I like my sloppy joes to be chunky and flavorful – no thin wimpy sandwiches, please! I also prefer a healthier version, so I use a very lean beef and then add lots of vegetable. That’s why they’re garden-style sloppy joes.
This is a great dish to make in quantity. It freezes well, and reheats with no change in flavor or texture. There’s nothing better to make ahead for a planned heavy-duty yard work or preserving day; just reheat it in a slow-cooker all morning, and you’ll have a delicious fuss-free lunch.
Don’t be dismayed by the huge pile of vegetables you’ll chop: it goes quickly, and the veggies cook down to blend with the ground beef in a wonderful balance. Garden-style sloppy joes are all about the garden, right?
I’ve used all types of ground beef in this recipe. If you find it on sale, the very leanest ground beef – 93% lean – works very well, and because it’s so lean, you’ll find you have very little fat to drain off. You can certainly make it with 70% lean beef, though you will definitely be draining a lot. Use what pleases you, though be aware of the need to get rid of extra fat.
Garden-style Sloppy Joes
- 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 medium onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 large carrot
- 8 ounces mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-4 tbsp tomato paste
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2-4 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 8 buns
- Chop the vegetables: Finely chop the onions. Cut celery lengthwise and then chop small. Peel carrots, slice into long planks, then cut into very small chunks. Cut the mushrooms into larger chunks about the size of a garden pea. Mince the garlic cloves.
- Cook in a wide pan: In a large skillet or wide saucepan, brown the beef over medium heat, breaking it up into crumbles as you cook it. Once it’s browned, drain the beef and set aside, discarding any rendered fat.
- Raise the heat to medium high, and warm the teaspoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook gently about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the carrots begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are soft and tender. Add the garlic and stir a minute, until the fragrance blooms.
- Return the ground beef to the pan. Stir in tomato paste and tomato sauce, ketchup if using, 1 tablespoon vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Taste the sauce. Add more vinegar, salt, or a bit of sugar, if you think it’s needed. If the sauce is a bit too thin, raise the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, 5-10 minutes, until the thickness you prefer is reached.
- Serve on hamburger buns with substance – this is a thick chunky sauce, so you’ll need a bun that can stand up to it. If you toast the buns, they'll hold up better. Be prepared for a delicious, tasty mess – there’s no neat way to eat a sloppy joe.
- To make ahead: The sauce for garden-style sloppy joes will keep, refrigerated, for up to a week, or frozen, up to 3 months. I like to make a double helping, so I have some to eat now and some to freeze for later.