The sloppy joe is a simple, cheap, versatile meal that can be created for a special occasion, such as a birthday or a holiday, or for a casual BBQ or weekday lunch. The main ingredients to make one are ground beef, green bell pepper, white onion, brown sugar, tomato sauce, yellow mustard, salt, and pepper. You will also need a skillet and hamburger buns. Though the recipe is simple, there are many facts people may not know about this famous sandwich.

Founded in the 1930s

Sloppy joes originated in the United States sometime during the 1930s, and there are a few stories about who the sandwich and which state it happened in. Some people believe it was invented in a café in Iowa by accident when the chef added tomato sauce to ground beef, which led to the making of the sloppy joe. Others believe it was invented in Florida at a bar called Sloppy Joe. Another less common theory is that it was invented in Havana. One fact is for certain--the sloppy joe became a staple in America.

Bartenders at Sloppy Joe's bar pour a round of drinks on the house for a large group of smiling customers American Stock Archive / Getty Images



It Has Many Names

Though it's mainly called a sloppy joe, this sandwich has many alternative names. Some include Manwich, yum yums, dynamite, toasted devil hamburger, sloppy janes, slush burger, and beef miroton. The name Manwich was born when the brand of the same name released a canned sloppy joe sauce with the slogan "A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal."

Sloppy Barbecue Beef Sandwich on a whole wheat bun



Families and school systems began to understand that the sloppy joe sandwich was an affordable yet nutritious meal to serve children. Not only is it flavorful but it's also a sandwich that can be served all year round. While it goes well with a hot summer day served at a BBQ, it also goes well on a cold winter night to provide a warm and comforting hearty meal.

Hearty homemade sloppy joe recipe, messy but delicious


Sloppy Joes Pair Well With Side Dishes

A sloppy joe sandwich doesn't have to be served alone. It pairs well with roasted vegetables, coleslaw, pickles, onion rings, or french fries. The roasted vegetables and pickles will add an additional serving of vegetables to the meal. Onion rings and french fries are not the healthiest side dish but they do pair well with the sandwich.

Homemade BBQ Sloppy Joe Sandwiches with Fries


Became A National Day

National Sloppy Joe Day is celebrated on March 18th. Every year people all across America celebrate National Sloppy Joe Day with the classic sandwich whether they dine at their favorite nearby restaurant, create their own version at home, or have a BBQ with friends and family.

Woman's hands eating a ground beef burger in a restaurant.


Mentioned on Television

During the 1930s, the sloppy joe sandwich was mentioned in two popular movies: Citizen Kane and It's A Wonderful Life. This was before the sandwich became extremely well known. It was also part of Adam Sandler's skit on an episode of Saturday Night Live called Lunch Lady Land that aired in 1993. It also made an appearance on Roseanne when she used it as her specialty dish.

Sloppy Joe's Bar on Duval Street on December 20th, 2015 in Key West, Florida, USA.


Always Different

Wherever you eat a sloppy joe, it will always have a different flavor. Many people use different variations of the recipe, such as using ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. Sometimes Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce are incorporated into the sauce mixture.

Sandwiches with pulled chicken and bbq sauce


Always Toast the Bun

Toasting the bun before putting the mixture inside enhances the sandwich's flavor. Most sloppy joe sandwiches have a toasted hamburger bun, but you can eat them soft or crispy depending on your preference.

sloppy joe sandwich with tomatoes and onions


An Easy Sloppy Joe Recipe


  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 3/4 of ketchup
  • 1 large chopped white onion
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 3 teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


Add ground beef, onion, and pepper to skillet and cook it on medium heat for 10 minutes. Drain excess water and add ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly, cover the skillet, reduce heat and let it simmer for 25 minutes.

Old frying pan filled with savory seasoned cooked ground beef for sloppy joe


Sloppy Joe Add-ons

Brown sugar can be replaced with maple syrup and cinnamon for sweetness. Ketchup can be used in place of tomato sauce or tomato paste. American cheese can be added to the mixture towards the end of cooking it or it can be used as an additional topping once the mixture is between the hamburger buns. Carrots, mushrooms, thyme, oregano, or jalapenos can be diced and put into the beef mixture to give it more flavor.  

Sloppy Joe Sandwich, close up, with Cheddar Cheese.


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