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.)

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.



  • 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


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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Showing 4 of 89 Comments

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    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

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