Ultimate Sloppy Joes

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Classic Sloppy Joes in just 20 minutes with a rich homemade tomato gravy, bell peppers and melted cheese on hamburger buns.

Classic comfort food recipes are favorites on the sites including Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Ultimate Beef Stew and Slow Cooker Chili because they’re family favorites that bring back happy food memories and these sloppy joes are the perfect recipe for your favorite family meals.

Saucy Hamburger Bun filled with Sloppy Joes

Ultimate Sloppy Joes made without the Manwich Canned Sauce or the packets of sloppy joe seasoning you may have grown up with. With just a few pantry ingredients you’ll have a whole new appreciation for classic American dinner favorite recipe sloppy joes.

We call these the Ultimate Sloppy Joes, but you may also want to refer to them as Award Winning Sloppy Joes because this recipe has been victorious in three separate sandwich contests including one in college where it beat out over 50 other sloppy joe recipes!

Plus it wins the most important contest of all, the kid contest. Kids LOVE this recipe because it is the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors topped with cheese. In my ten years of working as a chef, I’ve not had a single kid refuse these sloppy joes.

Take that as a pinky promise from me to you, as a professional chef, these are the best sloppy joes. They’re so good that the base of this recipe made me want to create 25 more sloppy joe recipes!

We’ve have others flavors, from Philly Cheese SteakBacon Cheeseburger, to Pizza too so if you love these Classic Sloppy Joes you should definitely try out more (my husband’s favorite is the Bacon, Beer and Cheese Sloppy Joes)!

If you don’t believe me on how good this recipe is, read this review from below:

 I was looking for something quick to make for dinner since I ended up working late. Most of the ingredients I had at home and only had to stop to get some ground beef on my way home. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sloppy Joes but my SO really likes them so I thought “why not”. And boy oh boy am I happy I landed on this recipe. This recipe has permanently changed my mind on what a good sloppy joe is. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t wait to make them again!

– Christine

Thanks Christine!


Homemade sloppy joes are made with ground beef, onion and green bell peppers that are simmered in a brown sugar and ketchup gravy until thickened and served on a bun.

I’ve looked at the back of the Manwich cans, and I can’t vouch for this recipe to be like a homemade Manwich sloppy joe, but I can say many of the ingredients are similar. This is also not the same as if you grew up eating sloppy joes made with tomato sauce, but the ketchup in the recipe acts in a similar way.

What to serve with Sloppy Joes:

Homemade Sloppy Joes are all about comfort food flavors so we love serving them with Onion Rings, Potato Wedges, Sweet Potato Fries or Roasted Potatoes with them along with some healthier Roasted Vegetables.

Homemade Sloppy Joes on Hamburger Bun

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  • Make sure not to cook down the sauce too much, sometimes the sloppy joes can get dry, you’re looking for a consistency where you can see the individual bits of meat, but not dry enough where they don’t cling to each other in sauce.
  • Make the sloppy joe recipe a little healthier by swapping ground beef for ground turkey.
  • Sloppy Joes can be served again the next day if you add a bit of liquid to help create a bit more sloppy joe sauce. To avoid more sugar being added I’d start with some tomato sauce and water in 1/4 cup increments as you gently reheat and taste.
  • To get a good sear on the meat use high heat instead of medium high, this will create a nice crust giving it a texture more like hamburgers.
  • I personally add in some American or cheddar cheese to the filling when it is done. Some people like to top the sandwich with cheese. Either way cheese makes it just a little more awesome.
  • If you hate green bell pepper feel free to swap it out for a less bitter bell pepper, like red pepper. You can also leave it out, but remember you are removing probably a half cup or more of ingredients, so it will be saucier.
  • If you want a bit more savory flavor you can also add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to the sloppy joe meat.
  • If you would like to swap the ketchup for tomato sauce or tomato paste, just play with the rest of the ingredients to increase the sweetness more as the ketchup adds a definite sweet flavor.
  • Hamburger Bun: I always make sure to toast my bun before adding the filling. I find if you don’t your bun may get too soggy, too quickly. (psst, I also butter mine, but only because that makes it even more delicious)
  • If you would like to use leftovers you may have in another recipe, just use the method found in my  Ground Philly Cheesesteak Grilled Cheese and you’ll be in heaven!

How To Make Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes:

  • Add the ingredients (minus the cheese and buns) to the crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours.
  • Stir before serving, scoop onto your hamburger bun and top with cheese.

How to Make Instant Pot Sloppy Joes:

  • Brown the ground beef in the instant pot on the sauté setting per the instructions then add in the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese and buns).
  • Add the lid and set the pressure to high for ten minutes.
  • Release the pressure naturally for five minutes, open the top and either mix in the cheese or use it as a topping when scooped onto hamburger buns.


Ultimate Sloppy Joes with ground beef

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Ultimate Sloppy Joes

5 from 58 votes
  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder

Classic Sloppy Joes in just 20 minutes with a rich homemade tomato gravy, bell peppers and melted cheese on hamburger buns.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Add the ground beef to a large skillet (this browns very well) on high heat and brown until a deep brown crust appears before breaking the beef apart.

