I love these served on toasted potato buns, with steamed broccoli on the side, a walk for the dog, and bed.–Sam Sifton


Yep. You can even make them so far ahead of time that you’ll have to thaw them out before you serve them. The filling itself can be made up to a day ahead, then reheated and put together whenever you’re ready. You can also scoop the filling into freezer bags (in whatever portion you like) and thaw later on. Perfect for busy weeknights or when you’ve suddenly got a house full of hungry kids.

A skillet filled with sloppy Joe meat mixture, flanked by a filled, untapped sandwich with a toasted top and a bag of sesame seed buns.

Sloppy Joes

4 / 2 votes
This simple version of sloppy Joes, the classic sandwich served in school cafeterias and at kitchen counters across the country, comes together in about 20 minutes and can be made with ground beef, chicken, or turkey. As the name suggests, they are messy, so serve with a fork and plenty of napkins.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories442 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small (4 oz) onion, chopped
  • 2 (3 oz) celery stalks, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1 small (4 oz) red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, preferably 80/20
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned or homemade tomato sauce, plus more if needed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade hot sauce
  • Salt
  • 6 store-bought or homemade hamburger buns


  • In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil. Toss in the onion, celery, jalapeño, and red bell pepper, and cook until the vegetables are very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
  • Dump the ground beef into the pot and stir, let sizzle until well browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce, mix and let simmer for 3 minutes more. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and continue cooking until the mixture is quite thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
  • Toast the hamburger buns, load them up, and dig in.

Adapted From

The NY Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 442 kcalCarbohydrates: 25 gProtein: 24 gFat: 27 gSaturated Fat: 9 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 81 mgSodium: 516 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 5 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Sam Sifton. Photo © 2021 David Malosh. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I don’t like to deviate from my mother’s recipe for sloppy Joes, since it brings back plenty of happy memories and just tastes better than any other recipe I’ve tried. (It’s also clearly descended from an old ad for products used in it.)

This doesn’t dethrone that recipe but it is the first I’ve found to be a suitable alternative. I miss the mustard that’s in my childhood favorite but like the vegetables in this and especially the heat from the hot peppers. Using a variety of chopped veggies means devoting some time to this, but it was still ready to eat in an hour.

While I didn’t use a super fatty beef, we liked the way these turned out. (My husband ate 3 sandwiches!) It had just the right balance of thickness and looseness in the mixture. More fat would boost the flavor even more, though, so going to the full 20% and adjusting the cooking time for thickness would be a way to go.

I now have a second sloppy Joe recipe to turn to when the craving hits. We had these with buttered corn on the cob, plus assorted melons and cottage cheese.

This was a very flavorful sloppy Joe recipe that my husband went back for twice. I found it easy to make a Napa cabbage slaw during the cooking time of the sloppy Joes so a complete meal was ready at the same time. It’s a great weeknight meal that the whole family will enjoy.

I served the sloppy Joes on hamburger buns with Napa cabbage coleslaw (vinaigrette dressing), pickled beets, and an ice-cold Icehouse beer.

These sloppy Joes are a perfect back-to-school, quick weeknight recipe that will make you fall in love again with this comfort food. This meat mixture is SO much better than that made with the canned stuff.  At first, I wondered if I would miss the tangy yet sweet taste of the original mix but no sugar or other sweetener is needed here.

Moms can even feel good that a fair amount of veg is included in the recipe. The onions, celery, and red bell pepper cook up sweet and the jalapeno is not overpowering at all. I used a full 2 tablespoons of both Worcestershire and hot sauce. What I love most about the recipe is how beefy it tastes without added beef base or broth. Using 4 Tbsp tomato paste and 8 oz tomato sauce made the consistency just perfect for piling high on toasted (or fresh squishy) buns. We devoured with jalapeno slaw, pickles, and oven-fried potato chips. Happy kids at heart!

