My poor daughter recently said to me, “Mom I keep reading all these books that talk about Sloppy Joes, and I’ve never had it before. Can you please make some so I can finally try it like everyone else??” Gosh, she is so deprived!
Seriously though, if that’s her biggest problem this week I will gladly take it. Not to mention it was a “problem” easily solved with this recipe below. And just for the record, both kids went back for seconds. I hope your family enjoys this dish as much as mine did! :)
Healthier Sloppy Joes made from Real Food Ingredients
I love making homemade, healthier versions of old recipes, and these Sloppy Joes are no exception because they are completely from scratch! Even if you aren’t into real food, these Sloppy Joes are honestly just delicious. Plus I love that it’s a guilt-free “fun” meal that both kids and adults will enjoy.
The main ingredient in Sloppy Joes is ground beef, and I recommend you opt for organic or at least grass-fed beef if available.
I also added carrot, celery, and onion to the mixture—the celery adds crunch and the carrot is great for sweetness. It also means we’re getting some veggies in each Sloppy Joe slider!
Plain canned tomato sauce, honey, and apple cider vinegar make up the sauce. Finally, you’ll need some garlic, chili powder, yellow mustard, salt, and pepper for the seasoning. I also added cinnamon to my Sloppy Joe recipe because it reminds me of how it used to taste when I was a child, but that’s optional depending on your preference.
Why aren’t these Sloppy Joes made with ketchup?
Have you seen the ingredients in ketchup? Each tablespoon has 4 grams of sugar, which usually comes from high fructose corn syrup. The tomato sauce in this Sloppy Joe recipe replaces the tomato sauce in the ketchup, and instead of refined sugar I used a small amount of honey and also carrots for natural sweetness.
Ketchup can also be expensive so this helps keep this recipe budget friendly, too.
Can you make Sloppy Joes with ground turkey instead of beef?
Absolutely! You can definitely substitute ground turkey for ground beef in this recipe. Since it’s cooked in such a flavorful sauce anyway you probably won’t even notice the difference, unlike other recipes.
Ground turkey tends to be a bit drier than ground beef, but there are a few ways you can deal with that.
The first is to add a bit more oil into your pan when you fry the meat and veggies. If you’re choosing ground turkey in Sloppy Joes because it’s leaner, though, that’s not a great option. In that case, try to keep as much of the juices in while you cook – keeping the lid on helps.
Second, you can quickly brown the meat in your pan (follow the recipe) and let the turkey finish cooking in the sauce. Adjust cooking time, if necessary.
Finally, if your turkey Sloppy Joes are still dry you can always increase the sauce!
How to make these homemade Sloppy Joes into a crock pot recipe
I didn’t make my Sloppy Joes recipe in a slow cooker, but I think a crock pot would be a great way to turn this into an even easier weeknight meal or as party food.
To adapt these Sloppy Joes for the crock pot, first fry the ground beef, garlic, and onion together in a skillet on the stove. Drain the fat, then add the cooked meat to your slow cooker. Then toss in all other recipe ingredients, including the diced carrots and celery, and mix it well.
Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.
Tip: Try and stir a few times while it cooks. If you find the sauce is too thick, you can add ¼ cup of water or stock to thin it out.
What should I serve this recipe on?
We used whole wheat slider buns for our Sloppy Joes and it was delicious, but you can put them on any bread you have on hand—or make some homemade buns or rolls for a completely “from scratch” meal. You could also serve them with bibb lettuce so they can be eaten as lettuce wraps!
I recommend waiting to assemble the Sloppy Joes until just before you plan to eat, otherwise the sauce will make the bun soggy.