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Homemade Sloppy Joes (No Manwich)

Homemade sloppy joes are simple to make with pantry staples you probably have on hand and you don’t need a can of Manwich to pull it off. Make them as saucy as you like and freeze a batch for faster dinners later too.

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a close up of a sloppy joe sandwich on a plate

Not everything simple and delicious starts with a can of ready-made something…and all the garbage ingredients that come with them.

Manwich is made with high fructose corn syrup which is a HUGE no-no for us and it should be for you too.

So come on over and make a batch of healthier sloppy joes, double the recipe and save the rest for another meal. It freezes like a dream and will reheat in a skillet for dinner that’s faster than your can opener could work.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • ground beef
  • bell pepper
  • onions and garlic
  • ketchup
  • chili powder
  • brown sugar
  • mustard

What meat works in sloppy joes?

You can use a variety of meats here. I use 80/20 beef from our farm but lean ground beef, ground turkey and even ground chicken would be okay.

Should ground beef be drained before adding sloppy joe sauce?

Yes. If your beef is especially fatty, you should drain off as much as you can. I just tip the pan and use a spoon or metal measuring cup to dip out the fat into a bowl.

If you use ground turkey or chicken it’s lean enough that you may actually need to add a couple of tablespoons of oil or butter when you brown it so that there’s some fat in the pan.

How to thicken sloppy joe meat

I like to be mindful of how thin the ingredients are that I’m using in the first place and just give time for simmering if something seems thin. This eliminates the need for adding starches that can make the dish feel gluey or pasty later.


That said, you have several options for thickeners if needed. Some people add a bit of cornstarch. Mix a teaspoon or two in two tablespoons of cold water and then add it to the simmering meat.


Flour can also thicken sloppy joes. Add a half tablespoon to two tablespoons of water and stir to combine, mashing out any lumps. Add that to the sauce and stir. It will thicken when it returns to a simmer.

How many sloppy joes do you get from a pound of meat?

About six sandwiches. I filled our buns up pretty high and still had enough for everyone to have seconds.

Assembling homemade sloppy joes

  1. Brown one pound of ground beef. When it’s about halfway cooked, add the onions, garlic and bell pepper so they can cook along with the beef.
a skillet of uncooked ground beef in a skillet

2. Drain the fat if you have any. If you use turkey or chicken you won’t.

a hand using a spoon to drain grease from cooked ground beef and bell peppers

3. Add spices, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and water and stir to combine over low heat.

a skillet of ground beef with ketchup and spices on top to be stirred in

4. Simmer until any excess liquid is reduced and the meat is thoroughly coated in the sauce. Serve warm.

a skillet of simmering sloppy joe filling after ingredients have been added

If you are gluten free or avoiding bread

Bread is not part of everyone’s life but you can enjoy your sloppy joe meat in a lot of other ways. You can do gluten free buns if that’s on your diet or you could try:

  • Eating your sloppy joe meat straight up (my preference)
  • Piling it on a slice of baked sweet potato
  • On an avocado
  • In an almond flour wrap or with a low carb bun

Variations you may want to try

  • Tomato sauce or tomato paste. I left those out of this version in favor of more ketchup but you can add a tablespoon of tomato paste or 1/4 cup of tomato sauce if you’d like it.
  • More or less sweetness. My family likes a sweeter sloppy joe so consider that when you make yours. You could easily go up to 1/4 cup of brown sugar or you could swap in some honey for some of the sugar. Coconut sugar is also a decent alternative here.
  • Salsa and taco seasoning for a Mexican flare. Leave out the mustard and ketchup and replace with salsa. If you are using pre made taco seasoning, leave out the salt in the sauce instructions.
  • Open face and melt on American cheese. Leave off the top bun or skip the bun all together. Pile on your sloppy joe meat and a slice of American or cheddar cheese. Broil to melt the cheese and dig in.
two sloppy joes on buns on plates on a table with a skillet in the background

How to make ahead

Cook up your sloppy joe filling and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate for up to three days.

To serve, return the filling to a skillet and heat on low, stirring often. You may need to add a dash of water to prevent scorching while it reheats.

To freeze homemade sloppy joe filling

Double, triple or quadruple this filling and let it cool. Transfer to a freezer safe storage container and freeze for up to three months. Reheat from frozen on low heat in a skillet with a lid and 1/4 cup of water, breaking up the meat as it thaws.

What to serve with sloppy joes

Homemade sloppy joes are really versatile so lots of side dishes work. Try:

a close up of a sloppy joe sandwich on a plate

Homemade Sloppy Joes (No Manwich)

Ditch the cans of synthetic ingredients and make a saucy homemade sloppy joe your family will love just as much.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Rachel Ballard


For the meat

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup yellow onion minced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/3 cup green bell pepper minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the sauce

  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar coconut sugar could substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard


  • In a large skillet, brown the beef over medium high heat, breaking up any large pieces until about halfway cooked; 4 minutes or so.
  • Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper and cook with the beef until the vegetables soften and no pink remains in the meat. 3 to 4 minutes more.
  • Remove from the heat and drain any excess grease and season with salt. Stir to combine.
  • Return to low heat and add the ketchup, water, chili powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper and mustard. Stir to combine and simmer until the liquids thicken and evaporate slightly–5 to 6 minutes. Serve warm.


Serving: 0.75cupCalories: 245kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 14gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 721mgPotassium: 337mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 368IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 32mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword healthy sloppy joes, homemade sloppy joes, sloppy joes no manwich

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.