Sloppy Joes make a wonderful evening meal. They’re a favorite with the kid and they’re also pretty popular with the grownups! Sloppy Joes are a sweet and tangy beef, onion and bell pepper mixture served in hamburger buns.
They’re not the kind of sandwich you can pick up (unless you don’t mind getting seriously messy!) but they are true comfort food and really tasty.
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This dish dates back to the early 1900s in the United States. Alternative names include chopped meat sandwiches, minced beef Spanish style, toasted deviled hamburgers, and Spanish hamburgers. By the 1960s companies were producing Sloppy Joe mixture in cans.
There are different variations of the dish. The ‘dynamite’ is served in Rhode Island and often contains celery in addition to the onion and bell pepper. In Quebec, Canada, you can get stewed ground beef sandwiches on hot dog buns.
The sandwich is also popular in other countries. Take China’s rou jia mo, for example, a stewed meat and steamed bun sandwich, or India’s keema pav which is minced, curried meat on a bread roll. Just goes to show that meat sandwiches are beloved all over the globe.
What is Texas Toast Exactly?
You might be wondering what happened to the hamburger buns typically used in a Sloppy Joes recipe and what Texas Toast is. It’s basically a fancy name for thick toasted slices of bread. You can get Texas Toast in the frozen food section of the grocery store and it comes plain or garlic flavored.
If you can’t find this, just sub in some extra-thick cut bread slices. About an inch thick is perfect. The aim is to use bread thick enough not to break apart when the hot beef mixture is spooned on top of it.
History of Sloppy Joe Sandwiches
Just like with many other recipes, there is some doubt about the origin of Sloppy Joes. According to one story, José García created the Sloppy Joe in Havana, Cuba, based on ropa vieja, a Cuban dish. Apparently the floor of his seafood restaurant was often wet with melting ice and customers called it ‘sloppy’. I have my doubts how this could be true!
Another tale is that Sloppy Joes started as a loose meat sandwich variation in the 1950s. A cook called Joe in Sioux City, Iowa’s Floyd Angell café served his loose meat sandwiches with a tomato-based sauce. Maybe this is the correct version or maybe there is another story!
Sloppy Joes are served in school lunch rooms all over the country and they’re also a family dinner favorite because they’re cheap and easy to prepare.
Sloppy Joe Ingredients
Ground beef is the star of this particular sandwich, so choose good quality ground beef, perhaps 80% lean ground chuck. You will also need ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, bell pepper, and onion. Worcestershire sauce and yellow mustard add plenty of flavor, and then you just need cheese and Texas Toast for serving.
What You Need:
Olive or canola oil, as needed
Garlic clove or garlic powder
Chopped red or green bell pepper
Chopped large yellow onion
Texas Toast (see note)
How to Make Sloppy Joes Like a Pro
By now I’m sure your mouth is watering and you’re keen to get started on this iconic American recipe. The first thing you need to do is cook the meat with the onion and bell pepper in a little oil. Add fresh garlic too if using. Use a wooden spoon to break up any large chunks of meat and mix everything well.
After pouring away any excess oil you can add ketchup, mustard, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and water. Add dried garlic here if using. The sauce will then take 5 to 10 minutes to thicken up. Give it a stir every few minutes.
While it’s cooking you can broil the Texas toast and then add some cheese on top. Finally add the beef mixture on top of that and serve hot. Everyone will love the flavor of this perfect Sloppy Joes recipe.
Heat a large skillet over a moderate heat.
Add a splash of oil.
Add the meat, bell pepper and onion (and garlic if using fresh).
Cook, stirring often and breaking up any large chunks of meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned through.
Drain off any excess grease.
Turn the heat right down.
Now add the water, ketchup, mustard, garlic (if using powder), Worcestershire sauce, and sugar.
Stir well then cook for about 8 minutes or until the sauce is thicker.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.
Broil the Texas toast until golden.
Now add a piece of cheese to each slice of toast and broil for half a minute.
Spoon some of the beef mixture over each piece of toast with cheese. Add another slice of cheese on top.
Broil again until the cheese melts.
Sloppy Joe Variations
I usually make these with American cheese slices but you can either omit the cheese or use another type if you prefer. I bet sharp cheddar cheese slices would be really good here. Swiss or Gruyere slices would also be nice.
This is quite a carb-intensive recipe since you have the ketchup and brown sugar as well as the carbs in the bread. To reduce the amount a bit, you could use sugar-free ketchup and/or swap the brown sugar for your favorite kind of artificial sweetener.
Sometimes I like to use a combination of green, red, orange, and maybe yellow bell peppers, just to make the recipe more colorful. You can use whichever kind you happen to have in the refrigerator.
- 1 pound ground beef
- Olive or canola oil, as needed
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 minced garlic clove or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 chopped red or green bell pepper
- ½ chopped large yellow onion (or 1 small)
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 12 slices American cheese
- 6 slices Texas Toast (see note)
- Heat a large skillet over a moderate heat.
- Add a splash of oil.
- Add the meat, bell pepper and onion (and garlic if using fresh).
- Cook, stirring often and breaking up any large chunks of meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned through.
- Drain off any excess grease.
- Turn the heat right down.
- Now add the water, ketchup, mustard, garlic (if using powder), Worcestershire sauce, and sugar.
- Stir well then cook for about 8 minutes or until the sauce is thicker.
- Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.
- Broil the Texas toast until golden.
- Now add a piece of cheese to each slice of toast and broil for half a minute.
- Spoon some of the beef mixture over each piece of toast with cheese. Add another slice of cheese on top.
- Broil again until the cheese melts.
- Serve hot.
Texas toast is extra thick bread and comes frozen, in plain or garlic flavors. You can use either kind here. If you can’t buy Texas Toast where you live, just slice a loaf of bread into 1-inch thick slices and use those instead.
Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 560Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 10gCholesterol: 570mgSodium: 567mgCarbohydrates: 320g