Sloppy Joes Sandwiches Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 30 min.
Who doesn't love a classic sloppy joe recipe? Customize your homemade sloppy joes by mixing in veggies or melting cheese on top.

Updated: Jun. 20, 2024

Sloppy joes are an all-American classic. They’re a favorite kid-friendly food, and making them from scratch is the best way to know exactly what goes into the mix. You can easily prepare this crowd-pleasing sloppy joe recipe for your family or just yourself.

Why are sloppy joes called sloppy joes?

There are many origin stories of the sloppy joe recipe. One is that it was born in 1918 at a bar in Havana, Cuba, owned by José Abeal y Otero. He changed the name of his establishment after his American friends gave him the nickname “Sloppy Joe.” He had sandwiches on his menu, but they weren’t much like the sloppy joes we enjoy today.

Another story goes that a second Sloppy Joe’s Bar was christened in 1933 in Key West, Florida. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was a regular at the bar, and suggested that the owner rename it after the popular bar in Cuba. This is where the sandwich was crafted into the more recognizable version we know today.

Most people, however, believe that sloppy joes appeared first in the ’20s from a cook at Ye Old Tavern in Sioux City, Iowa, by the name of Joe. He combined tomato sauce with seasoned ground beef in a loose meat sandwich, and the first recipe for how to make sloppy joes was created.

While the master chef behind this beloved sandwich is still up for debate, the most important fact remains—they are so good to eat.

Sloppy Joe Ingredients

  • Ground beef
  • Ketchup
  • Water
  • Brown sugar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Prepared mustard
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt
  • Hamburger buns

Directions

Step 1: Cook and drain beef

In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat until nicely browned, and then drain.

Step 2: Add ingredients

Return the meat to the pan over medium heat and add in the remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer.

Step 3: Simmer and serve

Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then serve them up on sliced buns—pickle chips optional.

Sloppy Joe Variations

There are endless varieties of sloppy joes. This recipe is perfect if you prefer the classic flavor. But you could jazz it up by turning it into sloppy joe pasta or even sloppy joe pizza!

Sloppy Joe Tips

Do you drain the meat for sloppy joes?

We suggest draining the browned beef, because excess grease serves as a barrier to sloppy joe seasonings. You’ll want the beef to absorb these wonderful flavors as it cooks.

How do you thicken sloppy joes?

If your meat mixture seems too thin after simmering for 15 to 20 minutes, cook, uncovered, until it reaches the desired consistency, stirring frequently. You could also try making a thickening agent by combining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Stir into the filling towards the end of cooking time and simmer until thickened.

What can I add to sloppy joes?

Sloppy joes are excellent for sparking your creativity! Stir in chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, green chilies or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. You can even top the filling with pickles or a slice of melted cheese. To really ramp up your sloppy joe game, check out these unique sloppy joe recipes or any of these quick sloppy joe recipes.

Watch how to Make Sloppy Joes Sandwiches

Sloppy Joes Sandwiches

Prep Time 30 min
Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 hamburger buns, split

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the ketchup, water, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve on buns.

Nutrition Facts

1 sandwich: 439 calories, 16g fat (6g saturated fat), 75mg cholesterol, 1360mg sodium, 46g carbohydrate (17g sugars, 2g fiber), 27g protein.