No Canned Sauce On Sloppy Joes, Please

Sloppy joes

Every once in a while, you get a craving for some comfort food, something from your childhood. Sloppy Joes might come to mind. But you don’t need that canned sauce to make it. Forget the can. Make your sauce fresh and wonderful.

You might ask, “Why make the sauce when you can buy it?” A reasonable-sounding question. But do you really know what’s in that sauce? You can read the ingredients, but does that really tell you anything? There are lots of things in there you won’t find on your grocer’s shelves. Making it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it. You control the amount of salt, sugar, and fat.

This sauce is easy and quick. The taste is excellent. It uses mostly ingredients already in your pantry. Kick the can. Turn a pound of ground beef into a great and delicious meal.

Equipment: A large skillet, cast-iron preferred. That’s it. See how easy this is.

Time: Preparation: 10-15 minutes, mostly chopping. Cooking time: 30 minutes.


  • 1 lb. ground beef – go lean, no less than 80/20. Not only does this cut back on the fat but, more importantly, it cuts back on the grease.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped. A medium onion is 1-1/2″ to 2″ across.
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar. We like the brown sugar/sucralose combination to cut back on the sugar.
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar. We recommend cider or red wine vinegar. You want a tangy punch, not a knockout.
  • 1 cup ketchup.
  • 2 tablespoons mustard. Yellow mustard will give you a more nostalgic taste, but dijon also will work. Don’t go too spicy.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin. If you don’t like the taste of cumin, cut back to a half teaspoon.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Most recipes call for a full teaspoon, but we like to cut back a little. Go with your taste.
  • 4 hamburger buns or other bread.
Joes on plates


  1. With your skillet over medium-high heat, crumble the ground beef into it and begin browning. Stir in the chopped onion and green pepper. Stir occasionally until beef is cooked through.
  2. Drain off the extra fat. Stir in sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and mustard. Season with cumin. Add salt if needed. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Spoon onto buns, top, and enjoy.

We like to add dill pickle slices and serve with baked french fries.