Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

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This Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe is miles away from ordinary, with a special ingredient to really kick this simple Sloppy Joe recipe with ketchup up a notch. In just 15 minutes, this hearty meal can be on your table any night of the week!

Titled Image: Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe


Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

I had a hankering for some good ol’ fashioned Sloppy Joe’s one day — but not a lot of time to prepare dinner.

So I put a quick and easy spin on my crockpot Joes and came up with this sensational Sloppy Joe recipe with ketchup, balsamic vinegar, and simple seasonings.

The inspiration… My favorite meatloaf! It has a sweet ketchup topping that is out of this world!

I add balsamic vinegar for a little zip and it adds just the right touch of sweet/tangy and a hint of smokiness.

Combining those flavors in this easy Sloppy Joe sauce recipe really takes the whole dish to the next level.

adding ground beef to a large skillet

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Ground Beef – A lean blend works best for this old fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe, since there won’t be a ton of grease to drain from the pan.
  • Ketchup and Tomato Paste – Use your favorite brand of ketchup, since it will give you a familiar taste.

    The tomato paste simply ups the savory flavor and helps to thicken the sauce.
  • Balsamic Vinegar – This adds plenty of tang and a subtle sweetness to homemade Sloppy Joe sauce with ketchup. A little goes a long way!
adding ketchup and seasoning to browned ground beef

Tips and Tricks to Make Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce with Ketchup

  • Start with the original measurements.

This easy Sloppy Joe sauce recipe has been tested and tested again, so stick to the amount of ingredients listed at first.

It’s enough for 1 pound of ground beef, so if you decide to make more, then you’ll need to scale up the sauce as well.

Once everything has simmered for a bit, it’s time to…

  • Taste, taste, taste.

You should be doing this with all of your food, but it’s especially important with this old fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe!

Since the meat mixture is the only thing on the sandwich, the flavors are really important.

Grab a spoon and sample some of the sauce with meat, then make adjustments until it tastes just right.

  • Adjust the tang and sweetness.

If you need a bit more of both, simply add more balsamic vinegar — or balsamic glaze if you have it!

For more sweetness alone, sprinkle in a little white or brown sugar.

And if it’s not savory enough for you, add more of the garlic and onion powder or hit it with a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Prep Ahead

ground beef mixed with old fashioned sloppy joe sauce

Serving Suggestions

First, build your sandwich! I like to butter the buns and toast them in the oven or air fryer — it adds great texture and flavor.

Keep this Sloppy Joe recipe simple and spoon the meat mixture right onto the buns before serving. Or, add a slice of cheese first to up to gooey factor!

As far as sides go, there’s no shortage of options. Crispy fries or potato chips, tangy and crunchy cole slaw, or even some comforting mac and cheese — it all depends on your cravings and how much time you have!

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Wide Skillet – Allows plenty of space for the meat to cook evenly.
  • Potato Masher – Thanks to watching the Rachael Ray show, my new favorite way to break up ground meat is a potato masher. It’s so much easier than using a wooden spoon.
spoonful of homemade sloppy joe

Storing and Reheating Sloppy Joe Recipe Simple Leftovers

Allow the meat mixture to cool, then transfer to an airtight container. Leftovers will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

The best way to reheat Sloppy Joe’s is on the stove. Simmer the meat over low heat until warmed through, then pile onto freshly toasted buns!

On that note, always store the Sloppy Joe meat and buns separately. Assembled sandwiches will get soggy if you try to save them for later.

Sloppy Joe Recipe with Ketchup FAQ

Can I use any ground meat for Sloppy Joes?

Yes, just about any ground meat will work — which is just one reason this Sloppy Joe recipe is simple!

Combine ground chicken, turkey, or even plant-based crumbles with my easy Sloppy Joe sauce recipe.

Sausage will be too greasy and intense, but you could combine it with another type of meat if you’d like!

Is there a substitute for ketchup in Sloppy Joes?

To mimic the sweetness and tanginess of homemade Sloppy Joe sauce with ketchup, combine tomato sauce or tomato paste with a little bit of sugar and vinegar.

Since paste is thicker than sauce, and will continue to thicken as it cooks, you may want to use a mixture of both for the right consistency.

Can I make this old fashioned Sloppy Joes recipe ahead of time?

You bet! In fact, the meat mixture tastes even better when the flavors have had time to meld together.

closeup of easy sloppy joe on a bun

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closeup of old fashioned sloppy joes

closeup of old fashioned sloppy joes

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe

Donna Elick
This Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe is miles away from ordinary! Have this hearty meal ready and on the table is just 15 minutes.
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Method Stovetop
Servings 6


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 cups ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 6 hamburger buns


  • Cook ground beef, in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Drain any excess liquid. Add remaining ingredients. Add 1/4 cup water. Stir until combined. Cover and reduce temperature to simmer, for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir.
  • Serve sloppy Joe mixture on hamburger buns and enjoy!


Donna’s Notes

I like to butter the buns and toast them in the oven. It adds great texture and flavor to the sandwich.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 282cal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 738mg | Sugar: 15g | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 4mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes Recipe - PIN

Originally published October 2015, updated and republished January 2024

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  1. These are delicious! Never been a fan of regular sloppy Joes so what a great change. Buttering and toasting the buns makes all the difference!

  2. Hi! I make my sloppy joes almost like yours except I do add a little minced onion and green pepper as well as Worcestershire sauce instead of balsamic vinegar. I'll have to try the vinegar next time and see if that's something I want to change to!
    Thank you for all the delicious recipes, I really enjoy them!

  3. I made these. My husband said this is the best sloppy joe he ever had. They really are very good. I will certainly be making these again.

  4. I have no idea what happened but followed it to a t. It was so vinegary we couldn't eat it and had to just eat mashed potatoes for dinner. I even added more water, tomato juice and even some brown sugar to try to even it out. Didn't work. Do you really put a whole tablespoon into this?

  5. I love Sloppy Joes – my husband, not so much. He'd agree to eat them once every couple of months or so, & we always bought the canned stuff. I made this recipe tonight & he LOVED it! It was really good & easy to make. He said that now, he would like to have this a lot more often, so thank you for making him a Sloppy Joe lover!

  6. I use some diced onions which I cook with the burger and use Worcestershire sauce instead of vinegar but I’m sure your recipe is good as well.

  7. 5 stars
    I ate sloppy Joe’s as a kid it was the canned stuff as I got older I couldn’t stand it I seen your recipe and I liked the mixture of ingredients and thought I would give it a go boy I’m so glad I did soooo yummy I’m a sloppy Joe lover for sure wayyyy better then the canned stuff. Thank you for sharing will definitely rotate this often.

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