As a child, sloppy joes were a staple weeknight meal in our house, but we always used canned sauce (Manwich or its equivalent) as a condiment.

My cooking skills changed once I realized how easy it is to whip up sauces such as that from ingredients I already had in my pantry after I started cooking for myself.

Since then, I have never looked back, and I have never looked for a better way. In addition to being quick, easy, and full of flavour, these homemade sloppy joes are freezer-friendly as well.

As a bonus, I’ve got some tips for you below on how you can make these recipes even more budget-friendly, since the price of ground beef isn’t going to get any cheaper anytime soon.

Sloppy Joe Sauce: What is it?

A Sloppy Joe is a loose hamburger-like sandwich that is made with ground beef, peppers, onions, and a special red sauce, and the secret of a sloppy joe is in the sauce.

The red sauce greatly contributes to the flavor of the sandwich. As the name suggests, it is a tomato-based sauce filled with savory flavors, tangy tastes, and sweet tastes.

It is true that many recipes simply use heavily seasoned ketchup for the sauce, but this recipe uses a variety of ingredients including tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, sugar, Dijon, and chili powder which are rich in flavor.

Sloppy Joes: Serving Instructions

how to make sloppy joes 02

In most cases, sloppy joes are served on a hamburger bun with cheese served on the side, but some are served without cheese at all.

I suppose you could get really creative with this, but it’s totally up to you.

If you are on a budget, you may opt to just eat it on white bread (if you know, you know) or pile it into a tortilla and turn it into sloppy joe tacos, spoon it over a baked potato, eat it as a bowl meal over rice, or make it into an ultimate budget friendly bowl meal.

It is also a good idea to serve some chips or steak fries on the side as a side dish. It could also be roasted broccoli if you prefer.

Options Based on Budget

To make your sloppy joes a little lighter on the wallet, you can do a few things to cut down on the cost of ground beef. The following ideas may help:

  • Purchasing ground beef in bulk allows you to divide it and freeze the rest (or make two batches of sloppy joes and freeze half of them).
  • Lentils or black beans can be used in place of half of the ground beef.
  • Adding extra vegetables to the ground beef before browning will help bulk it up and extend its lifespan.
  • When you make sloppy joes (or any other recipe that uses tomato paste), remember to freeze your leftover tomato paste.

Sloppy joe meat in a skillet.

The Sloppy Joe

The classic American weeknight meal of ground beef topped with a tangy sauce is simmered in a tangy sauce and piled high on a soft bun.

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Prep Time: 10  minutes / Cook Time:  20 minutes / Total Time:  30 minutes


  • 1 lb. ground beef ($5.49)
  • 5 hamburger buns ($1.87)
  • 1 15oz. can tomato sauce ($0.79)
  • 1 green bell pepper ($0.79)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.32)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce ($0.02)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.21)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ($0.12)
  • 3/4 tsp salt ($0.03)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard ($0.06)
  • 1 tsp chili powder ($0.10)


  • The onion, bell pepper, and garlic should be finely diced and minced.
  • Adding the olive oil and beef to a skillet and allowing them to cook over medium heat for about 10 to 12 minutes until the beef is cooked through. It is important to drain off any excess fat that may have accumulated.
  • The onion, garlic, and bell pepper should be added to the skillet along with the beef. After the onions have been sautéed for a few minutes, they should be soft and translucent.
  • The tomato sauce will be added to the skillet along with it’s tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, dijon mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and salt at the end. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • About five minutes should be enough time for the meat and sauce to simmer over medium-low.
  • Buns should be toasted before serving.

Ground beef can be ground to any fat percentage that you desire. With a beef that contains a higher fat content, such as 80/20, you’ll need to drain excess fat after browning.

Serving: 1 ・ Calories: 440 kcal ・ Carbohydrates: 36 g ・ Protein: 22 g ・ Fat: 23 g ・ Sodium: 1138 mg ・ Fiber: 3 g

The nutritional values shown here are only estimates. Please see our nutrition disclaimer.

An open-faced sloppy joe on a plate with potato chips.

Sloppy Joes: How to Make Them – Step by Step Photos

Chopped vegetables on a cutting board.

Make sure the vegetables are chopped before you cook them. One yellow onion and one green bell pepper should be finely diced, and two garlic cloves should be minced.

Browned ground beef in a skillet.

Make a large skillet by adding one tablespoon of olive oil and one pound of ground beef. The ground beef should be browned over medium heat. Once the ground beef is browned, drain off any excess fat, especially if it has a high fat content.

Vegetables added to ground beef in the skillet.

The onion, bell pepper, and garlic should be added to the skillet after the olive oil is heated. Continue sautéing until the vegetables are softened.

Sauce ingredients added to the ground beef.

The final ingredient for the sauce is a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and ¾ tsp salt.

Finished sloppy joes mix in the skillet.

All ingredients should be stirred together and heated through. After the meat and sauce have simmered over medium-low for 5-10 minutes, it should have thickened to your satisfaction.

Sloppy joe meat being spooned onto a toasted bun.

Put your buns in the oven or skillet until they are toasted, then top them with the meat mixture.

Open-faced sloppy joe on a plate with potato chips.

It’s not just going to be delicious but it’s also going to be messy, so make sure to grab plenty of napkins to clean up after you eat your sloppy joes.

Don’t forget to make this simple dish for your whole family to enjoy, although it’s simple, it doesn’t lose its deliciousness and charm.