Insanely delicious and savory healthy sloppy joes made with fresh and simple ingredients! This easy one-pan meal cooks up in under 30 minutes. Serve with hamburger buns or stuffed in sweet potatoes.
Whether you grew up eating sloppy joes or are new to them, this healthier homemade recipe is going to knock your socks off. It’s a classic recipe with a healthy twist—perfect for the whole family!
Seriously, who decided sloppy joes are just for kids? It’s honestly one of my favorite meals to eat. A sandwich stuffed with ground beef sautéed with pepper and onions, simmered in a hearty, savory, and thick homemade tomato sauce? Sign me up!
As an added bonus, this healthy sloppy joes recipe is so easy to make! It’s a one-pan healthy meal you can double or triple for a crowd or meal prep, and it stores well in the freezer. Serve as sandwiches on hamburger buns, over rice, or stuff in sweet potatoes!
Sloppy Joes are so incredibly delicious and savory. People typically make them with canned sauce or homemade with Worcestershire sauce and added sugar. This is a healthier sloppy joe recipe because it’s:
- Made with whole ingredients: The main ingredients are grass fed beef, green pepper, onions, tomato sauce, unsweetened ketchup, and it’s sweetened with a little maple syrup. Because the ingredients are simple, these can easily be made paleo when served over sweet potatoes!
- Gluten free: There are no additives or thickeners in this recipe. All you need is apple cider vinegar and spices!
- Naturally sweetened: The only sweetener used is a little pure maple syrup!
- Ground beef – I recommend using grass fed beef to increase the nutrient density.
- Yellow onion – I like sweet or Vidalia onions
- Green bell pepper – You can also use red, orange, yellow bell peppers.
- Sea salt – I like to use an unprocessed sea salt like Real Salt.
- Tomato sauce – I typically use canned organic plain tomato sauce.
- Ketchup – Use an unsweetened ketchup with no added sugar. I like Primal Kitchen unsweetened ketchup.
- Apple cider vinegar – Use raw apple cider vinegar. This gives a nice acidic tang and breaks up the sweetness.
How to Make Healthy Sloppy Joes
- Brown the meat. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet of medium heat. Add the ground beef and brown the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spatula as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Drain most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan.
- Sauté the vegetables. Add the onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper to the pan. Stir and cook the vegetables until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Stir in the sauce. Add the tomato sauce, ketchup, water, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, and hot sauce (optional) to the pan and stir to combine.
- Simmer. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to your liking.
- Serve. Once thickened, season with more salt to taste. Serve on hamburger buns or over a baked sweet potato.
- Make sure your vegetables are finely chopped.
- Draining the fat helps theses healthy sloppy joes thicken a little better at the end. You can skip this step if you like yours extra sloppy.
- Looking for whole30 and paleo recipe? Leave out the maple syrup and serve over sweet potatoes.
- This recipe is easy to double! I recommend using a large sauté pan.
When made homemade with healthier ingredients, yes! Sloppy joes is a great nourishing dish for the whole family. I recommend using high quality grass fed meat and unsweetened ketchup. You can also use maple syrup as the sweetener, which will make it refined sugar-free!
I love serving healthier sloppy joes on top of baked potatoes, including baked sweet potato. You can also serve it over rice, roasted sweet potatoes, or even in a wrap!
Yes, traditional sloppy joe mix from a can has sugar. When you make sloppy joes homemade, you can swap the sugar for a natural sweetener like maple syrup.
That’s completely up to you! If you want your sloppy joes to be extra sloppy, don’t drain the meat. If you want to reduce the fat and have thicker (less runny) sloppy joes, drain the fat from the meat before adding in any vegetables or sauce.
Paleo Sloppy Joes
Looking to make paleo sloppy joes? This is one of the best easy, family-friendly recipes that’s entirely paleo! Just make sure to use an unsweetened ketchup without additives like Primal Kitchen Ketchup. Then, serve as sloppy joe stuffed sweet potatoes! You can also make this Whole30. Just leave out the maple syrup—you’ll still get plenty of savor flavor!
In general, you can serve any sides that typically go well with hamburgers. The best sides for sloppy joes include:
- Oven fries
- Baked potatoes
- Roasted vegetables
- Crispy roasted sweet potatoes or yellow potatoes
- Tortilla or potato chips
- Green salad
Storage and Freezing
TO STORE: This healthy sloppy joes recipe stores really well in the refrigerator and leftovers are amazing! Place any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
TO FREEZE: To freeze, just place the meat in an airtight storage container or freezer safe zip-top storage bag. It will keep in the freezer up to three months. For meal prep, the best way to freeze is to fill a storage bag and flatten it out as much as possible so it’s easy to store.
TO REHEAT: Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat with a splash of water.
More Easy Dinner Recipes
- Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas
- Healthy Zuppa Toscana
- Paleo Chicken Tenders
- Healthy Orange Chicken
- Grilled Chicken Skewers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ medium yellow onion, minced
- ¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup unsweetened Primal Kitchen ketchup
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon chili powder
- 1–2 teaspoons hot sauce (optional)
- For serving: 4 gluten free buns or baked sweet potatoes
- Brown the Meat: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and brown the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spatula as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Drain most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan.
- Saute the Vegetables: Add the onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper to the pan. Stir and cook the vegetables until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Stir in the Sauce: Add the tomato sauce, ketchup, water, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, and hot sauce (optional) to the pan and stir to combine.
- Simmer: Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to your liking.
- Serve: Once thickened, season with more salt to taste. Serve on toasted buns or over a baked sweet potato.
- Make sure your vegetables are finely chopped.
- Leave out the maple syrup and serve over sweet potatoes for whole30 sloppy joes.
- Draining the fat helps the meat thicken a little better at the end.
Recipe by: Noelle Tarr and Kelsey Hite / Coconuts and Kettlebells | Photography by: Casey Colodny / The Mindful Hapa