Sloppy Joe Sauce that will become your new favorite! It's homemade and so easy you can forget about the canned stuff! You'll never want to go back after trying this recipe!
I have a thing for sloppy joes-- like a big thing. You might even call it love. I don't know what it is, but there's just something about their tomato-y, sweet, and tangy goodness that keeps me falling for them again and again.
This sloppy joe sauce recipe is one that I've had in my recipe box for a long, long time and I'm so excited to share it with you.
Why This Recipe Works
Sloppy joes are super simple in both the way they are prepared and eaten, but the tricky part comes in balancing the flavors. Sloppy joe sauce should be sweet and tangy but still let the flavor of the meat shine through. This recipe has a perfect blend of those sweet and tangy flavors and depth from the addition of diced green chiles and Worcestershire sauce.
What's the Difference Between Manwich and Sloppy Joes?
Manwich is the marketed version of sloppy joe sauce you can find in the grocery store. It's meant to make Sloppy Joes easy to make, but they are easy to make even without a can of sauce! Sloppy joes are simply ground beef (or turkey) simmered in a sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce, served on hamburger buns.
How To Make Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce
Step 1.) Choose your Meat
This sloppy joe sauce works well with both ground beef and turkey. I'm not a huge fan of ground chicken, so I've never tried it, but if you do and it turns out well, let me know!
Step 2.) Make the Sauce
The sauce includes brown sugar, chili powder, mustard, onion, vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, and my secret ingredient, diced green chilies. After you brown the meat just add all the sauce ingredients to the pan and let simmer!
Step 3.) Simmer WELL
The longer you can simmer the sauce, the better! I'm usually making sloppy joes because I'm in a time crunch and need something quick, but if you have the time, let it simmer away to let all the flavors develop and meld together. Or use the slow cooker method below.
Step 4.) Toast Them Buns!
Brush buns with melted butter and place face up under the broiler for just a minute (watch closely!). The toasted, buttered buns hold the sloppy joe sauce better and add texture and flavor.
Can You Make Sloppy Joes In a Crock Pot?
If you'd like to make this recipe in the slow cooker, brown the meat with the onion, drain off the fat, and stir with the remaining sloppy joe sauce ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on high for at least an hour or low for 2 hours. It can be left in there longer if you'd like.
Can You Make Sloppy Joes In an Instant Pot?
Yes! Turn the Instant Pot on "Saute" mode and prepare the recipe as written below. When it comes time to simmer the sauce, add ½ cup water, lock the Instant Pot lid in place making sure the venting valve is sealed, and set to cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. When the cooking time is up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then carefully turn the venting valve to release the remaining pressure. When the pressure pin drops, remove the lid and stir. If the sauce is thin, you can turn on "Saute" mode and allow the sauce to simmer until thickened to your liking.
Cooking For a Crowd? Make Sloppy Joes!
Sloppy joes make a great meal for any size crowd because they are budget-friendly and super easy to make. The best way to make them for a crowd is using the slow cooker method above. For more fun, create a sloppy joe bar using the topping suggestions below.
Need to know how much to make? When cooking for a crowd, it can be hard to figure out how much food to purchase-- especially meat! This recipe makes six good-sized sandwiches so if you need to make sloppy joes for 50, you'll need to multiply the recipe by 8 and buy 8 pounds of ground meat. One good rule of thumb is is to estimate about 2 and a half ounces of raw meat per person when dealing with ground meat.
How To Serve Sloppy Joes
Want to make this sloppy joe recipe super special? Make a sloppy joe bar! It's the perfect way to dress up these basic sandwiches and makes a fun and easy dinner for a crowd. Here are some of my favorite toppings:
- Thinly sliced red onion
- Dill pickle chips
- Yellow Pepper rings
- Crispy bacon slices
- French-fried onions (like those you put on green bean casserole)
- Fresh Cole Slaw
- Sliced Cheese- cheddar, pepper jack, muenster, American
- Sour Cream
- Potato Chips or Fritos
How Did Sloppy Joes Get Their Name?
Sloppy Joes originated in Sioux City, Iowa by a cook named Joe in the 1930's. Loose-meat sandwiches like Sloppy Joes were a popular staple at casual lunch-counter restaurants and were known to be sloppy and messy to eat. Albeit, super tasty! (Wikipedia)
Other Ways to Use Sloppy Joe Sauce
Don't feel like you have to be bound to a hamburger bun! This Sloppy Joe Sauce Recipe can be used for many things. The sauce is slightly sweet and is similar to a BBQ sauce. It's great served over a baked potato or even used as a topping for "Nachos." Or make a "Sloppy Dog" and top a hot dog with it like you would a chili dog.
The Best Sloppy Joe Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef or turkey see notes
- 4 ounces canned diced green chiles
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 4 hamburger buns
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add hamburger and onion, cooking and crumbling the meat until no longer pink.
- Remove meat from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels or bags to drain off the excess fat.
- Once drained, put the meat back into the skillet and add all remaining ingredients. Stir until combined and let simmer 10-15 minutes or until slighlty thickened.
- Serve on toasted hamburger buns with a slice of cheese if you'd like.
- Choosing Meat: I've found that 85/15 ground beef (85% meat, 15% fat) and 90/10 ground turkey is perfect to keep the meat tender and avoid greasiness.
- Simmer as long as you'd like: Simmering the meat in the sauce allows the meat to cook down and the flavors of the sauce to meld. I typically am making sloppy joes because I need something quick, but always enjoy them more when I let the sauce simmer 30 minutes on low. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little bit of water to loosen it up.
- Toast The Buns: Toasted, buttered buns hold the sloppy joe sauce better and add texture and flavor. Brush the buns with melted butter and place them face up under the broiler for just a minute (watch closely!)