Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

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If you're looking for an Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe like Grandma used to make, this is it! You'll love this quick and easy recipe that's ready in just 30 minutes. It uses simple ingredients to make classic sloppy joes your whole family will crave!

These meaty sandwiches are perfect for busy weeknights or anytime you want an easy meal on the dinner table. The tangy sauce is budget-friendly, which makes it a popular choice when dinner rolls around! 

Old fashioned sloppy joes recipe with pickles.
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Why You'll Love It

  • 30-Minute Meal: lunch or dinner is served in 30 minutes or less
  • Easy Dinner: as simple as browning ground beef and adding homemade sauce
  • Picky Eater Tested: even the pickiest eaters will approve of this recipe 
  • Freezes Well: makes the perfect meal prep item to freeze for later
  • Great Tailgate Sandwich: pop this recipe into a slow cooker and take it tailgating!
Homemade sloppy joes on a hamburger bun with sesame seeds.

My grandma made the best sloppy joe sandwiches! They were piled high on soft hamburger buns with pickles on top and potato chips on the side (to scoop up any meat that fell off the bun). 

Grandma's old fashioned sloppy joes recipe is a family favorite passed down through the generations. The thick sauce is rich and tangy with a hint of sweetness from a touch of brown sugar. It makes a messy and delicious loose meat sandwich, which one of the reasons kids love it so much!

If you like this recipe, try my other ground beef dishes such as Cheesy Skillet Spaghetti and Baked Ziti with Meatballs. Other tasty sandwiches you'll enjoy include Dutch Oven Pulled Pork and The Carolina Burger!

Sesame seed bun filled with meat mixture.

Ingredients You'll Need

You probably have most of these ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry which means you're that much closer to making homemade sloppy joes! See recipe card for quantities. 

  • ground beef - I used 80/20 ground beef, but feel free to change the fat content
  • onion - you can use a yellow, white or vidalia onion in this recipe
  • green pepper - while green pepper is traditional, yellow or red may be used also
  • ketchup - Heinz is my favorite brand of ketchup for this recipe
  • water - helps the meat mixture stay the right consistency
  • Worcestershire sauce - balances out the sweetness of the ketchup
  • brown sugar - you can use light or dark brown sugar
  • yellow mustard - the best choice for flavor is classic yellow mustard
  • garlic salt - regular table salt is fine if preferred
  • black pepper - freshly ground or regular black pepper works well 
  • hamburger buns - use seeded, unseeded, brioche, potato or pretzel buns
Ingredients needed for old fashioned sloppy joes recipe.

Equipment

  • large skillet
  • wooden spoon
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board

How to Make Sloppy Joes

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef, chopped onion and green bell pepper.

Green peppers and onions added to ground beef in a skillet.

2. Break apart the beef with a wooden spoon as it cooks, until the beef is browned and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the skillet.

Ground beef, peppers and onions.

3. Add the ketchup, water, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard, garlic salt and pepper to the skillet with the beef and vegetables.

Ingredients added to meat mixture in skillet.

4. Stir to combine all the ingredients, making sure the beef mixture is well coated with sauce.

Meat mixture after being cooked in a skillet.

5. Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended together and the sauce has thickened.

Meat sauce being mixed in a skillet.

6. Serve hot on hamburger buns.

Meat filling with top bun missing.

Expert Tips

  • Draining the excess fat after browning the meat results in less greasy sauce.
  • Simmering the mixture for at least 20 minutes helps to blend the flavors.
  • Adjust seasonings to personal taste, but do so after the mixture has simmered for best results.

