Our sloppy joe recipe is easy and full of delicious flavors with real ingredients. Forget the canned sauce or mix packet and find the very best homemade sloppy joes right here!
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Sloppy joe is a great weeknight dinner recipe. This is my favorite sloppy joe recipe because it is very easy but also uses real ingredients and is packed full of flavor. My kids love it and my husband loves it. Winner winner sloppy joe dinner!
If you love sloppy joes, check out my sloppy joe noodle skillet, too!
About this Recipe
The sloppy joe sandwich I ate growing up used just 3 ingredients for sloppy joe sauce -- brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard. That is how I continued to make them after moving out and getting married. They lacked in flavor so we rarely craved them for dinner. But, ever since I created THIS sloppy joe recipe, we want them all the time!
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Ingredients for Sloppy Joe Recipe
(full printable recipe at end of this post)
Below are the ingredients you need to make sloppy joes.
- Ground beef (1 lb lean)
- Onion (half)
- Brown sugar (3 tablespoons)
- Mexican stewed tomatoes (15 oz. can)
- Paprika (2 teaspoons)
- Chili powder (2 teaspoons)
- Tomato paste (heaping tablespoon)
- Dijon mustard (1 tablespoon)
If you cannot find Mexican stewed tomatoes (in the canned tomatoes aisle) then you can substitute with a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes instead. Make sure you drain it first. I can easily find the Mexican stewed tomatoes at one grocery store, but for some reason never at another.
How to Make Sloppy Joe
Since the sloppy joe sauce is made from scratch, this recipe is so much better than dumping in a can of sauce or using a dry mix. It is so very simple, you will not spend much time on it at all. To make sloppy joes, follow these easy steps:
- Cook the ground beef and onions in a large skillet; drain grease.
- Stir in spices, brown sugar, mustard and tomato paste. Cook 1 more minute.
- Add stewed tomatoes. Cook until thickened.
- Serve on buns.
Click here for the full recipe ingredients and instructions.
Sauce - You want the sauce to reduce only a little. If you cook on too high of heat or let it reduce too much, you'll end up with dry sloppy joes. Keep the moisture there by not over-cooking.
Flavor - The beauty of making the sauce from scratch is you can control the flavor. Any of the ingredients can be adjusted to your taste preference. Make it less sweet by reducing the amount of sugar, or add more heat by increasing the chili powder. The possibilities are endless!
Kid-friendly - This isn't super spicy, but it can be a little spicy for kids. I wait to add the chili powder until after serving theirs.
Crock pot - I've never understood the necessity to make sloppy joes in a slow cooker because it's such an quick and easy meal. Instead, if you need to make a large batch to keep warm for a party, cook it quickly on the stovetop and then transfer to the Crock Pot to keep warm.
Equipment - I use a nonstick 12-inch skillet for this recipe. I also use a wooden spatula to break up the meat and stewed tomatoes.
Storage and Leftovers
Store: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freeze: This sloppy joe meat can be frozen. To freeze, let cool then transfer to a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Reheat: Reheat refrigerated sloppy joe meat in a microwave before placing on bun. Thaw frozen sloppy joe meat overnight in the fridge then reheat.
Make-ahead: You can make sloppy joe meat ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Side Dishes for Sloppy Joes
Make your sloppy joe a meal with our most popular side dishes:
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This article was originally published in May 2020 and updated with optimized photos in February 2022 with no changes to the recipe.
Sloppy Joe Recipe
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- ½ onion , peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar , light or dark
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons chili powder , more or less to desired heat level
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 15 oz. can Mexican stewed tomatoes , drained
- Salt & pepper , to taste
- Heat the beef and onions over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until meat is browned and onions are just soft; drain excess grease.
- Mix in the brown sugar, mustard, paprika, chili powder and tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the stewed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.
- Continue to cook over medium heat while breaking up tomatoes for 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to your preference. Remove from heat and serve on buns.
- If you cannot find Mexican stewed tomatoes, you can substitute with a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes. (I typically find Mexican stewed tomatoes at Walmart, not Kroger.)
- Nutritional information is an estimate only, and does not include the bun.