Best Ever Sloppy Joes

SandwichComfort FoodKid-friendlyGround Beef

Best ever Homemade Sloppy Joes! 1-pot, with browned ground beef, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, cooked in sweet sour tomato sauce, served over hamburger buns.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Kids Love Sloppy Joes

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

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Different pockets of the country have very different versions of “Sloppy Joes”. The best sloppy joe recipe and the one 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. A delicious homemade “Sloppy Joe” mess. It must be eaten with a fork.

What makes this sloppy joe extra special is that I’m starting 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, and really the best sloppy joe recipe I’ve used – I hope you like it too!

Tips for Making the Best Sloppy Joes

  • 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 so you don’t crowd the pan when browning the beef, and once you add the beef, and don’t stir the meat much until it has browned well on one side.
  • If the sloppy joe meat looks like it is getting dry while you simmer it, just add some water to the consistency you want.

How to Make Sloppy Joes

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.


  • 1 Tbsp 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 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
  • 1 1/2 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 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.

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. You will likely need to do this in two batches, otherwise you will crowd the pan and the beef won't easily brown.

Sprinkle 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. 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.

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 Add ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, vinegar, sugar, spices to the ground beef and vegetables: 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.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate to make ahead and reheat to serve.

Serve with toasted hamburger buns.

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how to make homemade Sloppy Joes from scratch

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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.

More from Elise

141 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Melissa

    This is truly the best recipe! Can’t be beat! I’ll be cooking this one for my family and friends forever. The flavor of this recipe is a perfect amount of zing and flavor, absolutely delicious. I love the vegetable combination, it gives this recipe a healthy kick. I did omit the cloves however because none was on hand and used half of tomatoe paste, ketchup and sugar. Turned out amazing!


  • Tamme

    When I first started dating my husband, I made this for him. His eyes went wide with the glorious flavors in his mouth. We’ve used this recipe a 100x ever since. I even have it printed off because I’m afraid it’s not always going to be available online. I never change a thing. <3 <3


  • Louann

    Great sloppy joes! Would have rated 5 stars but I changed a couple of things. Because I am not a fan of it, I left out the dried thyme. Also subbed green peppers for the carrots and added about 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard. I was skeptical about the cloves, but I really think it gives great depth of flavor. So good!


  • Jess

    Hi Elise! Can I make it ahead and warm it up to serve the next day?

  • Tracie

    Looks heavenly….

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