New Classic Sloppy Joes – a little bit healthy and whole lot of yummy

“Hot mess is a compliment if you are a Sloppy Joe.” Erin Canty

Early spring, with its schizophrenic weather, always brings to mind spring sports particularly Little League.

Maya proudly modeling soft ball equipment

I remember fondly sitting in the stands rooting for the boys and I also remember running from one practice to another and one game to another. The games, practices, and homework sure didn’t lend themselves to a family dinner. Those years introduced me to cooking for kids (and me) on the run. One of the dinners on the weekly rotation were Sloppy Joes. Back then Sloppy Joes were a sweet concoction of ground meat served on a hamburger bun. What follows is a grown up version of Sloppy Joes for those days when you are running to maybe your grandchild’s sporting event.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
½ pound ground beef, preferably 85 percent lean
1 packed tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ cup canned or jarred tomato purée

1 tablespoon of D.W.’s Secret Sauce –

1 15 ounce can of lentils


  • Warm the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over high heat. Add the onion and peppers Season with 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan, and add the ground beef. Season the beef with a pinch of salt. Break up the beef with the spatula and cook 1 to 2 more minutes, until completely browned with no visible pink spots.
  • Combine the vegetables and beef, then add the sugar and tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute to toast the tomato paste. Add the garlic powder and cumin, then the tomato purée, D.W.’s Secret Sauce or a couple of drops of Red Hot Sauce. Stir in the lentils. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer to thicken slightly, about 3 minutes.
  • Serve on delicious toasted buns with lettuce and thinly sliced red onion.

Products that can be used in the preparation of this recipe:

30 responses to “New Classic Sloppy Joes – a little bit healthy and whole lot of yummy”

  1. I so remember those days of juggling kids’ sportng and other events with work and eating. Sloppy Joes were perfect, that or a pot of chilli con carne. Thanks for the recipe. I think hubby might like that for a change.

  2. Bern, this is a worthy old standard for sure. Several years ago my cousin’s daughter was getting married. They wanted to invite a lot of people but lacked the financial means for a catered affair. The ceremony and reception were held on the groom’s parents grounds and sloppy Joes, coleslaw, potato salad and cake comprised the menu. Todd said it was the best wedding dinner he ever had!

    • Elizabeth, I love it when people remember that it is the celebrating that is important. That couple had their heads in the right place which bodes well for the future.

  3. Oh wow yours looks incredible! I cooked sloppy joe for the first time in my life a few months ago. My husband grew up eating it, on the other hand, I’ve never heard of it…the result was ok to me, “mmm? not quite as I expected” to him🤣 I may have to recreate again, with the “secret sauce”😉

    • Some attribute the original Sloppy Joe to a cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, where, many years ago, in 1930 a cook named Joe added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches. Voila: a new between-the-bread offering, and the sandwich’s official name.

  4. Your sloppy joe recipe is so reminiscent of all the running from one sports activity to another when my kids were still at home. Such a great weeknight idea with the convenience of leftovers for the following day. Your photos are definitely mouthwatering.

  5. Sloppy Joe’s are such a terrific recipe! I need to use lentils in mine next time I make them — healthier, of course, and lentils actually have more flavor in some ways than beef. 🙂 Good stuff — thanks.

  6. Did you know that the geniuses at Eat This, Not That had sloppy joes on their list of 7 classics nobody makes anymore? Shame on them, because sloppy Joe’s are delicious!!! I love them too, and this sounds like a great grownup update! And still a kid favorite too.

    Maya looks well-protected in her softball gear. 💕

  7. Sloppy Joe’s are hard to beat for an easy busy weeknight meal…I am reliving the hectic days of after school activities as I’m helping my single dad son with his boys…sports are over in one week and we’re all looking forward to the break!

  8. Hi Bernadette, Sloppy Joe’s brings back lots of good memories. Although, my boys did not enjoy often while growing-up ( don’t know why), I certainly did! This is indeed a great weeknight meal with a busy family.

  9. I remember Sloppy Joe’s from a can, Bernadette, and haven’t eaten those since I was a kid. This sounds like a great trip down memory lane and so much healthier. Thanks for the recipe! Yum!

  10. I had to laugh at the title – Sloppy Joes. In Australia a sloppy joe is a jumper or what you might refer to as a sweatshirt. Language is a funny thing, isn’t it? Having said that, this does look very good indeed.

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.

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