Best. Sloppy Joe’s. Ever.

According to us, anyway.

“Best Ever” can be fightin’ words. Especially when talking about chili. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or *gasp* pie crust. That last one can be a direct assault on a grandma if said to the wrong person.

Why are these Sloppy Joe’s the best ever?

First, because they’re not overly sweet or fussy. You don’t even need a knife for this. For reals.

And second, it’s my grandma’s recipe. No, not Grandma Inez. My Grandma LaRue, who claims she’s a “horrible cook.” I sense that she doesn’t enjoy cooking, but I have to disagree with her. In fact, two of my favorite family recipes come from her, my favorite chocolate cake.  And these Sloppy Joe’s.

My mom made these for us all the time when I was growing up. When I eat them now I think about a typical night around the table. . . .

Dad watches the news. Mom tries to convince my picky baby sister to eat. And my younger brother and I make faces and stick out our tongues (full of chewed-up dinner)  at each other from across the table while my mom’s preoccupied. Then we do the “I have a secret” giggle, and my mom wonders what’s so funny.

We still do that as adults. We’re so mature.

I think there are two types of family recipes. Those that stay exactly the same for decades and those that evolve with each generation. This one has evolved somewhat. My mom didn’t like cooking with fresh onion, so she used dried. She also likes hers with pickles, and that’s how I like them, too.

I threw my little spin on these as well, using plain tomato sauce in place of condensed tomato soup, using a gluten-free thickener, and using lettuce leaves (on occasion) instead of buns. Grains for greens!

I have to admit — eating these as a lettuce wrap gives a whole new meaning to the word “sloppy.”

Print Print

Best. Sloppy Joe's. Ever.

Yield: Serves 6

Total Time: About 30 minutes


  • 1 - 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (organic, grass-fed, if possible)
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce (two 8-ounce cans are also fine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried, ground sage
  • 2 Tablespoons plain yellow mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca or arrowroot starch (see note)


  1. Brown the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If your beef is extra lean, you may want to add a tablespoon of oil to keep it from sticking to the pan. Drain off any oil, if needed.
  2. Return pan to skillet and add the remaining ingredients plus 1/3 cup of water. Stir well and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. Serve with buns or lettuce leaves, shredded cheese, and (our recommendation) pickles.

Nat's Note:
1. I used arrowroot powder to make this recipe grain-free. You can also substitute the same amount of cornstarch or double the amount of all-purpose flour.

from Perry's Plate

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58 Responses to “Best. Sloppy Joe’s. Ever.”

  1. #
    marla — October 19, 2012 @ 5:10 am

    I can see why these would be the best ~ looks like amazing sloppy joe’s!


  2. #
    Rachel Cooks — October 19, 2012 @ 6:22 am

    These do look amazing!


  3. #
    Bev @ Bev Cooks — October 19, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    I can’t wait to get sloppy’d!


  4. #
    Karly — October 19, 2012 @ 8:07 am

    I’m not sure how you take a picture of a simple sloppy joe and make it look like the world’s fanciest dinner, but you did. I think I need these for dinner this weekend!


    • Natalie Perry replied: — October 19th, 2012 @ 11:38 am

      Haha. Thx Karly :) I think I just get lucky sometimes!

  5. #
    Joanne — October 19, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    I love family recipes like this that evolve over time. And I second Karly! If I tried to photograph this…it would look like brown mush.


  6. #
    Cassie — October 19, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    This sounds soooo good, Natalie! I have been craving sloppy joe’s lately. Perfect!


  7. #
    Bree — October 19, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

    My son has been asking for sloppy joes so thanks for the great recipe!


  8. #
    Monique @ Ambitious Kitchen — October 20, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    These look delicious!


  9. #
    Kate — October 21, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    I will have to try these on lettuce wraps as well!! :)


  10. #
    Peggy — October 23, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    These look WAY better than Manwich! And I love the idea of putting it in a lettuce wrap =)


  11. #
    Lauren — October 29, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

    I going to try this out soon with the lettuce wrap. I don’t have arrowroot powder but maybe I’ll add some coconut flour to thicken it a bit.


