Sloppy Joes

Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Servings 4 servings

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This Sloppy Joes Recipe is a classic comfort food dinner that’s ready in a total of 20 minutes! Tender and juicy ground beef is simmered with peppers and onions in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce.

Serve plain on a toasted bun or load it up with your favorite toppings!

close up image of sloppy joes on sesame seed bun
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Table of Contents
  1. What is a sloppy joe?
  2. Ingredients for sloppy joes:
  3. How to make sloppy joes
  4. Sloppy Joes FAQs
  5. Tips and tricks
  6. Other ways to use sloppy joe filling
  7. Sloppy Joes Recipe

Our favorite dinner recipes are ones that are made with simple ingredients, a hit with the whole family, and quick to make!

This sloppy joes recipe checks all of my “perfect meal” boxes! It’s made with ground beef, a few veggies, a simple sauce made up of pantry staples, and a few basic seasonings. It’s also always a favorite at our house AND it’s ready in a total of 20 minutes!

I mean, a messy, hearty, flavorful ground beef and tomato sauce piled onto a golden-brown, toasty bun? Easy dinner doesn’t get better than that!

If I made these every day (and threw in the odd pan of Spaghetti and Meatballs, Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper, The BEST Oven-Fried Chicken or Teriyaki Chicken), my kids would be ecstatic.

What is a sloppy joe?

A sloppy joe is an American sandwich made up of ground beef simmered in a sweet tomato sauce and served on a toasted bun.

Sloppy joe sandwiches supposedly originated in Sioux City, Iowa in the 1930s when a chef named Joe added tomato sauce to his loose meat sandwiches, thus creating what is now a classic comfort food dinner!

sloppy joe filling in a white pan with spoon

Ingredients for sloppy joes:

  • Ground Beef: I like to use lean ground beef so the mixture isn’t overly greasy. If you use a fattier meat, you’ll want to drain the oil before adding the sauce.
  • Red Bell Pepper and Onion: sloppy joe filling is a great way to sneak veggies into your kids’ meals. Bell pepper and onion are the classic additions, but feel free to add other veggies if desired.
  • Garlic: use freshly minced or pre-minced garlic. Garlic powder will work, but fresh is always my first choice!
  • Salt, Chili Powder, and Black Pepper: a simple trio of seasonings to take the flavor of an already flavorful sauce up a notch.
  • Ketchup, Brown Sugar, Worcestershire Sauce, Apple Cider Vinegar, Tomato Paste, Mustard, and Red Pepper Flakes: makes up the sweet, tangy, slightly spicy sloppy joe sauce. 
  • Water: used to thin out the filling, if necessary.
ingredients needed to make sloppy joes

How to make sloppy joes

  1. Cook the beef: brown the beef with the onion and pepper. Stir in garlic, salt, chili powder, and pepper.
  2. Make the sauce: To the beef mixture, add the remaining ingredients. Stir well, then add water to thin it out if needed.
  3. Simmer and serve: Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer to thicken. Serve in buns with the toppings of your choice!

Sloppy Joes FAQs

What is the best meat for Sloppy Joes?

The classic sloppy joe meat is ground beef! I prefer to use lean ground beef to keep it light. If you use a fattier beef, I recommend draining off excess oil after you cook the meat. Make sure you do this before you add the seasonings so you don’t drain off all that yummy flavor!
Don’t do beef? Check out Honey Garlic Turkey Sloppy Joes or Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Quinoa Sloppy Joes!

Are sloppy joe and manwich the same thing?

Nope! Although they are similar, sloppy joe sandwiches are typically made up of a homemade tomato-based meat sauce. Manwich, on the other hand, is a pre-made sauce you can buy at the store.

What’s the best way to serve Sloppy Joes?

You can keep your sloppy joe sandwich simple with a plain toasted brioche bun or dress it up with toppings! Try it with pickles, cheese, sour cream, thinly sliced red onions, sliced avocado, or even strips of crispy bacon.
Fill out your meal with a side of Creamy Ranch Bowtie Pasta Salad Recipe, air fryer potato wedges, Garlic Herb Instant Pot Potatoes, or Easy Broccoli Salad!

How to store leftovers:

Leftover sloppy joe filling will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 3-4 months. 
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then warm on the stove or in the microwave with a splash of water to thin, if necessary.

overhead image of sloppy joes recipe on a bun on white plate

Tips and tricks

  • Play with flavor. Sloppy joe filling is very forgiving. Prefer a sweeter sauce? Add more brown sugar. Love the spice? Add a drizzle of hot sauce or sriracha!
  • Add more veggies. Sloppy joe filling is a great way to sneak some veggies into a meal…especially if you have picky kiddos. 😉 Try adding mushrooms, peas, carrots, celery, zucchini, spinach, you name it. Make sure you chop any extra veggies pretty small so they incorporate well into the sauce.
  • Double the recipe. Sloppy joes store beautifully either in the fridge or in the freezer. Get ahead on meal planning and double the recipe!
  • If the sauce is too thin, simmer it longer to allow it time to thicken. Keep in mind that the sauce will also thicken as it sits.
  • If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of water to thin it out. Don’t add too much water though because you don’t want to dilute the flavor!

Other ways to use sloppy joe filling

There are so many ways to use sloppy joe sauce, which means you should have no issue using up leftovers! Here are some ideas:

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Sloppy Joes

4.34 from 3 votes
This Sloppy Joes Recipe is a classic comfort food dinner that's ready in a total of 20 minutes! Tender and juicy ground beef is simmered with peppers and onions in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Cuisine American, canadian
Course Main Course
Servings 4 servings
Calories 264cal


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • ½ medium onion (diced)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons water


  • Cook ground beef, onion and pepper in a large skillet over medium high heat until meat is browned and onion is translucent.
  • Stir in garlic, salt, chili powder and pepper and cook 1 minute.
  • Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, mustard and red pepper flakes and stir well. Add water to thin sauce if desired.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and then reduce to medium low. Simmer until vegetables are tender and sauce has thickened slightly.
  • Serve over buns.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 178grams | Calories: 264cal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 1238mg | Potassium: 803mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 1449IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 4mg
Keywords sloppy joes

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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  1. Christine says

    I made this tonight and it was soooooooo good!!! It was such a easy quick meal! Very impressed how it came out!! Thanks for another great recipe!

  2. Jen says

    We just made this for the first time tonight and it was a huge hit at our house! We made two changes – but just because of what we had on hand. I used 6 mini sweet peppers (because we had a bag) and I used a whole 6 oz can of a tomato paste (because I never know what to do with the rest) and so I reduced the ketchup to 1/2 cup since I had more tomato paste. This was a five star (and fun!) dinner according to 2 adults and 2 seven year olds. Thank you for the recipe!

  3. So** says

    It was good but a bit too sweet for our taste. I think next time I will reduce to 1T of sugar instead of 3. The ketchup was sweet already and 3T of sugar added to that was a bit overwhelming. I also doubled the garlic and added a 1T of sriracha sauce, some cumin and oregano.

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