I made this early in the day, refrigerated it, and reheated it at dinner time.  I do like that extra time for flavors to concentrate but it tasted wonderful and freshly made. Do try, it will be a family favorite!

I had not made sloppy Joes before, but they were a favorite during my childhood, especially for large summer gatherings. This recipe served four, but could easily be scaled up for a crowd. All the ingredients were items I typically have in my kitchen and it comes together quickly, making it a great dish for casual entertaining. This could easily be made a day ahead. This recipe is full of flavor from the sautéed vegetables and the addition of the Worcestershire and hot sauce really took it up a notch. My mother always served sloppy Joes with tangy slaw so I served them with South Carolina slaw and potato chips and cold beer.

Where are my meal prep people? Here’s your sloppy Joe recipe, friends! Yes, there’s a time investment with this recipe, I think the whole thing took me about an hour start to finish, but having two meals that serve about 4 is just fantastic. It’s a versatile recipe that you can spice up (I skipped the hot sauce and it was fine) or make as tangy as you want (3 tablespoons of Worcestershire is a good baseline). Plus, this filling isn’t super sloppy. That makes it great for kids, potlucks, or people who tend to wear their food (ahem, me).

I served the sloppy Joes in squishy white hamburger buns, and everybody got to customize their own sandwiches – there was honey mustard, kosher pickles, and sliced cheddar and American cheese for the choosing. For a full school lunch experience, you must serve sloppy Joes with tater tots. No exceptions.

If you love sloppy Joes, you will love these. When I was a child, we got to choose our birthday dinner. Sloppy Joes were my choice for every birthday. I love ’em! And they’re a hit with both my husband and our sons, too. These are a savory sloppy Joe. The mixture is thick and rich and full of flavor.

Now we prefer a little sweetness in the meat mixture, but this a matter of personal taste. And, that’s easily fixed by adding a little sugar or honey to the meat mixture, or serving bread and butter or sweet pickles on each joe. Will I make these again? Oh, yes. Absolutely.

A sloppy Joe recipe that met the expectations of all of my taste testers. My testers wondered what was different about this recipe but it simply tasted exactly how you would expect a sloppy Joe to taste. No tweaking necessary and nothing spectacular or unusual – it was straight up a good sloppy Joe recipe! I served these with potato chips, green beans from the garden and a simple green salad.

I’m a huge fan of the idea of sloppy Joes. I feel like someone in my past made a really savory, flavorful sloppy Joe, and I haven’t been able to recreate it since. The Manwich is a terribly sweet iteration on the sandwich that I try every couple of years, forgetting how much I dislike it.

Let me tell you, this recipe is exactly what I had in my head as the perfect sloppy Joe. It was savory, packed with flavor, and had the perfect amount of sauce. You could actually eat this as a picked-up sandwich, which is terribly rare in the sloppy Joe world. This should be your go-to recipe if you’re looking for the perfect sloppy Joe!

This recipe brings back my childhood, I always thought sloppy Joes were only made with the mix from a can and ground beef. So, this recipe was a treat to be able to recreate this dish with fresh vegetables and season it to our liking. When I first sautéed the vegetables, I thought there were way too many veggies for sloppy Joes but when cooked till soft they almost melted into the mixture. The jalapeno pepper adds a subtle kick. Finding a recipe for sloppy Joes from scratch was great, it was easy to prepare and everyone loved it, a definite comfort food. We served them with lime coleslaw and corn on the cob.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    This brought me right back to middle school! It completely satisfied my yearning for comfort food on a wet blustery fall day. No fancy buns please, I used a regular supermarket white bun.

  2. 4 stars
    This was a real crowd pleaser with the men/boys in my home! These sloppy joe’s were easy and quick to make. I especially liked that they contain veggies. For me, I’m used to a bit more of a sweet tasting sloppy Joe, but of course, this sugar free recipe is healthier and the family were happy with the results, so it’s a win!

    1. Thank you, April! Healthy and delicious is always a win. So glad your whole family enjoyed it.