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Homemade Sloppy Joes with onions and peppers
Homemade Sloppy Joes with red peppers, ground beef and onions cooked in a rich tomato sauce served on a toasty bun.
This is one of those forever recipes you’re going to love, and it’s not just for kids! Sloppy Joes are an American creation dating back to the 1940’s. I remember enjoying them as a child when my mom used seasoning packages from McCormick. Just add water and ground beef and dinner was ready.
Sloppy Joes are not just for kids. Even though we’re empty-nesters now we still love a good Sloppy Joe from time to time, especially while camping in the fall. While this recipe may not be as easy as opening a seasoning packet and adding water, it’s close!
This Sloppy Joe recipe is easily doubled to feed a crowd. You can also make this ahead or freeze the filling to have on hand when needed.
Frozen Sloppy Joe meat is perfect for camping too. Just put a container of frozen Sloppy Joes in the cooler and it should be thawed in time to warm up for dinner. One pot for quick and easy cleanup too – woohoo!
Homemade Sloppy Joes are an easy, flavorful and hearty sandwich the whole family will crave, with or without the spicy, crispy onions!
Let’s talk about spicy crispy onions for a minute. Made with thin sliced sweet onions, buttermilk and a well spiced flour mixture, these simple onions are great served in many ways. Eat them as a snack, as a terrific topping for Sloppy Joes and hamburgers, or in place of croutons on a salad.
These homemade crispy onions are excellent as a topping for your holiday green bean casserole; so delicious. Frying is my least favorite way to cook and I avoid it whenever possible, but in this case, it’s so worth the effort! Make a big batch and rewarm leftovers in a warm 300F oven for a crispy tasty treat.
What to serve with Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joes are like burgers, they go great with all kinds of finger foods. We especially love these sandwiches served with chips or fries. They’re also perfect served with a scoop of Creamy Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad or our Super Cole Slaw, too.
A nice crisp green salad is always a terrific side as well as our Chopped Grilled Vegetables. Just about anything goes well with a big fat juicy Sloppy Joe!
Ingredients needed to make homemade Sloppy Joes:
- vegetable oil for searing the beef
- ground beef – use a lean ground beef with 90 to 95% fat
- onion – a large sweet onion
- red bell pepper – or green bell pepper if desired
- light brown sugar- just a bit to add a hint of sweetness
- low-sodium seasoning blend like Montreal Steak – or your favorite seasoning like Mrs. Dash
- ground cayenne pepper – optional, but highly recommended
- garlic powder
- red wine vinegar – for a nice tangy bite
- Worcestershire sauce – always perfect in beef dishes!
- tomato sauce – canned low sodium is best
- tomato paste – salt free or low sodium works well
- toasted buns for serving – we prefer sesame seed buns for Sloppy Joes
- top with homemade or store bought crispy onions, if desired
How to make Sloppy Joes:
First, sauté the ground beef in a little oil over medium high heat until no longer pink. Use lean ground beef to eliminate the need to drain the beef once browned.
Now add the diced sweet onion, red bell peppers, tomato sauce, tomato paste, spices, brown sugar and vinegar.
Next, simmer until the sauce is thick and the beef is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. While the beef is simmering, prepare the buns.
Lightly butter both cut sides of the buns and place face up on a baking sheet. Cook under a preheated broiler until golden brown and well toasted.
Serve immediately topped with crispy onions.
Easy, quick and so delicious!
This recipe takes a little more effort than the package mix – but not by much.
There’s a big difference between homemade Sloppy Joes and those made with the salty package mix. No doubt you’ll be able to see, smell and taste the difference once it’s simmering on the stove.
This memorable homemade sauce has a sweet and sour tanginess that’s great served with our spicy crispy onions. The flavor is well balanced and not overly sweet like those sandwiches you may remember from school lunches.
Change it up with a slice of cheese and maybe some pickles too. Bet you’re going to love this recipe!
Sloppy Joes make great camping food!
We recently returned from a trip to the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia where we camped and hiked, and cooked and ate, and cooked and ate some more, read books and napped. We have a pop-up camper and two crazy dogs and look forward to unplugging from time to time.
Even if you don’t like to go camping, Sloppy Joes are great for picnics, football games, pool parties or casual entertaining.
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Sloppy Joes with Spicy Crispy Onions
For the Sloppy Joes:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef 90-95% fat
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped, seeds and ribs removed
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar packed
- 2 tablespoons Montreal Steak Seasoning low-sodium from McCormick
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper optional
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste (3 ounces)
- 6 toasted buns or rolls for serving
For the spicy, crispy onions:
- 1 large sweet onion like Vidalia, halved and thin sliced
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
To make the Sloppy Joes:
- Heat a large saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
- Add the ground beef. Cook stirring frequently to break up the meat. Once there's no more pink beef visible, add the onion and red bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp tender. Add the brown sugar, seasoning, cayenne, garlic powder, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and tomato paste.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep warm while preparing the crispy onions if using.
To make the crispy onions:
- Place the onions in a medium mixing bowl and pour the buttermilk over the sliced onions. In a shallow bowl combine the flour, cayenne, salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet or large platter with paper towels. Set all aside.
- Add vegetable oil to a large deep saucepan set over medium-high heat. Heat the oil until it reaches 375°F. Grab a handful of the onions and drain slightly before scattering in the bowl of flour. Toss to coat with the flour, shake off excess and carefully place in the hot oil. °
- Cook, stirring gently to break up the onions until browned and crispy, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to the paper towel lined platter. Continue cooking until all onions are fried.
- To serve, spoon Sloppy Joe mixture over toasted buns and top with a handful of crispy onions. Serve immediately.
- The prepared Sloppy Joe mixture can be frozen for up to 30-days. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and cook over medium heat until bubbly.
- Cooked crispy onions can be reheated on a baking sheet at 300F for about 15 minutes.
- Leftover tomato paste can be flash frozen in 1 tablespoon mounds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until needed.
- Sloppy Joe mixture adapted from Rachel Ray
- Crispy Onions inspired by Half Baked Harvest
Here are a few more of our favorite sandwiches you might enjoy:
Easy, cheesy and delicious, homemade Meatball Sub Sandwiches are sure to satisfy and so much better than you can get in a fast-food restaurant!
Greek Salad Sandwich – This might look like a plain old veggie sandwich, but it’s so much more! The Greek flavors are bright, briny, fresh and delicious and the sandwich is easy to put together.
These easy Chicken Parmesan Sliders are the drool-worthy party food that everyone will fight over. Make sure you get to the table quickly because these will disappear in a flash.