The VERY BEST Sloppy Joe Recipe

The VERY BEST Sloppy Joe recipe is delicious, quick, and easy to make. A scrumptious, from-scratch sloppy joe sauce made with real ingredients puts it over the top. Hundreds of rave reviews agree that these Homemade Sloppy Joes are fantastic!

Sloppy Joe on plate with text overlay stating The Best Homemade Sloppy Joe recipe.

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There aren't many dinners that you can get on the table faster than whipping up Sloppy Joes. And while the store-bought sauce that rhymes with San-wich might make this meal even quicker, it's got some less-than-ideal ingredients. After all, I tend to avoid high fructose corn syrup in my sweets, much less my dinner.

So what's a Sloppy Joe lovin' family to do? Why, put together your own quick and easy, all-natural sauce, of course! Once you make these amazing homemade Sloppy Joes, y'all, you won't go back.

Aerial view of Sloppy Joe recipe piled on bun on plate with beans and salad.

Ingredients

This sloppy joe sauce only takes a couple of minutes to stir together, it tastes soooo much better (in fact, you get to control how sweet and/or salty you want it), and you don't have to worry about any unnecessary additives!

Aerial view of labeled ingredients to make homemade Sloppy Joes with sloppy joe sauce.
  • Ground beef. I usually use 85/15 ground beef, but it's okay to use a leaner or fattier ratio, depending on what you have on hand. The grease gets drained either way. Alternatively, these homemade Sloppy Joes also turn out delicious using ground turkey.
  • Garlic. Fresh garlic is great, but to save time, I often use minced garlic in water, which I always keep in my refrigerator.
  • Tomato sauce. An 8-ounce can of tomato sauce is the perfect amount for this recipe. I sometimes use tomato puree (passata) instead if I already have a jar open in the fridge.
  • Ketchup. I prefer using an all-natural brand of ketchup without too much added sugar. As you'll see below, I like to control the sugar. 🙂 Keep this in mind as the sweetness of your ketchup will likely dictate how much additional sugar you want to (or don't want to) add.
  • Brown sugar. An important recipe note...use as much or as little brown sugar as you like! Some people prefer totally savory Sloppy Joes while others like their sandwiches on the sweeter side. You may also substitute a squeeze of honey in place of using brown sugar, which I often do.
  • Worcestershire sauce. For an extra savory undertone. Again, you may tweak the amount to your liking.
  • Prepared mustard. Believe it or not, a little squirt of plain ol' yellow mustard adds depth of flavor.
  • Garlic powder + onion powder + fresh black pepper. For further seasoning.
Easy Sloppy Joe Recipe close-up on bun, with sloppy joe sauce dripping onto plate.

How to Make Sloppy Joes

(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)

I shared my Slow Cooker Chicken Sloppy Joes awhile back, which feature this same homemade sloppy joe sauce. But sometimes you don't have the forethought (or the time) to toss something into the crockpot first thing in the morning.

So if you still want an effortless, family-pleasing meal come 5 o'clock, make this tried-and-true Sloppy Joe recipe!

I like to start out by mixing up my sauce and setting it aside so that it's ready to go once my meat is browned.

  1. Measure the Sloppy Joe sauce ingredients directly into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and stir together until well combined.
Homemade Sloppy Joe sauce ingredients in measuring cup.
Sloppy Joe sauce recipe stirred together in measuring cup.
  1. Brown your ground beef (or turkey) and drain the fat.
Cooking ground beef in pot.
Browned ground beef on stove.
Pot of browned ground beef.
  1. Stir the sloppy joe sauce into the drained ground beef.
How to make Sloppy Joes.
Sloppy Joe sauce and beef ready to be stirred together for the best sloppy joe.
Sloppy joes recipe simmering on stove.
  1. Allow the mixture to simmer on the stove, stirring occasionally.

Easy-peasy!

Pot of simmering Sloppy Joes.

Sloppy Joe Recipe Additions

My family likes our Sloppy Joes on the plain and simple side. However, if your family likes yours with onions and/or peppers, they're easy to add!