  2. Stir the ground beef and brown until a deep crust appears on about 50 or so percent of the beef, and it is cooked through, then remove the beef, drain the fat and add the butter, onions and bell pepper to the pan.

  3. Let brown for 1-2 minutes before stirring, then let brown for another 1-2 minutes before stirring again and add the beef back into the pan.

  4. Add the garlic, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, to the pan and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 75% of the mixture is above liquid), 3-5 minutes.

  5. Served on hamburger buns with cheese or mix the cheese into the sloppy joe meat mixture.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 6 Servings, Amount per serving: 176 calories, Calories: 176g, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 51mg, Sodium: 536mg, Potassium: 386mg, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 250g, Vitamin C: 10.1g, Calcium: 17g, Iron: 2g

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Keyword: Ultimate Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes Collage

The Ultimate Sloppy Joes made at home in just 20 minutes with no canned sauces!
Just 20 minutes from start to finish and you'll have the easiest and ultimate sloppy joes!

About the Author

Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

See more posts by Sabrina

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. Too sweet for me with ketchup & brown sugar. I’m sure my husband will love it.
    I will make it again using tomato sauce, half the brown sugar & ketchup. Thank you.

  2. These are delicious! And I learned something new – giving a deep brown sear really enhanced the flavor. I’ve never done that, just cooked my hamburger the same boring way I always do.
    My mixture did not end up with a gravy. It was thick and sticky and bun-ready immediately with no need to cook it down. Is there an ingredient missing? Tomato sauce or broth or something?

    1. It doesn’t sound like anything wrong if you followed the recipe, sometimes it will be thicker depending on the heat and the moisture in the meat. So glad you liked the searing the trick!

  3. If a added sloppy joe mix before I cooked the meat is this still ok?
    I cooked the meat with sauce for 20 minutes then let it simmer.

  4. I made this last night and it was delicious! It was also very quick and easy. I had it on the table in about 30 minutes.

  5. My wife and I love a good sloppy joe, and this recipe has become our go to favorite! BTW this is the first review I’ve ever done, it’s that good! Thanks and God bless you.

  6. This Is the best sloppy Joe recipe. My husband and I loved this. It is quick and easy. I will be making this again! Some nice grilled buns and dinner was a hit!

  7. I made this tonight and I didn’t have any veggies to add unfortunately (we’re broke) but it still turned out great! I used garlic powder & dried minced onion, less than half the amount of brown sugar. My husband said it’s way better than the canned sauce. Super happy to have found this recipe. Next time I will try it with fresh onions and bell peppers!

    1. I’m glad it turned out great for you guys! A good veggie saving tip is go with frozen veggies. Most places have an onion and bell pepper mix and frozen veggies are picked at the peak of their season so while not as crisp as fresh, they are just as good for you! I would defrost & drain the veggies so they don’t release too much extra liquid.

    2. For the Instant Pot version, when adding the meat and other ingredients do you stir everything prior to starting? Or just add ingredients on top and start? Thanks!

  8. I made this for my husband. He said it is the best sloppy joe he has ever had. It was very easy and quick to make. I did add about 1/4 tsp chili powder to offset some of the sweetness. I could have used half the brown sugar but my husband says he wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you for this recipe. It will now be part of our regular rotation.

  9. My husband and I are solidly from the “Sloppy Joe Generation.” We grew up in the 80s and Manwich was a common occurrence, and I personally wasn’t a fan. This recipe, however, is awesome! It’s everything that a Sloppy Joe should be. I make it with ground turkey as beef doesn’t agree with my stomach, but to make it a bit “beefy” I add 1/2 c. water and a bit of beef bullion. I also add a bit of Worcestershire Sauce and double the recipe since we have a big family. This is a new family favorite!

  10. What a fantastic recipe! Better than Manwich. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar. Wow, it makes a delicious meal!

  11. Great recipe! I had four uncooked hamburgers left from the night before so meat was about 1.5 lbs. Used one full onion and whole green pepper. I overestimated the brown sugar (not big on measuring) so I added 3/4 cup of marinara sauce. Husband and grown boys loved this!

  12. I tried this after reading that it’s kid approved. My toddler feasts on my hopes and dreams and the occasional cup of milk, so I was willing to give it a try. No such luck, she spit out the first bite and refused to eat anymore. I don’t hold that against this recipe though. These sloppy joes are absolutely delicious. My husband said he only wants this recipe from now on.

  13. I’m not a fan of sloppy Joe’s but this recipe is excellent. Even I had one! Goes together quickly with ingredients on hand. I will make these from now on. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  14. I made this for my family and they are all very picky eaters and they loved it!!! I didn’t have brown sugar so I used white sugar instead and it was delicious

  15. Oh YUM!!!! These are wonderful. I only had Dijon mustard and I don’t use brown sugar so I used agave. But these are so good. And yes def butter and toast the buns. Thanks can’t wait to try your other recipes.

