the BEST Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce


This is the best homemade sloppy joe sauce you’ll find! Don’t get your sloppy joe sauce from in a can (like Manwich), use this easy and simple from scratch recipe! Perfect amount of spice, sweet, and delicious sloppy joe flavor!

Sloppy Joes are a constant favorite in many homes across the nation, mine included. Most families reach for a can sloppy joe sauce to create their favorite sandwiches. But gosh darn…give this recipe a try!! You’ll find that making the sauce from scratch is really easy and allows you to customize it to your family’s preferences.

an easy and delicious sloppy joe sauce in a large spoon scooped from a skillet

This sloppy joe recipe hails from the original from the 1950’s. Simple ingredients like ketchup and Worcestershire sauce mixed with ground beef shouldn’t be changed. Many older recipes call for dried mustard to be added…feel free to add some and see if you approve of the change!

Are you looking for great ground beef recipes? Try my One-Pot Ground Beef Stroganoff or Ground Beef Wellingtons…so good!

Sloppy Joe Sauce Ingredients:

This sauce is completely gluten-free, dairy-free AND you can certainly make any additional dietary changes you needed.

  • Ground beef, turkey, or chicken.
    I use any of the above, depending on what is on sale or what I’m feeling like. For the ground turkey or chicken, add a bit of oil into the pan when sauteing it to compensate for the lack of fat.
  • Ketchup.
    Some recipes call for tomato paste and you could totally go that route if you wanted to. I find that ketchup comes with a good amount of salt and additional flavor that keeps things simple. And, let’s face it, I always have ketchup on hand.
  • Onions and Green peppers.
    But there are no green peppers in mine, at all. My family does not like green peppers and I leave them out. However, most recipes will have finely diced green peppers. If you are about green peppers, add them in. Onions are another must. Keep the onions diced up fairly small so they don’t overpower the meat.
  • Sugar.
    Brown or white, but you’ll need a bit of sugar to give good balance to the sauce. It also helps if, like mine, your recipe has a bit of kick to it. That little bit of sweet is a nice contrast.
  • Siracha.
    Just a bit makes all of the difference in the world. Or a lot, if your family likes heat.
sloppy joe sauce in a bun ready to nosh on!

What is sloppy joe sauce?

Legend has it that a cafe owner named Joe from Iowa added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwich (oi, that’s a whole additional topic!) and the name was born…Sloppy Joe.

an easy and delicious sloppy joe sauce in a large spoon scooped from a skillet

What is the difference between Not So Sloppy Joes and Sloppy Joes?

Nothing. Not So Sloppy Joes is simply a brand name in the same way Manwich is. Neither tastes as good as this homemade version!

How do I thicken up Sloppy Joe Sauce?

If you find that your sauce turned out thinner than you would like mix a bit of cornstarch into water to create a paste. Stir it into your hot sauce (about 1 tablespoon at a time), wait for it to cook for a minute or so, add additional, as needed. Be aware that you NEED to let that cornstarch mixture cook for a bit so don’t keep adding more without giving it a bit of time in between additions.

Can you freeze Sloppy Joe Sauce?

Absolutely! The key is to let it cool down before placing it in a ziplock bag and freezing it. It’s best to lay the freezer bag flat in the freezer and freeze so that you won’t have large clumps of frozen meat. This makes thawing easier and safer. Simply thaw in the fridge, reheat, and serve!

Can I make this without Worcestershire sauce?

Sure, although I think it isn’t as great! You can also make your own version of Worcestershire sauce with 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon sugar and a dash of hot sauce for every tablespoon Worcestershire the recipe calls for.

What can I use instead of ketchup in this recipe?

Try using tomato paste or sauce. Be ready to use the cornstarch method mentioned above to thicken it, if needed. Also you may find that you need to add a bit more salt.

Tater tot casserole with sloppy joe sauce and cheese...soooo good!

What can I use this Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce Recipe for?

Oh girl, the possibilities are endless and certainly not for just a sad hamburger bun!

  • stuffed peppers
  • tater tot casserole
  • baked potatoes
  • burritos
  • nachos
  • mac & cheese
  • on pasta
  • stuffed in bread and smothered in cheese

Try my Sloppy Joe Tater Tot hotdish…a fantastic and easy recipe that uses homemade sloppy joe sauce (make a double batch next time to have extras for this!) and kids love it!! Cheese, sloppy joe sauce, tater tots, and mixed veggies…a mixture that always wins!

Skip opening a can, use this homemade sloppy joe sauce made in a skillet! Saucy, full of yummy meat, and great tomato flavor!

Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce is magical stuff and helps you make yummy comfort foods your family loves and YOU love because it’s so. dang. easy.

Tip: toast your bun and put a bit of butter on it. This will help keep your bun from getting soggy with the sauce!

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4.52 from 27 votes

Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce

Make sloppy joe sauce from scratch with this yummy, easy, and flavorful recipe. Never reach for the can again!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
# of servings 6
Calories 236kcal


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 cup water divided in 1/2
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 dashes worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha


  • In skillet, on med-high heat, saute meat and onions until meat is in small bits and onion is transparent about 6 minutes.
  • Add garlic and continue to saute until garlic is fragrant, a minute or two.
  • Pour in the first half of the water, scrape the pan, and add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 3 min on med-high heat.
  • Add the additional water, turn heat down to medium and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until thickened. Stir often.
  • Stir in the sriracha and vinegar.  Let stand a couple of minutes. Serve.



Calories: 236kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 13gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 700mgPotassium: 307mgSugar: 8gVitamin A: 135IUVitamin C: 2.9mgCalcium: 23mgIron: 1.6mg

Other easy family meals to try:


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22 thoughts on “the BEST Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce”

  1. valerie guadarrama

    5 stars
    I’m starting to meal prep for post baby. Do you think this would freeze and reheat okay?

    It is a great recipe! My picky eaters even had seconds!

  2. 5 stars
    Great easy recipe! I we added shredded cheddar cheese to the finished product just because we had too! And will never use canned again!

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