Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes

3 mins read

This Classic Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes is made with a homemade sauce that comes together quick and easy in 30 minutes! This family-friendly meal is hearty and messy, made with tender ground beef, onion, bell pepper and a rich flavorful sauce made with tomato sauce.


Why we love these Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe…

  • Budget Friendly: if you’re on the lookout for a family-friendly meal that’s inexpensive, these classic old fashioned sloppy joes with a homemade sauce are it! This easy ground beef recipe is cooked in a sauce that is made with pantry ingredients that you most likely have on hand.
  • Healthy: having control over the ingredients you use to make the sauce allows you to create a healthy meal for your family. This recipe uses no ketchup, and instead uses a combination of tomato sauce and tomato paste.
  • Simple and Quick: this easy homemade sauce can be made in 30 minutes on the stovetop, making it a great option for a weeknight meal for the family. Save time by pre-chopping the onions and bell pepper, store these in the freezer and add them straight into the skillet for cooking when needed. (Find more 30 Minute Meals)

Ingredients Needed:

  • Tomato Sauce– recipe calls for one cup of tomato sauce which is the same as an 8 ounce can, the smaller can of tomato sauce.
  • Tomato Paste- just a small amount, to add a more intense tomato flavoring and thickness.
  • Worcestershire Sauce- adds an umami savoriness  to the sauce, Lea & Perrins is the most popular option.
  • Ground mustard- this is the dry, powder mustard in the spice section at the markets. Can sub this with regular yellow mustard or dijon. 
  • Molasses- Adds a wonderful depth of flavor and hint of sweetness. This recipe uses no brown sugar, instead we use a bit or molasses which gives flavor, black strap molasses is packed with nutrients and doesn’t spike blood sugars like processed sugars do.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar- adds a small amount of tang to the sauce. 
  • Chili Powder- adds a bit of spice. My all time favorite is Gebhardt’s Chili Powder. 
  • Smoked Paprika- has a slight sweet, smoky flavoring.
  • Ground Beef- this recipe is typically made with ground meat, you can swap for ground Turkey if you want a leaner option.

How to Make:

  1. Sauté the vegetables (pepper and onion). Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add in the ground beef and break it up as it cooks until completely browned.
  2. Add the ingredients needed to make the homemade sloppy Joe sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a low simmer.
  3. Allow the meat sauce to cook on a low simmer uncovered until nice and thick and the sauce has reduced slightly.


  • Add or subtract things according to your family’s preference! If you are concerned about heat, leave out any peppers and chili powder when making this recipe. Or if you want more spice, you can substitute the bell pepper for jalapeño and increase the amount of chili powder, or add cayenne powder.
  • Swap the ground beef for ground turkey to make a leaner dinner. 
  • Use this as a great opportunity to sneak in some extra veggies: Finely chop up some zucchini, mushrooms, or carrots. Mix it in with the onions and bell peppers to soften. It will mix in nicely with the meat. 
  • Always use sturdy buns and toast them briefly to help prevent them from getting soggy. The best breads to serve these classic sloppy joes on are hamburger buns, other options would include brioche, white bread, hoagie rolls, Hawaiian rolls (for sliders), thick sliced Texas toast.

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes: FAQs

How did Sloppy Joes get their name?

There are stories that attribute the name to a chef named Joe in Sioux City, Iowa who added tomato sauce to his loose meat sandwich.

What’s the difference between sloppy joes and Manwich?

Manwich is a brand name, they sell canned sloppy Joe sauce that can be found in most markets. Sloppy Joes refers to the actual meal of the loose meat sandwich coated in a tomato based sauce served on buns.

What is the secret ingredient in Sloppy Joe sauce?

Everyone has their own “secret” ingredient or method to make the best sloppy joe. This particular recipe relies on the combination of the apple cider vinegar, molasses, and the Worcestershire sauce to provide a hearty, deeply flavorful, tangy bite to the meat sauce.


What to serve with Sloppy Joes:

Need some ideas to serve on the side? Here’s some of our personal favorites. Other options would be some potato chips, grilled veggies, or a simple side salad.

Recipe first published September 6, 2019. Updated January 4, 2023 with new images and information. Recipe is unchanged.

Photography by the talented @KJandCompany.co