Homemade Sloppy Joes

by Jason
Sloppy Joe sandwich

These were a staple growing up.  I was always impressed with how grandma could brown some hamburger and grab an array of common household ingredients to make delicious sloppy joes.  No Manwich here!  These are much better!

The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating.



Where I come from these are called Sloppy Joes.  These are sometimes called made-rites, bar-b-ques, or BBQs, and even loose meat sandwiches.  Although we did have a Made-Rite restaurant in town for a while and I loved their sandwiches.  I could never figure out how they got the hamburger so tender.

My pan fried sloppy joes always seemed a bit tough compared to the sandwiches we used to get at Made-Rite.  However I recently discovered the Instant Pot (like 2 or 3 years after everyone else).  I digress.

With the Instant Pot, some magic happens apparently through pressure cooking.  These are way more tender than straight pan frying!  Not sure why, or what method Made-Rite uses to cook their ground beef, but give these a try and let me know what you think!

What you need to know

The great thing about homemade sloppy joes is that you can use whatever you have on hand to make the sauce and create the flavor profiles you want.  In this recipe I use a small onion, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, ketchup, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, white vinegar, liquid smoke, tomato paste, and Jalapeño slices.

I would suggest and of these ingredients are optional and subject to substitution.  For instance the white vinegar can be replaced by a bit of dill pickle juice, right from the jar!  Your favorites flavor of BBQ sauce could easily be used in place of the ketchup and tomato paste.  Of course, if your not a fan of Jalapeño slices you may want to replace with dill pickle slices!

If you’re looking for a unique burger recipe instead of these Sloppy Joes you need to check out my Wedge Burger.  My Wedge Burger uses my secret burger recipe that makes for a most juicy and tender burger!

Sloppy Joe sandwich

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 240 calories 7.2 fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )


  • 1 pound ground beef (thawed, 80/20 or leaner)
  • 1 small onion (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
  • Jalapeño slices (optional)


  1. Dice the onion.
  2. Set your Instant Pot to sauté.
  3. Once hot put the thawed ground beef in the Instant Pot and stir/break up with a wooden spoon until browned and broken up into crumbles.
  4. Add the diced onions, continue the sauté and stir occasionally for another minute or two.
  5. Turn off the Instant Pot for now, remove ground beef/onion and drain off some or all of the fat if you like.  I almost always drain off about 75% of it as I prefer my sloppy joes a bit less greasy in the end.  Be careful! the grease is hot!
  6. Return ground beef/onion to Instant Pot and add all the other ingredients.
  7. Give a quick stir to combine the ingredients and let the flavors infuse the beef while pressure cooking.
  8. Put lid on Instant Pot and close the vent.
  9. Set Instant Pot to 'High and Pressure Cook' for 5 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes and open the vent if not naturally vented already.
  10. Stir again to thoroughly combine flavors and serve!

Note: I prefer my sloppy joes on a toasted bun and with the added kick of a handful of jalapeño slices!  All optional of course!  To brown buns melt a 1/2 tbsp. of butter in a hot fry pan. Place buns face down in the butter and check frequently for your preferred level of browning.  You may need to push down on the centers of the buns if they crown up while browning...


The beauty of homemade sloppy joes is that you can use a vast array of ingredients, depending on what you have on hand. That's why onion, tomato paste, and liquid smoke are optional but keep in mind you can use whatever flavors sound good to you! For example, my grandma used a dash of dill pickle juice straight from the jar instead of the white vinegar here. You can vary the volume of the spices and all ingredients to your preferred levels to get the flavor you desire. It may take some experimenting but that is the joy of cooking! Some other ideas: Try adding a bit of your favorite bar-b-q sauce or if you prefer a much more tomato type sauce base for your sloppy joes, add a 1/2 can or up to a full can of tomato sauce leaving out the ketchup.

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