A traditional favorite, this easy turkey sloppy Joe recipe is made with ground turkey (or beef, if you prefer), and lots of veggies for a healthier sandwich!

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: This recipe is a great alternative to Manwich and tastes a whole lot better!

How long it takes: 15 minutes to prep, and it can simmer however long you want
Equipment you’ll need: skillet
Servings: 6 (or make a double or triple batch for a crowd)

Sloppy Joe sandwich, top of bun moved to the side to show filling.
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A zesty mixture of ground turkey (or beef), bell peppers, and onions with an easy ketchup-based sauce, this sloppy Joe recipe is tasty and always hits the spot. It’s great for weeknight dinners or for casual get-togethers.

This recipe for turkey sloppy Joes definitely fits into the “go-to” category in my house. It’s easy, and I almost always have all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge.

On weeks when I am slacking on my meal planning (this happens often), you’ll find me picking up a package of ground turkey at the store. It usually ends up in spaghetti with meat sauce, these sloppy Joe sandwiches, or tacos. If you’re looking for really, really easy sloppy Joes, check out this 5 ingredient sloppy joe, (5 ingredients includes the bun and a slice of cheese)!

Some of you may remember the old fashioned sloppy Joes from the 50’s. My mom talks about the “barbecues” that were served in school lunches made with canned chicken gumbo soup and lots of greasy ground beef. (I just looked it up and the recipe for gumbo sloppy joes is still on Campbell’s website!)

Sloppy Joe meat in a large serving spoon.

About This Sloppy Joe Recipe

  • Use Turkey or Beef: Why ground turkey instead of beef? Using ground turkey instead of beef cuts down slightly on calories and fat. It’s hard to tell the difference in these sloppy Joes. If I’m making a large batch, sometimes I use half turkey and half beef. Use whatever you prefer!
  • Added Vegetables: The bell peppers and onions in this sloppy joe recipe not only add flavor, they also add a lot of good nutrition and fiber. They help to stretch your meat budget too. It’s always good to eat more veggies and less meat!
  • Easy Sauce: The sauce is pretty basic, easy to make with ingredients that you have on hand. It shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes to throw it together and the mixture can simmer on the stove indefinitely. Just give it a stir now and then to make sure it isn’t sticking. It’s ready when you are.

What You’ll Need

  • Ground Turkey or Beef: It’s really up to you which one you choose. Sometimes I even use a mixture of the two especially if I’m making it for a crowd. Choose a leaner cut of beef, such as ground round to cut down on grease.
  • Onion: A regular yellow cooking onion is fine for this recipe but other types of onion are good, too, such as red onion or sweet white onion.
  • Bell Peppers: Just for visual appeal, I choose a couple different colors. You’ll need about one total pepper so if you’d rather just use one color, that’s perfectly fine.
  • Ketchup: Choose a ketchup with no high fructose corn syrup. I realize that ketchup is a processed food that often contains high amounts of sugar but there are brands that offer a better choice. If you prefer, make it with tomato sauce (an 8 oz. can). You may have to increase the seasonings a bit.
  • Dark Brown Sugar: Just a tablespoon of sugar gives the sauce the tangy sweet and sour flavor. Light brown sugar is fine, too, or a tablespoon of molasses.
  • Yellow Mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, Garlic Powder: This trio of familiar pantry items flavors the sauce. Feel free to vary it to your taste. My mom always adds a splash of vinegar because she likes things tangy.
  • Buns: Hamburger buns or slider buns are commonly used for a sloppy Joe sandwich but any type of bread, roll, or sub bun can be used. Toasting them first really adds a nice touch.
  • Optional Toppings: Sloppy Joes are perfectly good just the way they are but why not jazz them up with a few toppings? Try shredded or sliced cheese, shredded lettuce, a spoonful of coleslaw, a slice of tomato, sliced avocado, chopped onions, whatever you like. Pickles are great too: spicy Korean pickles, refrigerator dill pickles, or pickled red onions. My husband slathers his sandwich with yellow mustard, so hey, anything goes!
Overhead view of ingredients needed for recipe, including ground turkey.

