Best Ever Sloppy Joes

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Best Ever Sloppy Joes! These cook in one pot, with ground beef, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, in sweet-and-sour tomato sauce. Served messy on purpose, over hamburger buns.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Just hearing the words “sloppy joes” 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 first posted this recipe years ago, after making it for my visiting young nephew. Sloppy joes really are a quintessential kid food, aren’t they?

After my nephew explained to me that he didn’t like tomatoes with his hamburger and he wanted his onions on top, 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.

When called to dinner he ate the whole thing (and loved it)!

Video! Easy Sloppy Joes Recipe

What’s a Sloppy Joe?

Depending on where you live, a “Sloppy Joe” can mean many different things. The Sloppy Joe I love is the one I’m presenting here—a sweet and tangy ground beef concoction that you ladle onto a hamburger bun.

It’s a mess. Intentionally so. Even though it’s in a bun, it must be eaten with a fork.

How to Make Sloppy Joes

What makes this sloppy joe extra special is that I start with a mirepoix, or sauté of minced carrots, onions, and celery. Then I brown the ground beef and pull everything together with a highly flavored tomato sauce. It’s one of my favorite recipes on the site. I hope you like it, too!

Sloppy Joe

Tips for Making the Best Sloppy Joes

  • Prep veggies in a food processor: Make prep a breeze by coarsely chopping the onion, celery, and carrots and then pulsing them a few times in the food processor (carrots first; you can do the onions and celery together).
  • Work in batches: This way you don’t crowd the pan when browning the beef.
  • Don’t stir the beef: Once you add the beef, don’t stir the meat much until it has browned well on one side.
  • Add water if needed: If the sloppy joe meat looks like it is getting dry while you simmer it, just add some water to get the consistency you want.

Can You Freeze Leftovers?

You can freeze these for up to 3 months. Just transfer the cooked and cooled mix to a zip-top freezer bag, lay it flat in the freezer (saves space), and freeze.

When it’s time to reheat, put it in a saucepan with a little water, heat it through, and serve with freshly toasted hamburger buns.

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD MESSY SANDWICH?

Updated September 4, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle. No changes to the original recipe.

Best Ever Sloppy Joes Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Save time on prep by pulsing roughly chopped veggies in a food processor.

Brown the meat well. Don't crowd the pan, work in batches, and don't stir the meat until it is well browned on one side.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots (can sub chopped bell pepper)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (or 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, puréed)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons 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 Sauté the carrots, onions, celery, and garlic: Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the minced 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.

Sloppy Joes saute the carrots Sloppy Joe Recipe

2 Brown the ground beef: Using the same pan (or you can cook the meat at the same time as the vegetables in a separate pan to save time), crumble the ground beef into the pan. If you are using extra lean beef, you may need to add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Sprinkle the meat with salt.

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.

If you're cooking in batches, use a slotted spoon to remove the ground beef from the pan (can add to the set-aside vegetables) and repeat with the rest of the ground beef.

When the meat is done cooking, strain off all but 1 tablespoon of any fat left in the pan.

Homemade sloppy joes brown the mean on one sideBest Sloppy Joe Recipe brown the meat on the other side

3 Make the sloppy joe mix: Return the cooked ground beef and vegetables to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up any chunks of ground beef into smaller bits.

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.

How to make sloppy joes make the sauceSloppy Joes simmer the sloppy joes

4 Serve the sloppy joes: Serve immediately, or refrigerate to make ahead and reheat to serve. Serve with toasted hamburger buns.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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169 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Elizabeth

    I would skip cloves and thyme. They overpowered my dish. I wanted it to taste like a traditional barbeque.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Ande

    Thank you Elise for this wonderful recipe. Doubled the recipe and did a total of 8 garlic cloves and a 1/3 cup of yellow mustard. Like the extra tang. SO SO GOOD>

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Maureen

    This was absolutely delicious! I made it pretty much as written. I added about three tablespoons of tomato paste because I had it in the fridge and wanted to use it up. And I used ground chipotle pepper instead of the cayenne because I just bought it and am in love with the scent. I’ll never make sloppy joes from a packet again. This is easy and uses ingredients already on hand. Keeper for sure. .

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Stacey S

    I added about 1/4 cup more of ketchup and another tablespoon of red wine vinegar. It helped cut the sweetness.
    Receieved rave reviews from my guys and provided a nice bit of comfort food when we are all stuck at home during COVID 19 spread.
    Made more than enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
    Another fantastic recipe from Simply Recipes. I have yet to have a bad dish from this site and I have been using your recipes from the very early years of Simply Recipes.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Amanda

    Good recipe!! I made a couple substitutes because I was missing ingredients: I used Maple syrup instead of brown sugar, a bit of aminos instead of Worcestershire, and a can of fire roasted tomatoes I blended up. I also omitted the clove and added in acorn squash and turnip instead of putting it into buns. The flavours were fantastic. Thanks for the recipe!

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