop up overspill on the sloppy joe like a dip. Yum! ~Elise

  3. Cary

    Salting the pan: what effect does this have? I am very curious because I like new techniques, but I don’t have time to puzzle this one out right now!

    I can’t wait to try this….sounds so much better than the dry-packet-mixes we ate as kids.

    Salting the pan achieves two purposes, one you want to salt the meat as you cook it because that way it brings out the flavor better, two salting the pan will help keep the meat from sticking to the pan when you are browning it on high heat. ~Elise

  4. Cindy

    Wow, a perfect time to use my homemade hamburger bun(s) recipe. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    (This recipe also included a recipe for making barbecue beef, but I deleted it. Use the URL to see the entire recipe).

    Makes 8 buns.

    1 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
    1 envelope FLEISCHMANN’S Active Dry Yeast
    2 tablespoons SPICE ISLANDS Minced Onions
    2 tablespoons sugar
    2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    Directions
    Place 1/4 cup warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, minced onions, sugar, butter, salt, and 1-1/2 cups flour; blend well. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.

    Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece to 5-inch circle. Place about 1/2 cup meat mixture in center of each. Pull up dough to enclose filling, and pinch at top to seal. Place, pinched sides up, on 2 greased baking sheets. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

    Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes or until done, switching positions of sheets halfway through baking time for even browning. Remove from sheets to wire racks. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers; reheat to serve.

    yield: 8 buns

  5. bevson

    I grew up eating sloppy joes, then I moved east. Imagine my horror to discover that sloppy joes here are cold deli sandwiches with meat, swiss cheese, cole slaw and russian dressing. I have never learned to like them. I much prefer the hot chopped meat, tomatoes version. Thanks for reminding me!

  6. Lynn

    We love Sloppy Joes. I like to make a big batch and then freeze the sauce part. It freezes really well. I let it cool and than place it in a ziplock bag and freeze. I like to freeze it because it gives me an easy meal for a busy night.

  7. Bob

    Suh-weet. I have been looking for a good sloppy joe recipe. I will have to try this.

    Lydia (The Perfect Pantry): That sounds more like a Rachel (a ruben with cole slaw instead of sauerkraut) than anything I have ever heard called a sloppy joe. Regional differences are weird, and I’m not even that far away. I’m in Boston.

  8. Sylvia

    Great recipe. question:
    how come every recipe showing a hamburger bun always has wonderful looking buns, but you never see anything like them in the supermarkets? I hate all those pre-packaged buns…so flimsy and tasteless! Do you make your own buns? Even the in-store bakeries usually only have “kaiser” rolls. Sometimes they are okay, but often are shaped inconveniently.
    Sure love all your recipes though. I just made your fig-orange microwave jam. Fabulous!

    I know what you mean about the buns. There is a comment above where a reader shares her homemade hamburger bun recipe by the way. We do buy ours, found the best buns ever at Whole Foods. The maker is Rudi’s Bakery based in Boulder, Colorado. ~Elise

  9. Pademelon

    One of the cool things about moving from the US to Australia is kangaroo meat. It’s not only cheaper than beef, it’s far far healthier. It’s naturally 98% fat free and tastes a bit meatier than beef without being gamey (I don’t understand how that works either, it’s just the way it is).

    Anyway, we use ground roo instead of beef for this and call ‘em “Sloppy Joeys” (which I realize is in entirely poor taste but I said it once and it stuck).

  10. Eirikur

    There’s a restaurant in San Francisco that serves up a bowl of sloppy joe dip, with a dollop of sour cream in the middle, to be eaten with fresh fried corn tortilla chips. It makes a great appetizer to share (or a meal in itself if you’re eating alone.)

  11. KristyDi

    I love Sloppy Joes! Too bad my husband doesn’t like ground beef in any form. I may have to make some for my lunches though.

    A good family makes a version that replaces the ketchup with BBQ sauce. They’re called Sloppy Davids in honor of her brother, who loves them.

