Why Is Joe Sloppy?

The Story:


Happy National Sloppy Joe Day!  In Wednesday’s blog I took a tiny walk down memory lane from elementary school days and in particular Friday’s “fun food” options.  Last week when I decided to bring Sloppy Joe to our dining table, I had no idea that today, Sunday, March 18 was a day of celebration. Since yesterday was all about St. Patrick, I’m betting Sloppy Joe is often overlooked.  Obviously I decided to change that but in looking for a recipe, I could not find ONE in any of the many cookbooks we own.  Wait, what?? This started me down the research hole.


Sloppy Joes originated in the United States in the early 20th century.  This quick and cheap “loose meat” sandwich started appearing in diners around 1930, but was apparently known by other names; Toasted Devil, Beef Mironton, and chopped or loose meat to name a few.  The H. J. Heinz Test Kitchen in Pittsburgh indicated that the origin lies in the loose meat sandwiches sold in Sioux City, IA, by a cook named Joe.  Sounds reasonable.


References of Sloppy Joes began to appear in advertising in the 1940’s and some researchers say the real origin started in Cuba.  Manwich™ in the can, which is what most of us associate with Sloppy Joes, began production in the 1960’s.

Personally, I’ve never been overly fond of Manwich™.  I started scouring all the cookbooks and as I mentioned, could not find ONE recipe.  Not even under some of the other names I ran across.  So, I took to the internet and there were plenty from bloggers and cooks all over the place.  I decided to wing it on my own using the main ingredients of ketchup, tomato sauce and spices.  What I came up with was pretty good – there were no leftovers so I’m calling it a win.


It’s a quick school or Friday night meal for busy schedules.  It calls for ingredients that most cooks tend to have on hand, and since you are making your own sauce, it’s not full of salt and preservatives.  I suspect the sloppiness is what kids have loved all along, so go on…give Joe another go even if he is a bit sloppy!

The Recipe:




1 – 1 ½ lbs. ground hamburger or turkey

½ c. ketchup

6-8 oz. tomato sauce

2 T Worcestershire sauceSlp

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely


½ t onion powder

½ t. dry mustard

½ t black pepper

½ t. salt

2 T brown sugar

Few dashes hot sauce – if you like it spicier

Hamburger buns




  1. In a non-stick skillet, heat EVOO over med-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté about a minute.
  2. Add ground meat and mix well. Add salt and pepper and cook until meat is browned.  Drain excess grease if needed.  Return to heat.
  3. Add the remaining seasonings, ketchup and tomato sauce. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sauce will thicken as it cooks.  Adjust seasonings as needed.
  4. Serve over hamburger buns.
Joe may be sloppy, but he cleans up pretty well!

2 thoughts on “Why Is Joe Sloppy?

  1. Cheryl ARMSTRONG Reply

    Your recipe is on point. I have been making this ever since I was a G.S. leader and it is slightly different (as I remember). It was referred to as Ranchers Stew and added green peppers and baked beans.
    These days, I use petite chopped tomatoes and often serve as open face over day old biscuits.

    1. Food Flippers Reply

      Adding the beans is a great idea! Thanks for sharing and reading! 😀

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