Everyone loves juicy and messy homemade sloppy Joes! And guess what, these are the best sloppy Joes you’ll ever have! They are saucy with lots of flavor. This easy 30-minute meal is made from scratch and can be prepped in advance and reheated when needed, or even frozen!

Add some crispy baked potato wedges and a side of grape salad (or fruit salad) for a delicious meal!

A hand holding up a hamburger bun that is very full of the best homemade sloppy Joe mix.

Why This Recipe Works

While you could simply brown some ground beef and open a can of Manwich (which I admit to doing here and there) nothing can compare to the taste of homemade sloppy joe sauce.

  • It’s filling, comforting, and made with simple ingredients like ketchup, mustard, garlic, and spices you probably already have on hand.
  • Using tomato paste in these homemade sloppy joes adds body and richness to the sauce.
  • Adding red pepper flakes to the sauce gives some subtle heat that can easily be adjusted to varying degrees of spice. If serving this recipe to kids with a lower spice tolerance, follow the recipe as written. If you want a spicy sloppy joe just ramp up the crushed red peppers and you’ll be good to go.
  • The perfect weeknight dinner when you’re short on time and not sure what to make. Because this old fashioned sloppy joes recipe uses pantry staple ingredients you can whip it up with short notice and dinner is on the table within 30 minutes.
  • Sloppy Joes are usually quite messy but because we toast the buns everything holds together nicely and you won’t have a huge “sloppy” mess.
A homemade sloppy Joe on a white plate with potato chips next to the sandwich.

Ingredients

Ingredients used to make homemade sloppy joes.
  • Ground beef: If desired you can switch out the ground beef for ground turkey to make homemade turkey sloppy joes, but even ground chicken or similar would work. Just be watchful as you cook the leaner meat options because they have less fat and will brown a bit faster or burn if overcooked.
  • Veggies: We like to use diced onion and diced bell peppers but if desired you can even add in some nicely chopped pieces of celery for added crunch.
  • Sloppy joe sauce ingredients: The sauce is a mixture of ketchup, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, water, and brown sugar. Together they create a thick sauce that binds the veggies and adds a lot of flavor, sweetness, and tangy goodness with every bite.
  • Spices: We keep the seasoning spices simple because so much flavor is being added already. Salt and pepper are my go-to’s but if you want your sandwich filling to pack a little heat, adding in red pepper flakes is great too!
  • Burger buns: These messy (or should I say sloppy) sandwiches need a good bun to hold the meat in place and give you a nice balance to the thick meaty filling. You can use anything from homemade buns to cheap burger buns or more “fancy” buns like brioche or potato bread buns. Pick your favorite (or what’s on sale) and you’re sure to have a great meal.

Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Cook your olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add in the ground beef, bell pepper, and onion. Cook until the meat is browned while breaking up the chunks of the meat as you go. Drain the grease.
A skillet full of ingredients used to make homemade sloppy joes, against a white textured background.
  1. Add in the minced garlic and stir. Cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
A large skillet full of cooked ground beef, diced green pepper, and onion.
  1. Stir in the ketchup, water, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
A skillet full of ground beef with ketchup, mayo, salt, and garlic to make sloppy joes.
  1. Continue to cook the mixture over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until it has thickened to your liking.
  2. Remove from heat and serve on toasted buns.
Homemade sloppy Joe sauce in a black skillet against a white background.

Recipe Tips

Can also add finely diced celery (1-2 stalks) as well (just add when adding the pepper and onion).

To toast the buns you have multiple options: you can use a grill, toast in a toaster oven, or toast them on a skillet. If using a skillet (which is what I usually do) add the buns to the skillet and place over medium-low heat. Toast until golden brown, flip over and toast the other side to your liking. Using toasted buns makes a world of a difference when eating homemade sloppy joes!

You can substitute ground turkey or even ground chicken for the ground beef, if you wish.

Storing

Refrigerate: Refrigerate leftover meat filling in an airtight container. To reheat, place in a microwave-safe container and heat until warmed through. Toast fresh burger buns and spoon the warm mixture onto the buns.

Freeze: Make the mixture then cool to room temperature. Portion into a freezer safe container (or freezer-safe bags) and freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to use, remove from freezer and let thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat before using.

FAQs

What is a sloppy joe?

Sloppy joes are a loose meat sandwich created in the 20th century. With a sauce made of a tomato base, ground beef, and then served on burger buns, this dish has been a comfort meal and eas recipe dish served in many homes all over the world.  

Do I have to use brown sugar?

Nope, you can omit this if desired. We like our sloppy joe filling a bit sweeter (like the Manwich brand sauce) and the molasses in the sugar adds a depth of flavor too, but it is an optional ingredient you can simply leave out if wanting to reduce the sugar content.

Can I freeze sloppy joe filling?

Yes, the filling freezes very well and does great for easy make-ahead meals! Simply take your sloppy joe filling and let it cool completely. After it’s cooled, place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat before using. 

Are sloppy joes gluten free?

This sloppy Joe mixture is gluten free. Just be sure to serve it with a gluten-free bun.

A hamburger bun on a white plate, with one half of the bun loaded with homemade sloppy Joe mix.

What to Serve With Sloppy Joes

Two hands holding up a homemade sloppy Joe with a red napkin in the background.

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a rating and review, or scroll below the recipe card to find the comment box.

A hand holding up a hamburger bun that is very full of the best homemade sloppy Joe mix.
Print Review
5 from 1 vote

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Everyone loves a juicy and messy sloppy Joe. And guess what, these are the best sloppy Joes you'll ever find! They are saucy with lots of flavor. This is an easy meal that can be prepped in advanced and reheated when needed, or even frozen!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 35 mins
Servings: 5 sloppy joes

Ingredients
 

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef - can also use ground turkey
  • 1/2 green bell pepper - finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion - finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar - packed, can reduce brown sugar if desired
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • pinch red pepper flakes - add more depending on your heat tolerance
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • buns - for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a medium skillet over medium heat add the olive oil, ground beef, bell pepper, and onion. Cook, breaking up the meat into small chunks as you go, until the meat is browned and cooked through. Drain excess grease. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ketchup, water, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes (if using), salt, and pepper. Mix to incorporate. 
  • Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and serve on toasted buns. 

Notes

To toast buns: multiple options, can use a grill, toast in a toaster oven, or heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the buns to the skillet and toast until golden brown, flip over and toast the other side to your liking.
To freeze: Make the mixture then cool to room temperature. Portion into a freezer safe container (or freezer-safe bags) and freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to use, remove from freezer and let thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat before using.
Can also add finely diced celery (1-2 stalks) as well (just add when adding the pepper and onion).
Nutritional information is based on 1 serving. 
Nutritional information is an estimate and does not include buns. 

Nutrition

Calories: 308kcal (15%)Carbohydrates: 15g (5%)Protein: 17g (34%)Fat: 20g (31%)Saturated Fat: 7g (35%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 64mg (21%)Sodium: 653mg (27%)Potassium: 451mg (13%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 12g (13%)Vitamin A: 284IU (6%)Vitamin C: 13mg (16%)Calcium: 35mg (4%)Iron: 2mg (11%)
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
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