20-Minute Sloppy Joes

These 20-Minute Sloppy Joes are a quick and easy dinner idea made from pantry staples. A thick, sweet and flavorful sloppy joe sauce, sautéed with ground beef, onions and red peppers. 

Sometimes my best recipe ideas come from an empty fridge. One night a few weeks back I badly needed a grocery run (or let’s be honest, an Instacart order because that is life these days). I went digging in the freezer and found ground beef and buns – Sloppy Joes immediately came to mind and I started pulling ingredients from the pantry to make a sauce.

You probably have all the ingredients on hand – Ketchup, Brown Sugar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, Crushed Tomatoes and some spices. Ketchup and brown sugar are pretty standard in any kitchen. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar you could easily substitute white vinegar. And Worcestershire Sauce… you may think you don’t have it, but you probably do. It’s one of those ingredients that ends up in every pantry because you bought it for that one recipe, that one time and you never seem to use through the whole bottle, no matter how many years go by (right?… just me?). 


How to Make 20-Minute Sloppy Joes


You’ll make these sloppy joes on the stove top in a large sauté pan or skillet. Start off by sautéing some onions and red bell pepper. Next, add the ground beef and break it up as it begins to cook. You know that sauce we talked about – whisk all the ingredients together except the crushed tomatoes and pour it over the meat in the skillet. Continue to sauté until the meat is cooked through then add in the crushed tomatoes. Bring the skillet to a low boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken and then you are ready to eat! 


How to Serve 20-Minute Sloppy Joes 


Sloppy Joes are meant to be served on a bun. The buns pictured here are sesame topped brioche buns, yum! I definitely recommend something similar because they are tasty and sturdy enough to hold the sloppy (hence the name) meat mixture. 

Because of the sweetness of the sauce it doesn’t lend itself well to many toppings. You wouldn’t top a sloppy joe with cheese (I mean, maybe YOU would, but it’s not typical) some light and cold toppings pair better. Here I served them with dill pickle chips and sliced red onion which add a light refreshing crunch. They would also be good served with some type of slaw.  Or skip the toppings and enjoy the old fashioned way! 


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20-Minute Sloppy Joes

  • Author: Laura
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 sloppy joes 1x


These Sloppy Joes are quick and easy dinner idea made from pantry staples. A thick, sweet and flavorful sloppy joe sauce, sautéed with ground beef, onions and red peppers. 



3 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

dash of black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 pound ground beef

1 cup crushed tomatoes

4 buns

dill pickle chips (optional)

red onion slices (optional)


In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper

This is the sloppy joe sauce, set aside

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan

Add the onion and pepper, sauté 2-3 minutes

Add the garlic, sauté 2 more minutes

Push the onions, pepper and garlic to one side of the pan

Add the ground beef on the other side

Working with a wooden spoon break the beef apart as it cooks

Pour the sloppy joe sauce over the ground beef

Mix the beef and sauce with the onions, peppers and garlic

Continue to sauté until the meat is cooked through

Add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer

Simmer for about 5 minutes to allow the meat mixture to thicken

Spoon the sloppy joe meat into the buns

Serve topped with pickle chips and red onions (optional)

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: #sloppyjoes #easydinners #20minutedinners


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If you make these 20-Minute Sloppy Joes let me know how you like them!  Leave a star rating and comment here! If you snap a photo, I’d love to see it – share it over on Instagram and tag me @sprinklesandseasalt!

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