This from-scratch, saucy sloppy joe recipe with a kick is perfect for a weeknight dinner since it only takes one pot, a cutting board and a knife! (And maybe a kitchen helper for the prep work.)
Heavy with herbs and spices, the aroma coming from the kitchen is going to lure your eaters in droves.
I love sloppy joes, and although they were insanely popular when I was a kid and are part of great memories with the whole family, they seem to have lost some of their popularity. Or maybe everyone got sick of eating them from a can (-cough- Manwich).
Well, guess what — sloppy joes are back in full force! They’re super trendy!
So, I got a fantastic recipe from Chef Natasha Bartlett who created this for CookingChew from scratch—the best sloppy joe recipe I’ve tried, hands down.
I hit the grocery store. What can I say? It is a great recipe, but after tweaking it a little just to make some substitutions (does anyone have molasses in their cupboard anymore?), this homemade sloppy joe recipe that’s now a family favorite.
It’s one of my favorite recipes, and I’m sure you’ll love it too.
The next time you have friends coming over, give yourself a little extra time and make these homemade sloppy joes from scratch!
What’s the deal with these loose meat sandwiches, you ask? There’s just something special about them, especially when you use real ingredients.
You must make the savory sauce from scratch, which is one of my favorite things.
And it’s worthwhile; cooking the tomato sauce from the ground up is the only thing that matters when putting together the sloppy joe mixture.
Forget about canned sauce and that processed tomato paste! Who wants the canned stuff, anyway?
The remaining ingredients matter as well, of course.
Cayenne pepper, black pepper, green peppers, Worcestershire sauce, red onion and other spices and aromatics are the best way of amping up that meat mixture for those messy, sloppy joe sandwiches.
That’s an easy dinner right there!
And although this time I’m not using them, ingredients like garlic powder, dry mustard, a little brown sugar and even BBQ sauce are great ways of giving a new personality to the meat.
In a nutshell, to make sloppy joes, you need some nice hamburger buns, a pound of ground beef, red bell pepper or green bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes and lots of spices.
You’ll find the complete list in the recipe card below.
What’s the perfect meat for Sloppy Joes?
For these messy main dishes, I often use lean ground beef for its softer texture, but you can use diced steak just like you would for a Philly cheese steak.
You can also use ground turkey for a leaner meal. Ground pork is always a nice addition, too.
Just remember, when using ground meat, crumble beef into tiny bits, then cook beef as you usually would.
As for the cooking method, I make my sloppy joe mixture in a large skillet over medium heat and medium-high heat, and I get some classic sloppy joes with the perfect balance between flavor and texture.
Of course, you can also use a crock pot or instant pot — the sauce doesn’t take such a long time to be ready, so it’s a little bit easier.
The downside is that you might miss out on those tasty, browned bits you only get from a skillet.
Tips for the perfect sloppy joes
- Wondering how to store sloppy joes? Make the sauce the night before to save some time the next day.
- Just store it in an airtight container, and if too dry, add a little water; that’s the easy way, and you don’t need a cup water, 1 tablespoon water usually does the trick.
- If you have leftovers, store the sloppy joe mixture in freezer containers for up to two months.
- Serve sloppy joes with potato chips and a side salad. You can also serve them with homemade mashed potatoes if you have a potato masher (I top mine with red pepper flakes). We do have a great list of other sides for sloppy joes here.
- Don’t forget to add the apple cider vinegar—it balances the sauce’s natural sweetness. Sloppy joes are a party for your taste buds!
- Keep your delicious sloppy joes mixture warm and ready in a slow cooker and as people are ready to eat, they can serve themselves.
The bottom line
And there’s more, this sloppy joes recipe is not only for easy sloppy joes, but they’re also the best sloppy joes, period! At least that’s what my friends and family have said, and that gets me super excited!
Sloppy joes are just fun, and they’re perfect for outdoor parties or when having friends and family coming over for a casual meal.
We’ve got you covered for sides that go with Sloppy Joes, too!
It stretches the burger into four servings, and doubling the recipe is super easy.
Kids love sloppy joes as well, so this meaty sandwich is quite versatile and crowd-pleasing!
Are you ready to make the best sloppy joes?
Let’s get started!
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, deseeded and finely diced
- 1 Fresno pepper, deseeded and chopped (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 T cumin
- 2 T chili powder
- 1 T oregano
- 1 T dill
- 1 T coriander
- 3 t paprika (smoked or sweet)
- 1 - 3 t crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 t thyme
- 1 t cayenne
- 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 c ketchup
- 3 T molasses (you can substitute ¼ c brown sugar)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Buns of your choice (I used sourdough rolls I had in my freezer, but try brioche or kaiser rolls!)
- 2 T of butter (for edge-to-edge bun coverage)
- Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Lightly score the tomatoes and carefully drop them into the boiling water. While they boil, prepare an ice bath.
- Cook the tomatoes until the skins are loose, around 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully take them out and cool them down completely in the ice bath.
- Mince and dice the bell pepper, Fresno pepper, garlic and onion. Peel and grate your tomatoes into a bowl.
- Warm a large cast-iron skillet or saucepot over medium high heat with two tablespoons of olive oil.
- Heat oil, toss the onions and peppers into the skillet until onions are translucent, around 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the spices and toast until fragrant, around 30 seconds. Incorporate the garlic until fragrant, another 30 seconds.
- Add the grated tomatoes and apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add your ground beef.
- Once your meat is about 80% browned, add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, molasses, and about 1 cup of water. Incorporate.
- Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until sloppy joe sauce is thick and nearly all cooked off, about 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper (I use only 1 tablespoon salt).
- Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.
- Toast the buns with butter for a nice crust and assemble each toasted bun with the sloppy joe meat.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
- Add chopped pickles for a delicious tangy kick, or just have slices/spears on the side.
- Top the sloppy joes with a slice of cheese to make these joes even sloppier!
- Toasting/grilling the buns adds such a great depth of flavor. Extra tablespoons of butter slathered on edge to edge of each cut side of the buns is so good.