Sweet and tangy, this campfire favorite features a loose filling—a burger without boundaries. The sloppy Joe has murky beginnings. Some think it was invented in the 1930s at a tavern in Sioux City, Iowa. We don’t know about that, but we can tell you that the filling is also delicious with pasta or spooned over baked potatoes or rice.

Serve it up by spooning 1/2 cup of the sloppy Joe filling over half a toasted hamburger bun and topping with the other half.

Sloppy Joe lovers should also try our cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy Burger recipe.

  • Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients (11)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 pounds ground beef round


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomato puree, vinegar, molasses, and Worcestershire and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer gently until thickened and the flavors have melded, 45 to 60 minutes. Add a little water to the sauce if it gets too thick or dry.
  2. In another large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until no longer pink, breaking it apart into small pieces. Drain the excess fat from the skillet. Add the sauce and simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend, at least 10 minutes.

Excerpted from The Great Big Burger Book, by Jane Murphy & Liz Yeh Singh. © 2003, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press.

Photo by Ruslan Mitin/Shutterstock.