How To Make This Sloppy Joe Recipe

Prep the veggies. Begin by chopping the onions and peppers. Sometimes I throw the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup before I start cooking so it’s all ready to add in, but you can also add them in separately.

Brown the meat and veggies. Choose a skillet that will easily accommodate the ingredients. If you plan on simmering the sloppy Joes for an extended time, a cover is a good idea.

Add the ground meat, chopped onions, and peppers to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat, stirring and breaking up the chunks of ground meat. I like to use a wooden spatula with a flat edge.

Sloppy joe ingredients before and after being cooked.

Add sauce. Once the meat is cooked and the vegetables are softened, add the sauce ingredients, stirring well to coat.

Sloppy joe before and after adding sauce.

Simmer until heated through. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the mixture for thirty minutes or so. If you’re in a hurry, no problem. The sloppy Joes can be eaten as soon as the mixture is steaming hot. It tastes a bit better after it simmers awhile so if you have time, let it cook for a bit. In fact, it will be fine for an hour or more and you can even throw it in a slow cooker, set it on Low, and leave it for a few hours.

Serve. Serve on buns with toppings, if desired.

Sloppy Joe Side Dishes

These air fryer French fries are a super good side, or if you prefer, air fryer tater tots or air fryer sweet potato fries. A simple green salad and potato chips are perfect, too, especially with homemade French onion dip! Really, almost anything goes with sloppy Joes, from roasted broccoli to a bowl of creamy squash soup.

Sloppy joe sandwich with chips.

FAQs

What is the difference between Manwich and sloppy Joes?

Manwich is simply a canned sauce used to make sloppy Joes. You begin by browning your own meat and then you add the can of Manwich. There are a few undesirable ingredients in Manwich so it’s better to make your own sauce if you can. Manwich contains both high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. They are the 2nd and 3rd ingredients listed. That’s a lot of sugar.
And then the other no-so-great things like guar gum, spices (very mysterious), xanthan gum, and natural flavors (which aren’t natural at all). There are peppers and garlic but they’re dehydrated. All in all, a very processed food that I’d rather not serve to my family. I’d much rather add real onions and peppers!

How do you thicken sloppy Joes?

There are a couple ways to thicken the mixture. Bring the mixture to a vigorous simmer, uncovered, and let some of the liquid boil off.
A quick and easy way to thicken sloppy Joes (and taco meat, too) is to add a tablespoon of masa to the mixture. Stir it in well and the mixture will immediately thicken. Add more, a teaspoon at a time, if it’s still too “sloppy.”

Do you drain meat for sloppy Joes?

This is optional and depends on the ground meat you’re using. Ground turkey doesn’t have a lot of extra fat so it usually isn’t necessary to drain it. Ground beef is sometimes greasier and it’s a good idea to drain some of the liquid off to remove it.

Make It Your Own

  • Increase the vegetables: I like to make this mix heavy on the vegetables, but if that isn’t your cup of tea, start with ¼ cup of green peppers and ¼ cup of onions. I put in over a cup of mixed bell peppers, and a heaping half cup of onions.
  • Add tomatoes: Want it even chunkier? Add diced tomatoes as well as peppers and onions.
  • Spice it up: Add red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper.
  • Adjust the sauce: Substitute an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce for the ketchup. Increase seasonings to taste. Ketchup has a lot of sugar, so you might want to add more brown sugar. It also has a vinegary tang, so you may want to consider adding a splash of white vinegar. A teaspoon or two should be plenty.
Sandwich with sloppy joe filling on a white plate.

Make-Ahead Ideas

Make a big batch. Turkey sloppy Joes are perfect for make ahead meals. Prepare a double or triple batch of this sloppy Joe mix and freeze it in serving size containers. It will keep for a few months.

Slow cook it. Make a big batch in the morning and let it simmer in the crockpot until you’re ready to serve. This is a great idea for get-togethers or tail-gate parties! Just bring the crockpot of sloppy Joe to your destination, with lots of sliced buns and toppings for make-your-own sandwiches.

Storage & Reheating Tips

Refrigerate/Freeze: Leftover sloppy Joe mixture can be stored separately from the buns in the refrigerator for up to 4 days if refrigerated promptly in a covered container. It can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Reheat: Sloppy Joe meat can be reheated on the stove over medium heat until warmed through; individual portions can be reheated in the microwave in 30-second increments.