Substitutions

This old school sloppy joe recipe is adaptable and can be easily doubled or halved to suit the number of servings you need. Below are ideas for substitutions if necessary:

  • Use ground turkey or ground chicken for a leaner protein option.
  • Although ketchup gives the sloppy joe its sweet and tangy flavor, you can sub tomato sauce or tomato paste mixed with vinegar and sugar. Some folks prefer using barbecue sauce. 
  • Substitute white sugar, maple syrup or honey if desired.
  • It's best not to substitute yellow mustard, but dijon mustard can be used in a pinch.
  • If you love a spicy kick, add a dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes during the simmering process.
  • Use garlic powder, chili powder or seasoned salt for a completely different flavor. 
Easy sloppy joes recipe on a hamburger bun.

What to Serve With Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes

  • Potato Chips: the crunch and saltiness of potato chips provides a nice contrast to saucy sloppy joes. 
  • Fire and Ice Pickles: the acidity and crunch can cut through the richness of the meat mixture.
  • Creamy Southern Coleslaw: a classic pairing, creamy and tangy coleslaw contrasts well with a meaty filling.
  • Tater Tots: these tasty tots have a crispy texture and saltiness that complements the sauce mixture.
  • Rainbow Salad: a light salad can offer a fresh counterpoint to the rich, saucy meat.
  • Smoked Baked Beans: the sweet and smoky flavors of baked beans are the perfect match.
  • Smoked Potato Salad: adds a little pellet grill smoke to your potato salad
  • Red Skin Potato Salad: a side of classic potato salad offers a creamy texture and tangy flavor that pairs well with a sloppy joe sandwich
  • Fruit Platter: a bowl of mixed fruit can provide a light and refreshing contrast.
Bun tilted on sloppys joe recipe with chips on a white plate.

Storage and Freezing

Make this recipe up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge. You can also add it to a crockpot or slow cooker and heat on low for 6 hours. The perfect tailgate treat!

Got leftovers? Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. 

To reheat leftovers from the fridge, you can use a skillet on medium-low heat until warm, stirring occasionally. Alternatively, microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between, until heated through. You may need to add a small amount of water if the mixture has thickened too much during storage. 

For longer storage, you can freeze leftovers in a freezer-safe container or Ziplock freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw contents overnight in the refrigerator and reheat before serving.

Sloppy Joes made the old fashioned way one right behind the other.

Leftover Ideas

Leftover sloppy joe meat tastes amazing on top of a baked potato! You can stuff an Idaho potato or sweet potato with the meat mixture and top it with cheddar cheese for an easy meal.

Try leftover meat in Salsa Verde Burritos, Smoked Queso Dip, tostadas, or my taco bar menu recipes. You can also use it to make an easy Sheet Pan Taco Bake!

More Easy Dinner Recipes

Looking for more easy dinners that are ready in 30 minutes or less? Try these family favorites...

Recipe Card

Old fashioned sloppy joes recipe with potato chips on a white plate.

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

If you're looking for an Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe like Grandma used to make, this is it! You'll love this quick and easy sandwich that's ready in 30 minutes.
5 from 14 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Game Day, Main Dish, Sandwiches
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings4
Calories: 379kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (80/20 fat content)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1 small green bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 to 6 hamburger buns

Instructions

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef, chopped onion and green bell pepper.
  • Break apart the beef with a wooden spoon as it cooks, until the beef is browned and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the skillet.
  • Add the ketchup, water, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard, garlic salt and pepper to the skillet with the beef and vegetables.
  • Stir to combine all the ingredients, making sure the beef mixture is well coated with sauce.
  • Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended together and the sauce has thickened.
  • Serve hot on hamburger buns.

Notes

  • This recipe piles the meat sauce high on the buns and serves 4 hungry people! If you want to extend this recipe further, lessen the amount on each bun and it will feed 6. 
  • Be sure to drain the excess fat after browning the meat.
  • Simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes to help blend the flavors and thicken the sauce. 
  • If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little more water to reach the desired consistency. 
  • For those who like a spicy kick, add a dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes to the meat mixture. 

Nutrition

Calories: 379kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 983mg | Potassium: 589mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My Gramma made sloppy joes just like this! I lost her recipe a long time ago. So excited to find one that uses ketchup like she did. Thanks!

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