I’ve been making Sloppy Joes for years – it’s one of the first dishes I ever made ‘all by myself’ – although as a child I used either the powdered mix from the envelope or the canned stuff. As I grew older I realized that this dish is far more versatile than many people believe. It’s simply ground beef simmered with sauce and vegetables, thick enough to serve on a bun. Oh the endless possibilities! Change any ingredient you choose and you can work the flavor combinations any way you choose.
Chicken, beef, sausage, turkey, even venison are all candidates for Sloppy Joe making. I’ve made red, white and green varieties, depending on the type of meat and the kinds of veggies I had. It’s all delicious. However, recently I found myself cooking in someone else’s kitchen for a change – using ingredients and flavorings that weren’t necessarily ‘mine’. Of course I have all these things in my own kitchen – that’s what’s gorgeous about this recipe. These ingredients are all staples and usually in the pantries of most people. What I didn’t have was some of the more specialty things I’m used to using – and boy was I glad.
What I ended up with – cooking in a strange kitchen with someone else’s staples, was the best Sloppy Joe I’ve ever had. This one is a go-to basic – brown the ground beef and throw everything else in. Or – even better, brown and drain the ground beef, and throw everything in a slow cooker for about 4 hours. It takes about ten minutes to put together, and then the cooker does the work.
This recipe makes a good amount – easily enough for eight adults. Or enough for my one almost-teenager. Feel free to cut it in half, or an even better idea, package half the recipe in the freezer for up to a month, and you’ll have a done-dinner – a night free from cooking.
Just warm it up and you’re good to go. There are some easy substitutions in this recipe. Feel free to use all ketchup if you wish, or use 2 cups of BBQ sauce and 1 cup of ketchup. That’s an easy change to the flavor profile. This version is very ‘sloppy’ – cut the total ketchup/BBQ sauce and mustard in half if you wish a ‘stiffer’ version. Increasing or deleting the hot sauce is also easy (we like heat in my house), as is the addition of cayenne or red pepper flakes. Instead of Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar, try soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Or add chipotle sauce in place of some of the ketchup. This one is adaptable, inexpensive, easy, quick and ready to do double-duty a second night. Winner all around!
2 pounds ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 ½ Tbl garlic powder
1 Tbl yellow mustard
2 cups ketchup
1 cup BBQ sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl hot sauce
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1 can tomato paste
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté for about five minutes. Add everything else to the skillet, stirring well to combine. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with toasted hamburger buns. These are great with pickles or a touch more hot sauce!