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These mouthwatering Instant Pot Sloppy Joes make for a quick, weeknight meal. Our healthier version for the Instant Pot are sooo much better than the canned version you may have grown up with.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
I never used to like Sloppy Joes. Probably because I grew up on the canned version and didn’t realize there was another way to make them. Here’s why I now love this version and our Homemade Sloppy Joes (stovetop version):
- Healthier – Homemade is so much better than the canned version–no HFCS, additives, or preservatives and less sugar. I chose to use high-quality, grass-fed beef and whole wheat hamburger buns and snuck in some extra veggies with finely grated onion, carrots and chopped red peppers. (I love any recipe that sneaks in more vegetables for my family.)
- Flavor – As with most Instant Pot recipes, the high-pressure cooking infuses flavor even more into the meat mixture, resulting in some delectable Sloppy Joes.
- Fast – This nutritious meal comes together in about 30 minutes.
- Freezer-Friendly – We’ll show you how to make this ahead as a freezer meal.
While we tend to gravitate towards fairly simple recipes, Sloppy Joes need quite a few ingredients (no processed junk!) to get to that sweet-tangy flavor that you crave. Here is a rundown of what you’ll need:
- All-natural steak seasoning – A shortcut way to add a lot of flavor to the beef while it cooks. This is the one I’ve used for years.
- Onion, carrot, red pepper, garlic – Finely chop these aromatics and saute with the beef to add extra nutrition and flavor. (A great way to sneak in nutrition for picky eaters!)
- Apple cider vinegar – Lends acidity to the sauce and balances out the sweetness.
- Worcestershire sauce – Enhances that bold meaty taste. I highly recommend the Lea & Perrin’s brand because it has all recognizable ingredients and is gluten-free.
How to Make Instant Pot Sloppy Joes
This method is pretty simple and works in just one pot. You can double the recipe if you’d like and it will pressure cook in the same amount of time.
- Brown the Ground Beef – Using the saute setting, you’ll brown the beef, add in some of the seasonings, and set aside to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Saute the Veggies – Saute the finely chopped onion, carrots, bell peppers, and garlic.
- Pressure Cook – Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, included the meat, and pressure cook for 5 minutes.
- Serve – Serve warm on toasted buns using a slotted spoon. Optional: top with a slice of cheddar cheese.
Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart
After testing hundreds of Instant Pot recipes, we have honed in on the best timing and methods for cooking different types of meals in the Instant Pot.
I like to use hamburger buns, but I find that it’s best to toast the insides first so the buns don’t fall apart after adding the sloppy joes mixture. To do this, stick them on a sheet tray, insides up, under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Keep a close eye on them and pull them out when they are golden brown.
You can also try brioche buns, whole wheat buns, or even slider buns for smaller portions.
While this classic sandwich is delicious on it’s own, you might try adding toppings like sliced cheese, pickles, coleslaw, sliced jalapeños, or crispy onion strings for extra flavor and texture.
Try using a leaner meat like ground chicken or ground turkey. Add in finely diced or grated vegetables to the meat mixture, like mushrooms, bell peppers, carrot, celery, and onion. Be sure to saute them to make sure they are soft. Lastly, serve your sloppy joes on whole wheat hamburgers buns or air fryer baked potatoes.
Sometimes a tomato-y sauce like this one can cause the Instant Pot to give a “burn notice”. If this happens, open up the lid and stir in 1/4 cup beef or chicken broth to the mixture. Lock and seal the lid and try again.
How to Freeze Sloppy Joes
It’s no secret we are big fans of freezer meals around here. In fact, we have 2 freezer meal cookbooks, 1 Hour Freezer Prep Sessions, and even a roundup with 70+ freezer meal recipes that you will love!
If you want to make sloppy joes a freezer meal, here is how:
Freeze for Later: Fully cook and cool the Sloppy Joes. Here are our favorite freezer containers, by the way. Seal and freeze. Freeze alongside the buns and the cheese as a kit.
Prepare from Frozen: Thaw the buns, cheese, and meat mixture. Rewarm the Sloppy Joes mixture when you want to eat them.
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- 3 teaspoons avocado oil or olive oil, divided
- 1 pound lean ground beef (sub: ground turkey or ground chicken)
- 2 teaspoons all-natural steak seasoning (recommend: Weber Montana Steak Seasoning)
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, divided (sub: brown sugar or coconut sugar)
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped or finely shredded
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon all-natural Worcestershire sauce (recommend: Lea Perrin’s brand)
- 2 (8-ounce) cans unsalted tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted (see Cooking Notes)
- Optional: 4 slices cheddar cheese
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Make It Now:
- Brown the Beef: Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté.” Add 1 teaspoon of the oil into the pot and heat until shimmery. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks, for 2 minutes. Add the steak seasoning and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup and stir to combine with the meat. Cook until the beef is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes more. Transfer the beef to a paper towel-lined plate and wipe out the pot.
- Saute the Veggies: Pour the remaining 2 teaspoons oil into the pot and heat until shimmery. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Cook until veggies are tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, vinegar, and Worcestershire during the last 30-60 seconds of cook time. Press “Cancel.”
- Pressure Cook the Mixture: Return the beef to the pot and add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Stir to combine. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (This is a good time to toast the buns. See Cooking Notes.)
- Serve: There will be a lot of liquid in the mixture, so use a large slotted spoon to scoop it onto the toasted bun bottoms. Top each with a slice of cheese, if desired, and cover with the tops of the buns.
Freeze For Later: Follow Step 1-3. Let the meat mixture fully cool, then freeze in a freezer bag or container. Freeze along with the buns and cheese slices to create a meal kit.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the meal kit. Rewarm the meat mixture in the Instant Pot on the Low slow cooker setting or in the microwave, stirring occasionally.
- To toast the hamburger buns: Place them on a sheet pan with the insides facing up. Preheat the oven’s broiler to high and broil them on the top rack for about a minute or until golden brown. Watch closely so they don’t burn!
- Stovetop Instructions: You can make this quickly on the stovetop using our Homemade Sloppy Joes recipe.
- Ground Beef Sub: You can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the ground beef, if desired.
- Substitute for steak seasoning: Use 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon onion powder, 1/8 teaspoon paprika, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Gluten-free version: Use gluten-free buns or serve over baked potatoes (perhaps as part of a Baked Potato Bar). Also, be sure to select a gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, like Lea Perrin’s brand.
- Dairy-free version: Omit the optional cheese slice.
- Can I double this recipe? Yes, we have tested doubling this recipe in the Instant Pot, and it works to do so at this same cook time. (It will take a little longer to brown the meat and saute the veggies, though.)
- What to Do If You Get a Burn Notice: Stir in 1/4 cup beef or chicken broth to the mixture and try again.