Our Kitchen Pediatrician™ Sloppy Joe recipe will WOW even the pickiest eater

by Jennifer A. Gardner, M.D. on January 11, 2014

Sloppy Joe's are a perennial childhood favorite, but the canned version lacks depth of flavor. These get their added oomph by the use of a classic French mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery). Every family has their own taste preference, so we have included lots of add-in options. Simply add these at the end of cooking for the final taste you prefer. A natural accompaniment to a Sloppy Joe sandwich is coleslaw or macaroni salad, of course.

This recipe is versatile, and can be made into a sloppy Joe stew or soup; see notes for these instructions.  

Make enough to freeze a second batch for an easy meal. Or prepare extra and make it into Sloppy Joe soup or stew to serve a few days later!

Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

Serves 6 to 8         Time 50 minutes


2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrot sticks, diced small (“minced”)
2 celery stalks, diced small (“minced”)
2 onions, diced
1 large red or green pepper, diced small (“minced”)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste up to 1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley or oregano)
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste (up to 2 tablespoons)
28 ounce can crushed or course ground tomatoes (or 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, pureed course or 3 cups tomato sauce, not pasta sauce)
1 cup beef broth (more as needed)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar
hamburger buns

Optional add ins: 
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup beer or red wine (this will be reduced when you simmer)


1.  Sauté the vegetables in olive oil until softened over medium heat, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan and set aside covered.


2.  Sprinkle salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) in the bottom of the pan and add crumbled meat (large chunks). Do not stir meat and flip after 3 minutes (or when browned) on medium high heat. Brown second side for another 3 minutes; drain fat.

The goal is to brown most of the meat, some pink will remain. It’s ok if it sticks in spots, this will become part of the sauce later. Do not overcook as the meat will continue to cook in the sauce and we don’t want it to get tough. Unless you have a very large pan you  must brown in 2 batches.

3.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and broth to meat. Add back vegetables and stir. Scrape up browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes, until the carrots are cooked. Remove lid, bring to a moderate simmer and cook until reduced to desired thickness, another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

4.  Add parsley in the last few minutes of cooking. Adjust seasoning as necessary. You could add cayenne pepper (to taste), Tabasco sauce or up to 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar for a kick. Or try one of our add-ins for a different twist.  Serve on toasted hamburger buns or Kaiser rolls.



1. The smaller you dice the celery and carrots the less "bothersome" for kids. If you prefer, you can puree the sauce, but make the following changes: Cut the carrots and celery in larger pieces. Cook the meat first (spray with nonstick spray as there will be no oil in the pan from sautéing the veggies) then remove.  Next cook the vegetables. Once cooked, add the tomatoes, broth and tomato paste. Puree the vegetables with an immersion blender (or in a blender, but be sure to use a kitchen towel on the lid and leave a vent for the steam to escape). Add meat and proceed with recipe.

2. For faster Sloppy Joe’s: omit the celery and carrots, but do add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon steak seasoning (such as Mc Cormicks). Just sauté the peppers and onions, then brown meat until no longer pink. Add tomatoes, broth, etc. and bring to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. To make Sloppy Joe Stew: use basic recipe but add 2 large potatoes, chunked small, and 2 extra cups of beef broth (3 cups total). Once the meat and veggies are sautéed, bring all the ingredients to a gentle boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are cooked but firm, about 20 to 25 minutes. 
To make Sloppy Joe Soup: add 4 extra cups of broth (5 cups total), easy-peasy!

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