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old-fashioned homemade sloppy joes

Best Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe: Old Fashioned Classic

Sloppy Joes are one of those classic recipes that just never go out of style. The mouthwatering dish is perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal and will bring back memories of your grandma’s Sloppy Joes or the made-from-scratch school lunches when you were a kid.

This old-fashioned recipe is surprisingly easy to make, and it is definitely the best version of this classic dish. Your whole family will beg for seconds!

What are Sloppy Joes?

Sloppy Joes are loose meat sandwiches made with ground beef, tomato sauce, and other seasonings. The ground meat is cooked until it’s browned and then simmered in the tomato sauce until tender. Sloppy Joes are usually served on hamburger buns and can be topped with cheese, onions, pickles or other goodies.

Sloppy Joes are super popular, especially with kids. They’re made with simple ingredients and can be customized to your liking. Classic Sloppy Joes are perfect for busy weeknights, better than the canned stuff – and have zero high fructose corn syrup!

Where Did the Sloppy Joe Sandwich Get Its Name?

Yep – the Sloppy Joe sandwich is one of those classic family favorites that’s been around for generations. But where did it come from?

Handwritten Sloppy Joe recipe
My Tried & True Sloppy Joe Recipe

The most popular story is that the original recipe was invented by a chef named Joe in the early 1900s. Joe worked at a restaurant in New York City and supposedly created the sandwich as a way to quickly feed the large lunch crowds.

Another story says that the sandwich was actually invented in Sioux City, Iowa by a cook named Joe, who added tomato sauce to ground beef. Originally called a “loose meat sandwich,” it eventually became today’s Sloppy Joe.

Whatever the true origins of the Sloppy Joe are, one thing is for sure – it’s a delicious sandwich that’s perfect for a quick lunch or a casual dinner.

Sloppy Joes Secret Ingredient

Are you a fan of Sloppy Joes? If so, you’re in luck. Because I’m about to let you in on the secret ingredient that makes these sandwiches so darn good.

And trust me, it’s something you probably already have in your pantry.

The secret ingredient is actually… ketchup. Yes, ketchup! Adding ketchup to your Sloppy Joe mix gives it the sweetness and tanginess that takes it over the top.

It makes sense, really. Homemade Sloppy Joe sauce is so amazing because of its tangy-sweet-tomato base. Ketchup has all three of these.

As a matter of fact, they’re so important that my recipe doubles down on all of them: I include not only ketchup, but an extra tomato ingredient (tomato soup) and extra sweetness (brown sugar) and extra tang (white vinegar)!

(BTW, I also think chili powder is pretty darned special.)

The Classic Recipe for Old Fashioned, Homemade Sloppy Joes

Old Fashioned, Homemade Sloppy Joes

Old Fashioned, Homemade Sloppy Joes

Yield: 10 Servings (1/4-cup ea)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Sloppy joes are the perfect comfort food. They're easy to make, they're hearty and filling, and they're always a hit with the kids. Plus, they're a great way to use up that stray pound of ground beef you might have in the fridge.

If you're looking for a classic recipe for homemade sloppy joes, look no further. This homemade version is easy to follow and yields a big batch of delicious, messy results.


  • 2 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 10.5-oz can of condensed tomato soup
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder


In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium to medium-high heat until the beef is browned. Drain well.

Add the tomato soup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, ketchup and chili powder.

Stir until the ingredients are well combined and the sauce is bubbling.

Reduce the heat to low and let the sloppy joe mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot over hamburger buns, brioche buns or soft rolls.


Delicious with a side of creamy coleslaw, baked beans and fruit salad.

Recipe makes ten 1/4-cup servings, but it's so yummy that hungry people will want seconds. Plan accordingly and enjoy!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 259Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 336mgCarbohydrates: 12gNet Carbohydrates: not calculatedgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gSugar Alcohols: not calculatedgProtein: 27g

Nutrition data can vary based on the precision of measurements, brands used, and ingredient freshness. While we strive for accuracy, we cannot guarantee it. We suggest that you make your own calculations by using a preferred nutrition calculator with the actual ingredients employed in your recipe.

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How to Make Sloppy Joes for 50

When it comes to feeding a large group of people, few dishes are as easy or as popular as Sloppy Joes. The hearty sandwich is perfect for a party, potluck, or any other big gathering.

And the best part is that it’s pretty inexpensive to make. You can easily feed a group of 50 people for less than $100.

feeding a crowd

Because my recipe for Old Fashioned, Homemade Sloppy Joes feeds about 10 people, I recommend you multiply the ingredients by five. (I just did this for a recent sledding party at our house, and they were a huge hit! Did you know that sledders are really hungry people?)

