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. I tried this recipe in the crockpot, and it worked great. I quadrupled the recipe for a crowd, and everyone loved it. I did not add the cinnamon. :)

  2. 5 stars
    Made it again for lunch today since everyone was home. Toasted the buns (I’d love it if I could find a good recipe for buns) topped with Monterey jack cheese ! Yum yum !

  3. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was really good. I served it with your macaroni casserole and it was a big hit. Actually, if you mix the sloppy jo into the mac n cheese, it’s really yummy! We call it ‘Sloppy Mac’. :)

  4. I grew up eating lots of sloppy Joes because my father loved them. We always spread thin layer of yellow mustard on bottom half of bun, sloppy Joe mix, then a bit of slaw on top of sloppy Joe mixture.
    IF eating with fork, we omitted top half of bun.

  5. I make this all the time. I usually use ground turkey (we have Better access to better turkey). I rarely have celery around but I usually add 2 or 3 carrots instead of 1 because we looove carrots.

  6. 5 stars
    We’ve made this recipe multiple times and we love it! I just made it again tonight and I was thinking that if you put the veggies in the food processor, no one would really be able to tell that there are vegetables in this! And I leave out the celery and double the carrots because my husband hates celery.

  7. 5 stars
    LOVE this recipe! My husband and I like it BETTER than the canned stuff! We have eaten it more times than I can count. Easy recipe, too. I was wondering though, I’m trying to lose weight and do you know the nutritional info?

      1. Thank you, I have seen that recipe but I don’t have a bread machine. I live abroad and they aren’t available here. Is there another recipe you can recommend? I have a whole wheat bread recipe that doesn’t need a bread maker, but it is not good for buns.

      2. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

        Ah, sorry. Lisa does not have a specific bun recipe. She typically buys her buns from Great Harvest. :)

  8. I LOVE your blog. I was in search of a sloppy Joe recipe and was so excited to find yours. I made it tonight. Made just a few adjustments/additions. I added some bell pepper and added 1/2tsp cumin. Also I used ground Turkey. I usually make our own sloppy Joe sauce but it is still full of stuff we shouldn’t eat,so I was excited to taste this recipe full of good and real food. I did add the cinnamon and I love the flavor it adds. Thanks for my New go to Joe recipe.

  9. 5 stars
    I made these last night and they were delicious! Definitely making these again. I add just a pinch of cayenne because I thought it needed just a little heat. Also, the cinnamon was a great addition. Don’t leave it out!

  10. 5 stars
    I’ve been craving Sloppy Joe’s and made this tonight. Sloppy Joe’s are my ultimate comfort food and I have missed them this past year I’ve been eating real food. This recipe is amazing, my daughter and I both agreed these are the absolute best Sloppy Joe’s. I was out of cinnamon so we didn’t add it

  11. 5 stars
    Oh Lisa I am so happy to have found this recipe!! Sloppy Joe’s are one of my all time comfort foods. I’ve been thinking about Sloppy Joe’s for weeks now and have been thinking about how I can do it without breaking the rules. Luckily I have all the ingredients on hand so we will be having SloppyJoes’ this weekend.

    1. I make this in the crock pot…I brown the ground beef, and throw all the ingredients into the crock pot, stir it up, and let it do it’s thing!

  12. 5 stars
    My family absolutely loves this recipe! We skip the buns altogether and serve it on beds of shredded cabbage…yum! Thank you!

  13. Myself and our four and two year old made this for dinner tonight. We substituted venison for beef and it turned out excellent. I added some fresh diced tomatoes simply because they needed eaten. It was a win… the husband and one year old loved it as well. I made your Asian Coleslaw as our side and it worked great.

  14. 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 :)

  15. 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

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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. :)

  21. 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!!

  22. 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.

  23. 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!!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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!!

  27. 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.

  28. 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.