Real Food Sloppy Joes!

37 Reviews / 4.9 Average
I've loaded these Sloppy Joes with vegetables for a healthier version of an old classic dinner recipe. Paired with a whole-wheat bun, the whole family will enjoy these—mine sure did!
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#SloppyJoes from 100 Days of #RealFood

My poor daughter recently said to me, “Mom I keep reading all these books that talk about Sloppy Joes, and I’ve never had one 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 it as much as mine did! :)

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184 thoughts on “Real Food Sloppy Joes!”

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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight. I was skeptical at first but it was really yummy and flavorful. I Will definitely make this again. I like the idea of putting it under the broiler with melted cheese on top. I may try that with the leftovers :)

  2. We made these last night but left out the cinnamon since I was unsure of it and when it was done and putting the sandwiches together I turned on the broiler and put the bottom halves on a pizza pan and melted some cheese on top mmhm

  3. Thank you! We LOVE Manwhich but for obvious reasons we don’t eat it much. I have been in search of a healthy alternative. We will be giving this a try this week!

  4. 5 stars
    Made these last night subbing green pepper for celery because celery isn’t my jam. My picky 3-year-old actually ate them! It helped that I played up the name and how silly it was to eat something called Sloppy Joes. But I was amazed he didn’t point out the “hidden” veggies like he normally does in other dishes. Will definitely make these again!

  5. I made this with venison the other night & it was wonderful. I had to adjust the seasonings a little because I think venison can be a little gamey but it was great. & we loved the cinnamon!

  6. I made this for dinner tonight and I substituted turkey for the beef. I was a little nervous putting in the veggies because my family loves our traditional tastes, and this recipe was a bit different. BUT it went over marvelously! Absolutely delicious! I doubled the recipe so I would be able to freeze half, and still have left overs for lunch tomorrow. AWESOME!

  7. We don’t eat beef and I used to love sloppy joes with the fake meat crumbles. We don’t eat those anymore either because they are so processed and full of weird stuff. Any suggestions for real food substitute for the beef?

    1. Do you eat turkey? We don’t eat beef either & have found that ground dark meat turkey makes an excellent substitution in just about every recipe calling for ground beef. You could also try ground chicken or bison, assuming you’re not vegetarian :)

    2. My family doesn’t eat ground beef so I sub ground turkey in everything you could imagine. Usually 93%. If it’s higher, I have noticed whatever I make comes out too dry.

    3. Maybe beans? Although a bean sandwich sounds weird… Maybe turn it into a bean dip for veggies or use it in lettuce wraps or something? Just thinking before coffee here. :)

  8. made this for the first time last night…YUMMY! Even my “picky” eater gobbled them up. For a kid who swears he doesn’t like meat he LOVES your flank steak, crock-pot chicken and now this!! Thank you!!

  9. I made this tonight to have for a rushed dinner tomorrow night…it smells absolutely delicious!! I can’t wait for it, I know it will be a hit with the whole family. I put all the veggies in the food processor for my kids that don’t care for chunks.

  10. 5 stars
    Made this, delish! I put the sloppy joe in a pie dish and covered it with your ‘pop tart’ dough (made with coconut oil in lieu of butter) and baked in the oven until golden brown. It was amazing!!

  11. Made these last night with local bison because it was what I had thawed. I also subbed maple syrup for the honey because my son isn’t 1 yet. Made whole wheat buns to go with. They were delicious! My almost 4 year old and almost 1 year old loved them. I had another one for lunch with avocado and cheese. This recipe will go into dinner rotation for sure.

  12. You can make sloppy joes in a crockpot! Cook on low for about 6-7 hours or high 3-5. I use a lean meat and don’t brown it, I just throw it in raw and stir everything together.

  13. This is just like the recipe I’ve been doing for years minus the cinnamon… I have always added chili powder! Yum
    But I will try cinnamon next time!
    Happy Fal everyone!!

  14. I am so excited, Lisa, I put a fall twist on your recipe and it came out divine! Instead of beef I used local organic ground pork and added one cup diced golden delicious apple, right before I added the meat to the pot. It is sweet and tastes like fall with the cinnamon.

  15. made this for my family tonight. I have 6 kids, and it is a success. I pureed all the veggies, because I have a few picky eaters. We all loved it.

  16. Made this tonight. I realized too late that I only had one 8 oz can of tomato sauce, so I put in half a can of diced tomatoes, too. Served it to my 8-year-old son, who is not a fan of meat, on a bun. He asked for seconds! It’s not very “saucy” due to my substitution, but still very yummy. I think I’m going to freeze the leftovers to use in pasta sauce later.

