Family friendly Homemade Sloppy Joes have the perfect balance of sweetness to tanginess and are extremely tasty and satisfying. With a thick from-scratch sauce made the old fashioned way, these sandwiches are perfect as a weeknight meal or easy dinner.
If comfort food is your style, serve this Homemade Sloppy Joe recipe with Creamy Mac and Cheese, French fries, Red Potato Salad, Sweet Potato Cakes or potato chips. For lighter side dishes Simple Coleslaw, Baked Pita Chips or a side salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing or Simple Lemon Vinaigrette is a perfect companion.
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What Are Sloppy Joes and Where Did They Come From?
Sloppy Joes are a ground beef sandwich that is as American as apple pie. The ground beef is cooked into crumbles and then simmered in a rich sauce that is both savory, zesty and sweet. Also as the name implies, they are rather sloppy to eat.
Where they came from and who invented sloppy Joes is highly debated. However, there appears to be three possible origins: a cafe in Iowa, a bar in Florida and bar in Cuba. Click here to read more about who invented Sloppy Joes.
Difference Between Manwich and Sloppy Joes
Manwich is the processed version of Sloppy Joe Sauce and it is marketed as being a quick and easy way to make Sloppy Joes. However, as with most highly processed foods, you have no control over the types of ingredients used. Also, homemade Sloppy Joe sauce really is a simple recipe to make with staples you probably already have in your cupboard.
- Ground Beef (not pictured)- Use 90-95% lean ground beef for this recipe. Also, traditional Sloppy Joes are made with ground beef. However, ground chicken or turkey may be used in place of the beef for this recipe.
- Brown Onion– Also known as yellow onion, this is the first of three aromatic vegetables that helps to bring an additional layer of flavor.
- Green Pepper– Green bell pepper is the second of the three aromatic vegetables. A red, orange or yellow bell pepper may be used in place of green for anyone who is bothered by green bell peppers.
- Garlic– One of the most important elements of packing in flavor to these sandwiches, garlic is the third aromatic vegetable.
- Ketchup– Brings in both a sweet and savory flavor to the sauce. If a less sweet sauce is desired, use tomato sauce instead.
- Dijon Mustard– The tangy and slight spice of dijon mustard balances the sweet elements of this recipe. Additionally, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard along with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar can replace Dijon mustard.
- Tomato Paste– The concentrated and deep flavor of tomato paste helps to intensify the savory flavor of the sauce.
- Brown Sugar– Adding in just a few tablespoons of brown sugar slightly levels up the sweetness of the sauce and bring in a bit of a molasses flavor.
- Beef Broth– Most Sloppy Joe recipes call for water. However, replacing the water with beef broth adds a savory richness to these sandwiches. Make sure to use a good quality beef broth that is fairly low in sodium.
- Worcestershire Sauce– The addittion of Worcestershire sauce is part of the secret that brings in the savory umami flavor that makes these sandwiches so irresistible.
- Salt– The addittion of salt balances and intensifies the other flavors. However, just be cautious with the amount added if the beef broth is higher in sodium.
- Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper– This is an optional ingredient. However, using just a pinch helps to balance the sweetness.
How To Make the Old Fashioned Way
- Add ground beef and diced onion to a cold large skillet frying pan. Place pan over medium heat and cook beef into crumbles by stirring frequently. (Cooking the meat until crumbly and browned will take approximately 10-12 minutes. Also, breaking the meat into crumbles takes a significant amount of stirring and mashing with a spatula. However, a whisk may be used as a shortcut.)
Add crushed or minced garlic and a diced bell pepper to the pan. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes, or until bell pepper starts to become tender. Stir in 1/2 cup of beef broth to deglaze pan.
- To the meat mixture add remaining ingredients and stir well.
- Continue cooking uncovered over medium heat stirring occasionally until meat mixture becomes thick enough to serve on hamburger buns (or brioche buns), about 25 minutes.
This easy meal really is a dinner that the whole family can get behind. However, the best Sloppy Joes are going to be the ones with your family’s favorite flavors. Here are a few variations that are perfect for busy weeknights.
- Make it Mexican flavored by replacing the ketchup with 1/2 cup salsa and adding in 1/2 tablespoon of chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1/2 tablespoon coriander and 1 teaspoon oregano. Also, replace the mustard with lime juice and eliminate the Worcestershire sauce.
- For even healthier Sloppy Joes add in 1 cup of either diced zucchini or sweet potato to the frying pan at the same time as the bell peppers and garlic. Another option is adding 1 cup of cooked beans the last few minutes of cooking the meat mixture. Also, a few ribs of diced celery or 1/2 cup of shredded carrots can be added at the same time as the bell pepper.
- For a really fun variation replace the ketchup with BBQ sauce and add crumbled bacon to the meat mixture. Serve the Sloppy Joe meat with a slice of cheddar cheese and thinly sliced red onion on a hamburger bun.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you freeze Sloppy Joes?
The Sloppy Joes meat mixture can definitely be frozen. Simply place the cooked mixture into a freezer container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Place the frozen container in the refrigerator the day before serving and then reheat in the microwave on power level 8 (80% power). Note: Make sure the freezer container is microwave safe before reheating. Also, reheat in smaller time increments making sure to stir each time.
How do you make Sloppy Joes thicker?
The simplest way is to let the sauce simmer on medium heat until it thickens to the desired consistency.
Can Sloppy Joe filling be made in advance?
Sloppy Joe filling can be made in advance and the reheated in the microwave. It is best to place the filling in a glass microwave safe dish that has a lid. Reheat using power level 8 (80% power) in 4 minute time increments until heated to desired amount.
How do I make the Sloppy Joe Filling in a Crockpot?
To make slow cooker Sloppy Joes it is best to first brown the meat into crumbles with 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Once cooked, add all the other ingredients with the exception of the hamburger buns to the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours.
Note: When making these Sloppy Joes in the slow cooker lower the total amount of beef broth down to 3/4 cup.
More Delicious Sandwich Recipes
Homemade Sloppy Joes
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef See Note #1 below
- 1 medium brown onion *diced
- 1 large green bell pepper *diced
- 4 large garlic cloves *about 1 tablespoon minced or crushed
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth See Note #2 below
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 6 hamburger buns
- Add ground beef and diced onion to a large cold skillet frying pan. Place pan over medium heat and brown meat into crumbles by stirring frequently. See Note #3 below
- Add garlic and bell pepper to the pan and continuing cooking for about 3 minutes, or until bell pepper starts to become tender. Stir in 1/2 cup of broth to deglaze pan before adding other ingredients.
- To the pan add in Worcestershire, sugar, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir well.
- Str in remaining broth and continue cooking uncovered over medium heat stirring occasionally until meat mixture becomes thick enough to serve on hamburger buns, about 25 minutes.