These Healthy Sloppy Joes are a deliciously messy sandwich made from ground beef, tomato sauce, and several spices. It’s a classic American recipe for lunch or dinner with sweet, tangy, and zesty flavors – while needing tons of napkins!Jump to Recipe
Sloppy Joes are an easy recipe that’s retro, messy, overly saucy, but super delicious. If you’ve never had one, you’re going to want some napkins. It’s a time-tested family favorite over multiple generations. This sandwich is known for it’s excessive filling of ground beef and tomato sauce on a hamburger or potato roll.
It sounds so basic and maybe too simple, but they are still soo good. I think sometimes that the best foods are messy and/require your hands! Ex: ribs, tacos, pizza, burgers, an ice cream cone – did I make my point?
My version of sloppy joes is a healthier version only because it doesn’t rely heavily on sugar or oil. Here I just stuck with the classic version with simple ingredients and tried to make them stand out. The texture is more smooth than chunky and the flavor is a blend of sweet, tangy, and zesty.
If you’re looking for another crazy easy dinner recipe check these out:
WHEN TO EAT SLOPPY JOES
Sandwiches are one trick that I love to use for dinner. They’re fast, flexible, cheap, and perfect when other plans fall through, or you don’t have energy to cook a full meal. This one is a favorite to have in my back pocket because it's warm, comforting, and so filling. Dinner is ready in under 30 minutes and is a hit with the entire family, and what’s not to love about that?
You can make these for an easy meal for a weeknight dinner or even meal prep the filling on the weekend and eat it all week long for lunch. You could also make them way in advance and freeze it for future use. That’s exactly what I did when I prepped my freezer for when my son was born. I didn’t try it with sloppy joe filling, but I did with this chili recipe and it would defrost in the same way. I’ve included directions below.
HISTORY OF SLOPPY JOES
Interestingly, the first sloppy joe can be traced back to the early 20th century, in Sioux City, Iowa, created by a cook named Joe! It took hold and by the 1960s Sloppy Joes were being sold in cans, like Manwich. Now it’s a staple recipe that has countless variations. The standard though, is that it’s made of ground meat mixed into tomato sauce served on a sandwich.
Other variations have emerged over the decades and include things like corn, bell pepper, or even sweet potato mixed right in. And though those variations are delicious and get more veggies on your plate, I wanted to recreate this retro sandwich just as it is. As in, smooth rather than chunky, with flavors that rely heavily on the natural sweetness of tomato and smokiness from spices.
If your memories of sloppy joes are the canned version, I’ll reassure you that this recipe is not that. I’ve never tried Manwich, so I can’t say what the differences are in terms of taste and quality, but usually fresh is always better. So, if you’ve only had the canned version and hated it, I would bet on loving these Homemade Sloppy Joes.
LET’S MAKE THESE HEALTHY SLOPPY JOES
The full instructions are below, but here is a breakdown. To make these sloppy joes, it’s really simple.
STEP ONE: You’ll heat a large skillet on medium heat. When it’s hot, saute onion and garlic in butter until its fragrant and translucent.
STEP TWO: Add in the beef to the pan and break up into small pieces with a long wooden spoon. Season the beef with the chili powder, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and tomato paste. Stir it all together and cook for 5 minutes.
STEP THREE: Add in the ketchup, Worcestershire, and tomato sauce. Stir everything together, lower the heat to low and cook for the final 10 minutes. Once it’s ready, serve the sloppy joe mixture on buns and top with anything from pickles to cheddar cheese.
Hamburger buns – I like to use Martin’s potato rolls for these sandwiches. They’re soft and really complement the filling well. But, since they are soft, you have to eat quickly after assembling or they’ll get soggy. To help the bread stand up a little more, you can toast the buns. You can also use whole wheat buns.
Tomato sauce – To get a really smooth texture in the filling, use canned tomato sauce that’s either smooth or crushed. Do not use diced or peeled whole tomatoes. Also, for the best taste, make sure that there is no seasonings or salt added.
Lean ground meat – Typically lean ground beef is used for sloppy joes. I’ll stick with 85%-90% lean ground beef when I make them usually. Sometimes I’ll go to 95%, but this recipe does better with a little more fat in it. You can also use lean ground turkey or ground chicken. The rest of the recipe will stay exactly the same (except for the nutrition facts) and come out just as delicious.
Vinegar – Many sloppy joe recipes use vinegar like apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or even balsamic vinegar as the acid, but here I’m using Worcestershire sauce which is also an acid. It adds sweet, savory, and acidic flavor. Acids help to tenderize meat and balance out flavors.
Sugar – some recipes call for adding additional sugar to the mixture, but I feel like this is unnecessary. Some use brown sugar while others might even use molasses. In this recipe, I just rely on the natural sweetness from the tomato sauce and ketchup.
Vegetables – You may add in vegetables like red or green bell pepper, carrot, sweet potatoes, or corn. The texture and consistency will become more chunky, but you will get some added nutritional benefits!
Slow Cooker – To instead cook this dish in the slow cooker, you’ll still need to saute the onion and garlic in the pan described in step one. After that, you can add everything (including the raw beef) to the slow cooker. Stir it all together, and then cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SLOPPY JOES
Alongside your sloppy joe, some side dishes that go well are pickles, potato chips, salad, coleslaw, baked beans, sweet potato fries, or even sauteed spinach. To see a full list of what to serve with your sloppy joes, go to this post that will show you 24 side dishes to go with your sloppy joe sandwiches!
Each serving of sloppy joe(without the bun) has 232 calories, 11 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs, and 23 grams of protein. Because it’s made with red meat, it’s a significant source of iron and potassium.
Storing and reheating
Store leftover filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Heat thoroughly in the microwave or on the stove before assembling sandwiches. Eat the leftovers within 3-5 days.
AS ALWAYS, IF YOU MAKE THIS – PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!
Healthy Sloppy Joes
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 pound lean ground beef (85-90% lean)
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- Pinch of salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tsp Worcestershire
- 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
Heat a large skillet on medium heat. When hot, add butter and melt around the pan. When the butter is frothy, add in the onion and garlic clove. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Next, add in the beef to the pan and break up into small pieces with a long wooden spoon. Season the beef with the chili powder, dry mustard, salt, pepper, and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes and continue to break up as it cooks.
Lastly, add in the ketchup, Worcestershire, and tomato sauce. Stir everything together, lower the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.
Once it’s ready, serve on buns. You can top it with cole slaw, pickles, or even shredded cheddar!
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If you make this recipe or any others on Bite your Cravings, I’d love to see and feature your delicious creations on my Instagram page! Post your recipes and tag @biteyourcravings so I can see them!