Sweet & Spicy Sloppy Joes

Sweet & Spicy Sloppy Joes

Have you ever craved something without really being able to pinpoint what the flavour was?

Like, for example, Charleston Chews. They hold some magical appeal from my childhood – I have no idea what they taste like, and I haven’t had one since I was little, but I really want one.

I have been craving sloppy joes for about two years, and finally got around to scratching the itch. The thing is, I didn’t really know what a sloppy joe was – I just had a flimsy memory flitting around in my brain from some time when I ate one and it made me really happy.

I knew they were… sloppy. And I remembered a sticky tomato sauce.

Sweet & Spicy Sloppy Joes

So if you’re looking for a classic joe, stop right here.

(Or keep reading, maybe I hit the nail on the head).

I didn’t consult cookbooks or other blogs before I tugged my apron strings around my waist – I just went by personal taste. So I don’t actually know (or care) how close I got to the original. But it doesn’t matter, because these are really yummy in their own right.

Ground beef is browned with onions, garlic and ginger before being simmered in a thick tomato sauce with cider vinegar, brown sugar, a hint of cumin and a kick of cayenne.

The result is tangy, spicy, sweet, and abundantly sloppy.

Grated carrot and finely chopped celery round out the sauce with a bit of undetectable veggie. I would have added zucchini if I had it on hand, too – about 1/2 a medium zucchini, grated, would have been perfect.

Sweet & Spicy Sloppy Joes

I bought the softest, pillowy rolls I was able to find to stuff with the saucy ground beef. Note that over-filling is a mandatory part of this experience.

Pass the extra napkins, please!


Sweet & Spicy Sloppy Joes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2" piece ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne (start with less and add more to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • soft rolls, for serving
  1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Saute onion, celery, and carrot until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the beef and cook until fully browned, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, tomato paste, vinegar, soy sauce and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with split rolls, spooning a generous amount of filling between halves.



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27 Reviews

  1. marie @ little kitchie

    October 2, 2013 6:39 am - Reply

    Looks delicious!!

    • foodess

      October 3, 2013 12:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Marie!

  2. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl

    October 2, 2013 8:06 am - Reply

    We love sloppy joes in this house, what a great share! Thanks!

    • foodess

      October 3, 2013 12:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pamela!

  3. Cheri | Kitchen Simplicity

    October 2, 2013 12:32 pm - Reply

    These sound superb! So much more “gourmet” then then ones I grew up eating, which I believe consisted mostly of ketchup. Can’t wait to try your version.

    • foodess

      October 3, 2013 12:29 pm - Reply

      There’s a good amount of ketchup in these ones too, Cheri! :-S Hope you like them!!

  4. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious

    October 2, 2013 10:00 pm - Reply

    Sloppy joes are my favorite! Can’t wait to try your version!

    • foodess

      October 3, 2013 12:30 pm - Reply

      Hope you like! :)

  5. cupcakemuffin

    October 3, 2013 9:41 am - Reply

    Yum, these look so good! Ever since I started making sloppy joe’s from scratch, I’ll never go back to canned…your flavors here sound fantastic. :)

    • foodess

      October 3, 2013 12:29 pm - Reply

      I didn’t know you could buy it canned!

  6. Dixya Bhattarai RD

    October 3, 2013 11:55 am - Reply

    I have never had sloppy joes in my life because its usually made with beef. Maybe I have to use your recipe and substitute ground turkey or chicken :)

    • foodess

      October 3, 2013 12:29 pm - Reply


    • matthew

      October 23, 2013 6:50 am - Reply

      lentils also make a great base for sloppy joes

      • Dixya Bhattarai RD

        October 24, 2013 12:32 pm - Reply

        i never thought about lentils – thanks for such a great idea :). any specific kind of lentils?

        • foodess

          October 27, 2013 4:37 pm - Reply

          I’d go with brown lentils! (Canned would be fine, for convenience…)

  7. Julie

    October 7, 2013 6:52 am - Reply

    I’ve been planning to make some sloppy joes soon – thanks for the recipe!

  8. Jamie

    October 10, 2013 12:09 pm - Reply

    don’t have any cider vinegar on hand and want to make this tonight: any suggestions on a replacement?

    • Jamie

      October 10, 2013 12:15 pm - Reply

      I’ve got worshetshire sauce and red wine vinegar?

  9. BelEsprit

    October 14, 2013 3:21 am - Reply

    Can’t wait to try its brand called Manwich when you don’t feel like making completely from scratch

  10. Susan C.

    October 15, 2013 4:44 pm - Reply

    This was AMAZING! I added the zucchini per your suggestion. My 5 year old gobbled it up! This will definitley be a staple at our house! Thank you!

  11. KimberlyLovinTaylor

    January 9, 2014 2:47 pm - Reply

    Tonight will be my first attempt at making sloppy joes from scratch! I grew up on the canned stuff and I always made me happy. I will be tweaking this recipe a tad though. I may substitute (or add them both depending on the aroma as it cooks) the celery for green pepper! This recipe looks great and I am very excited to try it.

    • Jennifer Pallian

      January 11, 2014 11:49 am - Reply

      Hope you enjoy! :)

  12. Lynnsey

    February 1, 2014 1:52 pm - Reply

    I would LOVE your bun/roll recipe! I looked and can’t find it on here! Do you have one you use or one you have published? Thank you!

  13. foodess

    February 4, 2014 10:54 am - Reply

    @Lynnsey  These ones were actually from a bakery!!!

  14. Megan

    March 16, 2014 4:03 pm - Reply

    Wow. A friend posted this recipe on Pinterest and I immediately started craving sloppy joes. I only rarely had them as a kid, but this recipe hit the spot and totally blew me away. Really good layers of flavor. I substituted red wine vinegar for the apple cider vinegar because that’s all I had. And added some bell pepper along with the other veggies.

    • Jennifer Pallian

      March 17, 2014 9:35 am - Reply

      I’m glad you discovered me on Pinterest, and so happy you love these as much as I do, Megan! Thank you for coming back to comment!! :)

  15. Pam

    June 17, 2014 4:24 pm - Reply

    Hi! Made these tonight for the grounds keepers at the local golf course (lunch tomorrow). Of course I had to have one. SO good! I added a little chili powder and paprika. My husband loved it too. on a side note my childhood memories of sloppy joes consisted of browned ground beef and a can of Campbells cream of mushroom soup. Ah – the 60s! :-)