Sloppy Joes from Scratch

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Sloppy Joes from scratch are a quick and easy dinner that won’t break the budget. In fact, you can very easily — and economically — make this savory meat mixture to serve a crowd. No cans or mixes required.

Sloppy Joe on a plate with pickles

Sloppy Joes are ultimate comfort food. They are hearty so they fill you up after a big day of activity. They make good use of ground beef or turkey, often on sale throughout the year.

Sloppy Joes can be made in the pressure cooker or slow cooker so that you don’t heat up the kitchen or have to stand over a hot stove. You can easily take it to a potluck or on vacation! The recipe can easily be stretched to feed a crowd. It’s very freezer-friendly so you can make it weeks in advance of serving.

And it tastes great. Especially served with pickles.

Yep, pretty much ultimate comfort food.

What you might not realize is how very EASY it is to make Sloppy Joes from Scratch.

Why Is It Called A Sloppy Joe?

Don’t you just love finding out the answers to these questions? Well sloppy joe is based on a popular sandwich, the loose meat sandwich, except sloppy joes have tomato sauce in the recipe.

According to Wonderopolis, the legend goes that a cook named Joe at Floyd Angell’s café in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches and the “sloppyjoe” sandwich was born. 

How Do You Make Sloppy Joes from Scratch?

My husband eschews sweet mixed with savory. It’s just not his preference, which I’m totally cool with. Since good food equals love at our house, I’ve made it a point these last few decades to make meals that I know he will love. Since I couldn’t rely on a mix or canned sauce, it made sense years ago that I figure out how to make Sloppy Joes from scratch.

Turns out it’s about as easy as can be! And super customizable.

Sloppy Joe mixture in an instantpot

How Long Does Sloppy Joe Sauce Last?

The sloppy joe mixture will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator as long as it properly covered. 

What Do You Serve With Sloppy Joes?

You want to serve sloppy joes in a soft bun.  You can buy them of course, or go ahead and make your own hamburger buns.

And then you could serve sloppy joes with any number of sides like Seasoned Corn Off the Cob, or a simple salad like this Broccoli Cranberry Salad With Pecans

How I make this good:

Whenever possible I like to cook with plain old ingredients. While the convenience of mixes and canned sauces is nice, I feel better about feeding my family just real food whenever possible. (Go here for some of my reasons on all that.)

The fact that this Sloppy Joes recipe relies on simple seasonings and ground beef means that it doesn’t rely on additives, preservatives, and sweeteners. It’s just good real food.

We like our Sloppy Joes just barely sweet here, so I use the lower amount of brown sugar. If you prefer them very sweet, use more. If you’re eating paleo or Whole 30, omit the sugar completely and serve the mixture over cauliflower rice or potatoes. When you make Sloppy Joes from scratch, you can make them exactly the way you like.

How I make this cheap:

Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe more economical:

  • Do a price comparison. I know that Costco is the best place to buy ingredients in bulk, like ground beef and tomato products when there isn’t a great sale elsewhere. I keep track of prices so that I know who has the best deal where.
  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. For instance, when I see a great price on ground beef at the grocery store, I buy a lot. 
  • Cook in bulk. It saves so much time and money to make more than one meal at a time and stash the extras in the freezer. It also helps me avoid pricey convenience foods or take-out on the nights when I just don’t want to cook. This recipe is the ideal bulk recipe.
  • Stretch the more expensive items with less expensive counterparts. Ground beef can be expensive if you don’t find it on sale. You can stretch it or substitute it with ground turkey to offset the cost.

Sloppy Joe on a plate with pickles

4.43 from 7 votes
Sloppy Joes from Scratch
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins

Sloppy Joes are a quick and easy dinner that won’t break the budget. In fact, you can very easily — and economically — make this savory meat mixture completely from scratch. No cans or mixes required.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: loose meat sandwich, sloppy joe, sloppy joes
Servings: 4
Calories: 387 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 pound ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1-3 tablespooons brown sugar depending on how sweet you like it
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-8 hamburger buns
Optional toppings
  • sliced pickles
  • shredded cheese
  1. Place the ground meat and onion in a skillet over medium heat. Add the paprika, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, thyme, and black pepper.

  2. Cook, stirring, until the meat is cooked through and the onion has gone clear, about 10 to 15 minutes.

  3. Add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add a small amount of water if you prefer a thinner consistency to the sauce.

  4. Serve the meat mixture on the buns with the optional toppings.

For the slow cooker:
  1. After you've browned the meat and onion with the spices, transfer the mixture to the crock of a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on low for 2 to 4 hours.

For the electric pressure cooker:
  1. Prepare the recipe in the pressure cooker on saute.

Recipe Notes

To freeze: Place the meat mixture in an airtight container. Chill completely before storing in the freezer. Thaw and reheat to serve.

