Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

6 servings
28 min

Our Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe is the real deal! These quick and delicious sloppy joes come together in under 30 minutes for a perfect weeknight meal. Even better, this dish requires a handful of simple pastry staples and just ONE pan! This little bite of Americana is so simple, quick, and satisfying.

three old fashioned sloppy joes with meat spilling out

Our Grandma Dorothy used to make the most amazing Sloppy Joes. She passed the recipe down to our mom and our mom passed it down to us. So, this here is a bonafide, Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes family recipe for y'all...and one that doesn't involve a can of Manwich 🙂 Bonus: this recipe is pretty darn customizable for different dietary needs.

Note: If you love quick ad simple sandwiches, be sure to try our Hot Dogs in Crescent Rolls and Turkey Burger Sliders.

🤔 What are Sloppy Joes?

The Sloppy Joe sandwich is an American dish that consists of ground beef, onion, a tomato-based sauce with Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings. It's served on a hamburger bun.

Apparently there is some debate about the origins of the Sloppy Joe sandwich, and why the sandwiches are called 'sloppy joes'. The most popular theory traces the Sloppy Joe back to mid-20th century Iowa. According to wonderopolis.org, a chef from Iowa named Joe added tomato sauce to his "loose" meat sandwiches, and the Sloppy Joe was born!

hand holding sloppy joes and two sandwiches resting on a plate

Note: If your kids loves sandwiches, be sure to also check out these 10 Best Sliders for Kids! Quick, delicious and perfect for little hands!

🥫 What Goes into the Sauce?

While many Sloppy Joe recipes call for Ketchup or a simple tomato sauce, we prefer Chili sauce for its added spice and flavor. For our Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe, we combine our chili sauce with cheddar cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

pouring chili sauce into pyrex
🍞 Best Bread for Sloppy Joes

We prefer traditional hamburger buns, but choose a bun that your family likes best! Brioche buns, pretzel rolls or sandwich rolls are other great options. To make this dish even more kid-friendly, consider using slider buns which are perfect for little hands.

🛒 Ingredients
supplies for Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

Notes on Ingredients:

  • Sauce- We love the flavor of Heinz Chili sauce. However, a simple tomato sauce or Ketchup may also be used for the sauce.
  • Meat- While we like ground beef in our Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe, ground turkey, pork or chicken can also be used. Beyond Meat's Beefy Crumbles are an excellent vegan option.
  • Bread- Traditional hamburger buns are ideal, but choose a bun that your family likes best!

Note: Consider holding onto your green bell pepper stem for this adorable Peppers Art craft.

👩‍🍳 Instructions

Step 1: Sauté Veggies

🥄 Kids Step: Help chop veggies! We're big fans of these kid-friendly knives.

cucumber, onion, garlic and peppers cooking in pan

Step 2: Cook Meat

🥄 Kids Step: Use a baster to remove excess liquid from pan.* Make sure your kiddo empties the baster into an old can or jar, and you dispose of the grease in the trash (not sink drain).

cooking ground beef and veggies for sloppy joes in pan

Step 3: Make Sauce

🥄 Kids Step: Measure and combine sauce ingredients. We always use our tried and true Pyrex Measuring Cup to measure liquid ingredients.

adding chili sauce to meat and veggie mixture for old fashioned sloppy joes recipe

Step 4: Assemble Sandwiches

🥄 Kids Step: Let kids add toppings. They love this job!

three sloppy joes stacked in buns

*Note: For toddlers especially, these tasks require adult supervision and/or assistance, as items may be sharp, hot or otherwise dangerous.

🍟 What to Serve with Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes

We love pairing this Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe with something crunchy, like potato chips or a simple pasta side, like this Creamy Vegetable Pasta. Here are some other sides worth considering:

  • Baked potato
  • Fries or tater tots
  • Grapefruit, Avocado and Arugula Salad
  • Sliced fruit or fruit salad
  • Bow Tie Pasta Salad
  • Three Bean Salad
  • Sliced cucumbers or carrot sticks
  • Vegan Mac and Cheese
  • Coleslaw

🧊 Storing and Reheating Sloppy Joes

Store-The sloppy joe mixture can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-4 days.

Freeze-The meat mixture can also be stored in the freezer in an airtight container (separate from buns) for 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Reheat- To reheat the meat mixture, simply place the meat in a saucepan, cover, and heat on low, stirring regularly. To thicken the sauce, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of water or beef broth. Once the meat is warmed through, spoon onto buns and serve!


Are Sloppy Joes healthy?

Sloppy Joes are typically made with ground beef, which is high in protein. To make your Sloppy Joes healthier, consider buying lean ground beef or using ground turkey or chicken. You can also add more veggies to your sandwich and cut back on the amount of cheese.

What is a Manwich?

Manwich is a brand of Sloppy Joe sauce that can be purchased in a can at the grocery store.

What toppings go on Sloppy Joes?

