Classic Sloppy Joes

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Let me start by saying that growing up we never had Sloppy Joes.  They weren’t something my mom made and they weren’t something I would buy at school.  They just didn’t appeal to me at all.  Later on when I was in college and afterwards I had a few years where I wouldn’t even eat a burger unless I made it myself let alone a Sloppy Joe.

Kids and adults will love the flavors in these Classic Sloppy Joes

Fast forward to about 10 years later when I started my food blog.   I was looking for easy weeknight meals and Sloppy Joes kept coming up.  Since they weren’t anything I had ever eaten I asked my husband about them and he said that he would eat them but they weren’t his favorite.  So I whipped up a batch using canned sauce.

That was my first error.  Why in the world is canned Sloppy Joe sauce so sweet?   Yuck!   Secondly, I didn’t add much in the way of vegetables so it can kind of like a sweet, mashed up burger and it was just weird.  I ate one, my husband ate one, but I wasn’t trying to make them again anytime soon.

It's easy to make your own Sloppy Joes from scratch!

A few years later I found a recipe using homemade sauce and some vegetables so I gave it a try.  It turns out that homemade sauce on a Sloppy Joe really makes a big difference and I actually thought they were decent.  So did my husband.  I was happy I had found one with real ingredients that tasted good but I still wanted to find one that I would want to make more than once.

That’s when Cook’s Illustrated Classic Sloppy Joes recipe came to my attention.  You already know that in my mind Cook’s Illustrated can do no wrong.  The recipes always turn out and I never have a problem with them.  I just knew this was going to be the Sloppy Joe that I actually ate and thought, “Wow!  I’d make that again some day!”  I also wanted it to be something that I could feed my kid.

These aren't your momma's sloppy joes. Take a bite out of homemade Sloppy Joes

These Sloppy Joes hit the spot!   I used minced peppers and onions in the ground beef (Certified Angus Beef brand and yes, it makes a difference too!) and I like that you just add a hint of brown sugar to the sauce so it has a touch of sweetness but it’s not overbearing at all.  The sauce itself has a nice, rich flavor that is perfect with the beef.   We really enjoyed these Sloppy Joes and would have them again!  I think kids would really like them and it’s a great way to hide some veggies in a dinnertime favorite.

Kids and adults will love the flavors in these Classic Sloppy Joes

Classic Sloppy Joes

Yield: serves 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Beef tossed with garlic, onions, and peppers then mixed with a tangy homemade sauce and placed on slider buns.


  • 2 Tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 lb. 85/15 lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste
  • 1/3 c. ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 slider buns


  1. Combine 1 tablespoon water and 1/2 t. baking soda in a bowl.
  2. In a large bowl toss the beef with the baking soda mixture and half the salt. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion, bell peppers, and remaining baking soda and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the sugar, paprika, remaining salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add in the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add in the beef and cook, breaking up the meat, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add in the ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and stir until well combined.
  8. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Serve on slider buns.


Recipe from Cook's Illustrated May & June 2019

Classic Sloppy Joes with homemade sauce



  1. I forgot about sloppy joes! How could I forget about these! I believe that my littles will love them and I can’t wait to have them for dinner next week! Thanks, for the relaxed summer dinner idea!

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