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Healthy sloppy joes sandwich on a plate with coleslaw in the background
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The Ultimate Healthy Sloppy Joes

This recipe creates the most crave-worthy, delicious AND nutritious sloppy joes! These healthy sloppy joes are sweetened with just 2 teaspoons of maple syrup and are packed with vegetables. The food processor makes quick work of finely chopping the vegetables, cutting back on prep time and shortening the cooking time. Feel free to use lean ground beef (I prefer grass-fed), ground bison or ground turkey. The result is far tastier and more nutritious than the Manwich cans of your childhood. The recipe list might look long, but you probably already have most of the stuff in your pantry. I like to serve the joes with coleslaw (which I pile right on top of my sandwich). The sloppy joe mixture gets even better with time, meaning this is a fantastic make-ahead meal. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy dinner recipes, healthy sloppy joes, sloppy joes recipe
Servings: 4
Author: Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

Veggies and meat

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (preferably grass-fed), or ground bison or turkey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Seasonings

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha, or more to taste
  • ½ cup water
  • Buns for serving, regular or gluten-free

Instructions

  • Put the onion, red pepper, carrot and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, scraping the sides occasionally, about 12-14 pulses.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the ground beef, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned and cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate. Discard any fat in the pan.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Scrape in the vegetables from the food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cooked beef, tomato puree, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, sriracha (if you like it spicy, feel free to add a few more teaspoons!), and water. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the pan back over medium heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook 10 minutes. If needed, add a few more splashes of water to thin. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and/or sriracha as desired (don’t be shy with the seasonings). Serve warm on soft buns.  

Notes

Do Ahead: The sloppy joes can be refrigerated for up to 4 days; thin with a few splashes of water, if needed.
Tips:
  • Use the food processor to finely chop the vegetables. This not only cuts back on the prep time, but it also helps the vegetables to seamlessly incorporate into the meat mixture (my kids don't even know they're there!). I own this 14-cup Cuisinart model, which is a workhorse in my kitchen (btw, you can get a slew of other food processor recipes in The Food Processor Family Cookbook!)
  • I usually make these sloppy joes with naturally lean grass-fed ground beef, but you could also use ground bison or ground turkey (I even had a reader tell me that she used meat-free crumbles with success)!
  • The ingredient list looks long, but it's mostly stuff you probably already have in your pantry (think spices, vinegars and sriracha). You'll need both tomato paste (I prefer the stuff in the tube, which lasts forever), as well as tomato puree. The paste provides a sweet richness while the  puree gives the sauce body.
  • You can use any heavy-bottomed pan to cook the sloppy joes. I use my Le Creuset braiser, which is pretty enough to place right in the middle of the table.