The Best Sloppy Joes

I know it gets redundant reading recipes that start with “the best” or “the ultimate” but these really are the best sloppy joes I’ve ever had. Really. The best. To be honest, I never liked sloppy joes until I tried these. It was the dreaded meal (that and Shepherd’s Pie) that my mom made growing up (sorry mom!). I never even thought about making them for my family until I came across this recipe a few years ago and decided to take a chance. They were delicious and I’ve been making them ever since. These are less tomato-ey and more smokey and BBQ-ey than traditional sloppy joes. Keep in mind that the roll makes all the difference – good bread equals a fabulous sloppy joe! (I served these sloppy joes on my french bread rolls.) Quick, easy, classic and totally delicious.

What To ServeFrench Bread Rolls (for the bun)
An awesome side like this: Barbecue Macaroni SaladColeslaw, or these Boston Baked Beans
Fresh vegetables and/or green salad

The Best Sloppy Joes

Yield: Serves 4-6

The Best Sloppy Joes


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 ½ pounds ground beef or lean ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup smoky BBQ sauce (or this awesome homemade version)
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 12 rolls or buns


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until it is finely crumbled, the liquid boils off and the meat begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the grease off the meat and onions. Stir in the tomato paste, and keep stirring until the meat is coated. Add the BBQ sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, soy sauce, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. You can make the sloppy joe meat up to 2 days in advance and reheat it over low heat or in the microwave.
  3. Wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and warm in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve the sloppy joes hot with the warmed rolls.


Freezable Meals: The leftover sloppy joes can be frozen. I store it in a freezer-safe container and then thaw in the refrigerator prior to serving. I reheat on medium-low heat in a saucepan on the stove.

Recipe Source: adapted from Dave Lieberman

126 Responses to The Best Sloppy Joes

  1. Leigh Anne says:

    I loved sloppy joes as a kid but could never get my kids to eat them – it’s been years since I tried so think I will give it another try with your recipe – thanks!

  2. Leigh Anne says:

    I loved sloppy joes as a kid but could never get my kids to eat them – it’s been years since I tried so think I will give it another try with your recipe – thanks!

  3. debbie crane says:

    So…I am anxious to try this recipe. I also have a family who are not too keen on sloppy joes and I keep trying to find “the one” because I love sloppy joes. I will let you know what they think. Thanks Debbie

  4. Anonymous says:

    Maybe I just didn’t have the most flavorful BBQ sauce, but my family thought this recipe was pretty bland. It definitely doesn’t have the traditional Sloppy Joe flavor (which is probably why you liked it), but I think we will stick with a more traditional recipe next time.

  5. Lauren says:

    I’m finally getting the chance to make these tonight. Im so excited!! all of the reciepes i have tried from you are wonderful! Thank you 🙂

  6. Melanie says:

    Natalie – thanks for letting me know you tried them. I’m glad you liked them! That is always a relief instead of you commenting that they were terrible. 🙂 They are a huge fan of my kids, also.

  7. Kylie Walker says:

    Mmmm, this is so funny. I have been begging Nate to let me make sloppy joes but he says he “hates” sloppy joes. Maybe these are rooted in your shared childhood experiences? Anyway, I think I am going to try this out and tell nate to eat a corndog 🙂 haha

  8. Annemarie says:

    mmmmmm! I can’t wait to try this one!

  9. Kevin says:

    Those sloppy joes look good. It has been too long since I last had sloppy joes.

  10. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – you are right about this recipe – the flavor is different than a traditional sloppy joe, which is why I like it because I’m not a huge fan of traditional sloppy joes. Sorry it didn’t turn out so great for you. Sloppy joes are one of those things that people have their “favorite” recipe and you either love it or you don’t. Sorry this one didn’t work out for you!

  11. PheMom says:

    I love sloppy joes, but this version sounds even better to me. I’ll have to try this one out.

  12. Erin says:

    I have to confess I’ve always liked sloppy joes, if they are made well. I’ve had plenty that have NOT been good, but I like a well made sloppy joe. I can’t wait to try this. Yum.

  13. Natalie says:

    We had these last night and they were sooo good! Kids loved them. So did our company. My husband (picky eater of the universe) told me to make them again. Thanks so much for a delicious, easy, family pleasing recipe!!

  14. Steph says:

    I love sloppy joes, they’ve been my favorite since I was a kid! These look sooo good!

  15. Leah says:

    These are definitely not the sloppy joes I grew up with (um, those would be the McCormick packet!). My family would love these, and it would be a great recipe for a crowd! Yum!