Leftover Love

It’s easy to repurpose leftover sloppy Joe mixture. Make baked macaroni and cheese, and top it with sloppy Joe meat before baking. Add taco seasoning to the meat and make burrito or taco filling. Top a pizza crust with sloppy Joe mix, add shredded cheese and sliced peppers and onions and bake.

More hot sandwich Recipes

More Uses for Ground Meat

If you are looking for a different way to cook ground meat, try homemade Hamburger Helper, hamburger soup, or cheeseburger soup.

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Easy Meal Plan!

Interested in a meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this recipe? Take a look at Meal Plan 2 and Meal Plan 29. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you! If you’re interested, browse all of our meal plans.

Recipe

Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe (turkey or beef)

4.72 from 7 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 6 sandwiches
A traditional favorite, this easy turkey sloppy Joe recipe is made with ground turkey (or beef, if you prefer), and lots of veggies!
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Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed
  • 1 pound ground turkey (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (more to taste)
  • ½ cup diced yellow onion (about 1 small onion)
  • ½ cup diced green bell pepper (about ½ bell pepper)
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper pepper (about ½ bell pepper)
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (light brown sugar is okay, too)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Hamburger or slider buns, to serve
  • Optional toppings: shredded or sliced cheese, shredded lettuce, a spoonful of coleslaw, a slice of tomato, sliced avocado, chopped red onions or green onions, or whatever you like!

Instructions 

  • To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add ground turkey, onion, and bell peppers, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up large chunks of the ground turkey, until the turkey is cooked and the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Mix thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes (see note). Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  • Serve on hamburger buns or slider buns, toasted if desired. Optional toppings: shredded or sliced cheese, shredded lettuce, a spoonful of coleslaw, a slice of tomato, sliced avocado, chopped red onions or green onions, or whatever you like!

Notes

  • Substitute ground beef for the ground turkey, if preferred.
  • Increase or decrease the amount of peppers and onions, according to taste. Any color of bell peppers can be used and it doesn’t matter if they’re all one color.
  • Simmering time depends on how much time you have.  Sloppy Joes actually taste better the longer it simmers. Stir occasionally, making sure the mixture isn’t sticking or drying out. Add a bit of water if it’s getting too dry. On the other hand, if you’re hungry, go ahead and eat it sooner, it will still be good.
  • Shortcut version: If you want to make a super easy sloppy joe, omit sauce ingredients (ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder). Instead use a 10.75 ounce can condensed tomato soup (with no water added).
  • Larger Batch: You can easily double or triple the recipe for large crowds, or to freeze for later. If you like, transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and set it on Warm until you’re ready to eat.
  • Nutrition information does not include buns or toppings.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 161kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Sodium: 531mg, Potassium: 401mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 610IU, Vitamin C: 28mg, Calcium: 16mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.72 from 7 votes (7 ratings without comment)

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20 Comments

  1. Christina @ This Woman Cooks! says:

    Looks really good! I also like that salad sitting by on the plate. :)

  2. Lisa~~ says:

    Sloppy Joe’s are a blast from my past. Growing up I loved them but haven’t had them in years. I’ll have to give your recipe a try.

    Lisa~~
    Cook Lisa Cook

  3. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says:

    Love sloppy joes! It is something everyone in the family likes, which is always a keeper. And I love to use ground turkey in them – great recipe!

  4. Dave at eRecipeCards says:

    WOW… great photos. Always difficult to get sloppy joes to look good

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  5. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says:

    I haven’t had sloppy joes in so long, these look so good!

  6. mariscallahan@gmail.com says:

    This looks really delicious! Wish I could dig right in now!

  7. Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray says:

    These look really tasty! And definitely an easy meal for those of us easing ourselves into the world of the savory. :) Thanks!

  8. Autumn @ Good Eats Girl says:

    Totally going to borrow this recipe! Sounds like a great quick and easy meal! And I love all of the veggies!

  9. Mal @ The Chic Geek says:

    I can’t remember the last time I had a sloppy joe, this recipe makes me crave one!

  10. Nelly Rodriguez says:

    Yum, this looks delicious!