  1. Before browning the ground beef, dice up half an onion and half a bell pepper and cook them in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened (about 5 to 10 minutes).
  2. Remove the onions and peppers from the pot and proceed with the recipe, cooking the meat and then stirring the onions/peppers back in at the same time you add the sauce.

How Long to Simmer Sloppy Joe Sauce

This Sloppy Joe recipe is flexible and turns out tasty whether you need to make it in a flash or you have extra time to allow it to simmer.

At a minimum, you should let the mixture simmer long enough to heat through once you've stirred the sauce into the meat. I'd recommend 10 minutes of simmering, if possible.

However, if you have the time, the flavors will really meld and develop if you allow your mixture to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes (or even longer). Just keep the heat low and stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning. And if the sauce starts to get too thick, stir in a little bit of water to buy you more simmering time.

Close-up of Sloppy Joe recipe that's easy and the best, made with a homemade sloppy joe sauce, piled on a bun on a plate with sides.

Crock Pot Option

One trick I sometimes use is to make this recipe on the stove and then transfer it to a slow cooker (set to WARM) just before I go pick up my kids from school. When it's time to eat that evening, dinner is already ready and the flavor is extra yummy...double win!

Alternatively, if you need to whip up this Sloppy Joe recipe more than an hour or two ahead of time, you can actually let the sloppy joe sauce do its cooking in the crock pot (as opposed to simply keeping it warm, as described above):

  1. Brown and drain the ground beef and transfer to a slow cooker.
  2. Add all of the sauce ingredients and stir well to combine.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the slow cooker with a spatula (so that the sauce around the edges doesn't burn), cover, and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours.
  4. Stir well and serve!

If you choose to make homemade Sloppy Joes this way, just keep in mind that if your particular model of slow cooker runs hot, the sauce may darken a bit around the edges. But if you're home, you can stir a couple of times during the cooking time to help prevent this.

Also, make sure your slow cooker is suitable to the size of the recipe. In other words, if you have a crock pot that's on the larger size, you may want to double or triple the recipe!

Homemade Sloppy Joe recipe in pot with spoon.

Other Ideas for Serving Sloppy Joes

Everybody knows that meaty Sloppy Joe sauce is scrumptious piled high on hamburger buns! But there are lots of other fantastic ways to enjoy it, whether you're wanting to put a new twist on a fresh batch or you're simply using up leftovers:

  • Turn it into a "casserole." For example, you could arrange tater tots on top, like this Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole, or bake a crust on top, similar to Cheeseburger Pie or a even a cornbread casserole.
  • Stir into mac & cheese or other pasta.
  • Sprinkle over nachos.
  • Fold into quesadillas.
  • Top baked potatoes (and then melt cheese over the top).
  • Spoon it over hot dogs in place of chili (like Chili Dogs).
  • Or similarly, spoon it over French fries and add cheese (like Chili Cheese Fries).
  • Stir it into queso for a hearty dip with tortilla chips.
  • Stuff it into bell peppers and then bake.
  • Layer it into grilled cheese sandwiches.

Have you tried any other creative ideas?

Close-up of Sloppy Joe Recipe on overflowing bun.

There's a reason this Sloppy Joe recipe is one of the all-time most popular recipes on the site, folks.

Kids adore it, but adults love it, too.

It's so simple but oh-so-good.

A side salad, some baked beans, and -- of course -- some thickly-sliced pickles on top of your Sloppy Joes, and...dinner is served!