    He doesn’t like ground beef? Well, you can always try this with ground turkey. :-) ~Elise

  12. SAS

    Hi Elise, perfect timing! I was in great need of comfort food last night, and sloppy joes hit the spot…I ate two last night and a third for lunch today. The carrots are a great addition, although I backed off on the ketchup and brown sugar.

    Thank you!

  13. Tricia

    Wow. What an amazing recipe. I made it for lunch today and it was delicious. I made it with ground turkey we already had in the fridge. I added some olive oil to brown the meat, as it is lower in fat than beef, and it turned out fabulous! I served it with potato chips and yes, we used them to scoop up all the extra sloppiness! It’s a keeper for sure.

  14. Toni

    That looks like a good recipe. Is it from Epicurious? Because I might have made it, but I don’t remember there being celery in it. Most sloppy joe recipes are very similar. I make the one from 150 Best American Recipes. It is made with turkey (and as someone above said, you can’t tell the difference once all the other stuff is mixed in) Turkey Joes, we call them. :)

    No, not from Epicurious, it’s one I made up. The “trinity” base of carrots, onions, and celery is quite a standard base for meat sauces, though I’ve not seen it in sloppy joe recipes. I have seen celery and bell pepper though. ~Elise

  15. Julie

    Thanks for a great recipe Elise. I have been making sloppy joe’s for my family for years but I think this recipe is the best! I love the technique of salting the pan and browning the meat without stirring…it seemed like it was super tender and extra flavorful. We will be making this often!

  16. Scott

    Just made this dish last night with an Asian Slaw and roasted potatoes. The Sloppy Joes were definitely the centerpiece of the meal. I used diced tomatoes, didn’t want to dirty another dish an puree them, and it was still good. Just less sloppy…more chunky. Thanks…long time reader, first time poster.

  17. Roxie

    MMM..this sounds wonderful, and so much better than the canned sloppy joe mix or the dried seasoning packet. Is there something that can be substituted for the ground cloves? I never use cloves whole or ground so I don’t keep them in my spice cabinet, what about allspice or nutmeg?

    If I were to substitute, I would use a pinch of allspice over nutmeg. Nutmeg can be a little overpowering. ~Elise

  18. Loretta

    When we have Sloppy Joes I usually make a big batch and freeze a few small freezer bags full for the kids to thaw out and heat up on those nights when dinner together just isn’t happening.

  19. Kellianne

    What a yummy recipe!
    Once or twice a year, I get a hankering for sloppy Joes. My husband rolls his eyes, as my usual offering is something ‘witchy’, if you catch my drift.
    I don’t know, my fondness for them has something to do with my childhood. I vaguely remember when the canned SJ sauce was introduced. Mom made them and I was hooked!
    We’ve tried homemade recipes in the past and were always disappointed. This one’s a keeper. I doubled the veggie amounts and left out the sugar, though. The ketchup added just enough sweetness for our ‘mature’ tastebuds.
    Thanks so much for posting the recipe. Looks like SJ will be showing up on our menu more often!

  20. Lee

    Elise,
    We were in the mood for Sloppy Joe’s and I remembered this recipe. We had just finished a day of hiking at one of our local state parks and so we needed something easy. I whipped up this in no time and it was the best version of Sloppy Joe’s we have had. Thank you much for a great and simple recipe.

  21. Emily

    My husband loves sloopy joes from the can. But when you read the label you find out that it is filled with partially hydrogenated oil. Definitely not what he or I need clogging our veins and arteries… So I jumped at the chance to make my husband his favorite meal from scratch. This was Delicious! To watch our cholesterol, I used Sodium Free Ketchup. While I don’t recommend it for french fries it was great in this recipe. Elise thanks for adding this. I love your recipes, as they are fun, practical, and yummy to eat. They beat anything that Rachel Ray makes!

