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Photo by Heidi's Bridge, styling by Anna Billingskog
  • Active Time

    20 minutes

  • Total Time

    35 minutes

If you grew up in the US, this recipe for classic sloppy joes might give you flashbacks to your childhood, when you may have been subjected to a canned version of the tomatoey loose-meat sandwich filling. But never fear: Here, we’ve swapped out the canned stuff for a tangy, sweet, and savory homemade sloppy joe sauce.

The easy recipe requires minimal prep and is super versatile. You can bulk out the filling with more veggies like carrots and celery, use ground turkey instead of beef, swap the small amount of molasses for brown sugar, opt for yellow mustard instead of Dijon, and play around with the spices to suit your tastes.

Many recipes for this weeknight dinner call for a slow cooker, but our version comes together so quickly we prefer a stovetop method. For the best texture, brown the beef, leaving some bits chunkier than others. Then sauté the vegetables in the beef fat over medium heat and bloom the spices (cooking them for a moment intensifies their flavor). Finally, return the sloppy joe meat to the pan, along with the remaining sauce ingredients.

This comfort food main dish requires almost no accompaniment, but you will want to serve the filling on toasted buns with potato chips (or french fries) and pickles. If you have extra filling, pile it into tacos or baked potatoes with shredded cheese and pickled jalapeños, or freeze it for more easy meals down the line.


Makes 4


Tbsp. olive oil


pound ground beef (20% fat)


medium onion, chopped


green bell pepper, chopped


garlic cloves, grated

Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper


Tbsp. chili powder


Tbsp. sweet paprika


tsp. onion powder


tsp. red pepper flakes


cup low-sodium chicken stock


cup tomato purée


cup ketchup


Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce


tsp. Djion mustard


tsp. robust-flavored (dark) molasses


hamburger rolls, buttered, toasted

Kettle chips and pickle spears (for serving)


  1. Step 1

    Heat oil in a large skillet over high. Cook beef, breaking up with a spoon, until browned on all sides but not completely cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving as much fat in pan as possible.

    Step 2

    Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic, stirring, until tender but not browned, 6–8 minutes; season with salt and black pepper. Add chili powder, paprika, onion powder, and red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add stock, tomato purée, ketchup, Worcestershire, mustard, molasses, and beef along with any accumulated juices to pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until mixture is thick and saucy (like a ragú or Bolognese), 12–15 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

    Step 3

    Spoon beef mixture onto rolls. Serve with chips and pickle spears alongside.

    Do Ahead: Meat mixture can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill in an airtight container, or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat before assembling.

    Editor’s note: This recipe was originally published in March 2017. Head this way for more easy ground beef recipes

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  • love the extra flavor adding some of these ingredients gives this classic recipe !

    • watsonjac

    • dayton,tn

    • 3/23/2020

  • I made this last night with ground dark turkey meat and subbed red pepper for the green. Ate it on French hamburger buns. Delicious and more importantly, not too sweet and depth of flavor. I see this recipe being in high rotation in our house.

    • divacooks

    • Miami Beach

    • 9/30/2018

  • I loved this recipe, simple, easy and quick to do, now just put into practice, and will be today. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

    • Brasil

    • 10/17/2017