This is truly the best Sloppy Joe recipe! It's quick and easy comfort food that makes extremely tasty sandwiches that are perfect for busy weeknights. Our version has a special ingredient to take it over the top.
Why you'll love it
It's really easy to make Sloppy Joes from scratch! You might be tempted to buy canned sauce, but making it in your own kitchen tastes so much better, and you know exactly what's going in it: simple, wholesome ingredients that you probably have on hand already. Just picture that first bite of the soft bun and tender ground beef smothered in a rich sauce. It's a whole lot of messy, and we're here for it.
Let's talk about the flavor of these Sloppy Joes. It's savory, tangy, a little sweet, and downright delicious. We're using smoked paprika as our not-so-ingredient to take it over the top. These homemade Sloppy Joes are super saucy, and your family will enjoy these for an inexpensive and filling meal. They'll give you all that childhood nostalgia of eating them around the campfire!
I think you'll also like my Sloppy Joe Casserole for a fun twist.
Ingredients you will need
- Ground beef - I like at least 90% lean so you don't need to drain a lot of excess fat, and it's a nice balance between leanness and taste
- Onion - any variety is fine, but sweet (Vidalia) is our go-to
- Bell pepper - usually green is used, but whatever color is great
- Ketchup - for a bit of sweetness, but not too sweet.
- Mustard - yellow mustard amps up the flavor even more. Don't leave it out!
- Garlic powder - I love infusing it with garlicky goodness for depth of flavor
- Smoked paprika - my special twist
- Red pepper flakes - to give it a gentle warmth without making it spicy
- Worcestershire sauce - this is a staple in my pantry to add another savory layer to all kinds of sauces
- Vinegar - either white or apple cider works. It adds a touch of tang
- Beef broth - to make it that much richer and add moisture
How to make Sloppy Joes
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Brown the beef and get a nice crust on it, then add in the onions and green bell pepper and continue cooking until they've softened.
Add in the sauce ingredients, and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the sauce has reduced to your liking. Season with salt & pepper, and serve in toasted buns. That's it!
Substitutions and variations
- This recipe is kid-friendly as written, but if you're concerned about the crushed red pepper flakes, simply omit them. They don't make the dish spicy, but they do add a little bit of kick.
- If you do like spice, double them for more heat, or even add a couple dashes of hot sauce or some cayenne pepper!
- You can sub ground turkey if you prefer. It'll be a bit more dry and less flavorful than beef, so be sure to add a tablespoon or so of olive oil when you're cooking the meat in the first step.
What to serve with Sloppy Joes
- I love using brioche buns or hamburger buns. Be sure to toast the bun on the inside to make it a little crispy (just toss it in the skillet). Serve it with pickles and potato chips on the side! You can also try a side salad with my Homemade Olive Garden Salad Dressing.
- You could even serve the meat mixture over top of spaghetti or baked potatoes for another quick meal option.
- Sloppy Joes can be topped with some grated cheddar or other melty cheese if that's your thing.
Leftovers and storage
- Sloppy Joe leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
- To reheat, cover in a saucepan over low heat until it's warmed through, or microwave in intervals. You may need to add a splash of water when reheating.
- You can freeze the Sloppy Joe mixture for up to 2-3 months no problem. I'd thaw it first in the fridge overnight.
Did you make this Sloppy Joe recipe? I would love to hear from you in the comments below! You can also find me on Instagram to show me your creations.
Easy Sloppy Joe Recipe
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper chopped
- 3/4 cup tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika see note
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup beef broth or water
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the ground beef to a skillet over medium-high heat and break it up a little bit with your spoon, leaving large chunks. Let it cook, undisturbed, for about 8 minutes, or until it forms a nice browned crust. Give it a stir/flip it and cook for another 5 minutes or so. If there's a lot of excess fat in the skillet, spoon it out (leave about a tablespoon or so in there).
- Stir in the onions and green bell pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. As it cooks, break the beef up into smaller pieces with your spoon.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the ketchup, mustard, garlic powder, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and beef broth. Let it cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring often, until the sauce thickens up to your liking (don't let it get too dry).
- Give it a taste and season with salt & pepper as needed. If you want really sweet Sloppy Joes, add in some brown sugar (I don't add any since I think the ketchup is sweet enough).
- Serve in toasted buns. To toast the insides of the buns, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the buns and watch them closely until the insides have browned nicely (you'll need to do this in batches).
- I add smoked paprika to these Sloppy Joes to give them a nice smoky flavor. You can leave it out if you prefer.
- If you want a shortcut or prefer not to add the onion and green bell pepper, you can leave them out.
- Recipe serves 4-6 depending on how much you stuff the sandwiches.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information. Buns are not included (calories vary a lot depending what you buy).