  22. Steph

    I made these a few weeks ago and they were delicious! Just be cautious with the cloves – what a powerful spice. Delicious otherwise, but just a little clove-y, my pinch must have been too big. We ate these with “broccoli slaw” which is in a bag at the grocery store, coated it with a mix of ranch and italian dressing… delicious! Also made some spiced curly fries to go with it. Perfect rainy Sunday night dinner :)

  23. Libby

    A really nice way to stretch the meat in Sloppy Joes and sneak in veggies is to add in 1 1/2 cups of shredded cabbage for approx. every cup of meat in sloppy joes. You add it in in the onion stage, and cook it til it’s crisp-tender. It gets soft and soaks in the flavor during the rest of the cooking process. I make sloppy Joes similiar to this recipe but with the cabbage and they’re my husbands favorite. The cabbage adds just a touch of tang, but more importantly helps stretch out the beef and adds more nutrition !

  24. Henry

    Elise, I made this a few weeks ago and simply loved it! Just the right amount of tang that would otherwise be missing from those packet sloppy joes! Definately worth the while and keeps well. I have some recipe requests: A paella with alot of chicken thigh meat, chorizo, and seafood. I’ve made it a few times but the dish always has a hint of sourness from the tomatoes! All the best.

  25. m750

    Just made this tonight, for my wife who is an avid Sloppy joe fan, and she claimed them to be ‘better than the canned stuff’. While that isn’t grounds for a beard award, I to agree they are quite good. You are correct that the key is to browning the beef. Thanks for sharing your recipes.

  26. Sherihan

    One word, delicious! With oven baked potato wedges on the side, that is now my favorite meal and the addition of carrots and celery was really nice. My brother who is a big veggi hater didn’t even notice their existence and enjoyed the meal like me. As always Elise nothing bad ever comes from your blog.

  27. Paula

    I just prepared this recipe for the first time this week and really enjoyed it – just the right amount of sauce to be suitably sloppy, and we really enjoyed the seasonings in the sauce. Thanks also for the tips on browning the beef.

  28. jaime

    My wife is working late tonight, so my 3 boys and I followed the recipe and devoured some awesome sloppy joes.

  29. Rufina

    I made Sloppy Joes (from the recipe on this site) today for the first time in my life. My 15 yo helped herself to three Sloppies. When I just finished cooking and she grabbed the first spoon, I asked her if it was good and she said that I was fishing for a compliment. Well, I went out for few minutes and when I got back half of the pan was gone and she was licking her fingers. Without my saying anything she sad “This was sooo good”
    She is such a picky eater, that coming from her it was the highest praise ever.
    Your site rocks, I will definetely be using more recipes.

  30. Jess

    I grew up where Sloppy Joes meant a can of Manwich .. and they were good, probably one of my favorite childhood meals. Over here in Australia though, they don’t have Manwich, so when my daughter asked early yesterday if we could have Sloppy Joes for dinner, I headed here first.
    I was a bit dubious when I read the ingredients contained brown sugar and cloves, thinking it would be too sweet, but you’ve never let me down before, so I followed the recipe as written.
    Elise, they were delicious! So much better than a can of Manwich lol! I did add a good helping of Franks Red Hot to mine, but only cause I like mine with extra kick. Definitely a keeper though. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try them homemade. Thanks for another wonderful recipe!

  31. Maureen

    I have made this several times now – it has become a family favorite. Sometimes using 7% fat turkey, sometimes without any sugar, sometimes with pureed tomatoes instead of tomato “sauce”… every time it’s excellent. I have always used green pepper instead of carrot. Great way for kids to eat more veggies. GREAT with homemade sauerkraut or pickles.

  32. angie

    normally, i avoid sloppy joes because they’re made with that dubious can of Manwich…these however, look delicious and i think i will have to try them!

  33. Melissa

    I actually made these last year and grinned when I saw them from the archive today. Thanks for this one, Elise!

  34. Stephen

    Lest you think we are the ones feeding him s’mores, he knows how to make them himself and sneaks into the kitchen when we aren’t looking.

