Nothing like a good old-fashioned 3-ingredient sloppy joes recipe that the whole family will love. The easy homemade sloppy joe sauce is made of only 2 ingredients and is gluten-free. Together they make this classic sandwich saucy, sweet, and savory with a bit of tang.
This delicious recipe is easy to make & economical so make it part of your regular mealtime routine. This goes great with any number of the best sloppy joe side dishes to have a complete meal. All that is left is to cook up some fries in the air fryer and enjoy.
I first made this recipe when my kids were young and I realized I forgot to buy the sloppy joe packet I usually use. With 3 hungry small kids, heading to the grocery store didn't sound fun. So I improvised. There is a lot of flavor with just a few ingredients and you will agree it is the best sloppy joe recipe around.
Since my kids, like most, practically live off ketchup I started there. I added some mustard since I didn't want it too sweet and that was just the thing. It was a hit. My daughter is such a fan of this recipe we actually call them "Sloppy Mileys" at our house!
I love making simple recipes homemade instead of using a product like Manwich. This recipe tastes way better than Manwich. Plus its only 3 ingredients that allow me to can control what I am eating.
For instance, this sloppy joe recipe is grain-free, high-protein, low-carb, and low in sodium Whereas Manwich is not certified gluten-free. Not the mention all the other "stuff" in that can.
Since there are a few ingredients in this ground beef recipe, there is not much to be surprised by with this recipe. These sloppy joes are made without tomato paste, sauce, or any added sugar.
This recipe is made with ketchup which is the tomato and sugar portion of a classic sloppy joe. Simple, quick, & delish is the name of the game here. This recipe is one of my favorite ground beef recipes made with few ingredients.
You can use any fat-to-meat ratio of ground beef for this recipe. Because the meat is boiled, the fat will be cooked out without drying it out. So use your favorite.
I am using the free ground beef I get every month in my ButcherBox. This was part of my new subscriber deal when I joined years ago and it sure has been a tasty deal. Find out what ButcherBox is offering now for new members & discover the high-quality grass-fed beef that is less expensive than what you find in grocery stores.
- Ground Beef
- Yellow Mustard
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to Make the Best Sloppy Joes
The recipe for 3-Ingredient sloppy joes is so easy. In less than 15 minutes, dinner is on the table.
Most recipes for sloppy joes start off with browning the meat. Not here. Browning the meat is not the best way to cook ground beef. Surprised?
For the most tender and finely crumbled ground beef, boiling is the way to go. That will be the first step for making slopping joes, boil the ground beef.
In a medium pot, add the ground beef & cover with 1-2 inches of water. Break up the meat in the water using a wooden spoon or spatula.
Once the ground beef is broken up it should look like this. It is not pretty, I admit but it will be so good.
Bring the meat and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it is boiling, turn it down to a low simmer. Let cook until all the meat is brown, about 3 minutes.
Drain the meat in a colander with fine openings. Return the meat to the pot.
Now it is time to add the sauce ingredients. Add in 1 cup of ketchup and ¼ a cup of yellow mustard. Keep the heat on low and let it heat through for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
If you like a saucier sloppy joe, add ½ a cup of water when adding the ketchup and mustard. Let it simmer for longer to make the sauce that will thicken up as it cooks.
Once the meat is ready, use a small spoon to do a taste test. Add optional salt & pepper to taste if desired. I find the ketchup and mustard add enough salt and flavor that it is not needed.
Toast up some hamburger buns or your favorite rolls. Add the sloppy joe meat to each bun. Have fun adding toppings (ideas listed below) for a mega tasty sloppy joe sandwich that is just how you like it.
Topping Ideas for Sloppy Joes
Sloppy joes are great as they are with the rich meat in sauce and a toasted bun. But add some additional toppings or some great side dishes and the simple meal becomes even better.
Here are some good ideas for what to put on top of your loose meat sandwich for more flavor. Choose one or more of these topping ideas.
- Shredded Cheese
- Chopped raw onions
- Pickled onions
- Dill or sweet pickles
- Raw or pickled sliced jalapenos
- Hot sauce
- Sliced avocado
Substitutions & Variations
With only 3 ingredients one might think there are no substitutions or changes that can be made. This is a versatile recipe believe it or not. You can use poultry as a protein instead of beef. Also with a few changes, make this a low-carb, sugar-free, or low-sodium sloppy joe.
- Ketchup - use a low-sodium or sugar-free ketchup for a healthier option
- Yellow Mustard - use dijon mustard for a spicy kick
- Ground Beef - use ground chicken or turkey for a healthier option - just know it will be drier & most as juicy or moist as when using beef (I have not tried this with any plant-based items like tofu or beyond-meat)
- Onion - add 1 tablespoon of dried minced onions to the ground beef while boiling. It adds flavor and texture.
This recipe is already dairy-free and gluten-free. Enjoy this homemade sloppy joe meat on your favorite gluten-free roll, bun, or bread.
The meat for these sloppy joes is not cooked in a skillet. It is cooked in a medium-sized sauce pot. You will need a pot and a colander to make this recipe. Here are the ones I recommend plus some great kitchen tools that every home cook should have.
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Store the meat separately from any toppings or buns you may use. Place the leftover meat in an air-tight container. Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Sloppy joe meat freezes well. Place any prepared meat in an air-tight Ziploc bag. Press all the air out of it before sealing. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before reheating.
To reheat, place the meat in a small pot. Warm on medium-low heat on the stove until it is hot.
Both are a term people use interchangeably for sloppy joe meat. Manwich is a commercial brand that is canned and sold in stores. It is a ready-made sauce to add to ground meat to make sloppy joes. Sloppy joes is the general term for the recipe.
Besides the brand name Manwich, sloppy Joes go by other slang or terms. They include yum yums, slush burgers, dynamites, steamers, loose-meat sandwiches, spoon burgers, tavern sandwiches, or sloppy Janes.
This simple recipe is a great start to making a fancy sloppy joe sandwich. This recipe can be elevated in several ways for a gourmet or fancy twist on a classic American sandwich. Here are some fun ideas:
Serve it on a fancy roll or bread like brioche, croissant, or baguette. Also, add fancy toppings like a poached or fried egg, drizzle with cheese fondue, or fried onion strings.
3-Ingredient Sloppy Joes (Gluten-Free)
- sauce pot
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup ketchup
- ¼ cup yellow mustard
- ½ cup water optional - for a saucier sloppy joe
- salt & pepper optional - to taste
- In a medium pot, add the ground beef & cover with 1-2 inches of water. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break the meat apart.
- Turn the stove to medium-high heat to bring the meat and water to a boil.
- Once it is boiling, turn it down to low so it will simmer. Let the meat cook until all the pieces are brown, about 3 minutes.
- Drain the meat in a colander with fine openings. Return the meat to the pot.
- Add in 1 cup of ketchup and ¼ a cup of yellow mustard. Keep the heat on low and let it heat through for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Taste test the meat. Add optional salt & pepper to taste. I find the ketchup and mustard add enough salt and flavor that it is not needed.
- Spoon over toasted hamburger buns or rolls to serve. Top with any of the suggested ideas shared above. Enjoy.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 5.2g||7%|
|Saturated Fat 1.8g||9%|
|Total Carbohydrate 8.1g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 0.4g||2%|
|Total Sugars 6.9g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|