This homemade Sloppy Joes recipe makes the classic family-favorite meal with a sweet and savory sauce to serve over toasted hamburger buns. Whip up some hearty and messy sandwiches for an easy and delicious dinner.
Today we’re making some homemade Sloppy Joes which is a step up from the canned sauce and honestly tastes so much better. Ditch the Manwich and throw together a better, more wholesome version of the old-fashioned Sloppy Joe sauce with a few pantry staples and 20 minutes of your time.
The childhood sauce is made with ground beef, fresh onions, garlic and bell peppers simmered in a rich flavorful sauce of tomato paste, ketchup, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. It’s delicious enough for both kids and adults alike looking to experience their childhood favorite.
Serve it over hamburger buns for the retro sandwich or with hotdogs, loaded fries or tater tots, Texas toast, Hawaiian rolls, grilled cheese, or baked potatoes. For more homemade versions of popular instant meals, try this creamy beef and shells, Salisbury steak, or this beef stroganoff.
Ingredients in Homemade Sloppy Joes
HOMEMADE SLOPPY JOES RECIPE TIPS
- Ground beef – I prefer using lean ground beef to make cooking easier. Drain all fat from the pan if using beef with higher fat content, so the sauce isn’t diluted. I like using a meat masher to break up the clumps for a smoother meat sauce.
- Onions and garlic – I used fresh onions and garlic in the recipe but you can substitute it with onion or garlic powder in a pinch. Onions, garlic and bell peppers add a chunky texture and pad the sauce so there’s more of it to go around.
- Tomato paste – This enhances the taste of ground beef. A little goes a long way and it works much better than tomato sauce. I like using the Cento brand of tomato paste in a tube for recipes calling for tomato paste. It keeps well in the fridge and is less wasteful since tomato paste is often used sparingly in recipes.
- Ketchup – Ketchup is the base of the signature Sloppy Joe taste of sweet, savory and tart flavors. I didn’t want ketchup to be overpowering in the sauce so I only used 1/2 cup in this recipe.
- Bell pepper – I used green bell peppers but any color of bell pepper will work. Green bell peppers taste bitter and grassy while yellow, orange and red bell peppers are sweeter in flavor.
- Buns – Sloppy Joes are usually served on hamburger buns but you can also try them on hotdogs, brioche buns, pretzel buns, Hawaiian rolls, hoagie rolls, or Texas toast.
Toast the buns for great Sloppy Joe sandwiches. Start by buttering the buns and toasting them in a pan buttered side down until golden and crisp along the edges. Toasted buns don’t break as easily once the sauce is piled on them so you won’t wind up with soggy sloppy Joe buns. Plus you have the added bonus of having a little bit of crunch from the texture of the toasted bun.
- Mustard – I used Dijon mustard in the recipe but yellow mustard will also work. The tiny amount of mustard adds some depth of flavor but does not dominate the sauce with a mustardy taste.
- Brown sugar – Brown sugar adds a tiny bit of sweetness to the sauce but is entirely optional if you prefer a sauce that is more savory.
- Chili powder – Chili powder adds a ton of flavor to the sauce but isn’t spicy. It’s usually made from a blend of savory spices such as cayenne, cumin, oregano, onions and garlic.
- Worcestershire – This adds some savoriness to the sauce for more flavor. I love adding it to all my meat and pasta sauces.
- Sauciness – Add 3/4 cup of water to the recipe and simmer it down to your desired level of sauciness. Some like their Sloppy Joe sauce extremely messy and some prefer a firmer, thicker sauce.
- Leftovers and reheating – Sloppy Joes will keep up to 3-4 days in the fridge. To reheat, simmer over the stovetop until warm or microwave in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Freezing – Freeze for up to 3-4 months.
How to Use Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the sauce beyond slapping it on a hamburger bun and digging in. Some ideas on other ways to enjoy this hearty meaty sauce are:
- Loaded fries or tater tots
- Texas toast
- Hawaiian rolls
- Grilled cheese
- Baked Potatoes
- Add some spice – Spice it up with some red pepper flakes, a dash of cayenne, or some jalapenos.
- Cut the sweetness – Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to tone down and balance out the sweetness of the sauce.
What to Serve with Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joes are a meal on its own but you can throw in some sides such as potato chips, tater tots, fries, pickles, mac and cheese, macaroni salad, potato salad, pasta salad, corn on the cob, honey butter skillet corn or some coleslaw.
And that’s about it. Enjoy your messy Sloppy Joe sandwiches and dig in! Let me know how you liked it, what substitutions you made, or what you paired it with in the comments below.
OTHER SANDWICH RECIPES TO TRY
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches
- Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Instant Pot French Dip Sandwich
- Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs