Classic Sloppy Joes Recipe

4.86 from 7 votes

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From start to finish, this Sloppy Joes recipe will take you less than 30 minutes, making it a super easy weeknight meal! Brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, tomato sauce, and the perfect blend of spices will transform an ordinary pound of ground beef into a delectable meal that satisfies your hunger and your childhood memories!

best sloppy joe recipe image

Sloppy Joes are a true testament to the fact that good food stands the test of time. These classic sandwiches are close to one hundred years old! Some say they were born in Cuba near the turn of the century, while others claim that Sloppy Joes got their start during the 1930s in the midwestern USA. 

These loose meat sandwiches feature ground beef cooked in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce. We used canned sauce when I was younger, but I knew I could recreate those flavors myself. I hope you’ll agree that this is so much better than what you get from the can!

Make this Sloppy Joes recipe with a flavorful combination of ingredients you likely have at home. The freshness of homemade sauce is an amazing upgrade compared to the thinner, mass-produced version you buy at the store!

A classic potato salad like this one is great with sandwiches at any time of year. Add some baked mac and cheese to create a crowd-pleasing meal full of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food!

Best Sloppy Joe Recipe

So what makes this recipe the best? I’ll tell you!

  • Can be made in mere minutes
  • Easy to double or triple the recipe to feed a large crowd
  • Freezes well for easy meal prep
  • Perfect when unexpected company arrives and you need a quick cooking meal
  • Made from scratch with wholesome ingredients, aka, sloppy joes without ketchup!

Not to mention, sloppy joe meat is great for potlucks, picnics and camping, too.

overhead: making sloppy joe recipe in skillet


  • Ground Beef Sirloin – An 80/20 blend of ground beef provides a lot of flavor here. Just be sure to drain the beef before adding the onion. 
  • Brown Sugar – Use light brown sugar in this Sloppy Joes recipe. If you’re trying to cut back on sugar, use half the amount listed here without losing the sweetness.  
  • Montreal Seasoning – This classic blend is perfect for beef, but all purpose steak seasoning works just as well. 
  • Onion – Opt for a white onion, which has a milder and slightly sweet flavor.
  • Mustard – Yellow mustard adds a mild tang to the Sloppy Joe sauce.
  • Red Wine Vinegar – White wine vinegar is the closest substitute for red wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar would also work. 
  • Worcestershire Sauce – A distinct, sweet and sour blend of flavors. Use soy sauce if Worcestershire is not available.
  • Tomato Sauce – I use unsalted tomato sauce in order to control the salt level of my Sloppy Joes, but any tomato sauce will work. Ketchup is a great substitute if you don’t have sauce in your pantry.
  • Tomato Paste – This is the key to the thicker consistency in the sauce. Replace tomato paste with tomato sauce or puree — for every tablespoon of paste, use 3 tablespoons of sauce or puree.
homemade sloppy joes with side of wavy potato chips

Video: Making the best sloppy joe recipe

To see the recipe in action from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!

Making this recipe really couldn’t be much easier. Just brown the ground beef, combine the sauce ingredients and stir them into the meat, then let it simmer for a few minutes!

To load the sandwich up I break out my trusty ice cream scoop and pile that bun high with that luscious, thick and tasty sloppy joe mixture.

Serve it up with a tall glass of milk or horchata and bring back those childhood memories.

Recipe tips

  • Monitor the heat in the pan.
    Tomato sauce burns pretty easily; just keep the heat on medium when you’re simmering the sloppy joes and you’ll be fine.
  • Toast the bread or buns– There’s something special about loose meat sandwich when it’s on a buttery toasted bun. In addition to the flavor and texture, toasting the bread makes the sandwich easier to hold on to.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover sloppy joe meat- Your leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. Either way, be sure to store them in an airtight container.


  1. Brown the Beef. Add the ground sirloin to your skillet and cook over medium-high heat. Stir in brown sugar and spice blend. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until all meat is browned and cooked through.
  2. Reduce & Cook. Stir in the onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Simmer To Thicken.  Add mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, tomato sauce, and tomato paste to skillet. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes for sauce to thicken.
  4. Toast the Buns. Butter the inside of the hamburger bun and place under broiler to lightly toast.
  5. Assemble Sandwiches. Scoop the meat mixture onto the bottom bun and cover with the top. Serve immediately.

plated loose beef sandwich with chips and glass of milk

What Can I Do With Sloppy Joe Meat?

Use your leftovers in so many ways! Add some to your grilled cheese sandwich or load up some baked potatoes to make a completely new meal. You can even use leftover Sloppy Joes as a pizza topping, spoon some onto your hot dog, or add the beef to your french fries with some melted cheese. Store any leftover meat in the fridge for up to 4 days.

What Is Montreal Steak Seasoning Made Of?

Nearly any beef dish can benefit from the addition of Montreal seasoning. This long-established blend of familiar spices can do no wrong! Store-bought blends contain a combination of salt, black and red pepper, garlic and onion powder, and paprika. 

My Montreal steak seasoning recipe also includes dill and orange peel for added flavor. Mix this up for 2-½ cups of seasoning that can be stored in your spice rack for continued use! 

Can I Make Sloppy Joes In A Crockpot?

Yes! You can brown your meat on the stovetop first, but I like to add everything at once to make it even easier. A crockpot works better with a leaner blend of ground beef: 85/15 or 90/10. Set your crockpot on low heat and break up the beef as much as you can at the start. Stir in all the other ingredients, then cook on low for 3 hours. 

Still Hungry?

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This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Feb. 5, 2018, was updated with new content, photos and/or video in March 2023.

best sloppy joe recipe image

Classic Sloppy Joe Recipe + Video

4.86 from 7 votes
These Sloppy Joes are just like the ones you remember from childhood. Make beef sandwiches in sweet and tangy tomato sauce from scratch!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes



  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and start to brown, breaking it up as you stir. Add brown sugar and spice seasoning, stirring to mix in.
  • When ground beef has browned, add onion, reduce heat to medium and cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and tomato paste, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 5-8 minutes longer. Sauce should thicken up and meat mixture is tight.
  • Butter the buns and toast until golden brown under broiler.
  • Using a ice cream scoop or spoon pile meat onto toasted bun bottoms and cover with bun tops.



Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 791mg | Potassium: 775mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 405IU | Vitamin C: 8.4mg | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 5.5mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main
Cuisine: American, Western
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image: how to make sloppy joes


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 5 stars
    Made this last night. Didn’t have Montreal Steak seasoning so used another brand. 10 stars from the family. Served with cole slaw and tater tots. In my opinion, you don’t need tomato sauce as others suggested over water because of the tomato paste. Easy and yummy, what’s not to like.

  2. I add finely diced onion and bell pepper to the ground beef. I also add some garlic. Ketchup, Worcestershire and a dash of Tabasco make up the sauce. The most important step is to add some water and simmer the sauce until it thickens. This allows the meat to take on the flavor of the sauce. If you skip this step you have a burger with some sauce on top!