We all have those days: Work was a drag, the kids are running wild, the cat threw up on the rug, and the last thing you feel like doing is whipping up some big, complicated dinner only to have your culinary efforts met with groans and complaints. Those are the days this recipe was made for because no one groans at sloppy joes. If you think making Sloppy Joes means throwing in the towel on nutrition, think again. Chef and food writer Erin Johnson of Probably in the Kitchen says, "you can always add vegetables to your sloppy joes. We love peppers and onions in my house, but I have also used carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato to sneak some veggies in. The only thing to keep in mind is that the veggies don’t have a lot of time to cook in this recipe, so if using harder vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes, you need to cook those separately and add them in cooked."
And if you want to plan ahead, Johnson adds: "You can absolutely make the sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. You can even make the entire recipe in advance to just heat when you are ready."
So what’s for dinner? Easy, versatile, and potentially nutritionally diverse sloppy joes.
Gather your ingredients for these sloppy joes
Sure, it might seem like there are a lot of ingredients in these sloppy joes, but don’t worry: most of them are simply mixed together in a bowl and poured over the cooking beef and veggies en masse. Also, you don’t have to use ground beef, says Johnson. "Substituting ground chicken, turkey, or plant-based meat substitutes all would work here."
But for a classic taste on the joe, you’ll need one pound of ground beef, one cup of yellow onion, chopped, a half cup of bell pepper, chopped, two cloves of garlic, minced, eight ounces tomato sauce, a half cup of ketchup, two tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, one tablespoon of stone ground mustard, a half teaspoon of both onion and garlic powder, a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt, and a half teaspoon of ground pepper.
Brown the beef and chop the veggies for your sloppy joes
Heat one tablespoon of cooking oil in a skillet and brown the ground beef, stirring and breaking it up often so it cooks evenly and is reduced to smaller bits. Drain off any excess oil.
If you have not already, now is the time to chop the onion and the peppers for your sloppy joes. Make sure to discard the seeds from the peppers and cut out and discard the white veins if you want the mildest flavor. (You can leave the seeds in if you prefer your sloppy joes to be a bit spicier.)
Add the veggies to the pan and make the sauce for your sloppy joes
Once the beef for your sloppy joes has browned, toss the chopped pepper and onions into the skillet. Stir regularly so everything cooks evenly, and when the onions start turning translucent, add the garlic. (Now is also the time to toss in any other cooked vegetables you are "sneaking" in, from carrots to zucchini to whatnot.)
While you are cooking the meat and veggie mix, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl (tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, mustard, and the spices and seasonings), and mix until they are all well-combined.
Pour on the sauce, simmer, stir, and serve your sloppy joes
After you have given the garlic (and other vegetables, if applicable) time to cook among the onion, peppers, and beef, pour the sauce into the skillet. Allow the lot of it to cook for at least five minutes to ensure proper thickening of the sauce, stirring now and then.
Once you are happy with the consistency (and taste — you can always add salt and pepper as needed). Serve immediately on rolls. Use a slotted spoon for drier, less runny (i.e., messy) sloppy joes or a regular spoon for sopping (and delicious) dinner sandwiches.