Homemade Sloppy Joes

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These Homemade Sloppy Joes are made in the Instant Pot and always impress, thanks to a flavorful sauce made with dried spices, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce to coat tender ground beef. 

Sloppy Joe served on a bun with pickles, rolls, sloppy box mix, and an Instant Pot in the background.

❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe: This is recipe is perfect for feeding a crowd. The flavors are elevated and deeper than traditional sloppy joes, but it couldn’t be easier to make! 

If you’re looking for a go-to recipe for a family gathering, community event or church potluck, this is the perfect place to start. It’s always a crowd-pleaser and you don’t have to spend any time babysitting your stove!

I’ve always been picky about sloppy joes, and this is the first sloppy joe recipe that I really, really like. It’s not too sweet, but not like spaghetti sauce on a bun either. A perfect middle-ground!

This is one of our go-to Instant Pot ground beef recipes. It’s great for entertaining or meal prepping, and all you need is hamburger buns. Or, if you’re feeling like going the extra mile, homemade buns!

Our completely from-scratch Sweet-and-Spicy Sloppy Joes in our Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook was created over five years ago! Since then, we’ve learned a few new tips and tricks, so we decided to update that recipe with this new and improved version.

An overhead shot including all the ingredients for Instant Pot Sloppy Joes, including ground beef, spices, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, ketchup, onion, and red wine vinegar.

Fancy Sloppy Joe Ingredients

Here’s what you need for this fast Sloppy Joe recipe:

  • Ground beef. I use 85% lean ground beef, but any kind will work. 
  • Brown sugar. You can use light or dark brown sugar. 
  • Seasonings. The sloppy joe sauce is flavored with paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, coriander, and red pepper flakes. 
  • Tomatoes. Use crushed, canned tomatoes and be sure to include those savory juices. 
  • Ketchup. This adds an extra touch of sweetness. 
  • Tomato paste. For extra umami flavor. 
  • Aromatics. The sauce has a flavor base from diced onion and minced fresh garlic. 
  • Beef broth. Use low-sodium canned or homemade beef broth
  • Red wine vinegar. This adds a bright, acidic finish to the dish. You can also use apple cider vinegar. 
  • Cornstarch. To thicken up the sauce so it’s spoonable. 
Overhead shot of the ingredients added to the Instant Pot for sloppy joes.
Do not stir after adding the tomato mixture to the pot.

How to Make Homemade Sloppy Joes in an Instant Pot

This easy recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL.

Start by tossing the beef with 2 tablespoons water, salt, and baking soda. Let it sit for about 30 minutes

Select Sauté to preheat your Instant Pot. When it’s hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the diced onion and the remaining baking soda and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. 

Next add the beef. Cook until the beef is browned and crumbled. Add the spice mixture and stir until the spices are well combined, about a minute.

Add the beef broth and scrape any browned bits up from the bottom of the pot. Make sure the ground beef is distributed evenly on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the tomato mixture and do NOT stir. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure with a 20 minute cook time.

Overhead shot of the sloppy joes cooked in and Instant Pot

When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish releasing the pressure with a quick release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid.

Stir in the red wine vinegar. Then use a potato masher to mash the beef into small bits, about 1 minute. Select Sauté again and cook the sauce for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to reduce it slightly. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Add the cornstarch slurry to the pot, stirring constantly until the Sloppy Joe mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with additional salt, sugar, and vinegar. 

When you’re ready to serve, scoop heaping spoonfuls on toasted sandwich buns. Top with pickles, if you like, and serve immediately.

Overhead shot of the sloppy joes cooked in and Instant Pot

Important Tips for Making a Tender Sloppy Joe Sauce

Tossing the beef with baking soda before you start cooking helps keep the beef tender and juicy as it cooks under pressure. You’ll also add baking soda to the skillet with the onion when it starts cooking. This helps the onion break down so the flavor infuses into the entire dish. 

If you decide to use 90% lean ground beef, expect it to be a little less tender.

Remember that the mixture will thicken as it cools! 

Close up shot of a Sloppy Joe made in an Instant Pot and served on a bun.

Frequently Asked Questions about Homemade Sloppy Joes

Can I skip the baking soda time?

Yes, you can skip the baking soda. However, you will likely need to brown the meat in batches and drain off any fat, so it may not save as much time as you’d hope.

How should I store leftovers? 

Store leftover filling in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave to serve. 

Can I freeze sloppy joe filling?

To freeze leftovers, let the sloppy joe filling cool fully. Then transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to six months. Reheat from frozen or thaw overnight in the fridge. 

Can I use ground turkey instead of beef?

Yes! No need to change anything about the cook times if you swap in ground turkey for the beef. 

What song have you been singing for the last two months?

I honestly cannot eat or even talk about Sloppy Joes without singing the Adam Sandler sketch from SNL. “Sloppy joes, slop, sloppy joes…”

Instant Pot sloppy joe mix ready to serve in a white bowl, with a ready to eat sloppy Joe in the upper right and corner.

MORE Instant Pot Ground Beef Recipes

You’ll love these other simple recipes using ground beef in the pressure cooker:


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Instant Pot Sloppy Joe served on a bun with pickles and sloppy Joe mix in the background.

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Yield: 10 to 12 sandwiches
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

This Homemade Sloppy Joes recipe is full of flavor from dried seasonings, tomato paste, and brown sugar. The extra time softening before pressure cooking helps the beef cook up extra tender.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, divided
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 10 to 12 hamburger buns, toasted

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, 2 tablespoons water, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon baking soda. Mix until well combined, then let sit for 20 minutes. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, coriander, and red pepper flakes. In a separate small bowl, stir together the crushed tomatoes, ketchup, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
  3. Select Sauté to preheat the pressure cooking pot. When hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 30 seconds. 
  4. Add the beef to the cooking pot and cook until beef is browned and crumbled. Add the spice mixture and stir until the spices are well incorporated, about 1 minute. Do not let the bottom of the pot burn.
  5. Add the beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan well to remove any browned bits. Make sure the ground beef is distributed evenly on the bottom of the pot. Pour the tomato mixture over the ground beef in the cooking pot. Do NOT stir. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 20 minutes cook time.
  6. When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish with a quick release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid.
  7. Stir in the vinegar. Use a potato masher to mash the beef until it is fine-textured, about 1 minute. Select Sauté and cook, allowing the mixture to cook down for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  8. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Add the slurry to the pot, stirring constantly until the Sloppy Joe mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Season with additional salt, sugar, and vinegar to taste.
  9. To serve, place a heaping spoonful on a toasted sandwich bun. Serve immediately.

Notes

Keep in mind the sloppy joe will continue to thicken as it cools, so don't over-thicken.

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