The Best Sloppy Joes

Quick and easy, these really are the best sloppy joes ever! The bold, exciting flavors make these a tried-and-true favorite!

sloppy joe on white plate

When is the last time you found yourself craving a sloppy joe? 

If your answer is “next to never,” I can’t blame you. Thanks to a few Dreaded Dinners of my Youth, sloppy joes made the short list of meals I never planned to introduce to my children. 

That is, until I took a chance on this new and improved version, and I was totally won over and amazed by how good a sloppy joe could be! 

Over ten years later, and these have become a tried-and-true recipe. They are the only sloppy joes we make! And we make them often.

sloppy joe meat spilling over bun onto white plate

What makes these sloppy joes different?

When you add the right “stuff” to sloppy joes, they quickly go from average to totally spectacular. 

Instead of relying on a strong tomato flavor profile that often results in bland, boring sloppy joes, this recipe goes straight for the flavor jugular. 

BBQ sauce builds the foundation of flavor while tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce round everything out. 

Choose a BBQ sauce you really, really love. My favorite store bought brands are Sweet Baby Rays and Kinders. This is my go-to homemade BBQ sauce recipe

ground beef, tomato paste, ketchup and barbecue sauce in stainless pan

The meat is saturated with bold, savory flavors instead of swimming in a thin, wimpy sauce.

Not only will this make your taste buds really happy, it also helps avoid the dreaded soggy bun issue. 

Because, soggy bread should have never, ever been invented. It’s the worst. 

sloppy joe meat in stainless pan with serving spoon

Quick and Easy

These really are the best sloppy joes. And they are so quick and easy to make. 

A few notes: 

  • the ground beef can easily be subbed out for ground turkey
  • serve them on hamburger buns, brioche buns, homemade french bread rolls, or over cornbread with cheese
  • the prepared sloppy joe meat can be refrigerated for several days and reheated AND it also freezes great

I’ve made these sloppy joes dozens and dozens of times for our little family, and I’ve also made enormous batches to serve crowds upwards of 150 people. 

It’s safe to say that these sloppy joes are always a hit.

sloppy joe on white plate with bite taken out

This sloppy joe recipe is a fan favorite even among past sloppy joe haters!

Allison: Just made this tonight-and adding it to our growing list of amazing recipes from you! Even though I was nervous about trying sloppy joes, my husband said, “has Mel ever let us down?” Haha they are delicious!

Laurel: Our whole family loved this! (And hubby is not a sloppy joe fan )

Ashley S.: This is on regular rotation in my house. It converted my Sloppy-Joe-hating fiancé into someone who regularly requests this dinner. I also love how quick this is to throw together. Thanks for another winner!

Elizabeth: I love these so much I want to cry and hug you. Odd reaction to a sloppy joe? Maybe. But I love them. They are exactly what I’ve always pictured a sloppy joe to be but it just never was. Thank you!!!

What To ServeFrench Bread Rolls 
Coleslaw or Boston Baked Beans
Fresh vegetables and/or green salad

One Year Ago: Copycat Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe {Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker} 
Two Years Ago: Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce {Step-by-Step Tutorial}
Three Years Ago: Cheesy Baked Ziti {Make-Ahead/Freezer Meal} 
Four Years Ago: The Best Homemade Salsa {Fresh or For Canning} 
Five Years Ago: Portillo’s Chopped Salad with Sweet Italian Dressing
Six Years Ago: Sweet Paprika Skillet Chicken
Seven Years Ago: Sweet Mustard Baked Chicken
Eight Years Ago: Succulent Grilled Pork Tenderloin 

The Best Sloppy Joes

Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Total Time: 38 minutes
sloppy joe on white plate

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup BBQ sauce (my favorite homemade version
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I use low-sodium)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rolls or buns, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat, add the onions and beef (or ground turkey). Cook, breaking the meat into small pieces, until the meat is cooked through and the onions are translucent, 7-8 minutes. Drain excess grease.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, BBQ sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, and soy sauce and a pinch of black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer ,and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper, to taste, if needed.
  3. Serve the sloppy joe meat warm on buns or rolls.

Notes

Smaller Batch: this recipe can easily be halved.

Soy Sauce: regular soy sauce might make this recipe too salty. I always use low-sodium. If you only have regular soy sauce, consider decreasing the amount to 2 tablespoons.

BBQ Sauce: my favorite storebought BBQ sauces are Sweet Baby Ray's or Kinders. This homemade BBQ sauce is amazing.

Freezing: the prepared sloppy joe meat freezes great (it can also be made several days ahead of time, refrigerated, and reheated).

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Recipe Source: adapted from Dave Lieberman
Recipe originally published May 2008; updated Sept 2020 with new photos, recipe notes, etc.

sloppy joe on a white plate