    So how often do you eat s’mores then Elise? So your nephew visits and you having the makings for multiple s’mores in your kitchen is an just a coincidence? Just admit you’re an indulgent aunt. I think you need to follow the twelve step plan of Uncles and Aunts Anonymous.

  35. rachelle

    Where I grew up in WI this was called “barbecue.” Imagine my boyfriend’s surprise when I took him home one of the first times and told him we were having barbecue for dinner. He was expected ribs or pulled pork or brisket or something and he got sloppy joes!!

  36. Elizabeth

    Although I love sloppy joes, my mother doesn’t share this feeling. In fact my family often tease her about something that happened during her childhood. The town where she grew up held a outdoor picnic every summer. One year they served sloppy joes and my mother ran home becuase she didn’t like them. Who knew a bun of messy meat could cause someone to run in terror?

    Anyway, great recipe. I can’t wait to test it.

  37. debbie

    I think Sloppy Joes recipes are like Potato salad, everyone has a different one. My mother made the best Sloppy Joes (to me) and the night they played the movie “The Birds” on TV, we got to eat in the living room on TV trays.(memories) And I’ve alway made them on Halloween night.
    I don’t know why, but my Mother never brown the meat like most recipe ask for, the raw meat, onion, catsup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar was all mix together in a large sauce pan. And simmered together for about 20 mins. The meat is very lose the way it is cooked and has a nice BBQ favor.
    Sometimes I use Hawaiian Rolls or homemade buttermilk rolls. MMMMMMMMMMM

  38. Kristin

    I just wanted to let you know that your recipe for Sloppy Joes is the only one I’ve ever made, and my four-year-old daughter loves it. Every week when I sit down to plan out my meals and grocery shopping for the week, I ask her what she’d like for dinner, and she always says Sloppy Joes. She was particularly adamant about it last week, so I’ll take this post popping up from the archives again as a sign to make it soon.

  39. Rhonda

    Okay, now you’ve done it. My boys love sloppy joes (okay son not so much as Dad) and making it from stratch will be so much healthier huh? Oh, made me laugh, as you gotta have the Lays to pick up the droppings. And we made s’mores by campfire last Friday and the one my son made inside just didn’t taste the same. I’ll add this to their next camping trip, thanks.

  40. corey

    I’m watching my carbs and so ditched the buns and served this over brown rice. Very delicious.

  41. Kathy Douthit

    It looks like a really good recipe! One thing I have always done (hint picked up from a lunch counter from my childhood) is to cover the mixture with broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable) and let it cook down until thick. That way the meat finishes tender, succulent, and with a beautifully finished sauce.

  42. michael bash

    I have always made SJ with my grandmother’s barbeque sauce. I sometimes put onions with the beef. Also mix ground pork with barbeque sauce and grill as usual = interesting variation on “regular” burgers. Why does my spellcheck say I’m spelling “barbeque” wrong? Anyway.

  43. Olive

    That looks really yummy, Elise. It’s very similar to what we call picadillo in the Philippines, only we eat it with rice and it has potatoes as well. :)

  44. Bill

    I make mine with Heinz chili sauce and chopped bell pepper:

    2 Tbs olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    4 ribs celery, chopped
    1 green bell pepper, diced
    6 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 pounds ground beef
    1 12-oz bottle chili sauce
    1 tsp Tabasco sauce
    3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    6 hamburger buns, toasted

    Big favorite. Great for bad weather.

  45. Val

    Too funny!! We just had sloppy joes and coleslaw and some oven-baked fries for dinner two nights ago… I’m always trying new recipes for them cause the packet stuff just doesn’t cut it and I don’t think I’ve ever even tried that nasty looking canned stuff…

    Anyway, the recipe I tried the other night was great and a bit different than usual – it had a lot of things in it but the grape jelly and celery seeds were something I had never tried. They were really delish!! I did make a version once that had sweet pickle relish in it – that just didn’t work for us so we won’t be having that one again.