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  14. #
    Dave — November 29, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    Not a fan definitely not the best sloppy joes ever :(


    • Natalie Perry replied: — November 29th, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

      Sorry they weren’t your thing, Dan!

  15. #
    Emily @ She Makes and Bakes — January 7, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    I’ve been searching for a Sloppy Joe recipe that doesn’t have bell pepper in it…can’t wait to try these!


  16. #
    India — February 2, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

    Just took my last bite of these – good! I was nervous after Dave wrote, but we approve and my husband is quite critical. I did add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and in the future would decrease the mustard (my hubby isn’t a big fan). The GREAT thing about this was I have been looking for a sloppy joe recipe without condensed soup because of the corn syrup in it…found it! Thanks, Natalie.

    PS. I feel like we “know” you because I told my hubby this dish was yours and that you were the same person who posted the garbanzo salad from Carla’s book. :)


  17. #
    Brittney — February 24, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    Did not turn out the way I was hoping. Had a very strange taste.


  18. #
    Kia — February 27, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

    Made these today and they were delicious. Thanks a million; I think these just became a staple in my house!


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  22. #
    nikki — March 6, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    I made these tonight and they were amazing. I added 1 tablespoon of honey just to cut the mustard taste since hubby isn’t a fan and served it over cornbread. Thanks for the recipe!


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  25. #
    Yvonne — April 5, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

    Fantastic…..planned on making Sloppy Joes for dinner…Crap! Realized I didn’t have any Manwich……good ol Pintrest…..never again will I buy Manwich these were GREAT!

    Used fresh diced tomatoes and cornstarch…


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  30. #
    Robin — May 25, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

    These are really good! Glad I added the salt a little at a time, though…1/4 teaspoon is perfect! And I love salt! Maybe you used some low-sodium products in yours? Not sure, but it’s a great recipe. Thanks :-)


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  34. #
    Brittany — July 29, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

    These are amazing sloppy joes. This will be the third time we will be enjoying them, my husband loves the lettuce wraps!!!


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  38. #
    Jade — October 27, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    Made these last night….I added a few tablespoons of brown sugar too and did need to add any thickener. I used fresh onion instead of dried. The soppy joes were perfect like this at least for me and the boyfriend he loved them and is now asking if we can have them again next week. Thanks for the recipe


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  40. #
    TjNurse93 — December 28, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

    After 5 years of being together, my husband suddenly says he loves Sloppy Joe’s. So having recently gone organic, I was able to make these and made homemade hamburger buns to go with them. My husband and I loved them and we also found a new hamburger bun recipe on Pinterest.
    Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. It is now written into my new recipe book I started for ‘from scratch’ recipes.


    • Natalie Perry replied: — December 30th, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

      Congrats on making such a big step! I’m so glad you liked our sloppy joes. Best of luck in your cooking ventures! :)

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  43. #
    Katie Sullivan — January 27, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

    Just made this for the first time, I thought it was very good. I can taste the mustard but I think it tastes good! Will for sure make this again! Also super quick and easy!!


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  45. #
    Michelle — April 5, 2014 @ 8:47 am

    I’ve never been a fan of sloppy joes, but my son really enjoys them, so I made these to freeze for his lunches. They are good! I freeze individual portions in jars, and then we have sloppy joes at the ready whenever he needs them for lunch. I have to say, I may be a convert! Thanks so much for the recipe. :)


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  47. #
    Andrea — May 19, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

    Making these tonight for the second time. They are delicious and fast. And I like making them myself so I know what’s in them. I used cornstarch for thickener. The pickles are a must! We love them on small split top potato rolls for sloppy joe sliders. Fun and yum!


    • Natalie Perry replied: — June 5th, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

      So glad you like them! Thanks!

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  49. #
    Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking — July 19, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

    Found this on FBHEO and I just had to hop on over here an pin it! Looks phenomenal and super easy!!


  50. #
    Margaret — December 26, 2015 @ 6:16 am

    Could you tell me what you could substitute for sage? My husband hates sage. I would hate to make this and have to throw it out. Thank you.


    • Natalie Perry replied: — December 29th, 2015 @ 9:25 pm

      Hi Margaret! The sage flavor isn’t prominent in these, but if you feel like you need to omit it, go ahead. You don’t need to replace it with anything.

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