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Stovetop Sloppy Joes Recipe

My Stovetop Sloppy Joes recipe is one of my favorite childhood meals, and now my kids are (mostly) huge fans too! Ground beef in a seasoned sauce, piled on a bun, with all of the barbecue sides? SOLD!

Stovetop Sloppy Joes with text on it

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

This is a quick and easy dinner recipe that is not only great to make for a big gathering, but also is a definite crowd-pleaser!

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

What is a sloppy joe?

For many of us as kids, we had a sloppy joe day for hot lunch. Personally, that version wasn’t a thing I ever wanted to repeat, but my Mom’s sloppy joes? Or my aunt Terri’s sloppy joes? 100%.

I’m not sure what all went into those things, but I know when I first moved out on my own I was pretty positive it was just ground beef, ketchup, mustard, and some minute rice. 

Turns out it is a lot more than that, and the rice was a clever way to extend the meat for a BIG group of people, and I’ve thoroughly tweaked and messed with this until landing here. Enjoy!

Make this with a Smoked Baked Potato!

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Stovetop Sloppy Joes

What’s in a sloppy joe?

Some people do sloppy joes with ground pork, others with ground beef, or even ground chicken or lamb. Some people throw caution to the wind and do combinations of ground meat. Even ground turkey works if you want to go there.

But the thing that really makes a joe sloppy is that sweet and tangy tomato sauce. That flavor comes down to the combination of Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce. Some grilled onions in there is a plus too.

I don’t want to scare anyone off, but I know the truth behind the sloppy joe conspiracy. Yes, it can finally be revealed…

Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies. Yes, those little oily fish that you either love or hate are one of the main ingredients in Worcestershire. “How could they?” you ask? Well, don’t let it bum you out unless of course, you are vegetarian or vegan. Then you just have to find the anchovy-free version of it. That is what we have to do, as one of our kids is allergic to fish. More often that not I just wait to add the Worcestershire until last and take out some for him before I add it.

The fact is anchovies are amazing at helping other seasonings and flavors be their best.

Want a different twist on a classic sloppy joe? Try this Chicken Gumbo Sloppy Joes recipe!

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joe Shopping List

  • ground beef
  • celery
  • onion
  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • bbq sauce
  • brown sugar
  • dry mustard
  • Worcestershire
  • apple cider vinegar
Stovetop Sloppy Joes

Can these sloppy joes be cooked in the slow cooker?

Yup! I actually have a recipe especially for that method, here on my Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes page.

The crockpot method works best if you have to leave the house during the cooking time, and if you have a lot of time on your hands. 

It isn’t a dump-and-go type of crockpot recipe, mind you. You still have to cook the meat. But it is great for a giant batch that you want to have ready to go after a long day at the lake, or right when you get home from work. 

Advantages of stovetop cooking for sloppy joes

Less mess

On the stovetop, you can use the pot that you brown up the meat and saute the onions and peppers in for the entire dish. You will want to strain off the excess beef fat before adding in the tomato sauce and other ingredients.

Cooking everything in one pot means not having to clean extra pots and pans. There is always a benefit to that.

It’s faster

The crockpot method takes ALL day, basically. If you don’t have all day, you can still have amazing sloppy goes. 

Disadvantages of the stovetop method

With the stovetop, you have to be a bit more cautious about burning. Make sure to stir the pot frequently, and turn the temp down and keep the lid on tightly to avoid any issues.

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

Tips for Sloppy Joe success!

Sloppy joes are simple to make, but with a few things in mind you can make sure they aren’t only edible, but incredible!

Use high heat to brown the meat

Make sure to use high heat to brown the meat. You really want to get that nice sizzle on there for the Maillard reaction to occur. That’s the french terminology for caramelizing the meat. It adds tons of flavor.

The ground beef matters

The best ground beef for sloppy joes is not to lean and not too fatty. An 80/20 blend is about perfect to make sure the flavor is there without having too much fat to drain off either. 

Feel free to tinker!

I can’t follow a recipe to the “t” to save my life, and I don’t expect you guys to either. That’s where the magic happens and where you can really make things your own. 

So with this recipe, and any others – FEEL FREE TO EXPERIMENT. 

Just don’t email me a nasty-gram if it doesn’t work. 😉 Experiments aren’t always a success!

Some potential tweaks you could make are…

Like yours a little sweeter? Increase the brown sugar or use a sweet barbecue sauce!

Want some more bite? Just increase the vinegar. 

Like to keep it spicy? Throw in some hot sauce. 

Looking to add more vegetables to your life? Throw in some more celery, and also some bell peppers for good measure.

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

The best side dishes for sloppy joes

I think coleslaw and french fries make great companions for a nice hearty sloppy joe. But oven-fried onion rings definitely would be on the list of top choices too.

If you want something less obvious, then what would you think about cream of broccoli soup? Grilled carrots even would be a nice way to go!

Stovetop Sloppy Joes
Yield: 8 servings

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

Stovetop Sloppy Joes

Sweet, tangy, and juicy sloppy joes for the next time you need a dose of down-home cooking.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 - 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 - 2 cups water


  1. Brown ground beef with onions and celery. Season with salt, pepper, seasoning salt, and onion powder. Drain excess fat.
  2. Add all other ingredients (except the water) into a Dutch Oven. Place cooked ground beef/celery/onion mixture into the pot and stir.
  3. Add enough water to thin out the sauce and give it room to thicken during cooking time. 1 - 2 cups should be plenty. The less time you cook it, the less water you should add.
  4. Simmer over medium-low heat for 1-2 hours or until vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 236Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 67mgSodium: 293mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 21g

Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate. If you are tracking these things for medical purposes please consult an outside, trusted source. Thanks!

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Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson, a self-taught expert in grilling and outdoor cooking, launched Or Whatever You Do in 2010. Her blog, renowned for its comprehensive and creative outdoor cooking recipes, has garnered a vast audience of millions. Nicole's hands-on experience and passion for grilling shine through her work. Her husband, Jeremiah Johnson, also plays a pivotal role in recipe development, adding his culinary flair to the mix. Together, they form a dynamic duo, offering a rich and varied outdoor cooking experience to their followers.

A Fellow Mediaviner

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Ever consider ground lamb to replace the beef? I always use ground lamb. Healthier and tastier!

Nicole Johnson

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I haven't tried that, but I bet it would be awesome! You could even do a gyro-flavored sloppy.

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