You won’t believe how unbelievably fast, easy, and tasty this Sloppy Joe Recipe is! My recipe is 100% from-scratch (no ketchup!) for the best sloppy joes you’ve ever had. Makes a great weeknight dinner! Recipe includes a how-to video.
Quick & Easy Sloppy Joes
Skip the stuff in the can and make this homemade sloppy joe recipe instead! Sloppy joes are a favorite easy weeknight meal in my house, and I figured it was about time to share my recipe with you. My version comes together in under 30 minutes AND is made completely from scratch (and without ketchup!). Serve it with a side of coleslaw or broccoli salad and you’ve got yourself a filling dinner!
I use several key ingredients in my sloppy joes including smoked paprika (remember this from my chicken and rice soup?), ground mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and worcestershire sauce. The end result is perfectly balanced–just a touch smokey, the right balance of savory and sweet, satisfying and just so delicious.
My sloppy joe recipe is:
- Fast: ready in just 25 minutes.
- Simple: everything cooks in one pan!
- Plentiful: feeds six people.
- Kid-friendly: not too spicy and perfectly sweet.
- Homemade: no pre-made sauce or seasoning packets here!
What You Need
I prefer to make my sloppy joes without ketchup, so you won’t see that in the photo above. Instead, you’ll notice:
- Tomato paste. Some recipes use tomato sauce or ketchup, but I like to use tomato paste instead for huge depth of flavor. I like to use double-concentrated if I can find it.
- Peppers and onions. These round out the flavor of the sloppy joes. I used a red bell pepper, but you could certainly use green bell pepper instead.
- Spices. Including smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, and black pepper. If you don’t have mustard powder, you can use a teaspoon of prepared yellow mustard instead.
- Worcestershire sauce. A classic sloppy joe ingredient!
- Ground beef. Ground turkey or chicken can work too. And yes, the ground beef in the photo above is frozen, but I made sure it was thawed completely before cooking it.
SAM’S TIP: Beef broth is my preference for sloppy joes, but you can chicken broth or even my homemade chicken stock instead.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Sloppy Joes
- Cook the onion and pepper until softened, then add the ground beef and cook until browned.
- Stir in the spices.
- Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and worcestershire, then drizzle in the broth.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened.
SAM’S TIP: 4 tablespoons (or ¼ cup) may seem like a lot of sugar, but keep in mind that the average sloppy joe recipe uses sugar and ketchup (which contains quite a bit of sugar!). I typically use all 4 tablespoons called for, but you can start with just 3 tablespoons and then taste-test to see if you need the last tablespoon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Just like my homemade BBQ sauce, we’re skipping the ketchup today to avoid the additives and take control over the flavor. I promise you won’t miss it!
After adding all ingredients, let the sauce simmer and continue to cook without a lid. It will reduce and thicken this way without the need for thickeners like cornstarch.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
The Best Sloppy Joe Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion about ½ a medium onion
- ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1 lb ground beef I like to use 90%
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder or 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup tomato paste 4 oz (121g)
- 3-4 Tablespoons light brown sugar firmly packed
- 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup chicken broth beef broth, or water (118ml)
- Burger buns for serving
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add onion and pepper and cook until softened.
- Add ground beef and cook until browned, crumbling as you cook. Drain off excess grease if needed.
- Add spices (smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder (or mustard), salt and pepper) and stir into the beef.
- Add tomato paste, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and worcestershire and stir until well-combined.
- Drizzle in broth or water.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
- Serve warm on buns.
BeefYou may substitute ground chicken or ground turkey for the ground beef.
SugarThis may seem like a lot of sugar, but keep in mind most sloppy joe recipes add ketchup, which contains quite a bit of sugar, in addition to also typically adding more sugar on top of that. I typically use all 4 tablespoons called for, but you can start with just 3 Tablespoons and then taste-test after step 6 and add the last tablespoon if desired.
Broth/waterBeef broth will yield the richest flavor, chicken stock works well, and water is my least favorite (least flavor) but will absolutely work and yield tasty results if you have neither beef or chicken broth.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.