No Sugar Allowed Sloppy Joes

Think back to your young years.  What do you remember about eating?  

I know back when I was growing up, especially when we lived in a small town in the Midwest, food was simple. Fresh produce didn't come in from far away, so salads were often fancy Jell-O molds. And we ate canned vegetables because they were plentiful and cheap. In a pinch frozen would fill in. 

As a tween, my family moved to central California. This was during the everything from a pound of hamburger and a can of condensed soup faze. Back then, this was the first convenience food women had. They were heading out to work and still trying to handle all responsibility at home. My mum had countless recipes using one pound of hamburger that stretched to feed our family of five. We honestly ate less.  

Packages of dry seasonings were also big. I remember for awhile all meatloaf was made with a package of dry onion soup. Then there were the TV dinners. About once a month my mom would offer them. She was just exhausted and needed a night off. We thought they were amazing! REALLY!  As was the rare treat - a single cheeseburger, fries and pop from MacDonalds. Years later when I tried a cheeseburger again I was shocked at how blah it was. The TV dinners - oh my, how did I think they were gourmet?

Still, there are days I crave something from my past - comfort food because of the memories it holds.  I do my best to find a new version that doesn't used dry package seasonings or canned condensed soup, and sometimes I get lucky. For example, I found an amazing updated green bean casserole made from scratch that is now a holiday dinner tradition.  You can find the recipe HERE!

Off and on over the years I have looked for a Sloppy Joe recipe, but those I tried always had more of a sweet barbecue flavor. My mum's just had that package of seasoning, tomato paste and water, so not sweet - and I honestly prefer my food more on the savory side. Then a couple weeks ago I decided to look again and found this version by Jennifer Segal on a site called Once Upon A Chef.

I've only made it once now and it hit the spot, but I am feeling the pull to change it up a little. Maybe a little less tomato-y sauce and perhaps the addition of mushrooms would spark it a little more.  That said, this will be the perfect starting point for me as I try to come up with a recipe that I like.  Glen enjoyed it so much he ate 2 sandwiches. I cut down the carbs by having mine on an open face bun, so the same amount of meat, just less calories.  

Enjoy! And if you try it and have some suggestions on ingredients to add, I am all ears. Post a comment. 

Note I did make some minor changes already, so if you want to see the original recipe, click on the link above.

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Sloppy Joes
4-6 servings depending on the size of the bun and how much you fill them. 

Ingredients - 

1-1/4 lbs.         Extra lean ground beef (important as meat is not drained after browning)
2 T                   Butter, plus more for buns
1                      Medium yellow or sweet onion, finely diced
1                      Small red bell pepper, finely diced
3 cloves           Garlic, roughly chopped
3/4 tsp             Salt
1/2 tsp             Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp         Smoked paprika
3/4 tsp            Ground cumin
1/2 tsp            Dried oregano
3/4 tsp            Dry mustard
1                     (14-oz) can tomato sauce
2 T                  Tomato paste
1 T                  Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp            Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Frank's, or to taste
Hamburger buns 
Note - may add Mushrooms next time. 

Instructions - 

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the beef, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, and dry mustard and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until mostly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.

While it's simmering, get your hamburger buns ready. They can be used as is right from the package; warmed in the microwave; split open, buttered and toasted butter side up in a 350 degree oven; or toasted under the broiler with or without butter. Warming is nice. Toasting is even better as it helps keep the buns from getting soggy. But do whatever works for you in the moment. Kids in particular couldn't care less. 

Taste the sloppy Joe mixture and adjust seasonings. Spoon the mixture onto the toasted hamburger buns and serve. Can be served like a regular sandwich or on a single bun placed open face on your plate. 


  1. Replies
    1. THanks so much. Think I'll be playing with this recipe more so be sure and check back.


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