How many of you loved sloppy joes as a kid? There’s nothing quite like ground beef smothered in a tomato sauce both salty and sweet, served atop a squishy, white-bread hamburger bun. It was one of the few times you could throw manners aside and let that filling drip down your face while wiping with a roll of paper towels.
While my mother enjoyed the convenience of the McCormick Sloppy Joe spice packet, I’ve improvised here to create a more grown up sauce. It’s almost like a Bolognese and you could most certainly serve this over pasta instead of a bun.
It’s not going to win any beauty awards, but this is the grown up sloppy joe recipe dreams are made of.
A note on substitutes:
Protein: Here, I used dark ground chicken for the sauce base, but any ground meat will do. I think you could also make a fantastic vegan or vegetarian sloppy joe by subbing in chopped mushroom or cooked chickpeas for the meat.
Ketchup: Ketchup is very essential for getting that salty/sweet flavor you remember from your youth. I had the organic ketchup my husband hates on hand so I used that, but plain old Heinz will do just as well (better in J’s opinion).
Garnish: I prefer my joe without accouterment, however avocado slices, arugula, or pickle slices would all provide some green and crunch to your sandwich.
Grown-up Sloppy Joes
Serves 2 with leftovers
1 lb ground dark meat chicken
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
¼ red wine or water
1 can roasted, crushed tomatoes
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
½ tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Pickles, avocado, greens to serve (optional)
Hamburger buns, Ezekial bread or cooked pasta
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan, stirring to break apart, until fully cooked. Drain chicken and its juices into a bowl and set aside.
In the same pan over medium-high heat, add the onion and carrot. Cook until soft and slightly caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with red wine or water, making sure to scrape up the brown bits.
Return the chicken to the pan and add canned tomatoes, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Taste the sauce and add more vinegar, salt, sugar, or pepper as desired. The sauce may be thin so continue to simmer for 10 more minutes or until you reach your desired consistency. You can also add the pepper flakes at this point if you like a spicier sauce.
Serve on hamburger buns, a slice of toasted Ezekial bread, or over pasta with garnish as desired. Your sloppy joe mix will keep for up to a week in the fridge or in the freezer for 3 months.