Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes are an easy 15-minute dinner that the whole family will enjoy. Nothing fancy here—just good old fashioned comfort food.

old fashioned sloppy joe sandwich on brioche with pickle chips, sitting on a white plate.

This recipe for Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes comes from a 1970s church cookbook. But, these sandwiches have been around for much longer—back to the 1930s.

Legend has it that a cook (named Joe, of course) in Sioux City, Iowa, created this sandwich when he added tomato sauce to a loose meat sandwich. Here’s another example of a loose meat sandwich: Crockpot Beef BBQ!

I love this particular recipe because it uses pantry staples to create a flavorful, sweet and tangy sandwich.

It’s pure comfort food that you can make in minutes. And, we’re jazzing them up with a simple trick for adding flavor to the bun!

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ground beef, ketchup, and small bowls of other ingredients on a white table.
  • Ground beef is traditional in a sloppy joe. I used 85% lean. Ground turkey also works here—that’s considered a sloppy jane!
  • An onion adds flavor.
  • The sauce is made up of ketchup, sugar, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, salt, and water.

How to make old fashioned sloppy joes

Start by browning the ground beef and the onion in a large skillet. There’s no need for oil here, since the ground beef will render its fat.

ground beef and chopped onion in a large skillet.

While the beef is cooking, add the rest of the ingredients: ketchup, water, sugar, worcestershire sauce, vinegar and salt.

Stir to combine. Let cook for another 5–7 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.

ground beef in a tomato based sauce in a large skillet.

Top tip: toast those buns!

Since this recipe is so simple, small changes can make a big impact.

Ever wonder why burgers are so good at restaurants? It’s because the bun is toasted, and oftentimes, spread with mayonnaise before toasting.

In this case, I HIGHLY recommend spreading a little mayo on each bun. Then, broil them until nicely toasted.

toasted brioche burger buns on a sheet pan.

This step adds a nice toasted flavor and a little bit of crunch, which contrasts nicely with the ground beef.


Want to make this recipe your own? Here are a few ideas:

  • Add half of a chopped green pepper along with the onion.
  • Sprinkle ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes in for some spice.
  • Substitute bbq sauce for half of the ketchup.
  • Use ground turkey or ground chicken instead. A sloppy joe made with ground turkey is called a sloppy jane!
  • Instead of serving the meat on a bun, spoon it over a baked potato, or spoon it over tortilla chips and top with cheese for a fun spin on nachos.
old fashioned sloppy joe sandwich on a brioche bun with pickles on a white plate.

How to reheat sloppy joes

Reheat sloppy joe meat in a skillet for several minutes, or until warm. You can also microwave the meat. I recommend putting it in a covered dish or placing a splatter guard over the top so you don’t decorate your microwave.

How long do sloppy joes keep in the refrigerator?

Sloppy joe meat will keep for 3–4 days in the refrigerator.

Leftovers make a great topping for baked potatoes!

Topping ideas

What’s a sloppy joe without some toppings? Here are a few ideas:

  • Place a slice of cheese on top right after scooping the meat onto a bun—it’ll melt with the heat of the meat.
  • Dill or sweet pickles add a tangy kick.
  • Slices of white onion or red onion add a nice bite.
open faced sloppy joe topped with pickles on a bun.

Freezing instructions

Sloppy joes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Place it in a tightly sealed container or a resealable freezer bag before freezing. I like saving old whipped topping containers for this purpose!

sloppy joe meat in a white plastic container next to a lid.

Sides for sloppy joes

Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!

📖 Recipe

old fashioned sloppy joes meat on a brioche bun with pickles.

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes

Published by Kate
You just need 15 minutes to create this old fashioned comfort food sandwich!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Entree
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 304 kcal


  • lbs ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • To serve: hamburger buns, mayonnaise, pickles


  • Place the ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat.. Cook for 5–7 minutes, or until the beef is cooked through and the onion is soft.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Spread burger buns with a thin layer of mayonnaise, and broil until toasted. Serve the sloppy joes on the buns with pickle slices.


Sloppy joe meat will keep for 3–4 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze sloppy joe meat for up to 3 months in a tightly covered container or freezer bag. 
Reheat sloppy joe meat in a skillet or in the microwave (use a splatter guard or paper towel on top if using the microwave). 
You can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the ground beef. 
Variations: add half of a chopped green pepper along with the onion, add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes for some spice, substitute half the ketchup with bbq sauce.


Calories: 304kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 22gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 820mgPotassium: 504mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 356IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 3mg
Keyword sloppy joes
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