Helpful Tips, Tricks, & Equipment

  • If you're making your own homemade Sloppy Joes in order to avoid processed ingredients, be sure to use all-natural ketchup.
  • The sauce in this Sloppy Joe recipe is intended to be slightly sweet, but it's really a matter of taste. If you prefer a more savory sauce, feel free to use less brown sugar. Additionally, you may use unrefined sugar or a squeeze of honey in place of the brown sugar, if you wish.
  • Along those same lines, if you'd like to make this meal even healthier by packing in some extra veggies unbeknownst to your kids (or your spouse), be sure to check out my How to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies post, which specifically addresses Sloppy Joes. 😉
  • My family loves homemade Sloppy Joes so much that I've also come up with a zesty Tex-Mex version...olè!
  • If, like me, you make a lot of ground beef (or ground turkey) recipes, this tool is pretty darn handy for breaking up your meat.
Sloppy Joes sandwich on a plate with beans and salad.
Closeup of Sloppy Joe recipe that's easy and the best, made with a homemade sloppy joe sauce, piled on a bun on a plate with sides.

The VERY BEST Sloppy Joe Recipe

The VERY BEST Sloppy Joe recipe is delicious, quick, and easy to make. A scrumptious homemade sloppy joe sauce made with real ingredients puts it over the top. Hundreds of rave reviews agree that these Homemade Sloppy Joes are fantastic!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 sandwiches
Calories: 258kcal
Print Pin Rate

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef (OR turkey)
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hamburger buns
  • Sliced pickles

Instructions

  • Make the sauce in a 2-cup glass measuring cup (or a medium bowl). Stir together the tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and freshly ground black pepper until well combined; set aside.
  • Set a large pot over medium-low heat. Add a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil, and saute the garlic for a minute or two until just fragrant and very light golden brown. Add ground beef, increase heat to medium/medium high, and cook until nicely browned with no pink remaining, breaking apart and stirring as the meat cooks. Drain the grease.
  • Pour the sauce over the browned meat, stir to combine, and simmer for at least 10 minutes until heated through, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve warm on hamburger buns or rolls with sliced pickles on top.

Equipment Needed

Video

Notes

  • This Sloppy Joe sauce is intended to be slightly sweet, but it's really a matter of taste. If you prefer a more savory sauce, feel free to use less brown sugar. Additionally, you may use unrefined sugar or even a squeeze of honey in place of the brown sugar, if you wish.
  • If you like your Sloppy Joe recipe with onions and peppers, you may dice up half an onion and half a bell pepper and cook them in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened (about 5 to 10 minutes) before browning the beef. Remove the onions and peppers from the pot and proceed with the recipe as directed, cooking the meat and then stirring the onions/peppers back in at the same time you add the sauce.
  • The simmering time is up to you. If you're in a hurry, 10 minutes is all you need. However, if you have more time, simmering for 30 to 45 minutes (or longer) will really allow the flavors of the sauce to develop and meld. Just remember to stir occasionally to prevent sticking/burning and add a splash of water if the sauce starts to get overly thick.

Nutrition

Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 742mg | Potassium: 714mg | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 400IU | Vitamin C: 6.8mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 3.7mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!
Toddler trying to touch a sloppy joes sandwich on a plate.

Post originally published on January 13, 2015 (back when a certain two-year-old couldn't keep her little marker-stained mitts away long enough for me to snap a few pictures) and updated on November 2, 2017, January 5, 2021, January 31, 2022, and May 10, 2023.

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4.97 from 475 votes (210 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




371 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this tonight for my 9,10 & 11 year old and they couldn’t eat them fast enough and wanted more after it was all gone. Best recipe ever. A million times better than the can stuff.

  2. 5 stars
    Easy and tasty . I used some fresh tomato sauce I had cooked down from garden tomatoes in place of canned sauce and let it simmer for good half hour . One night as traditional sloppy joes but they really loved the crescent roll wreath with some cheese , I used colbyjack . Lay out in a star pattern and bring the ends over the meat and cheese .bake about 15 minutes for a quick kid friendly meal.

  3. 5 stars
    My usual sloppy joe sauce calls for barbecue sauce, but we were out of it, so I searched for a recipe that didn't require it and found this one. Most also call for onions and green pepper. My husband doesn't like them, so I usually leave them out anyway. The whole family enjoyed this! It will be our new go-to.