  16. nicole says:

    I love a good easy sloppy joe.Looks good.

  17. RecipeGirl says:

    Hey, I’m glad to see BEST in front of a sloppy joe recipe since the last SJ recipe I tried was a major flop! I’ll bookmark this one to try next time.

  18. grace says:

    what, no manwich? i kid, i kid. this is my kind of sloppy joseph, the ol’ manwich can’t even hold a candle to it. 🙂

  19. Melanie says:

    Lauren – I’m excited you are trying these – let me know how they turn out!

  20. Melanie says:

    Hey Danielle – I always forget that this would be a good meal to take to someone so thanks for the reminder. I’m glad you liked them, thanks for letting me know!

  21. Danielle says:

    I am also not a big sloppy joe fan. I made these the other night for us and to take over to a neighbor. You’re right, it does make a ton. They were a HUGE hit. My pickiest child had four sandwiches and ate more the nest day. I like the BBQ flavor twist. Thanks once again.

  22. Jordan says:

    Best Sloppy Joe recipe ever! My husband has always like them but I never found a recipe I’ve liked til this one! He kept saying all night, “Those sloppy joes were soooo good!” Thanks again!!!

  23. Melanie says:

    Jordan – I was thrilled to read your comment – so glad these were a hit with your husband!

  24. Sonya says:

    Melanie once agian you came through for me. I was having a hard time trying to figure out a meal for ballet night. I checked your blog and came across your sloppy joe recipe. It was a huge hit and fast to toss together. I changed a few things (one kid likes BBQ sauce and one doesnt') to fit our family, but it was great. Thanks again.

  25. Melanie says:

    Sonya – I'm glad that this meal fit the bill for your family (albeit a few changes). Thanks for letting me know!

  26. Jill says:

    I haven’t found a BBQ sauce that I love….what kind do you use?

  27. Mel says:

    Jill – I have started making my own (I posted it at this link: but when I buy it, I always buy KC Masterpiece because it’s my husband’s favorite.

  28. […] – Craft Night – My turn to cook – Sloppy Joes with Fries Tuesday – Chicken Cordon Bleu and fresh broccoli Wednesday – Salisbury Steak with pasta […]

  29. Erinn says:

    I made these & they are amazing! Thanks!

  30. Mel says:

    Erinn – glad you liked these!

  31. Carlin says:

    I thought these were way yummy! I made them last night for dinner using your recipe for homemade bbq sauce and your french bread rolls. They were definitely a hit and will become part of our “favorites”.

  32. tanya says:

    Yum yum. Made these and the rolls on Friday night. We never go back to my old Sloppy Joe recipe again. Delicious.

    • Mel says:

      Tanya – your comment reminds me I need to make these. It’s been a few months since I made them last. I’m glad they were a hit!

  33. Geneil says:

    The sloppy joes were yummy. I made them with your Cheesy Au Gratin potatoes, also yummy. Comfort food to the max. Thanks!

  34. Tanya B says:

    Wow .. wow … wow. Amazing!

  35. heather says:

    these are delicious! and my kids loved them. thanks for the recipe : )

  36. Stacey says:

    Now I have to say I loved sloppy joe’s growing up but I’m so with you on the Shepard’s Pie thing – gross!!! But this looks yummy.

  37. Nicole says:

    To make sloppy joes a little less sloppy you might try serving them in a hot dog bun…it really cuts down on the mess! I have 5 kids and it works like a charm!

  38. Melody S says:


    I made these tonight. I made a 1/2 recipe because there are only 3 of us, but I can tell you the whole pan is gone! I was a little skeptical because I’m not a huge sloppy joe fan, but they were delicious. I’m glad because I had already failed on a black bean soup recipe that I slow cooked yesterday! Thanks again for your great blog.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Another hit! I used ground turkey, since that’s what I had on hand, and I shredded a zucchini and sauteed it with the onion. I love “sneaking” veggies in. 😉 Delicious on whole wheat slider buns. My husband commented that he’d never had homemade sloppy joes, and I realized I probably hadn’t either. We’ll certainly never go back to the canned stuff now! Thanks!!!

  40. Ann Buttars says:

    My family didn’t like this as well as the one I have always made. They thought it had too much Worcestershire sauce in it. I did think that it was better a few days after.

  41. Kathiseattle says:

    We had this for dinner tonight – it was a huge hit with my 3 year old finicky boy, my 2 year old twin girls AND my husband – thank you so much for a great meal that everyone enjoyed – finally!

