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Dinner in 30 Minutes: Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

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You’ll want to use a fork — they’re called “sloppy” for a reason — so you don’t miss a single, tasty bite of these nostalgic Sloppy Joe Sandwiches. Ready in just 30 minutes, serve Sloppy Joes ladled on top of sesame seed hamburger buns and topped with shredded cheddar cheese and dill pickles for the perfect flavor contrast.

These saucy and savory sandwiches are always a family favorite around here. Quick and easy to make, this Sloppy Joe Sandwich recipe can be easily doubled (or tripled) if you’re cooking for a crowd.

Freeze any leftovers for another convenient meal or serve the Sloppy Joe meat over mashed potatoes, biscuits, or even in a shepherd’s pie!

Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a white plate with french fries and topped with cheddar cheese and dill pickles

Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

Way back when, one of my favorite weeknight meals was my Mom’s Sloppy Joes. The truth is, most of the cooking at our house was done by my grandmother. Mom worked full-time and my Mamaw liked to pitch in and help out most nights.

When Mom did cook after work, supper often included quick and convenient foods like boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen pot pies, and my favorite Sloppy Joe’s made with a can of Man-wich sauce.

There was nothing wrong with that, of course, but I like that today’s easy recipe includes fresh veggies and is versatile enough to use whatever type of ground meat I have on hand. I usually make my Sloppy Joes with lean ground beef, but they’re equally delicious made with ground turkey or ground chicken.

I also add in onions, bell pepper, celery, and carrots — it’s a delicious way to hide those veggies — then simmer it all in a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, either store-bought or homemade.

a skillet of sloppy joe sandwich meat

Why are they called Sloppy Joes?

Back in the 1930s, “loose meat” sandwiches didn’t include sauce — just minced meat on a bun. That is until a Sioux City, Iowa short-order cook named Joe added tomato sauce and served up a “sloppy” sandwich at his cafe.

Not only was the Sloppy Joe name coined, the sandwiches quickly gained popularity across the country. By the 1960s, food companies started packaging a Sloppy Joe sauce and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a white plate with french fries

What do you serve with Sloppy Joes?

As with any sandwich, a side of potato chips is always a tasty, easy choice, but I have recently become obsessed with cooking frozen shoestring fries and tater tots in my air fryer. So easy, and so crispy! These other side dishes also go really well with Sloppy Joe Sandwiches:

Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a white plate with french fries and topped with cheddar cheese and dill pickles

Toppings for Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

Of course, Sloppy Joe Sandwiches are delicious all on their own, but I personally like to add cheddar cheese and a few dill pickle slices. Other ideas include:

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Dill pickles
  • Mustard
  • Pickled jalapeno peppers
  • Sliced green onions
Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a white plate with french fries and topped with cheddar cheese and dill pickles

Should I drain the meat?

You definitely should drain off MOST of the grease once you’ve cooked the ground beef, but it’s okay to leave a little for flavor. After draining off the grease, I add the chopped vegetables and garlic, then continue cooking until all the veggies are tender.

What about the buns?

Sloppy Joe Sandwich meat can be served on buns straight out of the package, or on buns that have been warmed, lightly toasted, or grilled.

To warm buns in the oven, wrap in aluminum foil and place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

To toast the buns in the oven, place them cut side up on a baking sheet and toast under a pre-heated broiler until lightly golden.

To grill the buns, brush the cut sides with melted butter then cook on in a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat for 10 to 12 seconds until golden brown.

How to reheat Sloppy Joes

Add about a quarter cup of water to leftover Sloppy Joe sandwich meat and warm it up over low heat on the stove or covered in the microwave until hot.

Buns may be served warm, toasted, or at room temperature. To re-warm buns, wrap them in aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Storing leftovers

Leftover cooked Sloppy Joe sandwich meat keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days. Frozen leftovers are good for up to 3 months. To freeze any leftover Sloppy joe cooked meat, let it cool completely in the refrigerator before storing in a freezer safe resealable bag or container.

Let’s cook!

If you’re making Sloppy Joes for a party, make the recipe ahead of time (and double or triple the recipe, if needed) and keep the sandwich meat warm in a slow cooker. This is a great recipe for football parties and tailgates, too.

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Yield: 4 servings

Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a white plate with french fries and topped with cheddar cheese and dill pickles

Saucy, savory, quick and easy — homemade Sloppy Joe Sandwiches are always a family favorite! This recipe can be easily doubled (or tripled) if you're cooking for a crowd, too.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef (85% lean)
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, finely chopped (red, yellow, or green)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Dill pickle slices

Instructions

Crumble ground beef into a skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain off the grease.

Add chopped vegetables, garlic, salt, and pepper and continue cooking another 3 to 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the barbecue sauce.

Simmer 5 minutes or until Sloppy Joes are the desired thickness. Serve on buns and top with cheddar cheese and hamburger dill pickle slices.

Notes

You may substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the ground beef.

To warm buns in the oven, wrap in aluminum foil and place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

To toast the buns in the oven, place them cut side up on a baking sheet and toast under a pre-heated broiler until lightly golden.

To grill the buns, brush the cut sides with melted butter then cook on in a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat for 10 to 12 seconds until golden brown.

Leftovers

Cooked Sloppy Joe sandwich meat keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days. Frozen leftovers are good for up to 3 months. To freeze any leftover Sloppy joe cooked meat, let it cool completely in the refrigerator before storing in a freezer safe resealable bag or container.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 601Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 120mgSodium: 1192mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 2gSugar: 19gProtein: 40g

Did you make this recipe?

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ABOUT SHEILA
Sheila Thigpen, author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook, is a recipe developer, food photographer, and food writer. She spent 20+ years as a business manager in the publishing industry before she retired in 2018 to focus on her passions — cooking, photography, and writing. Living near the beautiful Smoky Mountains, Sheila and her husband have two adult daughters and two fine sons-in-law, are active in their church, love to travel, and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. Follow Sheila on YouTubePinterestInstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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