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How do YOU make Sloppy Joes?

We've tried a couple of recipes lately. Both had the usual onion, pepper, garlic and brown sugar, but one was crushed tomato-based with Worcestershire, celery, carrot and red wine vinegar; the other, ketchup-based with mustard. The crushed tomato-based one was the tastier of the two, but neither quite brought back the familiar (nostalgic) childhood memory of Sloppy Joes for either of us. Does anyone have a really great recipe to share?

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  1. This is my favorite SJ recipe, it reminds me of the school cafeteria version. My mother clipped it out of the newspaper about 30 years ago.

    1 lb. ground beef
    1 cup chopped celery
    1 can (101/2) ounces condensed onion soup - Campbell's French Onion is the only one
    I've ever seen
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 cup ketchup
    1 tsp. Worcestershire
    1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard

    Over medium heat, cook beef and celery until meat is browned and celery is tender. Pour off fat, if any. Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat, uncovered, about 15 min. for flavors to blend and until thickened slightly. Makes about 2-1/2 cups
    *I usually add more worcestershire and mustard - play around with the condiments to your taste.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jacquelyncoffey

      Any recipe having Campbell's condensed soup definitely brings back memories...

      Ditto for Lipton's dried onion soup mixes.

      1. re: jacquelyncoffey

        Jacquelyn: AHA, thanks! The "school cafeteria version" description sealed the deal for me. Perhaps the condensed onion soup is the magic ingredient. :)

        Zamorski, your comment is so true--same here. I think the Lipton's dried onion soup and some form of ketchup was the secret to my Aunt Ellen's brisket. I remember it fondly to this day though I haven't eaten it since the 70s.

        Lenox637, don't forget the bottle of Heinz Chili Sauce for "Swedish Meatballs"--you know the ones with grape jelly. I still like those every once in a while, too.

        1. re: kattyeyes

          The onion soup is definitely the magic ingredient. The first time my mother made it I read the recipe and thought "ewww', but then I tried it and also went "AHA." I used to use the packets of seasoning mix, I don't even know if they make them anymore. They were OK, and Manwich was just OK, but IMO this recipe is it. Enjoy!

          1. re: jacquelyncoffey

            This was the closest attempt so far. I think I added a little too much extra mustard, but other than that, it was really close to "old school" Joes. I added some Adobo and some chili powder...that gave it a little extra oomph. Thanks again for this little culinary walk down memory lane. ;) It's fun experimenting with different recipes.

      2. My Mom's secret was using a bottle of heinz chili sauce. for some reason (maybe the "pickled" flavor) it filled out the flavor of the "slop"

        1. Funny you should ask...

          Last night we had SJs and I made it with chopped onions, garlic, jalapenos, and celery sauteed in EVOO after first rendering some diced pancetta. When the veggies were brown anound the gills, they were removed from the pan and set aside. Ground buffalo meat was then sauteed in the remaining fat then a can of Rotel, some chili paste, ketchup, and red wine were added brought to a simmer then the veggies and meat added back in. The mix cooked for about 15 minutes. I sliced a sub roll lengthwise grilled the cut side for a few minutes then ladled the meat and sauce over. This was served with a home made simple slaw.

          The mixture was not as soupy as I like, I usually use canned Italian tomatoes, but the whole thing was very tasty! I guess that's all that counts. My mother never made Sloppy Joes.... We had Sloppy Giuseppes. Meatballs in red sauce. LOL

          1. Gio, our Slppy Joe at home was based on a "Slum Gullion" recipe on the label of a Campbell's chicken gumbo soup can. Mom would brown lean ground chuck, breaking it up as she cooked it. I think she added chopped onions as it cooked. Then she added undiluted Campbell's Chicken Gumbo Soup, a dash of Worcestshire sauce and a dab of prepared mustard, and salt and pepper. With the ground chuck one can of the soup worked out well to 2/3 lb of chuck. She would toast buttered hamburger buns in the oven--though she used margarine, not butter.
            Sometimes we would have this "Slum Gullion" over rice, but we liked it best as a Sloppy Joe. (By the way, I looked up "Slum Gullion" in a food dictionary one time, and I think using that word in this context is a misnomer.)
            I miss the old flavor or it, but I don't make it because of the msg in the soup. Still, I think a good Sloppy Joe mix might contain Worcestershire Sauce and a little mustard and something tomato.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Father Kitchen

              Father Kitchen, what a strange coincidence. Check out the word of the day (from m-w.com) just a few days before your post. I had never heard the word before seeing it this past week, then your post. :)

              The Word of the Day for February 12, 2009 is:
              slumgullion • \SLUM-gull-yun\ • noun
              : a meat stew

              1. re: kattyeyes

                Slumgullion is also a regional term for what in other parts of the country is called American Chop Suey or Johnny Marzetti - basically macaroni cooked with ground beef in a tomato-based sauce. Infinite variations exist.

                1. re: BobB

                  AHA, that's another childhood goodie--my grandmother (Nanny) used to make American Chop Suey with (I'm pretty sure) Campbell's tomato soup. I never knew it as Johnny Marzetti; that's interesting--is that a Mass. thing?

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    No, here in MA it's also American Chop Suey, Johnny Marzetti appears to be more of a mid-Western term. There's more on the subject here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573808

                    1. re: BobB

                      Thanks--that's interesting about the names and variations.

                      I have more info on my quest for SJs...and now that I know you're a chilihead, this may be of interest to you. Key ingredients: one of those little cans of tomato sauce (e.g. Hunt's) and Stonewall Kitchen's Maple Chipotle Grill Sauce. Mmmmm!

                    2. re: kattyeyes

                      This thread brings back such great memories! My mother used tomato soup , often with rice added.