  17. This was yummy and easy! I cooked the veggies and meat first then added everything in the slow cooker on low for 3 hours. I also added the cinnamon. Tasted great!

  18. Made this with ground turkey. In retrospect I should have left out the cinnamon, gave it a weird flavor. But I thought it was okay. Sadly no one else liked it. :(

  19. 5 stars
    I wasn’t sure if this recipe would pass the husband test – but he gobbled it down with no mention of Manwich! Quick, easy and all things we had on hand – thank you!

  20. I’m not a fan of mustard. Is there a good substitution for it, or would this still taste good if I left it out entirely? I’m super excited to make these for me and my picky partner this week =)

  21. FWIW, this is also very easy to make with whole tomatoes. I learned that when we had a surplus from last year’s CSA and just cooked them to break them down a bit and used them just like the jarred sauce. It ended up being delicious and not much extra work!:) But I’ll still probably stick to only doing that in summer.

  22. 5 stars
    This was so, so good! In a rush, I forgot the celery and then realized I was out of honey so I used brown sugar instead. I’m not sure if that’s ‘allowed’ but it worked :) Definitely added to the rotation! (And I’ll try the honey when I have it :))

  23. 5 stars
    HUGE hit at this house! Every recipe I have made of yours has been amazing!! Thank you so much for making real food taste delicious!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Maggie. We have not tried but I am sure it will work. It will change the flavor a bit. ~Amy

  24. This recipe has become a weekly staple in our house. Since the reaction was so good from my family, I decided to make them to serve as dinner along with a tossed salad at my sons birthday party. Everyone said they were the best sloppy joes they have ever had. What I loved best were the looks on their faces when I told them they were homemade, no boxes or packets, just an easy, simple, and clean recipe. Love real food and being able to share it! Everyone took home this recipe that night.

  25. This is on the menu for dinner tonight. WW rolls have 8 minutes left in the oven. I need to take a nap (since all of my kiddos are sleeping) and then I will make the filling :) Thanks for your wonderful recipes!

  26. Once again, another great recipe. My husband is loving that I am making homemade items instead of buying them. I added yellow bell peppers since no carrots. Will have to try the leftover “hot pocket” idea

  27. 5 stars
    Just made this- really good! I’m vegetarian and used some lentils that were already cooked. So much better than fake meat crumbles.

  28. 4 stars
    So, I made this exactly as the recipe called for the first time and it was a bit too sweet for us (still good, as there were NO leftovers, but too sweet). We like a more savory sloppy joe. So, this time, I added one small yellow summer squash (finely grated – they didn’t even notice it was in there ;) ), finely grated the carrot, used 2 cloves of garlic instead of 1, left out the honey and cinnamon, doubled the vinegar and chili powder, and added 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste) and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika. It did the trick! So if you like yours a bit more savory, try one or more of those changes. :)

  29. I am struggling to find buns that have ingredients I like to serve my family. One of our local groceries has them that are marginal, we have a bakery that has them but they are huge and really expensive.

    Do you have a recipe for your own buns?

  30. This recipe sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it. Does anyone have any substitutions for the apple cider vinegar as my husband is allergic? Thank you!

    1. Try plain old white vinegar (if that’s a safe option). Should still provide the tang without the allergic reaction :)

  31. Great recipe. So easy to make my 5yr old helped me. Loved the addition of cinnamon. Cooked it a little longer than 15mins as sauce was thicken enough for me. Next time I will add peppers as well to bump up the veggies. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  32. …I failed to include that using the ” Meatless Crumbles’ is a great alternative to using meat. I wish they would allow you to EDIT your comments…! THAT would be helpful !!!

  33. 3 stars
    ..I have always made my own ” sloppy joe’ sauce, since 1998. :) ..but I add Worcestershire sauce , I use tomato paste,and a pinch of red pepper flakes.I serve them on sprouted grain rolls, or if you prefer, whole grain rolls are ok if you are gluten -tolerant.

  34. I like the idea of adding the carrots and celery. I usually don’t add those to mine and I typically just put it over one bun/bread. My boys are still little so they aren’t great with sandwiches yet.

  35. Tried this and it was great! But my kids said to keep the carrots on the side. According to them “Sloppy Joe should not be crunchy”

  36. I’ve always used ‘crumbles’ & manwich from a can, which my family loves. Now I have a new way to make a healthier version! Thanks!

  37. My kids ate this up!! They are such picky eaters so I was so happy that they loved this meal. I’ve made it before, but your ingredient list is slightly different than the recipe I’ve made in the past. I honestly think the honey added just enough sweetness that it made it more appealing to them. Might have to try adding the cinnamon next time… Thank you!