Many different toppings can be added to Sloppy Joes! It's common to dress your Sloppy Joe like a burger, adding things like lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and pickles. The options are endless!

What can be used in place of chili sauce?

There are lots of variations to a Sloppy Joe sauce. Some use tomato sauce, Ketchup or tomato paste/water as the base of their sauce. Others use Barbecue sauce instead of a tomato-based sauce.

🧂 Variations

  • Make it Vegan! First, replace the meat with pea protein crumbles. I'm a huge fan of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles. I've used them for years to make vegetarian chili and it is soooo delicious. I'm definitely a meat eater and I can't tell the difference. Worth noting is that these crumbles are high in protein and also gluten-free. Second, worcestershire sauce is actually not vegan because it has anchovies. But Annie's makes a really good vegan worcestershire sauce that you can use instead. Third, obviously eliminate the cheese. Violife makes a good vegan cheese substitute. Check out their vegan cheddar cheese.
  • Make it Vegetarian! See above for replacing the beef with pea protein crumbles.
  • Make it Gluten Free! All you have to do is buy some gluten-free buns. Everything else in the recipe is gluten free. Another idea is to serve the Sloppy Joe mix on top of rice...that's delicious!
  • Make it Dairy Free! Simply ditch the cheese. Violife makes a good vegan, non-dairy cheese substitute. Check out their vegan cheddar cheese.
sloppy joes close up on plate
👶🏼 Modify for Picky Eaters

  • Scale to size! Anyone who's ever had a Sloppy Joe knows that it's supposed to be a big, hearty, messy sandwich. Little dudes may be more likely to eat it if you scale it to their size. Buy some King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and make mini Sloppy Joes. Kids will prefer a sandwich that's their size and they'll love the sweet flavor. It's also easier to have seconds this way.
  • Kids pick the sides! Popular picks for our kids are baby carrots, frozen peas, steamed broccoli, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and corn chips.

🧶 Craft for this Recipe
cow print vase with flowers

Turn your recyclables into art with this adorable Cow-Themed Tissue Paper Vase! This recyclable craft can be a coin holder, vase, you name it!

🍽 Other Sandwiches We Love

Best Philly Cheesesteak Recipe

The Easiest Turkey Burger Sliders

Perfect Picnic Chicken Salad Sandwich

The 10 Best Sliders for Kids (Quick and Simple!)

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Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe
Recipe details
  • 6  servings
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 18 Minutes Total time: 28 min
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  • ▢ 2 Tablespoon cooking oil
  • ▢ 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • ▢ 1/2 cup green pepper, finely chopped
  • ▢ 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ▢ 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ▢ 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • ▢ 2 pounds ground beef
  • ▢ 1 cup chili sauce
  • ▢ 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ▢ 1 Teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ▢ 2 dashes worcestershire sauce
  • ▢ 6 hamburger buns

Heat a large pan on low-medium heat. Add cooking oil and then saute celery, pepper, onion and garlic with the salt for 2-3 mins, stirring occasionally.
Increase heat to medium and add ground beef. Cook until beef is no longer pink, breaking up the beef and stirring frequently. Strain the meat (I like the fine mesh strainer that comes with this set) or use a baster to remove excess liquid when done.
Add in chili sauce, cheese, mustard and worcestershire sauce. Stir until well blended.
Spoon beef mixture onto hamburger buns and serve.
  • To plate...serve on burger buns with desired toppings. FYI, using mini, slider buns makes this a fun meal for kids.
  • If you can't find chili sauce, you can use any of these instead: tomato sauce, ketchup, tomato paste & water mix, or BBQ sauce.
  • You can easily replace the ground beef with ground turkey, ground chicken, or Beyond Meat's vegan Beefy Crumbles.
Marcie and Julie at Platein28
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  • Vi White Vi White on Dec 28, 2022

    Easy Recipe for Sloppy Joes:

    1/4 chopped onion

    1 TBL cooking oil

    1 pound ground beef or ground turkey

    1 can Vegetable soup

    2 TBL yellow mustard

    1/2 can water (if needed to thin).

    Cook onion in oil until translucent. Add and cook the meat until browned.

    Add the whole can of vegetable soup and mustard. Mix thoroughly.

    Heat until bubbly. Serve on a bun or in a bowl.

    I find it best in a bowl with a crusty roll or bread. I found this several years ago on a Campbell Vegetable Soup label. We love it!

    • See 1 previous
    • Arline Kay Arline Kay on Jun 04, 2023

      I think it's rude to list YOUR recipe below hers. Make your own listing, provide photos, and then post it somewhere. Don't ride on her coattails.

  • Bob33561653 Bob33561653 on May 08, 2023

    So, what’s the shocking ingredient?

    • See 3 previous
    • Bob33561653 Bob33561653 on May 09, 2023

      to Chrissie - I don’t see soup listed as an ingredient. No, I wouldn’t like that either. My sister in law puts grated carrots in hers, and that sounds good. She started doing it to stretch her recipe to feed her big family.