  42. Kristen says:

    These were yummy-o!!!! Made them for the fam + our neighbor who just had surgery; they were a hit!! No leftovers for us, we ate it all!! Thanks for sharing your great recipes! I love following your blog!!!

  43. My 19-year-old daughter is home from her first year of college and just made these delicious sloppy joes for dinner and we all completely loved them. She made one slight change, instead of the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, she used an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce since I’m a huge fan of tomatoes. Then also made the french bread rolls and used your tutorial on forming the rolls, which turned out perfectly. We added a few pickle slices to each roll with the hearty sloppy joe mixture. So, so good! We can hardly wait until she makes them again in about a week! This will be an excellent, inexpensive recipe for her to use when she moves into her first apartment with a kitchen for her sophomore year this fall. Thank you, as always, for sharing your talents with us!

  44. Amy Wolin says:

    My husband and I LOVED these! I made my bbq sauce a little sweeter and spicier just a tad by adding a very little brown sugar and very little Pace Picante hot salsa, and followed everything else, and we absolutely loved em. When I tasted the meat mixture I used a lettuce leaf and fell in love with them on that so on the side of our sandwiches I made us little sloppy joe lettuce wraps. Sounds weird I know but we loved them! Haven’t tried your rolls you serve them with yet but that’s on my list!

  45. Another winner! Even my non-sloppy joe eating husband liked it!

  46. tonya says:

    I’m a little obsessed with your recipes right now. I feel like I’ve stumbled onto a goldmine!!

    These sloppy joes were so tasty! I do like Manwich from a can, but this was a whole other level (for a more refined palette – ha!!). Awesome flavor! Don’t know that I will ever buy Manwich again. This was too good – no turning back now!

    I did not brave your french bread rolls, but will be trying them later this week when I make the pulled pork bbq sandwiches. A little obsessed.

  47. […] Sloppy Joes w/ homemade fries (another new recipe to […]

  48. Brian says:

    i tried this recipe, this is amazing! i added jalapeno for some kicks with spicy habereno bbq sauce. will do this every once in a while! thumbs up! i skipped the soy sauce because there’s a allergy in the family but it still tasted good!

  49. […] 3.  Best Sloppy Joe’s Eva […]

  50. LB says:

    These turned out great! I made a triple batch so I could take meals to three families with new babies (and saved a bit for us). That much meat required browning in two batches, but otherwise was a super-easy recipe with a great flavor. I paired it with the cheesy au gratin potatoes (again, tripled is a LOT of potato-washing/peeling/slicing, but so tasty) on your site. I’ve never been much on sloppy joes but these turned me into a fan.

  51. […] sloppy joes, […]

  52. Dena says:

    Made these last night, including the french bread rolls. They were a big hit! Thanks Mel! I must say though that they are best eaten when the rolls are fresh out of the oven. They are much softer. I had a few leftover rolls from the other day when I made some and just heated them up in the microwave. Not nearly as enjoyable as the uber-soft fresh rolls out of the oven!

  53. Mary Jo says:

    I bought boneless skinless chicken breast and ground it up for the meat. I sprinkled with beef soup base for more of a beef flavor. These were delicious!

  54. That looks really good, I love sloppy joes!

  55. Stephanie says:

    My husband hates sloppy joes and I love them. I made these for dinner last night and I finally won him over! These are AWESOME! He even said we could add them to the rotation. Thanks SO much!

  56. Kevin says:

    This was absolutely delicious, and was made in about 30 minutes, so it would make a great weekday meal.

    One tip, and please forgive me if someone has already said it in these comments as I didn’t read all of them: If your BBQ sauce isn’t smoky, and perhaps even if it is, add 1/4 tsp of liquid smoke. I looooooved the additional flavour this supplied.

    Your blog is awesome! Thanks!

  57. […] The Best Sloppy Joe’s from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe: I mixed these up last week and put them in the freezer for a meal later in the month.  It tasted great and was easy to make with everything I always keep on hand.  So this recipe will also make it to the print out on dead trees. […]

  58. Sharon Thurston says:

    Hi Mel. I’m having trouble with printing. When I click onto the Printable version with photo, there doesn’t seem to be a link where I can actually print from. Any ideas?

  59. […] Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Sloppy Joe’s* [they were […]

  60. Jennifer says:

    So good! My family loved it! This is the only Sloppy Joe I’ll be making from now on. Thank you!

