How To Make a Homemade Sloppy Joe Sandwich

Sloppy Joes with tomato sauce will always hold a special place in our hearts. If you haven’t heard of a Sloppy Joe or, worse yet, haven’t eaten one, you are missing out. It’s a meat sandwich served as a main dish and only needs French Fries or potato chips as an accompaniment.

A sloppy joe with pickle and chips.
Photo by Shared Food from Burst

Nobody can agree on where or when the Sloppy Joe sandwich first came about. The nearest we can get is somewhere in the 1940s or possibly the 1950s when they started popping up in newspaper advertisements. One thing everyone knows is that it originated in the U.S. but they have since spread far and wide.

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Typically, Sloppy Joe recipes contain ground beef, onions, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and other herbs and spices. No matter where you go, you will never find the same recipe. Some put green bell peppers in it, others put red or yellow, frankly, we could do without the green peppers. Some replace the tomato sauce with ketchup and brown sugar.

The sandwich became such an American staple that canned Sloppy Joe sauce started hitting the grocery store shelves in 1969 and has expanded to four additional flavors. Even without the canned sauce, homemade Sloppy Joe sauce is easy to make.

How to Serve Sloppy Joes

They’re named sloppy for a reason. The trick is to have a nice buttery and grilled hamburger bun (or roll depending on where you’re from). Then you will place the bottom bun on the plate and scoop the Sloppy Joe meat on the bun then place the top bun on top of the meat. One of the conundrums of eating the sandwich is trying to figure out if you pick it up and eat it like a burger or do you just use a fork. It’s never an easy choice and not one we have figured out.

Add some French Fries or some potato chips and quite possibly a dill pickle, and you have a perfect main dish.

Even though there isn’t any Worcestershire sauce in The Kitchn’s recipe, it’s still one of the best Sloppy Joe recipes out there.

Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe

A sloppy joe sandwich on a plate with pickles.
Joe Lingeman

(from The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds lean ground beef
  • .5 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • .5 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • .5 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 to 8 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Method

  1. Brown the beef. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and cook, breaking it into large pieces with a stiff spatula, until browned and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the browned beef to a plate; set aside.
  2. Cook the aromatics and spices. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic, and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly; add the chili powder, paprika, and salt; and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the liquids and return the beef to the pan. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, and mustard and stir to combine. Return the reserved beef to the pan.
  4. Mash the beef with a potato masher. Use a potato masher to mash the beef into small pieces and incorporate it into the sauce.
  5. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  6. Taste, season, and serve. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. To serve, spoon onto the toasted buns.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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