We made Gourmet Sloppy Joes without ketchup! But, the amazing sauce recipe does have a touch of red wine vinegar, fresh onions, and peppers. Served on a brioche hamburger bun they're elegant. Use our low-carb serving ideas and they're keto-friendly.
Either way, this easy recipe will become a family favorite and possibly elevated to Sloppy Jane status! Much like Gourmet Meatloaf, it's so much better than the traditional version you had as a kid. And, it's healthier too!
You'll love this recipe because:
- It's ready in under 30 minutes using simple ingredients. Perfect for weeknight dinners.
- It tastes fresh because it is! There's no ketchup or seasoning packets. We added a very small amount of brown sugar. But you don't have to!
- It's freezable! It was fully tested and loved at our make-ahead meal stores.
- It's low-carb, especially if you use one of our creative ways to serve it!
- The delicious homemade sauce is perfect for entertaining too! Serve it right out of a crock-pot.
The best sloppy joes are kid-friendly, adult-approved and come together faster than a trip through the drive-through, even though they're made from scratch.
Ingredients in Meat Mixture
Here's what you'll need to make this recipe:
- Ground Beef - We use lean, grass-fed beef (90% lean) so there's less fat to drain. Ground turkey or chicken, and vegan crumbles can also be used.
- Vegetables - Most people just put onion and green bell pepper in sloppy joes. Some leave veggies out entirely, but it will be a little saucier. Or you can add even more. I love sliced mushrooms in this sandwich. If you want to sneak in carrots or cauliflower, do it!
- Sauce ingredients - Tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic.
- Brown sugar or sugar substitute. Since a minimal amount of sugar is used, we usually used it. But, we linked to our favorite alternative in the recipe card.
How fine should you chop the vegetables?
- I often keep the vegetables big and chunky and for a good reason. If someone (and I'm not naming any names) does not care to have mushrooms and/or onions in their sauce, then it would be extremely easy to pick these out.
- Conversely, I am told that if the veggies were a bit smaller and less noticeable than they would have been gobbled right up.
Well, you can't blame a girl for trying to please everyone!
Directions with Pictures
Below is the step-by-step process:
- Cook ground beef. Add uncooked meat to a large skillet and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until browned and cooked through, crumbling beef with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks. Transfer crumbles to a paper-towel lined plate to soak up any extra fat. Wipe excess grease out of the pan. (I didn't have to do any of this because I always have a bag of prepared beef crumbles in the freezer ready to go!)
- Tip: Cook several pounds of ground beef at a time. Allow it to cool and package it in plastic bags to store in the freezer. I package it in 1 or 2 cup portions.
- Sauté onions, peppers, and mushrooms for 5-7 minutes to soften them over medium heat.
- Add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Cook for 5-10 minutes to wake-up the flavor and aroma of the tomato paste and to allow all the flavors to combine.
- Stir the crumbled beef into the sauce mixture and simmer for a few minutes more.
Ways to Serve Meat Sauce
Sloppy Joe fans are very opinionated regarding how the meat sauce should be served. I encountered this all the time at our stores and at home. Luckily, I have lots of ideas!
- Hamburger buns - brioche, whole wheat, or any favorite. If you don't like a soggy bottom, then toast it! Some people like it messy though!
- Baguette, French bread - lightly toast it! A little fancier.
I'm a master at catering to many people all at the same time (in my humble opinion.) Put out a variety of bread choices and everyone will be happy!
Slow Cooker Directions
Having a party? Need a flexible dinner time? Make sloppy joes in a slow cooker. You'll still need to brown the ground beef first! When you're done, place all of the ingredients into your crock-pot and stir.
It's not necessary to soften the vegetables first, but you can. Cook on low for about 2 hours or on high for 3 hours.
Storage, Reheating & Make-Ahead Tips
- Refrigerator - Place leftovers, in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheat - Warm leftovers in a pot over medium-high heat until hot. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave until warmed through, which will only take a several minutes. Cook on high and then stir at frequent intervals.
- Freeze - Leftovers may be frozen in an airtight storage container, such as a freezer bag. Store up to 3 months. May be microwaved from frozen or defrosted overnight in the refrigerator and then warmed.
- Make ahead - If you want to double or triple the recipe add cooked beef crumbles and all of the other ingredients to a freezer-friendly bag or container. You don't have to cook the sauce first! I do this when I'm preparing it for dinner. Set out a few plastic bags and set up an assembly line.
Need a quick dinner? Just pull the sauce out of the freezer, defrost and serve on the tastiest bread you can find.
Healthy Side Dish Ideas
Here are some ideas to round out the meal:
- Salad - we usually have our "house" salad with Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing. These items seem to complement each other because of the common ingredient!
- Vegetable chips or fries - check out Healthy Alternatives to Chips to find a favorite.
- Any vegetable that's in season...especially Microwave Corn on the Cob since it takes minutes to make!
I guarantee everyone will be happy with these gourmet Sloppy Joes...I mean Janes!
If you love this recipe, please give it 5 stars! ★★★★★
Gourmet Sloppy Joes (without ketchup!)
- 2 pounds lean ground beef cooked and crumbled (about 4 cups)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup white onion sliced or diced
- ½ cup bell peppers sliced or diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 16 ounces tomato sauce 2 cans
- ½ cup tomato paste 1 can, with 2 Tablespoons removed
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar or sugar substitute
- Hamburger bun, baguette, low-carb bread or lettuce for serving. Not included in calorie count
- Add uncooked beef to a large skillet and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until browned and cooked through, crumbling beef with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks. Transfer meat to a paper-towel lined plate to soak up any extra fat. Wipe excess fat out of the pan. If you have crumbles already prepared, skip this step.
- Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
- Add onions, peppers, and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
- Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar to the pan and stir to combine.
- Simmer for about 5 minutes to wake-up the tomato sauce and allow the sauce ingredients to combine.
- Stir in crumbled ground beef and simmer for about 5 minutes more.
- Spoon over bread choice and enjoy.
This recipe was originally published 8/20/2013. It was updated to improve the reader experience.