Tasty Tuesday: Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes: another one of those only-mom-makes-them-right foods

Sloppy Joes on sourdough buns make up one of our favorite quick dinners. There’s something about summer that lends itself to Sloppy-Joe-ness for our family, so we have them about once a week. The handy thing about Sloppy Joes is that even if I’ve forgotten to take meat out of the fridge to thaw, I’m good to go.


It occurred to me recently that Sloppy Joes are another food that only tastes “right” when they’re made the way my mom always did. This was a dinner I started cooking for the family when I was about 8. To this day, it remains one of my favorite quick meals. Of course, my own kids learned this one early on too.

Marilyn’s Sloppy Joes

Brown 2 pounds of lean ground beef. While it browns, add a T. of dried onion and salt to taste.

Drain off the grease as completely as you can.

Put the skillet on a low burner and stir in about 3/4 c. of ketchup, 1/4 c. mustard, and 1/2 c. sweet pickle relish. Stir thoroughly and simmer for about ten minutes. If it seems like the mixture is too dry, add a little extra ketchup.

Of course, this meat is served on buns. When I was a kid, the special way to eat Sloppy Joes was when mom placed six squares of cheddar cheese on the top of the Sloppy Joe meat and covered the pan for a few minutes. Then she dished up the meat onto the buns so we each got a gob of melted cheese on our Sloppy Joe.

Now, for my variations–and I ALWAYS have variations–

Often I make Sloppy DOEs by using ground venison. Venison is a really healthy alternative to ground beef. Even for kids (and adults) who don’t care for the stronger taste of venison, Sloppy Does are a great alternative. All the ketchup and mustard and relish flavors dominate any venison flavor.

I also sometimes throw in a little barbecue sauce to spice things up a bit. Sometimes I serve these sloppy sandwiches on sliced sourdough, open-faced.


Now, for the biggest variation I’ve done yet…my sister invented a recipe of Asian Sloppy Joes. These were really tasty and a very different spin on an old favorite. (This recipe is huge, so scale it back to proportions that work for you.)

Asian Sloppy Joes


  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 5 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 head bok choy, chopped finely
  • 4 large carrots, shredded
  • 2 red bell peppers, shredded or diced
  • 1-2 T. sesame oil
  • 1/4-1/2 c. soy sauce (to taste)
  • 2 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 batch sourdough bread, formed into buns and baked; sliced

Sautée onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add turkey.  Stir frequently, until browned all through.  Add bok choy, carrots and peppers, and continue stirring until the bok choy is quite wilted, and the veggies are well incorporated into the meat. Add sesame oil, soy, and rice wine vinegar.  Adjust amounts to your taste.  Optional:  Add a few red pepper flakes.  Allow to cook until the fluid has cooked down.  Serve immediately on warm sourdough buns.  Also optional:  throw in a handful of cilantro.  Note:  if you don’t have bok choy on hand, use Napa cabbage, shredded finely, or any other green, chopped small.


When I started writing this post, I went looking for some history on the name, Sloppy Joes. I found about 97 different stories on how these sandwiches came to be called Sloppy Joes, so I concluded that nobody really knows. I could be wrong about that, but there are enough versions out there to keep everyone wondering.

Hope your summer is going well,

Barb Kelley