Grandma's Balsamic Sloppy Joe Recipe

Brenda Harris
by Brenda Harris
1 Pan
40 min

So, I have to tell you the story about this amazing Sloppy Joe recipe I got from my grandma! With her old-fashioned handwritten recipe book, my grandma let me in on this family tradition that's now my dinner go-to.

My grandma, a second-generation American, is the superwoman of our family. Growing up in the South, she was super active in her community and sort of became a mentor for the younger generations.

She was always experimenting in the kitchen and was a generous neighbor. She epitomized the spirit of hospitality.

She was the type to bring over her experimented dishes to the neighbors turning every gathering into a party. She was a beloved figure in both our family and her community.

So now that you know about my grandma, let me tell you about one of her famous recipes.

Everyone knows of Sloppy Joe's, but my grandma's always tasted different—in a good way. It was only when I found out that she added a interesting secret—balsamic vinegar, that I understood.

It is a complete game-changer to the classic recipe. The best part is that it has simple steps and easy-to-find ingredients. It's perfect for a chill Sunday or a busy weeknight.

Whenever I'm in my kitchen and smell this dish while it's cooking, it makes me feel all nostalgic. The balsamic vinegar balances out the meaty richness and creates such a distinct and delicious smell. You'll know exactly what I'm talking about when you try it.

Where did the name Sloppy Joe come from?

The history of the name "Sloppy Joe" is a bit unclear, much like the messy, delicious dish itself. One theory traces its source back to a bar in Havana, Cuba.

In the 1930s, a bar became a hotspot for American tourists, and the owner, José García, created a loose-meat sandwich with ground beef, tomato sauce, and spices.

As the story goes, this messy yet tasty sandwich made its way to the United States and gained popularity.

Another tale suggests that "Sloppy Joe" emerged from the "loose meat sandwiches" sold in Iowa in the 1930s by a cook named Joe.

While the exact origin of the name remains a mystery, Sloppy Joe is unquestionably a favorite.

Grandma's Balsamic Sloppy Joe Recipe
Recipe details
  • 1  Pan
  • Prep time: 15 Minutes Cook time: 25 Minutes Total time: 40 min
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  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hamburger buns

In a large skillet over medium heat, add chopped onions. Sauté until they are light brown, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the ground beef and sauté until browned. Break it apart with a spatula while it cooks to ensure it's crumbly.
Stir in the minced garlic and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
In a bowl, mix together ketchup, tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
Stir until well combined.
Pour the sauce into the skillet with the cooked beef. Stir to combine everything thoroughly. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Serve on toasted hamburger buns, with pasta, or on it's own!
  • Feel free to add chopped peppers to the mix.
  • For an extra twist, you can top your Sloppy Joes with pickles.
  • Roberta Friedman Roberta Friedman on Jan 08, 2024

    Why the sugar? Ketchup has sugar

    • See 2 previous
    • Stina Stina on Jan 09, 2024

      If you don't like all the sugar, they do have "no sugar added" ketchup. The flavor brown sugar adds is molasses. You could probably experiment with your flavors. Sloppy Joes are on the sweet and tangy side though.

  • Crenda Pickering Crenda Pickering on Jan 08, 2024

    Looks great! I've been looking for a good Sloppy joe recipe. Thanks!