This is the best sloppy Joe recipe! Seasoned ground beef in tangy sauce made without ketchup or other overly sweet ingredients. Make this recipe for a childhood favorite!
The classic sloppy joe sandwich is an American loose meat sandwich, made from ground beef cooked in a tangy sauce made with tomato sauce or ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings. The meat is served on a toasted bun.
It’s a sandwich that many of us probably remember eating when we were kids. I remember it fondly, right along with kid-friendly meals like baked mac and cheese, my Gramma’s griddle cakes, and spaghetti with classic beef meatballs.
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.
- Ground beef– feel free to use another ground meat of your choice. Some people like to use ground chicken for a lower fat option. Ground pork is another good option.
- Brown sugar– This adds some sweetness, but the molasses in the brown sugar adds a nice savory flavor too.
- Montreal seasoning– This takes the flavor above the standard seasoning of salt and pepper. You can make my homemade blend, or buy it premade. If you can find Montreal seasoning, you could use any all-purpose seasoning.
- Onion– I dice the onion pretty small, so you get the flavor but not the full bite of onion. That can be a turn-off to some people. Feel free to leave them out, or if you’d like a different veggie, sweet bell peppers are a good option.
- Tomato sauce and paste– I make my sloppy joe recipe without ketchup because I think sloppy joes with ketchup are just too sweet. If you’d like to use ketchup as a substitute for some of the tomato sauce, feel free. To help thicken the loose meat and make the sloppy joe a bit easier to eat (so it isn’t tumbling out of the bun), I add tomato paste.
Video: Making the best sloppy joe recipe
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 see the recipe in action from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
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.
- 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.
Slow cooker sloppy Joes
Too tired to stand up and cook? Too busy to cook at all? No problem! You can make this sloppy joe recipe using a slow cooker!
Although you’ll have much better flavor if you brown the ground beef first, some people make slow cooker sloppy joes without browning the meat at all.
- After you brown the ground meat, add it to the slow cooker.
- Combine the sauce ingredients together in a bowl, then pour them over the meat in the slow cooker.
- Set the heat to low and let it cook for 4-6 hours. Hands off cooking method for the best sloppy Joe recipe EVER!
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Feb. 5, 2018, was last updated with new content on Oct. 23, 2021.
Classic Sloppy Joe Recipe + Video
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef sirloin
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp Montreal seasoning
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 tbsp mustard
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 15 oz tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 6 hamburger buns toasted, and lightly buttered
- 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.
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.