Easy Sloppy Joes Recipe

Two Sloppy Joes on plates with cucumbers

Easy Sloppy Joes Recipe

When I was a kid, Sloppy Joes were not one of my favorite meals. I loved a good burger, but Sloppy Joes were always too darn sweet for my palate. I basically avoided them for most of my adult life, until I realized that a more savory, delicious version of the classic would be a perfect quick dinner to add to my repertoire. This easy Sloppy Joes recipe is from my cookbook Bare Minimum Dinners, and, trust me, it’s a winner.

It relies on traditional East Asian flavors including sesame oil and soy sauce. But, it’s the gochujang, a Korean chili paste, that gives the meat an irresistible kick and depth of flavor. (If you can’t find gochujang, swap in sriracha. And, if you or family doesn’t dig spice, then use ketchup instead.) You start the recipe by browning ground beef with garlic in a little sesame oil. Then simmer it in a combination of tomato puree, soy sauce, gochujang, and one tablespoon of brown sugar, for just a hint of sweetness to balance out the spice. Finish with a hit of lime juice, and in less than a half hour you’ll have a standout meal on the table.

While the meat simmers for 10 minutes, you’ll have time to make a simple salad or the Quick Cukes recipe from Bare Minimum Dinners. Whatever you serve with it, I predict this easy Sloppy Joes recipe will slide into your repertoire just as quickly as it has into mine.

Sloppy Joes on plates with recipe name

Spicy (or Not) Sloppy Joes

– 1 tsp. toasted sesame or vegetable oil

– 1 lb. lean ground beef

– 2 cloves garlic, sliced

– 1/2 cup tomato puree

– 3 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari

– 1 Tbs. gochujang (Korean chili paste) or sriracha sauce

– 1 Tbs. brown sugar

– Juice of 1/2 lime

– 4 burger buns, toasted

– Sliced scallions, optional

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and garlic. Cook, breaking up the beef with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain the fat, then return the beef to the pan.
2. While the beef browns, whisk together the tomato puree, 1/4 cup water, soy sauce, gochujang, and brown sugar in a medium bowl.
3. Pour the tomato mixture over the beef and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and scallions, if using. Serve the beef mixture on the toasted buns.

Serve with: The Quick Cukes from Bare Minimum Dinners, roasted brussels sprouts, or a simple salad

Substitutes: Use ground turkey or even plant-based “ground meat” (such as Beyond) instead of the ground beef. Skip the gochujang or sriracha altogether if you aren’t into spice and use ketchup instead.

For lots more easy, family-friendly recipes pick up my cookbook Bare Minimum Dinners. I promise it will make figuring out what to cook for dinner a hundred times easier!

Bare Minimum Dinners cookbook cover

Jenna Helwig