    I’ll try your recipe in the next few weeks (my kids eyes light up when they hear we’re having sloppy joes so they won’t mind having them again so soon!!). Your recipe looks wonderful and will be a great way to sneak some veggies in!

    Thanks for posting an oldie but goodie!!

  46. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    When I was growing up in New York City, sloppy joe meant something completely different. It was a triple-decker deli sandwich, with layers of corned beef, pastrami and swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw, on rye bread.

  47. JC

    I love sloppy joes. This was a favorite when we were growing up. But I was 16 before I learned that Sloppy Joes didn’t have beans in them! My mother in an effort to stretch the budget to feed 4 large appetite kids, use to add a couple of cans of pork and beans to the meat. Got use to them this way and I still prefer to add the beans to the meat. A good way to stretch a budget, or just cut back on red meat intake and not cut the protein. One person commented that her husband wouldn’t eat ground beef, they are also great with ground turkey, chicken, or pork and Pork and beans of course!

  48. Liz

    Elise, I have just discovered your website and I love it! This is a fabulous recipe that both my husband and my 13 year old loved. I replaced the ketchup with half ketchup and half BBQ sauce, and did not add the brown sugar. We used the new flat multigrain buns. Yum!

  49. Susan

    I’m of the era when school cafeterias had cooks who actually cooked the food in the school kitchen from scratch, no less! Yikes! Am I dating myself or what? I always took my lunch except on Sloppy Joe day when I would BEG my Mom to let me buy lunch. I loved them and no recipe I’ve tried has come even close to them. Your recipe has everything in it that my eyes and tastebuds recall, including the cloves! To this day, when I make pulled pork, I put just a pinch of ground cloves into the BBQ sauce and it reminds me of the flavor of those Sloppy Joes. Anyway, thanks for this recipe, I can’t wait to try it.

  50. Sriram

    Elise,
    Makes my mouth water reading this, and its only breakfast time in NYC. I am not that fond of vinegar in cooked food, but thought a nice substitute would be adding some lemon juice towards the end, and how about garnishing the sloppy joe’s with some fresh cilantro leaves?
    Thanks for getting my appetite going for the day :-)

  51. Carroll

    Sloppy Joes are a favorite at my house. My Grandmother always served them with sliced green olives mixed in. My husband’s not an olive fan so the rest of us put olives on top of the meat. It’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet! Pickles work too in a pinch, but olives are the best. Yummmm.

  52. Katherine

    I tried this recipe last night. Delicious, and so quick to make!

  53. Jess

    Oh my gosh, this recipe is so good, and so filling! My boyfriend and I both loved it very much, and we for sure will make it again for friends! I only used half the amount of brown sugar and added a dash of hot sauce for a little burn, and they came out amazing! Definitely a new favorite.

  54. James

    I just use ManWich straight from the can. Just kidding!!!!! *evil grin* I also add onion powder to mixes like this for an added sweetness and a flavor that’s peculiar to onion powder that I grew up on and love to this day. I’ve also made this using coarsely chopped and soaked roasted soybeans instead of the ground beef (for those wishing to do this without meat). Adding some minced seitan with smoke flavoring adds a nice touch. Any other ideas for veggie versions?

    • Motheroflittle

      You can substitute lentils for the ground meat .

  55. Zhandarq

    When I was about 10 or 11, I came home from school one day and made a batch of Sloppy Joes … that day, I ate FOUR of them, count ‘em, FOUR (that’s eight pieces of bread with sloppy stuff in ‘em!) — and I haven’t eaten a Sloppy Joe sandwich since. I’m now 55. Your recipe is going to make me break my 45-year abstinence. This just looks too yum. Hey, *sigh*, SOMEONE has to fall on the sword, right?. ;o)
    Thanks!