  4. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! My kids didn’t like sloppy joes the last time I made them so it had been a couple years. They LOVED this recipe and the adults adored it too. It came together so easily. I made the sauce while the peppers and onion cooked, dumped them right in the sauce when done and I just had one pan and one bowl to wash after dinner. I was short on time so I only simmered for 10 minutes and the recipe turned out so delicious. My sister and I always put corn on our sloppy joes and my husband puts potato chips on his. Such and easy, fun to eat recipe. Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and followed the recipe. I chose to add the onion as well My son said he prefers this over the canned sauce so I will opt to always use this in the future. Thank you!

  6. I was thinking about filling some pastry dough or empanada with this for some not so sloppy Joe pockets to go.

  7. 5 stars
    THANK YOU so much for a recipe that does not depend on bell peppers for flavor. My husband is allergic to them so any recipe that uses them I tend to avoid. I was delighted to find a recipe that doesn't use them at all rather than having to adapt one that I would have to leave them out of and adjust accordingly. We will be trying this tonight for supper. I'm looking forward to it, I haven't had sloppy joes in years.

  8. 5 stars
    Great recipe! Easy, so good I’m replacing my mother’s recipe with this one. It is a little sweet, but easily adjustable, and I added a dash of cayenne. Best flavor and thickness is achieved after simmering for at least an hour. Thanks!

  9. 5 stars
    My daughter in law made your recipe for all 18 of us on our Utah vacation last month.. all of us loved it and asked for the recipe!

  10. Do you think this could be frozen after cooking? Expecting baby #2 in a few weeks and trying to have some meals ready in the freezer!

    1. Absolutely! This recipe freezes great. As a tip, if you put it into freezer-thickness plastic bags, squeeze out the air, and flatten into a thin layer, you can stand the bags up like books on a shelf once frozen...AND they'll thaw quicker, too. 🙂

    2. 5 stars
      My 7yr old granddaughter declares these the BEST sloppy Joes and she makes them herself! (supervised of course)
      Thanks for a great recipe!

  11. 5 stars
    My husband asked for sloppy joes for dinner tonight. I really didn’t want to cook, but I didn’t have any canned mix in the pantry. He usually doesn’t give me dinner suggestions, so I went to the internet. I’m happy to give this recipe a 5 star review. I whipped it up in no time, and we both love how it turned out. I used 2 tbsps of brown sugar, by the way. Who needs canned mix when this is so easy?!

    1. 5 stars
      I found your recipe and made it tonight. I was drawn to it because no onions (food intolerence) and no peppers (don't like them). I didn't put garlic in it (food intolerence) but used Garlic olive oil which I can have. I didn't mix the sauce separately, I just threw it all into the pot with the beef. It turned out so good! I will definitely make it again. I had mine on a GF roll. It was such comfort food. My family was happy to have a break from chicken. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

    1. 5 stars
      I got my husband hooked on this recipe! He grew up on the canned sauce but I grew up on this as the real sloppy joes! When we started dating I couldn't bring myself to use the canned stuff so almost 10 years later and I still come back to your page for the best Sloppy Joe's my husband has ever had! With onions added in of course 🙂

  12. 5 stars
    Delicious! I've made it a few times and it's a favorite. Easy recipe that delivers a wow! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  13. 5 stars
    This sloppy Joe recipe is so good, much better than the can! It was a hit with the whole family. Will definitely be making it again.

  14. 5 stars
    This is the BEST sloppy joe recipe, I will not purchase canned sloppy joe. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipe Samantha!

  15. 5 stars
    Totally great! I’ve never made Sloppy Joes ever and I found this recipe on my second search. It needs to be the first search! Fabulous flavor and I tripled the batch and am serving with baked beans and Hawaiian rolls. Will make again! Followed recipe to a T but omitted onion powder. Made it with ground Turkey instead of beef. Added extra black pepper and about 10 TBS light brown sugar. Drooling 🤤

  16. 5 stars
    Very, veRY, VERY good! Hubs been asking for sloppy joes and this was perfect!....not to mention easy and fast!

    Thank you!