Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe Recipe

My first encounter with the Sloppy Joe was at my elementary school lunch counter where giant cans of sloppy joe mix were dumped into beat-up chafing dishes before being unceremoniously ladled into a crumpled hamburger bun. It may not sound like much of a lunch, but with other options like leathery turkey smothered in mucus-like gravy, and spaghetti with meat sauce that looked more like rusty dirt with soggy worms poking out of it, the days the lunch ladies were dishing out Sloppy Joes were culinary nirvana to my six year old self.

There are various creation myths around the Sloppy Joe, but all signs point to its creation sometime in the first half of the last century. Some theories posit it’s an evolution of the Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich. Others opine it’s a product of food rationing during the war, when meat had to be stretched as far as possible.

Beef Shank Sloppy Joe

Whatever its origins, the Sloppy Joe is a delicious hot mess, and it’s a comfort food from my formative years that I sometimes crave. There’s something innocently marvelous about biting into an airy bun and having the sweet meaty filling spurt out of the corners of your mouth, leaving you with a saucy grin. But just like my office, there’s a difference between sloppy and slovenly, which is why I prefer making it with pulled beef rather than ground meat.

While this hot sandwich is never going to qualify as health food, by making it from scratch, you can sweeten it with carrots and unrefined sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup laden ketchup. It doesn’t take that much more work, and for your pittance of effort, you get a delicious wholesome meal without a lot of unnecessary additives.

Equipment you'll need:

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    Sloppy Joe
  • With shredded beef simmered in a sweet tomato sauce, these sloppy joes from scratch are easy to make and the best you'll ever eat.
ServingsPrep TimeCook Time
4 10 minutes 40 minutes


  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 500 grams boneless shortribs cut into 4-centimeter pieces
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper diced
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons sugar - unrefined or honey
  • 400 grams whole stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 sprigs thyme stemmed and minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin


  1. Heat a pressure cooker over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil then add the beef in a single layer. If they don't all fit in a single layer you may have to brown it in batches. Fry one side until a brown crust forms and then flip them over and brown the other side.
  2. Transfer the browned beef to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the onions, bell peppers, carrots, garlic and sugar to the pot and use the liquid released to scrape up the browned beef juices off the bottom of the pan.
  4. Turn down the heat to medium and sautée the vegetables, stirring regularly until the onions are soft and the whole mixture is a medium brown color (10-15) minutes.
  5. Return the meat and any collected juices to the pan. Add the canned tomatoes and crush them up. Fill the can with water and add the water to the pan. Then add the tomato paste, vinegar, thyme, salt, pepper, chili powder, and ground cumin.
  6. Seal the pressure cooker lid and set to high pressure. Bring the pot up to pressure over high heat (it will start whistling), and then turn down the heat enough so it barely maintains a constant whistle. Cook for 30 minutes and turn off the heat, allowing the pressure to drop naturally before opening the lid.
  7. If you're not using a pressure cooker, just simmer the mixture for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fall apart tender.
  8. Once the beef is tender, skim off as much excess fat as you can. Use a potato masher to shred the beef. If there's still too much liquid, simmer the mixture uncovered until it's the right consistency.
  9. When the sloppy joe mixture is done, taste it and adjust the salt, sugar and vinegar until you're happy with the taste. Serve hot in a hamburger or hotdog bun.
  • Nat

    This brings back memories: different countries, same experiences – my school dinners also taught me very early on the beauty of keeping things in perspective. In our case, I clearly remember that the “paella” served with chunks of chorizo and pink sauce made the cottage pie seriously appetising!

  • Amy

    Saw you on Chopped and came to investigate. Lots of great stuff to explore and these Sloppy Joes look delish.

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  • Kathy

    Just wanted to let you know that this was very good (it’s one of the first recipes I made in my new pressure cooker), and using grated carrots to add a sweet note is a cool tip that I’ll remember going forth. Thanks!

  • ricebunny

    phenomenal recipe- sweet, savory, satisfying. using short ribs really elevates this dish. unequivocably the best sloppy recipe on the internet. i cook for three generations, ages 2 to 79, and this is a meal that all raved about.

    matsumoto’s culinary take on high/low culture is what makes his recipes stand out. because the truth is- i love me my matsutake mushrooms and foie gras, but i’m just a simple girl at heart.

    i used bone-in short ribs, removed bone after stewing, and chopped the meat. also stewed my own tomatoes bc dont like the bpa in canned foods.


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!