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Main Dish | April 14, 2020

The Best Sloppy Joes

The Best Sloppy Joes are the ultimate meal in a bun! This easy to make dinner is one your family will love and you’ll make over and over again.  

The Best Sloppy Joes


How did Sloppy Joes get their name?

Sloppy Joes have been around since the 1930-40’s. Some say the term “Sloppy Joes” comes from a sandwich, sold in Iowa made by a cook named, you guessed it – Joe. Others say it originated in Cuba, when cooks threw together all of the leftover meats after a day’s work and piled it on leftover buns. No matter the origin, this messy, warm sandwich is still a popular quick lunch or dinner today!

How to make the Best Sloppy Joes

What makes this the Best Sloppy Joes recipe?

When you bite into the sandwich it’s a little sloppy- but that’s half the fun of eating it.  What would a Sloppy Joe sandwich be if it didn’t drip all over your plate? Truth be told, I usually eat mine with a fork, because I want to get every last bit of the flavorful meat!

This recipe is straightforward with just a few pantry staples and a couple of fresh vegetables included. The blend of sweet, savory, and a little tangy, along with the simple method makes this the Best Sloppy Joes recipe!

sandwich made with ground beef, onions and red peppers

Better than Manwich or a package!

The Best Sloppy Joes are SO simple to make. I’m not talking about opening a can of Manwich, or using a package of flavoring. Homemade makes all the difference. I wanted to make a Sloppy Joe recipe that would be easy, tasty, and quick to make when my kids were young. This pantry friendly meal is homemade without being complicated! If you are wondering about the pan I’m using in this recipe, it’s my favorite Le Creuset Dutch Oven, which I use for everything spaghetti sauce to pot roast. An investment, but worth every penny.

Easy dinner idea

Quick and easy Sloppy Joes for family or a crowd!

Sloppy Joes take about 20 minutes start to finish so you’ll have dinner on the table in no time! This recipe is perfect for make ahead or large crowds as well. Store the ground beef mixture in an airtight container in the fridge, and then heat it up on the stove before you’re ready to serve with hamburger buns. This recipe also includes instructions for cooking in a slow cooker or Instant Pot in the recipe notes.

This recipe also freeze well, and are perfect for taking on River rafting trips, to Lake Powell, family reunions or Girl’s Camp! Make it ahead, place in Gallon Ziplock bags, lay flat in your freezer and it will act as a piece of ice in your cooler when you are traveling. Nothing better than leaving the mess at home when you need to feed a group on vacation!

How to Make Sloppy Joes without Manwich

This recipe was originally posted in 2010, and has been republished with new photos and alterations to the recipe and post.

The Best Sloppy Joes
4.86 from 7 votes

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are a blend of sweet and savory and are so juicy and filling! This Sloppy Joe recipe is the perfect quick and easy dinner and also great for large group gatherings!

Course Dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword sloppy joes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6 -8


Sloppy Joes:

  • 1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, white, sweet or yellow chopped, about 1 1/2 cups total
  • 1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed chopped (optional) about 1 cup total
  • 1 clove garlic minced or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce or 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar more if you like it sweeter!
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • water 1/4 to 1/2 cup to thin sauce if needed
  • few drops hot sauce, such as Tobasco optional


Sloppy Joes:

  1. Brown ground beef in skillet over medium high heat. Drain off any grease.

  2. Add chopped onion and chopped red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until onion is softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute.

  3. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat. Add hot sauce if using. Simmer on low for about 5-8 mintues or until mixture thickens up a bit.

  4. If mixture is too thick, thin with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Serve with hamburger buns, top with cheese, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Slow Cooker and Instant Pot Instructions:

Slow Cooker or Crockpot– Place the meat in a skillet, cook on medium high and drain off grease. Pour the cooked meat and remaining ingredients into the slow cooker, stir and turn the setting to low. Cook for about 4-6 hours on LOW heat  or  2-3 hours on HIGH. Depending on the slow cooker, the cooking time may vary. Add water if needed after cooked. 

Instant Pot – Turn the Instant Pot to the SAUTE setting. Brown the meat and remove any extra grease from the pot. Add the chopped onion and red pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.  Turn SAUTE setting off. Add remaining ingredients, and stir well.  Make sure the sealing ring is in place, and turn the dial on top of the lid to SEAL. Cook on MANUAL or HIGH PRESSURE setting for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally, or,  after 10 minutes, carefully release the remaining pressure and serve. 

9 thoughts on “The Best Sloppy Joes

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    Before last week, I had never had sloppy joes before! My daughter wanted to try them so I used this recipe and we liked them so much that I made them again for dinner last night! Easy and tasty! I don’t add as much sugar, just a little less than 1/4 cup, and that still provides enough sweetness for us. I serve them with sweet potato fries and fruit!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was so good! I did a little less sugar as well (3 Tbsp) and thought it was perfect. Thanks another yummy recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    I love Sloppy Joes and this recipe is the best. For my kid that doesn’t like to eat vegetables it is nice that it has so much “hidden” in the sauce. He doesn’t usually like bell peppers, but he eats this up without hesitation. The Worcestershire just makes it perfect too. If I am ever in charge of food for a large group, this will be on my list!

  4. 5 stars
    The name says it all – these are the best! I keep a lot of ground beef on hand and this recipe transforms it into something special that my kids can’t get enough of. I especially love the subtle flavors added by the red pepper and the Worcestershire sauce. I can’t wait to do it in the slow cooker for our busy Monday meal!