Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe

40 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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Homemade Sloppy Joes from 100 Days of Real Food

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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.

Recipe ingredients:

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.

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Recipe Rating

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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. :(

  4. 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!

  5. 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 =)

  6. 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.

  7. 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 :))

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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. :)

  14. 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?

  15. 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 :)

  16. 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!

  17. …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 !!!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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”

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

  23. 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!!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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!

  31. 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!

  32. 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.