Made in less than 30 minutes with lean ground meat and a sweet and tangy homemade sauce, Sloppy Joes are a true family favorite!
Homemade is Best
These Homemade Sloppy Joes are the BEST Sloppy Joes you will ever eat. PERIOD.
Instead of using a can or jar of sloppy joe sauce, my recipe is made with a homemade sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce that features fresh peppers, onions, and jalapeno for a hint of spice, and results in Sloppy Joes that are the perfect blend of sweet, tangy, and savory.
Not only is this recipe for Sloppy Joes lower in sugar, sodium, and fat, it also happens to be just as easy to make as using a can of Manwich. And most importantly--much more delicious!
Ingredients for Sloppy Joes
- Ground Beef: I start with lean ground sirloin, but feel free to use ground chicken, bison, or turkey.
- Onions and Peppers: Yellow onions and bell peppers add a great freshness to the Sloppy Joes. Use any color of bell pepper for this recipe.
- Jalapeno: Fresh jalapenos add a bit of spice and wake up the flavors, but you can omit the jalapeno if you don't care for spice. Just be sure to remove the seeds of the jalapeno or these sloppy joes could end up REALLY spicy.
- Sweetener: Sloppy joe sauce must have a bit of sweetness added to balance the flavors and acidity in the tomato sauce. I use honey, but brown sugar or molasses would be a great substitute. And as I stated earlier, this recipe is MUCH lower in sugar than most recipes for Sloppy Joes.
- Vinegar: The vinegar adds an acidic punch that gives the sauce its famous tang. I love apple cider vinegar, but red wine vinegar works as well.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Adds a salty depth of flavor to the sauce. If you want to make these Gluten-Free Sloppy Joes, use Gluten-Free Worcestershire Sauce, Braggs Amino Acids, or Gluten-Free Soy Sauce.
- Beans (optional): My secret is to use 2 cups of pinto beans for 1 pound of ground beef. It helps to make this recipe healthier and less expensive.
How to Make Sloppy Joes
- Preheat a large nonstick skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat.
- If you are using super-lean ground beef or ground turkey or chicken breast, you will want to add 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to help prevent the meat from sticking to the pan. I find that I rarely need to add in any oil to saute the meat and veggies in, as the meat will render off some fat as it browns.
- Add the ground beef, peppers, onions, and jalapenos to the saute pan and saute the meat and vegetables, breaking up the meat into small chunks, as it cooks.
- Once the beef is browned, drain off any excess fat that has been rendered in the skillet.
- Add in tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, salt, and stir well. If you are using beans, add them now.
- Bring the sloppy joe mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
- Add in the apple cider vinegar, honey, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Stir well and let simmer an additional 5-10 minutes for the flavors to develop.
A Healthier Option
When I make Sloppy Joes, I typically use 2 cups of pinto beans in place of one pound of ground beef.
The beans may sound like an odd addition, but they blend in perfectly with the flavor and texture of the sloppy joes. They also add fiber, lower the fat and cholesterol in the recipe, and save you money, as beans cost much less than meat. And even my midwestern, meat-loving husband approves!
If you are looking for a Meatless Sloppy Joe recipe, you can use 4 cups of pinto beans in place of the 2 pounds of ground meat or you may enjoy my recipe for Slow Cooker Vegan Sloppy Joes.
This Sloppy Joe Recipe makes enough for 8 large Sloppy Joes, therefore you may find yourself with leftovers.
Allow the mixture to cool completely and then store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze leftover Sloppy Joe mixture for up to 3 months in the freezer. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and heat over a low simmer or in the microwave and serve as desired.
The classic way to serve up a Sloppy Joe is to serve the sloppy joe mixture on top of a bun with a slice of cheese. However, there are plenty of other delicious ways to serve these Homemade Sloppy Joes.
- Serve over a baked potato or baked sweet potato and top with cheese if desired.
- Spread the sloppy joe mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish and top with cornbread batter and bake just as you would a Tamale Pie.
- Instead of Chili Cheese Fries, make Sloppy Joe Fries! Top Oven Fries with the sloppy joe mixture and shredded cheese and return the fries to the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.
- Instead of serving the Homemade Sloppy Joes on Buns, serve on Homemade Biscuits or Sweet Potato Biscuits halves like you would Sausage Gravy.
These Sloppy Joes are a one-skillet meal that is sure to please your family! I would love for you to leave a comment below if you gave this recipe a try!
Homemade Sloppy Joes
- 2 pounds ground sirloin (see recipe notes for using a combination of beans and ground meat)
- 1 small onion diced
- ½ jalapeno seeded and minced
- 1 small red pepper diced
- 2 cups canned or cooked pinto beans drained if canned
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
For Serving (optional)
- 8 buns
- 8 slices cheddar cheese
- Preheat a non-stick or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add in the ground meat, onion, jalapeno, and red pepper. Saute the meat and vegetables until the meat is browned, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Drain off any excess fat, and return the skillet to the stove.
- Add in tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, salt and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil then lower to simmer. If using beans, add the drained beans now.
- Add in the apple cider vinegar, honey, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and let simmer for5-10 minutes.
- Serve on buns with cheese or as desired.
This recipe was inspired by Ellie Krieger's recipe and was updated with new pictures, a video and tips in 2021.