Our Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe is the real deal! Make these quick and delicious sandwiches in under 30 minutes with only ONE pan! This little bite of Americana is so simple, quick, and satisfying.
Note: Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click on an affiliate link and purchase an item, we will receive a commission. However, we genuinely recommend all the products we link.
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 joe 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.
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!
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.
The Best Sides for Sloppy Joes
We love pairing our Old Fashion Sloppy Joes with something crunchy, like potato chips. Here are some others 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 other veggies
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
Other Sandwiches We Love
How to Make Our Old Fashion Sloppy Joes
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 sloppy joes, ground turkey, pork or chicken can also be used. Beyond Meat's Beefy Crumbles are an excellent vegan option.
- Bread-We prefer traditional hamburger buns, but choose a bun that your family likes best!
STEP 1: Sauté Veggies
🥄 Kids Step: Help chop veggies! We're big fans of these kid-friendly knives.
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).
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.
STEP 4: Assemble Sandwiches
🥄 Kids Step: Let kids add toppings. They love this job!
*Note: For toddlers especially, these tasks require adult supervision and/or assistance, as items may be sharp, hot or otherwise dangerous.
Sloppy joes are typically made with ground beef. While ground beef is high in protein, it should be consumed in moderation because of its high fat content. To make your sloppy joes healthier, consider buying lean ground beef or using ground turkey or chicken instead. You can also add more veggies to your sandwich and cut back on the amount of cheese.
Manwich is a brand of sloppy joe sauce that can be purchased in a can at the grocery store.
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!
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.
Customize your Sloppy Joes
- 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.
Modify this Dish 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
Turn your recyclables into art with this adorable Cow Bottle Craft! This recyclable craft can be a coin holder, vase, you name it!
Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe
- 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.
- 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.
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. While we are not certified nutritionists, we work with a WordPress-integrated nutrition API to calculate our recipes' ingredient values.