This easy homemade Sloppy Joe recipe has a zingy tomato sauce that will bring you right back to eating these iconic sandwiches as a kid. They’re very easy to make at home with just a few simple ingredients.
You’ll never buy another can of Sloppy Joe sauce again after you see how easy it is to make at home. There’s a key ingredient in this recipe that I never see included in Sloppy Joe recipes. This one ingredient changes the sauce so dramatically that I can’t imagine leaving it out. It elevates the taste of this sauce from okay to really good.
Whenever people ask what foods are distinctly American, I think we completely forget about the Sloppy Joe, which is about as American as it can get.
Why do hamburgers and hot dogs get all the glory, when the Sloppy Joe is just as American? Although the origin of this sandwich is hotly contested, as most things are, it’s homeland is unarguably America.
Was it a cook in Iowa named Joe who added tomato sauce to his loose meat sandwich and called it a Sloppy Joe, or was it Sloppy Joe’s bar in Florida that started the trend? It doesn’t really matter. We’re all just lucky someone invented it.
» Try these 20 Simple & Tasty Sides for Sloppy Joes for a quick and easy meal all planned out!
Key Ingredients for Sloppy Joes
So, if you’re still wondering what the key ingredient is that makes this tomato sauce superior, it’s Worcestershire sauce. It gives the sauce an umami boost, while the apple cider vinegar brightens it all up.
High-Quality Ground Beef
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Other Ingredients You’ll need
- Onion – I use a small white or yellow onion, chopped.
- Green pepper – Any color really, finely chopped.
- Ketchup – Helps give the sauce flavor and body.
- Tomato paste – This thickened, reduced form of tomato is very useful for deepening the flavor of your sauce. It also helps thicken it a bit.
- Apple cider vinegar – Vinegar helps balance flavors and brighten this recipe up. You could substitute red wine or white wine vinegar or non-seasoned rice vinegar.
- Seasonings – Garlic salt, celery salt, salt, and pepper.
- Cheddar cheese – or another good melting cheese. Optional
- Hamburger buns
How to Make Sloppy Joes
This sandwich is a favorite for us not just because it’s so tasty, and it reminds us of childhood, but also because it’s so darn easy to make.
You would think that making this sauce would be time consuming. It would have to simmer away for hours to develop depth of flavor. That’s just not the case.
- Cook the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Crumble the beef as it cooks.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan (except for the shredded cheese and buns, of course) and stir well to combine.
Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Flavor will develop during the 10 minutes, so don’t skip the simmering. You can taste it to see if it needs any more salt or Worcestershire sauce.
Serve on toasted buns. Top with shredded cheese, if you want. We love the addition of cheese, but it’s definitely not required.
» If you like how easy this sauce is to make, you’ll also want to check out my homemade spaghetti sauce.
How to Serve Sloppy Joes
You can serve this homemade Sloppy Joe sauce on toasted burger buns or on slider rolls. We also occasionally serve it on top of grilled root vegetables, like a slice of roasted celeriac, for a low-carb meal.
Top it with some melted cheese and you have an easy weeknight meal that everyone will enjoy. Once you make these Sloppy Joes once you’ll be addicted, believe me. It’s impossible to go back to jarred sauce after you see how easy it is and how good it tastes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sloppy joe and Manwich the same thing?
Manwich is the product name for a marketed version of sloppy joe sauce. It was meant to make sloppy joes easy to make. The great things is that homemade sloppy joes are super easy to make and taste better than the canned sauce.
What is Worcestershire sauce?
This sauce was created in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire England. It gets its unique flavor from vinegar, molasses, anchovies, garlic, tamarind extract, chili pepper extract, sugar and salt among other things. It can lends a boost of flavor to recipes such as soups and stews, sauces and marinades.
What can I substitute for Worcestershire sauce?
Try this ingenious kitchen hack. 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 dash of hot sauce.
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Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 small green pepper, finely chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 ounces tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, if desired
- 4 hamburger buns toasted
- Cook the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Crumble it as it cooks.
- Add all remaining ingredients (except for shredded cheese and buns) and stir well to combine.
- Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Serve on toasted buns. Top with shredded cheese, if desired.
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Laura is a home cook who loves making new recipes and finding new favorite things to eat, whether at home or abroad. She also runs a popular travel blog and spends a lot of her time traveling for food.