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Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe – How to Make it in 12 Simple Steps

Ever since the 1930s, the Sloppy Joe sandwich has been a family favorite, particularly for those on tight budgets. Sloppy Joes are economical, quick, and easy to make. Our recipe explains how to make Sloppy Joes ahead of time and store the meat so you can serve it later.

This is a close look at a plate of Slappy Joes with a side of fries.

No one is quite sure exactly who invented the Sloppy Joe sandwich, but some food historians believe that a cook in Sioux City, Iowa named Joe created this tasty mixture by adding tomato sauce to his loose meat sandwiches. Others say that the mixture was made in Key West, Florida, in a bar called Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Finally, there are those who think that the iconic sandwich has Cuban origins. 

Loose meat sandwiches or sandwiches made from ground beef became popular in the late 1800s, around the time that ground beef became a common way to buy meat. Frugal cooks in the Midwest loved this kind of meat because it not only was relatively inexpensive, but it was also easy to include additives to stretch the meat further. It was only a matter of time before people added tomato sauce and seasonings to ground beef to add extra flavor and stretch it to make it even more economical.

Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe

April Freeman
Tangy and filling, with the flavors of tomatoes, beef, and seasonings, our recipe for Homemade Sloppy Joes makes this family favorite without the addition of premade or packaged ingredients. You don’t have to rely on a mix to serve this delicious sandwich that kids love to eat.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Cuisine American
Servings 9 Sandwiches


  • Large skillet
  • Spatula
  • Small bowl
  • Food Processor
  • Measuring Cup


  • Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a spatula to chop the beef into small bits. 
  • Drain the grease from the beef and place the beef in a small bowl, allowing about a tablespoon of grease to remain in the skillet.
  • Use a food processor or a chef’s knife to mince the bell pepper into small pieces.
  • Put the bell pepper into the skillet and saute it in the grease until it is soft and cooked through. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic to the peppers and saute all of this together for about a minute until the garlic is light brown and fragrant. 
    The garlic is then added into the skillet.
  • Add the beef to the skillet and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low.
  • Measure the ketchup into a measuring cup and add the brown sugar, water, mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Stir these together with a spoon until combined.
    The ketchup, brown sugar, water, mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes are mixed in a measuring cup.
  • Then add them to the skillet along with the beef and peppers.
  • Add the tomato paste and use a spatula to combine all the ingredients. You may have to turn and mash the mixture to ensure that the tomato paste is thoroughly incorporated.
  • Cook the mixture over low heat until it is heated through. If it is too runny, let it simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes or until it is thick enough to scoop onto a hamburger bun.
    The mixture is cooked in the skillet until thick.
  • Serve about ½ to ¾ cup of this mixture on hamburger buns.  Buns that are lightly toasted add to the texture of these special sandwiches.
    A plate of Sloppy Joes with a side of fries.
  • Allow leftovers to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir and heat it again for another thirty seconds if needed.


In the late 1960s, ConAgra foods and Hunts began marketing this mixture in a canned form as Manwich to make it easier to serve this family favorite for dinner. Over the decades, cooks came to rely on the canned version of Manwich or sometimes a packet mix from the seasoning aisle. 
Our recipe for Sloppy Joe filling makes a huge skillet full of the tasty mixture. You can do one of three things with this, if your family doesn’t have the appetite to eat all of it on the day that you make it. First, you can split the recipe in half to make a single batch for one night, by simply halving all the ingredients in the list.
If you don’t want to do that, reserve half of the finished mixture and put it in the refrigerator for leftovers another night later that week. This stuff heats up marvelously. You can microwave it, or you can put it in a casserole dish and pop the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. You may want to add a little water when you heat it up to keep it from drying out.
Another thing that you can do is to store the leftover Sloppy Joe meat in the freezer in a zip top freezer bag, pressing all the air out before you seal it. Label the bag with its contents and the date that you froze it. It will keep for up to three months in the freezer. You can thaw the frozen meat mixture by sticking it in the refrigerator overnight the day before you intend to serve it.
Then, just heat it up at dinner time as directed above. This recipe is definitely in the “cook once, eat it twice” category that busy cooks love so much.
Keyword Dinner Recipe, Homemade Sloppy Joes, Recipe

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