Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce

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This homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce comes together in just 20 minutes! It’s so full of flavor, the entire family will be requesting it for dinner.

You’ll be surprised at how tasty homemade sloppy joes can be! This easy recipe is one that can be made ahead and it’s freezer friendly.

Close up of sloppy joe sauce on a bun

Sloppy Joe Sauce

Sloppy Joe’s are childhood favorite. We remember eating them with the cans of Manwich sauce. It was something we always looked forward to as kids.

Today’s sauce is a homemade version and it comes together in just a few minutes time with some staple ingredients from the pantry.

The sauce is hearty and can be served on a bun. Add a side salad and you have a complete meal.

It’s one of our favorite tomato-based sauces along with our easy spaghetti sauce, best pizza sauce, and butter chicken sauce.

The great thing about this recipe is it can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. We like to wait to add the meat until it’s ready to be served but you can make it ahead of time with the meat included.

If you are vegetarian, soy crumbles are a good alternative to ground beef. We usually divide the sauce in half and use ground beef in one half and soy crumbles in the other.

The sauce is already very flavorful, we tested it was just right, but we’ll leave some additions and variations down below in case you feel the need to jazz it up.

Jar of homemade sloppy joe sauce

Sloppy Joe Sauce Recipe Ingredients:

To make this sloppy joe sauce recipe, you will need:

  • Spices: We use a combination of salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, sugar, and black pepper.
  • Bell pepper: We love adding them when we can but you can totally omit them if you don’t like them.
  • Tomato puree: The base of the sauce.
  • Beef broth: Use vegetable broth if you are vegetarian.
  • White vinegar: Needed for the classic sloppy joe flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce: We felt like something was missing so we added a couple of tablespoons. Perfection!
Ingredients for homemade sloppy joe sauce

How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce:

To make this easy sloppy joe sauce, simply…

  1. Cook the bell pepper and salt until softened.
  2. Stir in the spices and cook for a few seconds.
  3. Add the tomato puree, broth, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Then simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  4. Stir in your choice of ground beef or soy crumbles.
  5. Serve on a bun.

When cooking the sauce, don’t reduce it too much. It can become dry once you add the ground beef.

If your sauce feels too thick after adding the meat, you can stir in a few tablespoons of broth to thin the sauce out. Leave the sauce on a simmer and gradually add the broth until the sauce is the desired thickness.

Sloppy joe sauce in a stainless steel pot

Sloppy Joe Sauce Variations:

There are quite a few ways you can doctor up this sloppy sauce recipe.

  • Add chopped onion: Cook finely chopped yellow onion with the bell peppers. You may find it best to omit the onion powder when using fresh onion.
  • Add jalapenos: Remove the seeds and ribs of 1-2 jalapenos then chop them and cook them with the bell pepper.
  • Add cayenne pepper: This will add a good bit of heat to the sauce. Stir in ¼-½ teaspoon when you add the black pepper.
  • Add yellow mustard: Stir in 2-3 teaspoons of yellow mustard when you add the tomato puree.
Sloppy joe sauce on a bun set on a white plate

How to Store Sloppy Joe Sauce:

Refrigerate – Allow the sauce to cool for about 1 hour then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Freeze – Allow the sauce to cool for about 2 hours then transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

Dinner Sauces

If you enjoyed this sauce and want more ideas for dinner, these are great:

Sloppy Joe Sauce

4.89 from 9 votes
Sloppy Joe Sauce Recipe Image
This homemade Sloppy Joe Sauce comes together in just 20 minutes! It’s so full of flavor, the entire family will be requesting it for dinner.
Sauce Fanatic
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Serving Size 6


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 29 ounce can tomato puree
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


  • Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the pepper, sugar, tomato puree, beef broth, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, 8-10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  • Stir in 1-pound of fully cooked ground beef. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 
  • Spoon the meat sauce onto buns and serve.

Make Ahead

  • Allow the sauce to cool for about 1 hour then transfer it to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  • Or Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator then reheat and use right away.


Make this sauce vegetarian:
  • Use vegetable broth or water in place of beef broth.
  • Use vegetarian meat crumbles like the ones from Morning Star.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 0.4g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 969mg | Potassium: 728mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 876IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 3mg

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients and brands you used in the recipe.

4.89 from 9 votes (7 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. I made it and it tastes so similar to the canned sauce! Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes.

  2. I made it and it tastes so similar to the canned sauce! Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes.