Sloppy Joes are considered a quick and easy weeknight option. They aren’t something I grew up with, but when I wanted to try them at home this fall (to use up some leftover hamburger buns from what is likely the last grilling night of the season), I wanted to get a bit creative and improve both the flavor and offer more than just a ground beef sandwich.
What I wound up with is a fairly loose interpretation of a sloppy Joe: it’s delicious and more complex, but it isn’t quite that familiar flavor you get straight out of the can. I think that’s a good thing. I used a hefty dose of tomato paste and Worcestershire to make sure that tomato-y umph is there, but I also based the sauce on a blend of chopped vegetables, simmered for a good chunk of time. The long simmer helps ensure you’re not getting interrupted by different textures. The sweetness of the carrots and pepper and the aromatics of the garlic, onion, and celery blend with the beef and tomato flavors, elevating them all without overwhelming you with the fact that you’re eating a veggie-fied sandwich.
Homemade Sloppy Joes
1 pound ground beef
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 celery stalk
2/3 cup grated carrots
1/2 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Whole wheat hamburger buns
1. Cook the ground beef in a large pot over medium heat until well browned and cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a separate bowl and set aside. Leave any rendered fat in the pot.
2. Add ~1 Tablespoon olive oil to the pot and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook 10 minutes. Add the green bell pepper and celery and cook another 10 minutes. Next, add the grated carrot and cook another 10 minutes. Finally, add the spices, tomato paste, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce. Return the beef to the pot and stir to combine. Simmer mixture for another 5-10 minutes until desired thickness is reached (you want enough of the vegetables’ moisture to boil off so the beef mixture is thick enough to stay on the hamburger buns while eating).
3. Spoon the beef mixture onto hamburger buns and serve immediately.