  38. Ever since I saw this post I have had a craving for sloppy joes! Only needed to buy buns and tomato sauce.. I had everything else on hand. I can honestly say they are the best sloppy joes I’ve ever had!! All the recipes I’ve tried on this site have been easy, delicious, and very affordable. Thanks!!

  39. Make homemade hot pockets with the leftovers! Roll out your favorite bread or pizza dough into about 6 inch circles, add a tablespoon or so of sloppy joe mix, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and then seal them up and bake them. My boys love them and it’s something easy to pack in their lunches.

    I will make up a batch of bread dough just to make “hot pockets” and stock the freezer. It’s a great way to use up left over roast, chicken, natural lunch meat, cheese, cooked veggies, etc. I bake them, cool them and then freeze them. When it’s time for lunch, I grab one out of the freezer, wrap it in a paper towel (to absorb any moisture as it defrosts) and pop them in a container in their lunch bug. The boys just heat them in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so.

    1. I don’t think the elementary school has a microwave. How do they taste room temperature? If I pack warm, would that work? I learned awhile back that if I pack thermos food or warm tortillas, I don’t pack anything else that needs refrigeration.

  40. I did not know what a ‘sloppy joe’ was until I want to camp in Maine at age 13. In New Jersey, a sloppy joe is a sandwich – slice of rye,coleslaw or sauercraut(depending on the meat) meat, cheese, thousand island or russian dressing, slice of rye, repeat all layers, topped with another slice of rye. The best place is the Millburn Deli in Millburn, NJ where they cut the sandwich into thirds.

  41. Made these for dinner tonight and they were great! We didn’t have celery on hand (nor do we care for it), so I substituted red and green bell peppers. I added the cinnamon as well-a great addition!

  42. I made these tonight and they were great! I doubled the veggies, added a can of black beans and used garlic marinara sauce instead of tomato sauce. :) Also made roasted potatoes and kale chips, yum!

  43. We love sloppy Joes! I shred my carrots so they aren’t as “visible.” And I use quit a bit if carrot. No one seems to notice. I will try your sauce recipe next time. I must admit I use the canned sauce.

  44. I made this recipe this evening for dinner and it was well received by my somewhat particular boys ages 3 & 5. I used ground turkey and it was delicious with this recipe. I think a little orange zest next time may be a nice addition as well. Thank you for a great recipe!

  45. I just tried these and they were a hit with both the kids and my hubby. I do think the cinnamon is the secret ingredient here!

  46. I used to like sloppy joes when I was a little girl but my husband thought they were disgusting. I decided to make them after seeing your recipe. It was the kids first time having sloppy joes. Everyone likes them :) Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes on your blog!

  47. Jeanne Michaud

    Sounds wonderful! Funny you mention the cinnamon. My grandmother had a recipe that used cinnamon and cloves in it. Of course she used ketchup rather than make it from scratch.

  48. 5 stars
    I made this last night, and it got rave reviews from the hubby, and the kids ate it without a fuss, something that is unusual these days. Thank you! It’s a keeper!

  49. Thank you for this! My mom has made sloppy joes from scratch for years and I forgot about her recipe until this post. Definitely need to pull it out and take a look! Thanks! I’m glad your daughter loved them!

  50. I need a “real” as possible recipe for a corn dog…that is your mission, should you choose to accept it…

  51. Sloppy Joes are great for slipping extra veggies to my picky eater. I usually make them by mixing cooked ground beef or turkey with leftover pasta sauce for a super easy dinner.

    1. We use lentils instead of meat and put it in the crock pot. We call them Sloppy Janes. We also use leftovers, add bread crumbs and an egg and make it into a “LentilLoaf” similar to meatloaf.

  52. I make half a recipe of the everyday whole wheat bread and roll it out. Then I cut it into small rectangles and put the sloppy joe mixture on the rectangular pieces of dough and put another piece of dough on top. Pinch the edges with a fork, let rise for half an hour. Rub the tops with olive oil and sprinkle a little garlic powder and salt on the tops and bake until golden brown and not doughy anymore. Then you have yourself an unsloppy joe recipe! My girls and husband love them! I also think they would be good with cheese in with the meat mixture.

  53. I have found that if I use a finely shredded sweet potato, sautéed with the onions, etc., that I don’t even need a sweetener. I love sloppy joes because you can hide so many vegetables in them.

  54. I’ve been making a version of this for a long while, with some substitutions, such as black strap molasses, sweet potatoes and nut meg. I also cook all the veggies and tomato sauce and blend them into a creamy sauce, for those kids not likely to eat chunky vegetables. I didn’t like Sloppy Joe’s as a kid (too sweet), but I enjoy this new version.