  56. Kate

    Wow, not only does that sound like the perfect SJ recipe, but that picture is just PERFECT. It’s not everyone (or anyone) who can make a sloppy joe look beautiful. :-)

  57. sarah

    Also, for what it’s worth, Heinz chili sauce is kind of genius for the purpose of Sloppy Joe’s. Not exactly a haute ingredient, but yum.

    I always wondered what the point was of this particular condiment. I had a jar laying around left over from a brisket recipe, and googled it and found that it’s a classic Sloppy Joe ingredient. Who knew?

  58. Gen

    This looks amazing! It’s raining and cold in Virginia Beach, and Sloppy Joes sound really good right about now.

    BTW my nephew loves turkey chili. Just something else to try!

  59. jancd

    I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious. I grated the carrots with a large grater and the whole recipe was great. It’s a repeat for sure.

  60. Jennie Menke

    Funny. I am not the norm, here. That much is clear. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, strikes fear into my kids like the words “SLOPPY JOE.” For some reason (probably it’s as simple as the fact that I have never MADE sloppy joes for them) it has become the single most joked about figmentary food item. As in: We’ve been invited to the Sandquists for dinner. They are making Sloppy Joes.” Then Dave and I laugh and laugh at the horrified expressions on their faces. So this is my vow for today: I will make this recipe for the family before the week is out and report back. It’ll be so fun to drag the SLOPPY JOE TORTURE on!!! (Thanks for the best recipe I have seen.)

  61. mantha

    We didn’t have them at home, only at school (in Rhode Island, oh, about 40 years ago). A Sloppy Joe day in the cafeteria was a good day no matter what else was happening — for some reason they served ‘em with little waffle cups of cole slaw that was mostly mayo, and that nobody ever ate. This recipe is really nice — I like the little drift of brown sugar and exotic spice in there. I’ve grown up enough to like the meat mix on a crusty fresh bulkie roll with some of the bready insides taken out, instead of a regulation hamburger bun — but it’s still a good day no matter what, with a Sloppy Joe.

  62. Deb Eck

    I read the recipe that you listed and it does sound good! I have a favorite recipe that has been handed down from mother to daughter for a couple generations, and altho alot simplier is very tasty. I would love to share….

    1 lb ground beef cooked with onion and drained
    add:
    salt and pepper to taste
    3T, or to taste chopped pickles
    1T mustard
    1t chili powder
    1/2t garlic powder
    enough ketchup to make it soupy.

    Simmer for about 20-30 minutes and you are done

    I usually serve this with either fried potatoes or mac and cheese and a salad, sometimes corn on the cob also

  63. Barry Mendelsohn

    How does one “crumble” chopped meat into a pan? I usually use turkey instead of beef, but I usually end up with chunks instead of crumbs when I attempt to make spaghetti sauce. I imagine I would have the same problem with sloppy joes.

    Just break it up with your fingers as you add the meat to the pan. If you find any big chunks after you’ve already added it to the hot pan, you can break those up a bit with the edge of a metal spatula. ~Elise

  64. Diana

    Wow! I just tried this for dinner tonight. It was delicious! Great job! This is likely to become a staple in my house!

  65. Annie

    We Australians don’t generally make “sloppy joes” but my family love them. I’ve made them with a homemade bbq sauce, with chili sauce ( Thai chili, not usual but awesome never the less).This one was lovely and sweet and even my picky 82 yr old mother who finds anything “out of the ordinary” a little hard to handle, thought they were lovely. I used a bit of ground ginger too, was good. Made your dad’s potato salad (YUM) and my own version of cole slaw for what I described as a very American dinner last Saturday night. Thanks Elise. Love this blog.

  66. saltypepper

    This was very tasty, but next time I’ll probably leave out the brown sugar as it was sweeter than my husband and I prefer. My kids, however, thought it was perfect.