Nutrition Facts
Sloppy Joes from Scratch
Amount Per Serving
Calories 387 Calories from Fat 85
% Daily Value*
Fat 9.4g14%
Saturated Fat 2.7g17%
Cholesterol 101mg34%
Sodium 951mg41%
Carbohydrates 34.7g12%
Fiber 1.7g7%
Sugar 10.3g11%
Protein 39.6g79%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

After you’ve prepared the recipe, would you do me a favor? I’d really appreciate it if you came back and left a starred review. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Sloppy Joes from Scratch | Good Cheap Eats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. LOVE sloppy joes and how much better they can be made at home!

  2. I love sloppy joe’s, sadly my hubby hates them. Darn it! Thank you for hosting. This week I shared a recipe I saw Anne Burrell make: Smashed Potato Gratin.

    • Joni Olsick says

      If you like sloppy joe’s just make it and freeze single portions in containers, so when you want a sloppy joe, take one out to thaw, sloppy joe’s don’t have to go on a bun, bread works just as well.

  3. Steph says

    My favorite version of sloppy joes pairs the vinegar with the sugar well enough that I don’t hate the sweet. Glad you found something that works!

  4. Susan says

    LOVE sloppy joes! i got a 4 ingredient recipe one that the kids LOVE from the daycare I work at. the 4 oldest kids can polish off 1 pound of it themselves! i paired it with a crockpot brussel sprout recipe that I got from another blogger here in blogland and FAIL! my kids are definate brussel sprout eaters as am I but this was just awful! I felt bad for having to throw it away….

  5. nancy says

    please share both recipes – – sloppy joes & couscous. i’ve got a girl that hates sloppy joes for the same reason your hubby did!

  6. That looks like a great sandwich.

  7. Coby says

    We love sloppy joes around here too! My fix for soggy buns is to broil them so they get a bit crispy then put a slice of cheese on each side (usually some kind of white cheese) and broil that. It acts as a barrier for the sauce!

    • Delilah Moran says

      5 stars
      Never made sloppy joes before so this was fun!.used the slow cooker version and really wouldn’t change a thing. 🙂

  8. Where is your sloppy joe recipe?!?!?! 😉 I have one that uses 1/2 ketchup, so I’m curious about your recipe!

  9. Those Sloppy Joes look really good and quite different from any I have ever had. I hope you share the recipe:) I linked up Chicken Lo Mein.

  10. Hi Jess, Sandwiches, soup, stews, casseroles and steak are the big things around here! I like the idea of sloppy joes without sweet because I am not a sweets type of person! Very cool. All the best! Alex

  11. Mary says

    We sometimes have mushroom soup sloppy joes. Take a can of cream of mushroom soup, adding a little bit of milk to thin it, and add it to your cooked hamburger. Heat & serve on hamburger buns.

  12. CTMOm says

    Lentil sloppy joes are awesome! I have a great recipe, if interested.

  13. Danise says

    How long do you cook the meat under pressure? Is it high or low pressure?

  14. Cheryl Barnes-Jackson says

    5 stars
    I made this recipe last night and everyone loved it. I didn’t change a thing. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Teena says

    Made for dinner this evening. It’s a delicious recipe, thank you.

    • Thanks, Teena! If you have a minute, would you come back and give the recipe a starred rating? Just click however many stars you think it merits in a new comment. Thanks so much!

  16. Juli says

    3 stars
    This recipe hit the spot for our family. I don’t think we need the slow cooker for one batch though. Nice to have the option when cooking for a crowd. The pickles were a nice touch. Thanks for another winner dinner!

    • Glad you liked it. Yes, the slow cooker is really going to depend on what’s going on (people in and out) or how many people you have to feed. Thanks so much for the feedback!

  17. Sandi says

    I so rarely have any kinds of buns in stock that I never think to make these. If I have ground beef, I usually cook it with mushrooms or I make taco meat for burrito bowls. I like the “serve over cauliflower rice” idea as well as mixing in some lentils with the meat. Bet the resident carnivore would not even notice. Hmmm. Thanks!

  18. Susan says

    5 stars
    I was a bit leery when making this as I was raised on Manwich. I’ve never made my own Sloppy Joes and had always wanted to So I gave it a try. So glad I did, it was fantastic. I made this as the recipe was written, using ground beef and 2T of brown sugar. Next time I’ll probably use half the amount of thyme, only because it seemed a bit too much to me. But that’s just my personal taste. This is a winner for us – quick, homemade, and everyone liked it!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  19. Michelle S Carpenter says

    5 stars
    I did not have tomato sauce on hand so I used crushed tomatoes and cooked them down more. We used less brown sugar since we do not like really sweet sloppy Joes. Delicious, quick and easy recipe. I have added this to my next bulk cooking plan so I will have bags of it in my freezer ready to go. Another great recipe for the meal plan!

  20. Annie says

    5 stars
    I loved the sweet and spicy flavors of this recipe. (Used 2 Tbsp of brown sugar). We too grew up on manwich. This is nothing like it at all. So many easy on hand spices make this a winner

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