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?
When called to dinner he ate the whole thing (and loved it)!
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!
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?
- Pulled Pork Sandwich
- Braised BBQ Beef Sandwich
- Hot Turkey Sandwich
- Croque Monsieur Ham and Cheese Sandwich
Best Ever Sloppy Joes Recipe
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 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
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. 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.
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.
4 Serve the sloppy joes: Serve immediately, or refrigerate to make ahead and reheat to serve. Serve with toasted hamburger buns.