  61. Sharon Thurston says:

    OK, I made these and they were a bit too spicy for my liking. The kids weren’t fussed. Would it be the worcestershire sauce or soy sauce? I liked them but found the more I ate the hotter my mouth got. How can I ammend?

  62. Mel says:

    Sharon – was your BBQ sauce spicy? If that wasn’t the culprit, perhaps it was the Worcestershire. If you think that’s the case, cut it down to 2 tablespoons next time and see how it goes.

  63. Norma M says:

    I tried your sloppy joe recipe and it was delicious! I loved the BBQ flavor, thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes!

  64. Ava says:

    Excellent but next time I would use low sodium soy sauce. I love salty but it was a bit much.

  65. Sharon Thurston says:

    The BBQ sauce I used is my everday one. I woudn’t consider it spicy so I’m guessing that it was the worcestershire sauce. I shall use less. Thanks for the tips!

  66. Beth says:

    This recipe is very similar to what my mom would make for us growing up, except she called them “BBQs”. I much prefer this to the traditional SJ recipe, which my husband loves but I find exceptionally bland. So we rotate…when I’m in charge of the meal, it’s BBQs, and when he cooks, he makes sloppy joes his way. The kids enjoy both!

  67. Shelley says:

    Has anyone ever tried this recipe but cut it in half? Some recipes work well that way some not so much. Sloppy Joes always looks so good but I have never tasted one that tasted as good as it looks. I am anxious to try this one but would like to try a smaller version first.

  68. Mel says:

    Shelley – I’ve never halved this recipe so I’m not sure how it would fare but my guess is that it would be just fine.

  69. […] Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  70. Lyndsie says:

    Shelley: I just halved the recipe last night and it turned out delicious! I didn’t have any troubles at all.

    My husband loved it! We will definitely be doing that meal again!

  71. Tamara says:

    I’m making this for a crowd of 16-18 on Sunday. Since your recipe calls for 8-12 rolls, I’m guessing it serves 8-12, so I should probably double it… does that sound about right?

    Also, do you think I could make it in a slow cooker?

    Thanks so much, it looks awesome!

  72. Mel says:

    Tamara – I’d triple the sloppy joe mixture for a crowd that big. I’ve kept it warm in the slow cooker before (up to 4 hours on low) but I’d suggest making it as the recipe directs on the stovetop and transferring it to the slow cooker just for warming purposes. Good luck!

  73. Tamara says:

    Great, thanks much for the quick and helpful response! That makes sense on tripling it, and on making it ahead and just keeping it warm in the slow cooker. That will actually work perfectly since our group is coming over at 1. I can make it around 10 am and then keep it warm while I do other things!

  74. […] [b] cereal, [l] leftover chicken spaghetti, [d] sloppy joe’s* & green […]

  75. Annie says:

    THESE are the sloppy joes my family asks for….none other…’nuf said.
    Thanks Mel!

  76. Lindsay Palmer says:

    Made this recipe tonight (with the french bread rolls) and TWO members of my family complained that they didn’t like sloppy joes….. until they tried these!!! YUMMO!!! Everyone gobbled them right up! Thanks!

  77. Maria says:

    I’m not a sloppy joe person but the hubby and my kiddos LOVED them! Thank you for another great recipe! 🙂

  78. […] had these at our 4th of July BBQ and it was a hit! I found this recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (one of my favorite foodie blogs) and it was completely gone by the end of the night… […]

  79. […] this recipe from HERE at Mel’s Kitchen! I sometimes will add a fried egg, slice of colby cheese, and pickled sliced […]

  80. Kristen says:

    This is my favorite recipe for Sloppy Joes! I make them with ground turkey and they are so delicious. I found that the Famous Dave’s Rich and Sassy BBQ sauce makes them taste even better.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  81. DEE says:

    This was absolutely delicious!! Friends who claimed to hate Sloppy Joes were so sorry I made only one batch! Next time I will most certainly double the quantity to feed a crowd!

  82. Stacey says:

    Made this for dinner tonight along with Rhodes rolls, fantastic!!!! My kids loved it!!

  83. chuck dorr says:

    Just made this recipe, thinking I was going to impress my wife when she gets home from work. I used 1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey instead of 2-1/2 lbs. ground beef, thank G for that! I cut the rest of the ingredients in half, so it’s not my fault this tasted like it was full of salt! That’s all I tasted was salt, probably from the soy sauce in the recipe. I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce, which wasn’t full of salt, because I’ve made Sloppy Joes before with just that barbecue sauce, which tasted a whole lot better than this recipe! I noted people’s delight with this recipe… why I don’t know, unless you are so use to having food smothered with salt, like fast food is! I’ve liked recipe’s from this web site before, but definitely not this one!