                    3. re: BobB

                      I made slumgolian last week, its made with either macaroni noodles or wide noodles, ground beef, corn, onion,black olives, tomato sauce with lots of Italian spices and topped with cheese and baked. Sort of a trumped up version of my mom's goulash. But we think its great!

                  2. re: Father Kitchen

                    Father, you are absolutely right about the Worcestershire sauce and the mustard. As I typed the above ingredients I wracked my brain to remember all the stuff I tossed into the mix. I did use the WS plus Gulden's spicy brown. Because the WS is a little salty and becase I already had quite a bit of heat from the Rotel and jalapenos I omitted salt & pepper.

                    I always thought that Slumgullion was a meat stew....However nothing can compare with early memories of Mom's cooking.

                  3. The recipes sound great. I actually made sloppy joes last night for dinner using the Williams Sonoma Sloppy Joe sauce in a jar. It was very good ... worth the 16 bucks.

                    1. My mom's was basically equal parts ketchup and mustard and a splash of either plain white vinegar or dill pickle juice.

                      Oh, and the ground beef/noodles dish is called goulash in my wife's family (and now mine)... for reasons unknown.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Scott D

                        Not just your wife's family - several others on this thread grew up calling it goulash, or in one case "Eyetalian Goulash." http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/158136

                      2. DH made Sloppy Joes a few nights ago. We have some leftovers and a ton of wonton wrappers, so I am attempting sloppy joe "ravioli" tonight. Cross your fingers for me...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: yamalam

                          That sounds fun, yamalam. Fingers crossed from afar on your funky fusion! ;)

                        2. There is also a Sloppy Joe that originated in a New Jersy deli. It basically a triple decker ham, turkey or roast beef and swiss on rye bread with russian dressing and cole slaw.

                          1. I would chime in but your recipe is pretty much mine. No mustard in mine, never crushed just tomato sauce and ketchup and still make this this way. I add some more seasoning, Italian and parlsey but that is it.

                            Sorry I can't add anything new.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              Thanks to all--I think I will stick to the tomato sauce with Maple Chipotle Grill Sauce and the basic ingredients I originally listed for my future attempts. It has been fun experimenting, tho'. I still hope to hear how the SJ raviolis turn out! :)

                            2. I searched for a really great, nostalgic sloppy joe recipe for quite sometime before coming across one that I really loved. I can't even remember where I got it from, but I've adapted it quite a bit, and now we have it 2-3 times a month and everyone LOVES it.

                              1 pound ground turkey or beef (or even soy crumbles)
                              1 green pepper, finely chopped
                              1 onion, finely chopped
                              3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
                              2Tbs chili powder
                              1tsp cumin
                              1/4 - 1tsp cayenne pepper
                              2Tbs worchester
                              1/2 - 1 bottle mild lager (Labatts Blue, Bud)
                              1/2c ketchup or BBQ sauce (or combo of the 2)

                              Brown meat and remove from pan. Heat drippings or 1Tbs oil, and saute onion and pepper until softened. Add garlic, and cook ~1 minute. Return meat to pan (if you are using the soy crumbles, you can add them frozen, right from the bag, at this point and just continue with recipe...works great). Add spices and stir well. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer ~8-10 minutes over med. heat until most liquid is absorbed (we are pretty flexible on measurements and just adjust to taste from this point forward, sometimes adding more beer and/or ketchup if we want to simmer it longer, etc). Serve on soft Kaiser buns!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                Nice--yeah, this is close to what my recipe wound up like last go round minus the beer (and plus mustard). I like the addition of chili powder and cayenne. You need a little something in there to give it some kick.

                              2. Interesting topic and very timely! DH recently made the most delicious meat loaf, and I used the leftovers to make fantastic Sloppy Joes for dinner by adding the meat to my homemade BBQ sauce. I served the SJ's on warm homemade hamburger buns. Hubby was impressed and I must admit they were delicious.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: OneJayneDoe

                                  Our family made it with a packet mix and Mr. JudiAU ate it with manwhich canned sauce. I wanted a scratch recipe and am very happy with this one. It tastes the way it should. I like the addition of celery and mushroom. It lightens the mixture. This also works well with grass-fed beef which we've been trying to eat more of...


                                  Works particularly well with very soft buns. Locally, we use Thee's Bakery in Farmer's Market/Third & Fairfax

                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    In another thread about Sloppy Joes from a couple of years ago I mentioned Manwhich. Used to be one of my favorites, served on a toasted Thomas' english muffin, as a kid in the late 1960's. I hadn't had it in decades and decided to revisit one of my childhood favorites and found it so sweet, as to be inedible after one or two bites.

                                    1. re: 2chez mike

                                      I had this same experience about 10 years ago. Saw Manwhich in the store and remembered it fondly from my childhood and made it and it was very cloying. Lesson learned. Now I am going to try RosemaryHoney's recipe.

                                2. Here's one I found while rummaging around in some old computer files. I am not even sure where I got it but it is every bit as good as any of the Sloppy Joes made with mixes. Try it and enjoy...

                                  Rick’s Simple Sloppy Joes

                                  2 pounds ground beef
                                  1 medium onion, diced (about ½ cup)
                                  1 bell pepper, diced
                                  1 tablespoon flour
                                  1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
                                  1 can tomato soup, undiluted
                                  1/3 cup ketchup (or more to taste)
                                  Salt & pepper, and garlic powder to taste

                                  1. Brown beef, onion, bell pepper, and garlic powder in skillet and drain when done.
                                  2. Mix in flour.
                                  3. Add tomato sauce, soup, ketchup and salt & pepper to taste.
                                  4. Heat to boiling then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
                                  5. Spoon into split hamburger buns. (We found it makes 5 or 6 generous servings.)