All American Homemade Sloppy Joes

American Sloppy Joes is a budget friendly flavour explosion. Ground beef sauteed with vegetables in a rich, smokey, molasses sauce before being served on fluffy hamburger buns.

About This Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe

Sloppy Joes are arguably the all-time American classic. I can’t remember a time as a child in the 90s when there wasn’t a teenage sitcom or cartoon which didn’t feature these mouth-watering beauties.

Sloppy Joes have had an abundance of names and disputes over the origin. Many say the first Sloppy Joe was called a ‘loose sandwich’ and originated in Iowa, others argue it’s a Cuban classic!

Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say that Sloppy Joes is the term we’ve all become familiar with. The name Sloppy Joe was a slang term for cheap restaurants that serve you quickly – almost like a “Greasy Spoon Cafe” in the United Kingdom.

Sloppy Joes have become so ingrained into American culture, that there are even “Messy Eating Contests” across the states. How many Sloppies could you eat?!

The Sloppy Joe is almost a ‘pick-and-mix of budget-friendly dinners. You can chop and change the spices, veg and even the bun it’s served in.

sloppy joes

Ingredient Notes

Olive Oil. The best oil to add depths of flavour when frying.
Ground beef. Use ground beef with a higher fat percentage. Fat equals flavour, so none of this 5% business. I use a minimum of 12% and find 20% fat ground beef works best. The juices help emulsify the tangy sauce and lift the flavour even further on your palette.
White onions. White onions or Spanish onions have far more of a punch than red onions or scallions, this balance of allium will contrast the sweetness of the meat creating a perfect balance.
Bell Pepper. Green bell peppers are simply unripe bell peppers. They tend to be less sweet than red and yellow peppers and have a slightly bitter taste which contrast the sweetness of this dish perfectly.
Garlic. To marry the flavours of the onions and create a further punch of flavour.
Ground Paprika. A pinch of paprika will add a smokey background flavour and pairs wonderfully with beef dishes. You can use either sweet or smoked paprika in this recipe, depending on your preference.
Ground Cumin. Rich and hearty, earthy and warm, with an edge of citrus, Cumin adds instant depth to any dish.
Ground Mild Chilli Powder. A light kick of heat in the dish. A little goes a long way, however, this is one of the ingredients you can adjust and increase depending on your personal preference.
Kosher Salt. Due to the unique shape of the salt crystals, Kosher salt is proven to grab onto flavour and season food better than other salts. Fine kosher salt would be best for this recipe.
Black Pepper. What’s Batman without his Robin? That’s what pepper is to salt and is required to season your food. Pepper also will bring out the flavours of the ground spices further.
Chicken Stock. Why add boiling water when you can add stock? Chicken stock is best used in meat dishes. It’ll simmer away, reducing, and leave you with a light flavour that’ll improve the dish but not overpower it.
Tomato Ketchup. I know this seems like an odd ingredient to use, but tomato ketchup has the perfect salt, sugar and most importantly, acidity balance and makes for a straight-forward BBQ sauce.
Soft Dark Brown Sugar. This type of molasses sugar is pertinent to BBQ sauce. Sauces like the one in this recipe would be far too tomatoey and sharp. Soft dark brown sugar is best for sauces that melt in the mouth.
Worcestershire Sauce. A famous (originally British) sauce with an amalgamation of extracts, bitters and even anchovies! Any dish that uses tomatoes (ketchup included) should always be paired with Worcestershire sauce to add a touch of brightness and depth to balance the flavours.
Brioche Buns. Due to their high Toasting, the brioche buns before serving creates more texture and can make the Sloppies easier to handle.

Video: How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joes from Scratch

Ingredient Substitutions

● If you don’t want to use ketchup, you can use an equal amount of tomato puree/paste mixed with a little hot water with a ratio of 4:1 Ketchup to Water.
● If you can’t find Worcestershire sauce, you can substitute this for the same amount of light soy sauce.
● Instead of bell peppers, you can use celery, gherkins, or omit them completely.
● For a vegetarian version using meat-free ground beef and soy sauce, swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock.


Can I make this ahead of time?

The meat can keep for up to 3 days, refrigerated in an air-tight container. Just ensure you reheat thoroughly in a saucepan before serving.


1 portion (1 Sloppy Joe) can cost as little as £0.83/$1.15 (USD).

Can I scale up this recipe?

Yes! This recipe scales up fantastically, you can double or even triple the quantities depending on how many you need to feed!

What can I do with any leftover meat?

I’m glad you asked, here are a few ideas:

Sloppy Joe Nachos. Tumble the meat over some tortilla chips that have been warmed in the oven. Add a few sliced green chilis and grated cheddar, and place under the grill for 3-4 minutes.
Sloppy Joe Fries. Similarly to the nachos, cook-off some fries, and generously dollop the meat around before adding some grated cheese and crispy bacon pieces!
Sloppy Burritos. Cook-off some long grain rice and create a bed of these grains along the centre of a few soft tortillas. Spread the meat on top with any additions you fancy, black beans, carrots, remember Sloppy Joe filling is so incredibly versatile.
Sloppy Joe Hotdogs. A giant bratwurst sausage in a pillowy bun, topped with Sloppy Joe filling with crispy onions and a few pickles, is a hot dog to rival any southern street food.

All American Homemade Sloppy Joes

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 15 min Cook Time 30 min Total Time 45 mins


Originating from the US in the early 20th century, traditional Sloppies are quite simply ground beef cooked with onions and peppers inside a tomato and molasses sauce. They came about due to families in the 1930s having to make their food allowance stretch a little further and become inventive with cheaper cuts of meat during the Great Depression.

Yield: 6 Large Sloppy Joes


How To Make Homemade Sloppy Joes Step By Step

  1. In a large pan or casserole dish, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and cook off the mince until it changes colour and no red meat is visible. Empty into a bowl along with all the juices.

    Sloppy Joes step 1
  2. Add a couple more tablespoons of olive oil into the pan. Tumble in the onion and pepper and cook until the onions soften (about 5-6 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes before scattering in the spices along with the salt and pepper.

    Sloppy Joes step 2
  3. Once the veg has been coated entirely by the spices, deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, followed by the ketchup, soft dark brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.

  4. Increase the heat to high and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, ensuring you stir occasionally to prevent any meat from sticking to the bottom of the pan. This will take between 15-20 minutes.

  5. Allow the meat to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving in buttery brioche buns.

    Sloppy Joes step 5


One thing to remember when making these succulent beauties is that due to the molasses sugar used in the sauce, these remain quite hot for a while after cooking, and to avoid burns you must allow the filling to cool before slapping them inside of their wonderful buns.

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