  67. RD

    Hmmmmmm…sloppy joes. My mom used to make them from one of those packaged mixes, Lawry’s I think. And we did the same for our kids. This was an excellent rendition of an old classic. I toasted the buns under the broiler, spooned on the meat mixture, topped the mixture with some shredded cheddar cheese, and popped it under the broiler again for a few minutes. Delicious! My family tried to pick them up and eat them with their hands but I wimped out and used a fork. We will never use a packaged mix again to make sloppy joes. My favorite sloppy joe recipe is one from my Weber Big Book of Grilling cookbook that uses a whole boneless beef chuck roast that is cooked indirectly on the grill and then diced to make the sloppy joes. However it takes a lot more work and time.

  68. leftfield

    Great sloppy joes. We made them with ground bison, and since we were out of red wine vinegar, we used sherry vinegar. They turned out fabuluous! We then made them a second night for friends with two kids following the recipe verbatim. Both were good but my wife and I both liked the bison/sherry version better.

  69. Amber

    I’m so glad this popped up from the archives. I made it once last year, but hadn’t made it since (my to-make recipe file is out of control). It was the perfect Sunday evening meal for me and my boyfriend. The only change I made was that this time I cut the brown sugar to one tablespoon, as I recalled thinking they were a little sweet the first time around. I also added a dash of tabasco to my helping because I like a kick. Delicious! Like many commenters here, I grew up on Manwich, and this is so far superior. Thank you!

  70. Jennie Menke

    I felt the need to come back after my comment from a couple weeks ago to tell you that I made the sloppy joes. As expected when the kids rolled in from school, they both said “WHAT SMELLS SO GOOD?” to which I wickedly replied: “SLOPPY JOES!” “Yeah, right. What are you really making mom?” …back and forth and back and forth. And then (brief) stunned silence when they stared into the pot and realized I was not kidding. My son rolled with it OK. My daughter (14.5) went mental, as only a 14.5 year old girl can do. “no. mom! no! I’m not going to eat them. don’t make me eat them…” and so on.

    They loved them. Everyone loved them. And my dad who stopped by the next day and ate the leftovers just asked for the recipe and is making them with venison.

    Total success. Thanks Elise!

    Hi Jen, Too funny! Thanks for sharing. I would have loved to have seen your kids faces when you replied, sloppy joes. ;-) BTW, for your dad, the venison will likely take longer to cook. I made a similar ragu with moose meat and it took hours of cooking on low heat to get tender enough, just because game is tougher. But the flavor is outstanding. ~Elise

  71. Erika

    Made your sloppy joe recipe for the fam tonight and it was a huge hit. My husband, who hasn’t eaten SJ’s since an unfortunate lunch room incident in his early childhood, called shotgun on the leftovers for his lunch tomorrow. And, it was equally popular with our two toddlers. I served the yummy filling on potato slider rolls (better serving size for the wee ones), which made it seem like appetizers for dinner, which I always love. Thanks for the great recipe!

  72. Deb W

    I was going to make SJs from the packet but then saw it had MSG in it and since we avoid that ingredient like the plague (still not sure how it made it into the house) I went to google for the rescue. One day I’ll figure out just to start here first. I saw a link for your recipe and had everything on hand except the tomato sauce which I subbed w/ crushed tomatoes. I have now spoiled my husband for anything other than your rendition of the Sloppy Joe…which was really more like Sloppy Joy around here. He declared them “the best I’ve ever eaten” which is saying a lot. There was enough left over for his lunch today and one other serving. I’ll be playing rock, paper, scissors w/ the 14yo for the last serving today! BTW – My 10yo begs for your Chili Con Carne which we have nick-named “the 3 hour chili stew.” In the last month I have made it 3 times. Yes, it’s THAT good.

    “Sloppy Joy”? I love it! So glad it’s a hit with your family. ~Elise

  73. Joe

    I love to cook and I cook a lot. We have 7 children so you can imagine. It is not often that I am impressed with a recipe followed to the letter. I usually do something different because it is easy to see a recipe that isn’t quite right. This sloppy joe recipe just did not have anything wrong with it so for the first time in I don’t know how long I decided to try it straight out of the book (website actually) I got it all going and when I went to the pantry for the tomato sauce THAT I KNOW I HAD IN THERE, dog gone it, it was not there. I substituted my favorite salsa. Radical sloppy joes!! I will definately make this again and again and I will be looking for more from Elise, whoever you are. Thank you.

  74. Jessica P.

    Elise, just made this & took it over last night for a friend with a brand-new baby. New mom ate two and couldn’t stop saying how delicious they were! I just realized that I skipped the brown sugar, but they were fantastic anyway. Love your blog, thanks for keeping it fresh & simple for those of us who want to cook great meals but don’t have hours to do it! :)

  75. Chuck Nichols

    Have you tried a Sloppy Jose’?
    fry up some ground beef, but instead of the sloppy joe sauce, you add picante sauce and a little taco seasoning, and once you put it on a bun, sprinkle with a little cheddar.

  76. Katie

    Wow these were fantastic! It’s been so long since I’ve had sloppy joes and this was the first time I’ve had them made with fresh ingredients! So amazing. I love trying your recipes Elise! I’m headed to visit my parents soon, I think I’ll have to make this for them, it was soo good!

  77. tao

    My mom’s recipe was simpler, with just ground beef, onions, green bell pepper, tomato sauce, garlic powder, catsup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salt & pepper. What made it special was the crushed pineapple and juice she added. She served it on warmed hamburger buns with pickle relish. Yum.

    These days, I like to ladle sloppy joe topping over cubed bread crusts I’ve made from my hubby’s homemade whole wheat bread. Or if I’ve let a good hunk of crusty bread go dry, I soften it by heating in the microwave for 10-20 seconds, and cube that for my “open face” sloppy joes. Sloppy joes are not too rustic to deserve a good bread!

  78. Scott

    Another hit! The flavor was terrific but I think ext time I will be sure and mince the carrot finer as I found the chunks we had a bit firm for my liking.

  79. floridagal

    Made this with ground turkey last night – really delicious. I didn’t have any cloves, ground or otherwise – and it was still really good. I put a can of diced tomatoes in the food processor – well worth the trouble.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  80. Rose

    Just finished dinner. My darling husband and I made this tonight – turning it into one of our favorite one pot dinners by adding 1 1/2 cups of macaroni, cooked, a small can of corn, and a couple of roasted green chiles, diced. Perfect. We may never resort to using the can again.

  81. Jinger

    i tried this recipe for sjs and i turned out wonderful, thanks for the recipe

  82. anna

    These were pretty good! I didn’t have any tomato sauce but found I didn’t really need the extra sauce after adding everything else. I left out the cloves. The thyme seems to be a little overpowering to me so I will cut it back next time. Also, I used a hatch chile pepper instead of the carrot/bell pepper. YUM!

  83. pompom

    I came here on a search to find out what sloppy joes were – interesting recipe. Doesn’t the bread get all soggy? Does it taste sweet with all that sugar in it?

    As a Brit mince is either part of a cottage pie, or just cooked in a gravy with onions and whatever veg you have left in the pantry with plenty of mash to soak up the juices – perfect on a winter’s day!

    Yes the bread does get a big soggy, but the bun are usually pretty big, so just the part touching the sloppy joe mixture gets soggy. And it is on the sweet side. ~Elise

  84. Laura

    I haven’t cooked sloppy joes any other way since I found your recipe. I do add green peppers and mushrooms tho. I also throw in a can of diced tomatoes YUMMMMMMMM! Thanks for the recipe! L

  85. Sarah N

    I’m surprised no one has said this yet… I call them sloppy joes, but my husband is from Iowa and he calls these sandwiches “loose meats”. Anyone else ever heard them called that?

  86. Joe Budzisz

    I love this dish ! Especially since it is named after me…and I am kinda sloppy..ha, ha, ha!

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