    1. Yes but when you reheat you may need to add a bit of liquid to help create more of the sauce for the sloppy joes. Try adding a bit of water or tomato sauce little by little until it’s the right consistency. Enjoy!

  16. This is now my favorite Sloppy Joe recipe! The entire family LOVED it! Can’t wait to try the rest of your recipe’s!! Thanks So Much!!!

  17. My family loved this recipe; with or without the cheese, it has great flavor! I appreciate how simple and quick these were to make and that there was no tomato paste involved! Thank you 🙂

  18. These were great! My 4 year old twins ate them even though “we don’t like onions”. Managed to sneak the green peppers right past them – suckers!
    Served mine with sharp cheddar cheese slice on Kings Hawaiian buns. Nice sweet kick to round it out.

  19. These are the Absolute Best Sloppy Joes I’ve ever had! Soooo Delicious ???????????. Don’t forget to toast the bun! THX

  20. I was looking for something quick to make for dinner since I ended up working late. Most of the ingredients I had at home and only had to stop to get some ground beef on my way home. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sloppy Joes but my SO really likes them so I thought “why not”. And boy oh boy am I happy I landed on this recipe. This recipe has permanently changed my mind on what a good sloppy joe is. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t wait to make them again!

  21. I made this sloppy joe for supper tonight. I will be making again cause it was delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  22. Interesting how only positive reviews are posted.
    This recipe was dreadful. For anyone who liked it; save yourself the work and simply pour some of your favorite bbq sauce into your hamburger. Much easier. However, probably won’t improve the outcome.

  23. I told my boyfriend I wanted to make sloppy joes for dinner… not from a packet but homemade and low in salt. He said “meh, okay” (disapproving but no other idea for dinner). I made these ultimate sloppy joes last night for dinner. I made the recipe as isand added some chopped jalapenos at the end. My boyfriend woofed them down and asked what was in these because they were the best sloppy joes he’s ever had. Thanks, Sabrina.

  24. Awesome recipe I would totally recommend this to anyone!!! I just added some jalapeño peppers and Worcestershire and siracha and used half ketchup and half tomato sauce!!?

  25. Great recipe for the Ultimate Sloppy Joes !!!!! These are awesome!!! I added some siracha and BBQ sauce and Worcestershire and jalapeño peppers to add a little spice ?

  26. Love this recipe. Huge hit with my wife. I want to make this in the slow cooker so I have a question about that. Do you brown the beef before adding it to the slow cooker or add beef uncooked?

  27. Why must every recipe on the Internet come with a long-winded tale? I don’t want to know your life story, foodies. I just want a damn recipe.

    1. Below the title of every recipe at the top of the page is a “jump to recipe” button. Click on that and it’ll take you right there.

  28. Without a doubt, BEST sloppy joe recipe EVER!!! This is my #1 go to sloppy jo that I go to every time! Never, ever will I buy that canned stuff again!

  29. I Wanted to make Sloppy Joes this afternoon and needed the recipe for the sauce after scouring the pantree and finding no Manwich. Very Delicious! I will continue to make this insted of buying the can. Thank you!

  30. I made these last night. I’d used 3 cloves of garlic to start with (we were in the mood for garlic), but I’m afraid we thought the final result tasted bland. I ended up adding extra salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and then some vinegar from pickled banana peppers. They all helped a bit, but it just didn’t taste like Sloppy Jo sauces I’ve made over the years. I even accidentally used too much yellow mustard to start with, and was afraid it would taste too sharp, but it just tasted like something was missing. I feel badly that we didn’t like it – it was not terrible, by any means, it just didn’t taste like what we were expecting.

  31. I made this with bear meat, and opted out of peppers (ick!). But I added mushrooms and a couple splashes of Worcestershire sauce. Bear meat is really lean, so I didn’t have any grease to drain off. We didn’t have any cheese, so that was out, too. I served it on toasted sourdough hoagie rolls. This was shockingly easy to make, and actually took the amount of time listed to make, which never happens to me. Holy crow, they were delicious–my two-year-olds loved them! I am way less than stellar in the kitchen, so I’m counting the success of these “sloppy bears” as a major victory!

  32. I like to add chopped celery to sloppy joes; in about half as much as the onions and/or peppers. I think it adds a depth to the mixture; maybe it’s just that my mom always did this and I liked hers a lot. Made these according to your directions, though, and they were very good. I have to make a bunch of these for an upcoming event, a big batch of beef sloppy joes, a fairly large batch of chicken or turkey sloppy joes, and a small lentil or jackfruit version. Will probably use your recipe for them, just varying the protein. May or may not add the celery this time, but thanks for a great recipe.

  33. Just made this, so tasty! Just exactly like sloppy joes are supposed to be. I always wing it and sometimes it wouldn’t come out right, then I saw this recipe and the ingredients were very close to mine so now I have the correct measurements so they’ll come out great every time!

  34. Yep. This recipe is written with great care, which always draws our attention. We thought 2 Tsp was a lot of sugar, so we used 2 tsp instead, and we melted 1 anchovie with the onions like one would for a ragu.