The Best Sloppy Joes

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Make easy Sloppy Joes from scratch without ketchup. This savory dinner recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes, is a kid-favorite and makes a thick and glossy sauce with the perfect balance of flavors. Easily doubled or tripled as a make-ahead freezer meal. Skip the burger buns and serve on top of cornbread for a delicious casserole.

close up image of sloppy joes on a burger bun

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This budget-friendly sloppy joe recipe taste is sweet, smokey, and saucy. Quickly and easily whipped together on a weeknight or made in a big batch as a freezer meal for a loose meat sandwich. This recipe is a classic for a reason. This recipe is used in many applications and was a common meal during the depression. Easy, delicious, and completely kid-friendly it’s easy to see why this is the best sloppy joes recipe.

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ingredients for making sloppy joes


  • Burger Buns: brioche buns are a favorite but any will do.
  • Ground Beef: use 80/20 or anything leaner and you will not have to drain excess grease. You could also substitute ground turkey.
  • Vegetables: onion, red or green bell pepper, and garlic (or garlic powder) offer great aromatics and practically dissolve into the recipe to where kids can’t tell.
  • Sauce Ingredients: typical pantry staples are used to create a sauce that is reduced for maximum flavor of each item. Crushed Tomatoes, Worcestershire Sauce, Brown Sugar, Yellow Mustard and Chili Powder are every day items likely in your pantry and fridge right now, saving you a trip to the grocery store. No tomato sauce in this recipe, save that for the bolognese!
  • Optional: if you want it hot, add jalapeños or sriracha.


If you don’t have crushed tomatoes you could also use 1 cup ketchup or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste with 1 cup of beef broth. The flavor will differ slightly but will still be delicious! You can easily double this recipe to make it in the dutch oven or even a crock-pot.

How to Make Sloppy Joes

  1. Brown the beef and saute the vegetables in a large skillet.
  2. Add the sauce ingredients. Stir and reduce to a simmer until thick and glossy.
  3. Toast the buns while making the sloppy joe mixture.
  4. Make it a quick meal by serving with pickles and chips.
collage of step by step how to make sloppy joes in cast iron skillet


  • 12-inch or larger skillet
  • Meat Chopper
  • Sheet Pan

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What else can sloppy joe mix be used for?

Put it on chili dogs, on french fries, on pizza, as a meat pasta sauce, on a grilled cheese, on nachos, into queso, or baked potato.

What is the difference between sloppy joes and Manwich?

Manwich is a brand that makes sauce for sloppy joes. It is thin and has no chunks of vegetables in it. It’s simply a sauce to be poured in a skillet with ground beef.

Are sloppy joes keto?

You can certainly make them keto by using swerve brown sugar, almond flour buns, and reducing the amount of tomato product. You’ll just want to reduce longer for that thicker sauce.

What can I do with Sloppy Joe meat?

Use lettuce as a wrap instead of a burger bun, add leftovers to chili or to Mac and Cheese.

saucey sloppy joes in a skillet being served

Katie’s Tips for the BEST Sloppy Joes

  • The key to a glistening, thick sauce is to cook the final mixture longer than you think. It will seem like it’s taking a while but you do not simply want to heat the meat mixture up. Reducing the sauce, cooking out the excess water, is going to make the mixture thick and glossy in appearance. That’s when you’ll know you’re there!
  • Get the best buns you can! Brioche buns are a favorite for many. Toast the buns so they don’t become a soggy mess when loaded with the filling. Brush on melted butter or garlic butter on the top bun if you feel like being a little extra.


Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Freezing the sloppy joe mixture makes meal prep a breeze! Let the mixture cool down completely then transfer to freezer-safe containers, large ziploc bags, or vacuum seal and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, remove from the freezer the night before and allow to thaw in the refrigerator. Or the morning of, add the sealed bag to a sink of cold water. Once playable, heat in a pot or skillet over low heat or microwave, stirring every minute until thoroughly heated through.

If you’re saving leftover sloppy joe sandwiches, be sure the hamburger buns are toasted. Then you could wrap in tinfoil and reheat in the oven the next day.

overhead image of sloppy joes in a skillet surrounded by buns, pickles, and chips

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a stack of sloppy joes with chips in the background

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The Best Sloppy Joes

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 10 burgers
In less than 30 minutes get thick, saucy, hearty homemade sloppy joes on toasted burger buns and to the table for an easy and budget-friendly weeknight meal.



  • 2 pounds ground beef 80/20
  • 1 yellow onion, small finely diced
  • 1 green pepper finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 10 burger buns


  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Toast the buns while cooking the sloppy joe mix, open face up. Toast to your liking.
    10 burger buns
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with no oil, and brown ground beef, onion, and bell pepper using a meat masher, about 10 minutes.
    2 pounds ground beef, 1 yellow onion, small, 1 green pepper
  • When 90% browned add the remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until thick and glossy, about 10 minutes.
    2 cloves garlic, 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tablespoons mustard, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons chili powder


Serving: 1g | Calories: 410kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 464mg | Potassium: 616mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 339IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 5mg

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