Recipe for Sloppy Joes for 50 People

  • 10 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 5 medium (or 3 large) onions, chopped
  • 5 cans of condensed tomato soup
  • 5 ounces (5/8 cup) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups (20 ounces) of ketchup
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons of chili powder

Brown the ground beef and onions in batches in a large skillet. Drain each and transfer the meat mixture to an electric roaster or slow cookers (you’ll need more than one). Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Use the high temperature setting to bring the Sloppy Joe mixture to a low bubble, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. When it’s piping hot throughout, turn to low heat and cover.

What are some Good Side Dishes to Eat with Sloppy Joes?

There are lots of different side dishes you can serve with Sloppy Joes. Some people like to keep it simple with just a side of potato chips or French fries.

Others like to get a little more creative with their sides. Here are some of our favorites:

Hot SidesCold Sides
Tator TotsCreamy Coleslaw
French FriesPotato Chips
Corn on the CobSimple Side Salad
Green BeansPotato Salad
Macaroni & CheeseFruit Salad
Baked BeansMacaroni Salad
Onion RingsJello
Sweet PotatoWatermelon
Fresh Garden PeasCottage Cheese

Tips for the Best Sloppy Joes Ever

Sloppy Joes are the perfect comfort food. They’re easy to make, they’re hearty and filling, and they’re always a hit with the kids. But if you’re looking to take your Sloppy Joes to the next level, we’ve got a few tips for you.

Old-Fashioned, Homemade Sloppy Joes

First, make sure you’re using good quality ground beef. Whatever you cook is only as tasty as the individual ingredients.

You also want to avoid the super lean (e.g. 93%) ground beef, as it will make your Sloppy Joes dry. Instead, go for ground beef with a higher fat content (85% is perfect) and just drain well after browning. Enough fat will remain to make your Sloppy Joes juicier and more flavorful.

Next, don’t be afraid to add a little bit of heat. That teaspoon of chili powder isn’t hot, but it’s enough to wake up your taste buds and make them smile. It gives your Sloppy Joes a little “somethin’-somethin”, without actually making them taste like chili.

Finally, remember that when it comes to Sloppy Joes, the sauce is the boss! It needs to be tangy, tomatoey and a little sweet – and there needs to be lots of it.

If your Sloppy Joe sandwiches aren’t absolutely dripping with amazing sauce, keep adding a little ketchup, water, sugar and vinegar till they are.

Variations on the Classic Sloppy Joe Recipe

There are probably as many ways to make Sloppy Joes as there are to make chili. Meaning: hundreds. I think mine are pretty darned special, but there’s plenty of room to shake things up if you’d like to add your own spin.

For example, if you’re on a low calorie diet, you could make a healthier sandwich and cut excess fat by substituting ground turkey for the beef.

Don’t like ketchup? You could skip that and substitute tomato sauce with a little extra vinegar and brown sugar.

There are so many ways to mix it up to your preference. Here are a few common Sloppy Joe ingredients you might enjoy playing with:

  • Red onion or onion powder
  • Hot sauce
  • Celery seed
  • Garlic powder
  • Yellow or dijon mustard
  • Red or green bell pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tomato paste
  • Chicken gumbo soup
  • Barbeque sauce

I’ve tried all of these in the Sloppy Joe recipe and always go back to the classic, old-fashioned recipe above.

But there’s room for all flavors here! Your vote may be different. 🙂

What to do with Leftover Sloppy Joes?

Wait. Leftover? Sloppy Joes? I don’t understand.

Okay, well in the unlikely event you find yourself with leftover Sloppy Joe mixture, you can easily freeze it for up to two months. Make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap down onto the meat before covering, so ice crystals don’t form.

Reheated Sloppy Joes are also fantastic served over macaroni and cheese. Just spoon a layer on top of hot mac & cheese, and then tuck into the tastiest lunch you’ll have all week.

You can heap a spoonful onto an open-face hamburger bun or English muffin half. Top with cheese and place under the broiler till it’s hot and bubbly. Yum!

Or just add a touch of taco seasoning and use the Sloppy Joe meat in a delicious hard or soft-shell taco.

You can even use leftover Sloppy Joes as a dip. Just spread on a plate, heat, top with sour cream and then scoop up with corn chips.

Now it’s your turn! How do YOU serve leftover Sloppy Joes?

Final Thoughts

Sloppy joes are a classic recipe that everyone should know how to make. This recipe is easy to follow and yields delicious, homemade Sloppy Joes that your whole family is sure to love.

What’s your secret to great Sloppy Joes?

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