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Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe (Old Fashioned 1950s)

Homemade Sloppy Joes are the recipe you need on busy weeknights! Simple ingredients create this classic sloppy joes recipe that will remind you of the 50s!

Homemade Sloppy Joes

​If you’re a fan of sloppy joe sandwiches and you’re a fan of loose meat sandwiches with a rich tomato sauce, then this recipe is for you!

Your whole family will love this recipe and request it on repeat!

No canned sauce here, you’ll learn the best way to create a flavor-packed sloppy joe sauce perfect for sandwiches, or Grilled Chicken Thighs.

This meal is best served with crispy potato chips and a simple green salad that will remind you of your school cafeteria!

How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joes

First, let’s gather the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

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Ground Beef — sloppy joes are the browned meat sandwich everyone knows and loves. You can definitely try this recipe with ground turkey or ground chicken, or even lentils!

Tomato Sauce — pick up a little can of tomato sauce (or lots of them so you can always have them on hand!). This little can of tomato sauce is the starting base for our sloppy joe mix. 

Brown Sugar — one thing about the best sloppy joes, is they’re slightly sweet. You need the brown sugar to counteract all the acidity from the tomato, and the other ingredients.

Apple Cider Vinegar — the acidic bite of this vinegar makes this recipe! The very few times I’ve had to swap another vinegar out because I ran out of apple cider vinegar, I could taste the difference!

Sloppy Joes Sandwich

Yellow Mustard — you can’t have a sloppy joe without a little mustard! 

​Chili Sauce — this is the other kicker! You’ve got to have the jar of chili sauce for this old-fashioned sloppy joe recipe. 

Worcestershire Sauce — the tomato-based sauce isn’t complete without lots of Worcestershire sauce. 

And, then we’ll add some spices like onion powder, garlic powder, and seasoning salt. All of these combined will replace your can of Manwich forever and ever, and you’ll never go back to the canned stuff!

The original recipe may be hales from Sioux City, Iowa. Those Midwesterners love a good loose-meat sandwich! Whoever invented the recipe, it’s one of the most made and loved recipes of the 20th century! Did you know that!?

Cooking the Best Sloppy Joe Sandwich

You’ll begin browning your beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 

Want a fun tip on browning beef (or sausage!)?? Press it out onto your skillet, into one big “pancake” style circle. In the picture, you can see how I brown sausage, but I use this same method for browning ground beef.

browning sausage

​Once the beef is pressed out into a thin-ish circle, turn your stovetop eye on it. Let the meat slowly render, and brown. Don’t touch it! Once the edges have been browned, you can separate them and flip them.

How to brown ground beef

Then, I’ll use my meat masher to get the small separated chunks (I don’t know how else to say it but that way… Yuck!!) that disperse through the sauce well.

Alright! Once your meat is brown perfectly, you’ll add in your sauce. 

homemade sloppy joe sauce

I’ll mix up my sauce while the beef is browning and really get into the sauce with a whisk. You want all the ingredients incorporated really well. 

There’s no need to heat the sauce before adding it to the meat unless you are making a double batch and want to save a jar for later.

The instructions for just the sauce in a full printable recipe card can be found here, Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce

Once your beef and sauce are mixed together let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, and then serve!

​It’s that easy, y’all!!

​Other Additions You Can Add:

Lots of people like to saute onions and green bell pepper with their meat. If you’re into that, go for it!! If your taste buds love those flavors and textures together, go for it. I have been known to chop up a few carrots finely and put them into the meat mixture as an easy way to get some vegetables into this meal. 

Another addition is several dashes of hot sauce. While I usually leave that out and use it as a topper, use it in the sauce if you’d like to! 

quick homemade sloppy joe recipe

Serving Easy Sloppy Joes

When you’re ready to serve, here’s what you’ll do.

For a party, set out buns on a platter. You can use brioche buns if you’re feeling fancy, but any hamburger buns will do. Make sure they’re a soft roll though! 

Lay these out next to the meat mixture.

You can even transfer the meat mixture to a slow cooker and serve it that way! 

Sloppy Joe Sauce with Chili Sauce Sandwich

Along with your buns, you’ll want to set out sloppy joe toppers such as mayonnaise, mustard, slices of American cheese, sliced red onion, and pickles. 

Have your guests ladle the ground beef mixture over their bottom bun, and then go through the serving line-topping their other bun with whatever they like best.

You can also offer Sloppy Joe Side Dishes. Crispy french fries go super well. But, here are a few more ideas, too:

Wedge Salad for a Crowd — this is another make the most of it ahead of time and assemble the rest when you’re ready to serve at your backyard barbecue!

Old-Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese — no potluck is complete without a giant helping of creamy mac and cheese!

Air Fryer Tater Tots — if you’re just serving your family a busy weeknight dinner, then pop some tater tots into the air fryer until crisp.

Finally, Homemade Sloppy Joes are the easy recipe your dinner table craves! And if you end up with leftovers, spoon it over hot dogs for Sloppy Dogs!

Or, spoon over baked rolls for a delicious casserole recipe you can have the next night.

These Slow Cooker French Dip Sloppy Joes look incredible! 

Save this to your favorite Sandwich Board on Pinterest!

homemade sloppy joes recipe
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Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce Sandwich

Homemade Sloppy Joes Recipe (Old Fashioned 1950s)

  • Author: Sweetpea
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: american


Homemade Sloppy Joes are the recipe you need on busy weeknights! Simple ingredients create this classic sloppy joes recipe that will remind you of the 50s!




  • 12 ounces Chili Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 4 ounces Tomato Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Seasoning Salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Sloppy Joe Sandwiches:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1+ cup sloppy joe sauce



In a large mixing bowl, pour in the bottle of chili sauce and brown sugar. To the almost empty bottle of chili sauce, add the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Screw the top on, and shake really well. Dump this into the bowl with the chili sauce and brown sugar. Whisk these together, breaking up any brown sugar lumps – you want a completely smooth sauce. Add the can of tomato sauce plus the mustard and whisk until combined. Store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.


In a large skillet over medium-high heat brown ground beef with onions. Let simmer for 15 minutes on very low heat. Pour in enough sloppy joe sauce, starting with one cup of sauce, to make it however sloppy you want. Add to buns and serve!

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