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Sloppy Joes

Updated: May 3

Make mealtime fun-time with this flavorful childhood favorite! Our recipe is easy to follow and will teach your young one exciting cooking skills.

History and Food Facts

We love sloppy joes. They're super fun to eat, and incredibly simple to make. So where do they even come from? Let's discover the history of the sloppy joe, and learn more about the world along the way!


Did you know that sloppy joes have gone by many different names? The recipe started popping up in old cookbooks from the early 1900s. Some cookbooks called sloppy joes "Toasted Deviled Hamburgers", "Spanish Hamburgers", or "Chopped Meat Sandwiches". Even though the sloppy joe has been called many different names over the years, the recipe hasn't changed that much!

Some say the sandwich originated from a restaurant in Havana, Cuba in 1917. According to this story, the owner, José Abeal y Otero, created a sandwich almost exactly like the modern sloppy joe. Funnily enough, José's nickname was "Sloppy Joe", a name that followed the sandwich until now!

​Havana, Cuba

​Havana is the capital of Cuba. Cuba is an island located in the Caribbean sea, which is south of the United States. The city is known for its vibrant buildings, antique cars, and incredible beaches!

Cuba Fun Facts​

Official Name: Republic of Cuba

Type of Government: Socialist Republic

Capital: Havana

Population: 11 million

Languages: Spanish, Creole, and English

Currency: Cuban Peso

Havana, Cuba in 2017. Look at those old cars and the colorful buildings!

Today, sloppy joes stay pretty close to the original recipe, but there are some variations! In parts of Canada, people use hot dog buns for their sloppy joes. Other recipes across the world add more ingredients, like celery, onions, and bell peppers. The sloppy joe recipe is always simple, and as we have learned, it has a simple but interesting history too!

Ingredient Highlight


Fun fact: Did you know that the tomato is grown in almost every country?


The tomato is a type of fruit. It grows from a vine known scientifically as "Solanum lycopersicum" (so-lay-num lie-co-purr-sick-um). There are many types of tomatoes, ranging from small to large. The tomato originated in South America, Central America, and Mexico. Before they were distributed across Spain by Spanish explorers, tomatoes had been farmed for hundreds of years by Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Pueblo and Aztec peoples. After Spain colonized the Americas, the tomato was spread across the world. Now, the tomato is cultivated in almost every country!

The lifetime of a tomato: Sprout, flower, ripe fruit!



And that concludes our lesson about sloppy joes. Who knew that such a simple dish can open our minds to so many interesting parts of the world!


Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • Hamburger buns

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 green pepper, diced

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • 15 oz can of tomato sauce or puree

  • 1 tablespoon molasses*

  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard**

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce***

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

* Can be substituted with honey or brown sugar

** Can be substituted with dijon mustard

*** Can be substituted with soy sauce mixed with a dash of vinegar and brown sugar – if you do substitute this, make sure to reduce the amount of salt you use by a bit.


  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat

  2. Add you oil and let heat till shimmering

  3. Add your ground beef. To get a nice brown, break your meat into medium chunks and flip every 30 seconds - 1 minute until the meat has a nice brown color. Then break the ground beef up into smaller chunks.

  4. Once you've broken up your ground beef and it has cooked enough, add salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  5. Next, add your onions and peppers and cook until they have softened.

  6. Add your garlic and cook until the raw garlic smell goes away.

  7. Then, add the tomato sauce/puree along with molasses, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, and water.

  8. Now let the mixture come up to a simmer. If you want a great roasted flavor, you can scrape the bottom of the pan once you've added the water. The crispy bits are called "fond" and have so much flavor!

  9. Once the mixture is back to a simmer, let it cook for 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens to your liking.

  10. When you're ready to serve, toast your hamburger buns. This helps prevent your buns from getting soggy. Then, spoon the beef mixture on to your hamburger buns and enjoy!


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