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This homemade, veggie-rich Sloppy Joe recipe with a tangy-sweet tomato sauce is a family favorite. Double and freeze these healthier Sloppy Joes for later too. They truly are SUPER!
Sloppy Joes: The Divisive Dinner
After polling dozens of my friends and family, I learned that Sloppy Joes are quite the divisive meal. People either love them or hate them.
I counted myself as a hater until just a few years ago because I always envisioned the canned version from childhood. Yuck!
However, I decided to give this poor man’s entree a try again, albeit the non-canned, non-processed, veggie-rich, grass-fed beef version. Why? Well, because my husband loves them and my kids will eat them.
I was won over by this version I devised. The tangy-sweet tomato sauce surprised me in a good way. Plus, you know I love any recipe where I can sneak in more vegetables for my family.
Now this is the only Sloppy Joe recipe my family (and Polly’s family) likes!
What Is a Sloppy Joe?
I should probably back up and make sure we’re all on the same page here when it comes to defining a Sloppy Joe, yes?
According to Dictionary.com, its primary definition is “a sandwich of ground beef cooked in a spicy tomato or barbecue sauce and usually served on a bun.” Please don’t confuse this sandwich with the third listed definition, “a man or youth whose appearance is habitually slovenly”…which may have been my teen son a year or so ago. 🙂
Ingredients for This Sloppy Joe Recipe
Now let’s get down to brass tacks here–namely the DELICIOUS combination of ingredients you’ll need.
There’s quite a diversity of recipes on the internet for sloppy joes, but I wanted this one to include lots of fresh, complex flavor and nutrition. Stock up on these items, if you don’t already have them on hand…
- Lean ground beef – We prefer grass-fed beef from ButcherBox.
- All-natural steak seasoning – A short cut way to add a lot of flavor to the beef while it cooks.
- Onion, carrot, red pepper, garlic – Finely chop these aromatics and saute with the beef to add extra nutrition and flavor. (Picky kids likely won’t notice them!)
- Red wine vinegar – Lends acidity to the sauce and balances out the sweetness.
- Unsalted tomato sauce – Look for the plain canned version.
- Worcestershire sauce – Enhances that bold meaty taste. I like the Lea & Perrin’s brand because it has all recognizable ingredients and is gluten-free.
- Pure maple syrup – Adds a little natural sweetness.
- Brown sugar – Adds a bit more sweetness with a hint of molasses in the background.
- Tomato paste – Brings some umami for great depth of flavor in this sauce.
- Whole wheat hamburger buns – Buy gluten-free buns if you want.
How to Make Sloppy Joes
Watch this 1 minute video tutorial to see just how easy it is to make sloppy joes from scratch…
How to Freeze Sloppy Joes for Later
A smart idea is to package up any of the leftovers into individual serving sizes and freeze them for easy lunches in the future. Or, of course, you can always double this recipe and freeze an entire batch for another family meal, another night.
How to Freeze for Later: To make sloppy joes into a freezer meal, fully cook and then let the sloppy joe mixture cool. Place in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Try to remove as much air as possible and seal tightly before freezing. Here are our favorite freezer containers.
How to Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the meal using one of these safe methods. Warm the meat mixture over medium-low heat on the stove or on Low in the slow cooker, gently stirring until heated through. (Tip: Add chicken or beef broth if it needs more liquid.) Serve as directed in the recipe.
What Goes With Sloppy Joes?
We serve our sloppy joe recipe on whole wheat hamburger buns. Tip: Toast the insides of the buns under the broiler for a minute, so they hold up well.
More Ground Beef Recipes You’ll Love
Have a lot of ground beef to use up? Try some of these Thriving Home favorites…
Did you make this? Snap a photo and tag us on Instagram at @thrivinghome so we can see your creations and cheer you on!
- 3 teaspoons olive oil or avocado oil, divided
- 1 pound lean ground beef (preferably grass-fed; we get ours here)
- 2 teaspoons all-natural steak seasoning
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped or grated
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 (8 ounce) cans unsalted tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Salt, to taste
- 4 whole wheat hamburger buns (or 8 mini buns), toasted (Gluten-Free Option: Use GF buns.)
- Optional: cheddar cheese slices (Omit this for the Dairy-Free Option.)
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Make It Now:
- Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, until shimmery. Add the ground beef* to the pan and begin to break it up while it browns. Sprinkle the brown sugar and steak seasoning evenly over the meat and continue to stir and break it up until it has browned completely. Remove the meat to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the oil.
- Wipe out the skillet and place it over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. When the oil is shimmery, add the carrot, onion, red peppers to the skillet. Cook until veggies are tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire during the last 30-60 seconds of cook time.
- Stir in the cooked meat, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and maple syrup to the veggies until combined. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer. Taste and season with salt, if needed. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
- Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile meat mixture onto toasted bun bottoms**. Add a slice of cheese, if desired, and top with bun.
Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-3 and let the Sloppy Joes mixture cool (see our tips for doing this quickly here). Place in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Try to remove as much air as possible and seal tightly before freezing.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the meal using one of these safe methods. Warm the meat mixture over medium-low heat on the stove or on Low in the slow cooker, gently stirring until heated through. (Tip: Add chicken or beef broth if it needs more liquid.) Follow Step 4.
*You can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the ground beef, if desired.
**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!