  84. kevin says:

    @ Chuck….wasn’t salty at all when I made it, and I’m quite sensitive to salt, so either your ingredients were somehow saltier than the norm, or you screwed it up.

  85. Abundantmom says:

    LOL @ Kevin’s response to Chuck!

    Definitely NOT salty. In fact, my family thought it was not salty enough (they are total salt addicts *sigh*). There is a HUGE difference in saltiness with soy sauce brands though so that is probably the cause for the too-salty taste.

  86. Cherrie says:

    I made this tonight and my kids loved it! It worked really well on the homemade rolls.

  87. Amanda says:

    My husband and I LOVE these. We’ve made them for a year or so. We’ve never been disappointed with a recipe from this site (I’ve been reading for 2+ years) And we know that when you say it’s the best, it probably is.

  88. Nancy says:

    I just wanted to let you know, another good option to spice up your sloppy joes is to sub half of the meat with chorizo. It adds a zing and a spice. My husband LOVES these.

  89. Cindy Woodward says:

    At one of our family holiday events, we bring finger foods and sandwiches. I am always looking for something new…..this was it! A huge hit for all ages…..everyone said something about them! And I am thankful I made a large batch…and have leftovers. Thanks!

  90. Helen says:

    Hi Mel,
    I’ve been using you recipes regularly for the past few months … They fit well with my cooking style and the lifestyle of my family (7 kid ages 9 months to 17 yrs. :-).. Last night my 16 year old son said he wanted sloppy joe bake for dinner (an old bisquick recipe I used to make when my older kids were little). Because of my current habit of making nearly all my meals from your website…. And my obsession with cooking experiments… I used this sloppy joe recipe put it in a 9×13 pan and topped it with the cheddar biscuits from your confetti chicken pot pie recipe … Let’s just say it was A HUGE HIT!!!! I havent bought or used bisquick for ages … Nor do I plan to in the future … This turned out to be a superb re-creation of an old family favorite…. Thanks for the inspiration!!
    Ps…. I did add a little brown sugar to the sloppy joe portion… Just for a little more sweetness 🙂

  91. […] The Best Sloppy Joe’s from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe: I mixed these up last week and put them in the freezer for a meal later in the month.  It tasted great and was easy to make with everything I always keep on hand.  So this recipe will also make it to the print out on dead trees. […]

  92. Menu Mondays says:

    […] sloppy joes, cucumber […]

  93. Tia says:

    Definitely not your regular sloppy Joe!!! I so love this and so did my family even the picky 11 month old… I don’t usually measure son I just threw in the ingredients you listed… Also I used tamari instead of soy!! Thanks for this its a keeper … I planned out 22 meals for this month off your site this month so far so good!!

  94. Jill says:

    I have been experimenting with some of your recipes and all have been great including this one! I browned the beef , sautéed the onions and threw everything else in my crockpot and let it cook for several hours. Easy and delicious!

  95. Diane S. says:

    This really is The Best Sloppy Joe recipe! Love the tang the addition of soy sauce gives the sauce. Husband said to keep this recipe close at hand for future reference. Made for many tasty and easy dinners with Perfect Potato Salad. Love your new graphics Mel!

  96. Kathleen says:

    I was in the middle of making this recipe for the first time when I realized that I didn’t have any BBQ sauce! So… I used some red enchilada sauce and added a little liquid smoke. It was really good, but next time I’ll try it as you suggest w/ BBQ sauce!

  97. Katie says:

    So long sloppy jo spice packets!

  98. Rachel says:

    I love a good sloppy joe! Where I come from though we call this type of dish a ranch burger because it’s BBQ sauce based. A sloppy joe here is tomato sauce based. Either way you call it, this recipe is a keeper! It turned out so delicious and all the farm hands really enjoyed it with the spicy oven baked fries and creamy coleslaw!

  99. Melissa C says:

    Made this tonight….delish!!!

  100. Nicole says:

    Ok. You’re kidding me right? I made these tonight and the cheesecake chocolate chip cookie squares. That would make the 5th recipe I have used from you. Every taste bite has been a “AHHHHH, this is so freaking good!”

    Your blog Mel, is a winner. Might as well just work my way down the list. (We must share similar taste buds or something…)

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