  55. Mendy, I have found muir glen has tomatoes and tomato sauce with BPA free cans. Most of the cans say BPA free on the back, I’m sure there are others but this is what my store has. They also have a no salt added line as well. Good luck

  56. This recipe sounds so yummy. I make one similar and I add a little molasses in place of the brown sugar. Thought you might want to try it out. Thanks for all your stuff we love your biscuts.

  57. Oh perfect thank you! I buy all of our bread from Great Harvest and just haven’t transitioned into their rolls yet. Will pick some up when I go to get all of my Irish Breads for St. Pats!

  58. Unfortunately, my kids don’t like sloppy joe’s . How weird are they?! Actually it’s tomato sauce they don’t like. So anything with it is out: spaghetti, pizza, etc. So frustrating. Your recipe looks outstanding though. :)

  59. It’s so funny that you posted this– I just made real food sloppy joes last week, using a spaghetti meat sauce I make. It’s similar to your recipe, except I put kidney beans in it. I thought when my kids are older, I can give them sloppy joes!

  60. Looks great! Like others, we haven’t had Sloppy Joes since cutting out processed food. I think these might make it on the menu next week!

  61. Sloppy Joes were never appetizing to me as a kid, until I saw the Olsen twins in “It Takes Two.” The one girl’s reaction to having something so messy for the first time had me begging my parents to try. And they made a recipe like this one. It wasn’t until university that I learned there were premade things for sloppy joes. Never tried them willingly, I’ve always loved the homemade.

  62. You can stretch your meat by adding cooked lentils. You can’t even tell! My husband caught me adding them, but he admitted that they still tasted great.

  63. Thank you for this recipe. I’ve been looking for a Sloppy Joe recipe that doesn’t use sugar.
    If you’re looking for more veggies to add to the mix, a bell pepper is a great addition.

  64. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Sloppy Joes are my 5 year old’s fave and since we switched to eating mostly real food he has asked over and over and OVER again when we could eat sloppy joes again. He will be so happy to have this on our menu for next week! :)

  65. 5 stars
    I have been looking for a “real food” Sloppy Joes receipe for awhile! Thank you so much for all you do!!

  66. Thank you! My 9yo has been bugging me to make sloppy joes, and we’ve always used the canned stuff in the past. All the recipes I had found still contained ingredients I didn’t want to include. Your timing is excellent ;)

  67. I need to find a great whole wheat bun. I tried Great Harvest and they were very dense and kind of hard. I hope there is something out there that is soft like a store bought bun.

  68. I have a confession-I’m 28 and have never had a sloppy joe. I was a picky eater as a kid, and they never looked very appetizing to me. Clearly I’ve been missing out because this recipe looks delicious!

  69. Those sloppy joes look great! I haven’t had one since I was a kid. I have all the ingredients too, except for the rolls.

    I’m curious-what kind of rolls do you buy? The ones in the picture look like they could be homemade.

  70. Stephanie Bionature makes an organic strained tomato product in a glass jar that it literally just tomatoes. That’s pretty much all I use because I don’t use anything canned.

  71. We are having such a difficult time finding bread or buns w 5 or less ingredients. Any suggestions? These look so yummy! Thank you!

  72. Is mustard a real food? Do I just buy organic mustard? Also interested in the tomatato sauce you added
    Thank you

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Look for an organic mustard without any additives or preservatives. You can find organic tomato sauces that are BPA free in cans or look for one that is in a jar. ~Amy

  73. 5 stars
    Stephanie, I buy canned organic tomatoes in a glass jar from Whole Foods. They just have just tomatoes version and a tomatoes with salt version. (Only 1 or 2 ingredients.) hope you’re able to find something similar where you live!

  74. What is the rule on canned tomatoes and tomato sauce? I feel like every brand I’ve found still has some additives that I don’t want to feed my family. Any recommendations?

      1. There is a brand at my store local grocery store as well as at Whole Foods that is usually on the top shelf (out of one’s typical line of site) called Pomi. These are in a box and there is no additives (no citric acid nor calcium chloride)…completely 1-ingredient and it is in a BPA free box!

    1. Do you make your own bread? I know you can use your breadmaker to make the dough, then put them into bun form, let them rise and bake to make buns. I also think Deliciously Organic has a bun recipe on her website.

      1. Thank you SO much for this recipe. I have been using another whole wheat recipe with mediocre results. I’m happy to know you omitted the wheat gluten and still liked them. I’m going to try making half of the dough into rolls and the other half into cinnamon rolls as suggested. I haven’t made cinnamon rolls in YEARS!

    1. I got these “rolls” from a local franchise bakery called Great Harvest. I’ve also used Ezekiel frozen English Muffins as buns before as well.