Sloppy Joes are craved by many: Rich hamburger meat simmered in a tangy, sweet sauce with tender onions and peppers, served on a lightly toasted bun. There are different methods of preparing sloppy Joes. You can take the shortcut route and buy store-bought seasoning or sauce, or you could try ours which is quick, easy and also cost-effective as it lets you add ingredients from your very own pantry.
Four key steps for easy Sloppy Joes
1. Brown the beef: Browning the beef in a splash of hot oil is the key to building meaty flavor into the sauce. Ultimately, we want beef that is tender from the simmered sauce, but crisping the beef first boosts the flavor and ensures that the beef browns instead of steams.
2. Sauté the veggies and spices: After the beef is browned, remove it from the pan so you can use the rendered fat to cook the pepper, onion, and garlic. Adding the chili powder and smoked paprika here activates their flavor so they do not get lost in the sauce.
3. Use a potato masher to tenderize the beef in the sauce: Once all the ingredients are in the pan, use a potato masher to break up the beef. This tenderizes the beef and breaks it into smaller pieces without the need to simmer for hours.
4. Simmer the sauce to thicken it: A quick simmer — just 15 minutes — makes for sloppy Joes that are rich and saucy, but thick enough to stay on the bun.
Serving Sloppy Joes
Buttered buns are the classic serving vehicle for sloppy Joes, but they are by no means the only option. Slices of thick sourdough, pasta, or even scrambled eggs can also be the base for the tasty simmered sauce.
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- ½ kg lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 (1/4 kg) can tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- Six to Eight hamburger buns, split and toasted
- Stiff spatula or wooden spoon
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Large cast iron or regular skillet
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and cook, breaking it into large pieces with a stiff spatula, until browned and cooked through (7 to 8 minutes). Transfer the browned beef to a plate; set aside.
Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic, and cook until softened (6 to 8 minutes). Reduce the heat slightly; add the chili powder, paprika, and salt; and cook until fragrant (about one minute).
Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, and mustard and stir to combine. Return the reserved beef to the pan.
Use a potato masher to mash the beef into small pieces and incorporate it into the sauce.
Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until thickened (about 15 minutes).
Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. To serve, spoon onto the toasted buns.