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+ servings

Sloppy Joes with Spicy Crispy Onions

Red peppers, ground beef and onions cooked in a rich tomato sauce served on a toasty bun. Terrific served with a big pile of spicy crispy onions too!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main
Servings: 6 hearty sandwiches
Author: Tricia


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