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.


 

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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Recipe Rating




364 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I've tried several other recipies and this one is the best. I made double the amount and it was gone in ten minutes. The family loved it.

  2. 5 stars
    Better than store bought! This was sooo good and it tasted every bit like what you get in a can but a thousand percent better and so fresh. Very easy to make with ingredients all on hand. Didn’t change a thing and used 2 TBSP of brown sugar. Would probably use 1 TBSP next time. Definitely going in our rotation. Thank you for such a great easy blast from the past recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    my man is about to propose because of this recipe.

    i made it vegan style instead and used beyond meat. turned out amazing. also put coleslaw on top of it.

  4. 5 stars
    The flavor of this sloppy joe sauce is wonderful. This is what I make when I have ground beef on hand. It's a classic that never goes out of style.

    1. 5 stars
      I fixed this and absolutely love it. The sauce isn't too sweet and has a great savory taste. One question though, the calories amount was listed but not the serving size. What is the amount? Thank you.

      1. Hi JoAnn! I'm so glad you enjoyed this. 🙂 The recipe makes four servings, so the calorie count is for 1/4 of the sloppy joe sauce. Hope that helps!

  5. 5 stars
    I made this and we all loved it. I am making this recipe for about 20 people soon and was wondering if you have ever made it up and froze it?

  6. 5 stars
    This sloppy joe recipe was a huge hit! So much better than the canned stuff. Going to make these regularly for sure.

  7. 5 stars
    Yum! There's nothing better than homemade sloppy joes and your recipe did not disappoint. My whole family loved it!

  8. 5 stars
    This really does make the Best Sloppy Joe's ever.! My husband wants no other recipe since having this one. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. 5 stars
    Tastes better than with the packet seasoning without the additives or preservatives, exactly what I was going for! This is my only sloppy joe recipe from here on out, loved it! Thank you!

  10. 5 stars
    I had thawed out patties of hamburger - some 93%, some 80/20, and wondered what to do with just one pound. After the DH said Sloppy Joe's? I went looking for a recipe since I had never really made them before, but had all the ingredients. Made pretty much to the recipe but sauteed died onions and red bell peppers separately, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a tad more Worcestershire. While he watched the game I le is simmer. Voila! It was really good and easy; It's a keeper for a quick meal. I'm going to look for more of your recipes.

    1. 5 stars
      Pretty tasty and simple to make. I always prefer to make dishes than buying it out of a can or box. I did add onions and green peppers and a little extra Worcestershire sauce as someone mentioned. But I did add two tablespoons of brown sugar instead of four and for me that was too sweet so next time I'll just use one tbsp. Simple as that. Thank you!

  11. 5 stars
    I'm not one to write reviews but my family absolutely LOVES these so I just had to! I have had to make them going on the third night in a row! we have a newborn who gets gassy and fussy around dinner time of course and a picky 4 year old so I'm always looking for something quick but yummy! it is so quick and so easy and so yummy! 5 stars for sure! thank you so much for the recipe:)

  12. 2 stars
    I wanted to like this...but it was heavy on the worcestershire flavor. I also felt that it needed more onion and just more "zip" , perhaps more ketchup. I don't know but I wouldn't make again.

    1. 5 stars
      I used lean ground turkey and made this because I didn’t have canned manwich. I will always make my own now that I know how easy and delicious it is! I actually had all of the ingredients, which is rare. I doubled up on the garlic and used less brown sugar. It was heavy on the garlic but we love garlic so that was a plus! I will add chopped, sautéed onions next go. But really tasty and can be tailored to fit! Great on white rice too!

  13. 5 stars
    WoW! This is the BEST SLOPPY JOE recipe I have ever made! I certainly will be keeping this recipe in my favorite recipe folder! The sauce is to die for!! I am planning on making your Slow Cooker Chicken Sloppy Joe recipe soon. I am positive it will be just as good as this recipe. I also thinking I may make this sauce and add Italian seasoning and Oregano to make a spaghetti sauce. I just love this recipe. Simple and very easy to make. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    1. 5 stars
      My husband loves this Sloppy Joe recipe. I use ground turkey instead of ground beef. I omit the garlic cloves and garlic powder (he doesn't like garlic at all). He eats these open face on toasted buns and has sometimes poured it over a baked potato. This recipe is a winner for me!

  14. 5 stars
    I haven't made the sloppy joes yet! But reading the recipe.l know it is how my Mother made her sloppy joes! Thanks for the recipe!