These Sloppy Joes are healthier because they are low in added sugar (only 2 grams per serving), have sneaky hidden veggies, and are only 300 calories each. But don’t worry, they are full of lip-smacking flavor. There is zero ketchup in them but they have lots of naturally sweet and sour sloppy sauce.

Low Sugar Sloppy Joes cut in half

I originally shared this recipe on October 3, 2012. I have  refreshed the following information to share it with you today.

 

Why We Love This Recipe For Sloppy Joes

If you are craving a comfort food meal from your childhood, but don’t want to sacrifice your dietary goals, then this Sloppy Joe recipe will certainly satisfy. It is saucy and delicious but made with a few clever swaps to keep it on the healthier side.

This recipe relies mostly on the natural sweetness of onions to give it the sweet flavor of a traditional sloppy joe. There is no refined sugar, and no ketchup added to the meat at all. The only added sugar comes in the form of one tablespoon pure maple syrup which is a healthier choice and better for the environment than some other added sugars.

For a family-friendly dinner, pair these sandwiches with coleslaw and oven fries. The meat also can be made ahead and reheated so it is great for meal prep. In fact, this is part of a meal prep menu!

And after you try these, make sure to try our southwest-inspired Chicken Taco Sloppy Joes, and our Turkey Sloppy Joes!

What Makes This Recipe Healthy?

This bun-busting sloppy joe will come in at only 300 calories, and it tastes as good (if not better) than the original. 

LOWER IN SUGAR: Traditional sloppy joes are made with ketchup and often more sugar in addition to that. A traditional sloppy joe can come in at 10 grams of added sugar per serving! Adult women should only be getting a max of 100 calories a day from added sugar and for kids it’s about half that, which is only 3 teaspoons or 12 grams a day. That’s not much, and sneaky added sugars can add up surprisingly fast.

LESS BEEF: While one pound of beef usually serves about 4 people, one pound of beef serves 8 people in this recipe. Which is a great way to eat less red meat.

STEALTHY VEGGIES: In addition to the onions I mentioned above, there are lots and lots of finely chopped mushrooms added into the mix. But they’re blasted in the food processor first, so they’re virtually undetectable. (You can do this by hand if you need to.) The vegetables really help to cut down on calories and are nutrient-dense.

WHOLE GRAIN BUNS: To boost the amount of fiber and nutrients, we suggest using whole-grain buns.

Healthy Sloppy Joes on plates with cherry tomatoes

By far the best sloppy joe recipe!! I stopped eating sloppy joes once I moved out of my parents home because I didn’t like the ketchup flavor and overly soggy hamburger buns. But these are amazing and on the right bun they have become a new family favorite! Thank you!

~Becca

Key Ingredients For This Recipe

Ground beef

I use lean grass-fed ground beef in all my beef recipes when I can. It gives the best tasting result and it’s also a bit healthier than some other ground beef options out there. You’ll need about 1 pound for this recipe.

Flour

I thicken the sauce with flour. To do this, I sprinkle the flour over the beef, onion and mushroom mixture and stir it to coat. Then I add in the liquids. If you’re gluten free you could substitute for gluten-free flour.

Canned crushed tomato 

Instead of ketchup, I use a sauce based on canned tomato, which is free from additional sugar. 

Broth

I use one cup of chicken broth (you can use homemade chicken stock or beef if you want) to extend the sauce a bit without making it too tomatoey.

Whole grain buns

I like using whole grain buns for these, but use whichever buns you have or like. If you’re gluten free you can use gluten-free buns. If you want to go the extra mile, you could make your own buns

Maple syrup

I also used one tablespoon of maple syrup. This helps to boost the sweetness, but only adds 2 grams of sugar per serving.  If you don’t have maple you can use brown sugar instead.

Worcestershire sauce & white vinegar

To help mimic the flavors of Sloppy Joes made with ketchup, I added in Worcestershire sauce (I do the same in my Quick Beef Stew and the Skillet Shepherd’s Pie, and the boost of flavor is amazing!) and white vinegar.

Seasonings

I also add in thyme, salt, pepper and a pinch of allspice. These add a rich savory flavor profile to the meat. 

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or organic canola oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, about 4

Step-by-Step Instructions To Make These Low Sugar Sloppy Joes

Step 1: Caramelize onions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often until very soft, translucent and browned, 12 to 15 minutes. If onions are browning too quickly, add 1 to 3 tablespoons water.

Step 2: Pulse mushrooms

Meanwhile, pulse the mushrooms in a food processor fitted with steel blade attachment until finely chopped. Alternatively, finely chop with a knife.

Step 3: Cook veggies & beef

Add mushrooms to the onions and cook until the mushrooms have released their juices and the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes. Add beef, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until broken up, about 3 minutes.

Step 4: Add remaining ingredients

Sprinkle flour over the meat mixture and stir to coat. Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in the maple or brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, pepper and allspice. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the beef is cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Serve the sloppy Joe mixture on buns.

a skillet of sloppy Joe meat for Sloppy Joes without Ketchup

FAQs and Expert Tips

How to make sloppy Joes in advance:

Sloppy joe meat can be made several days in advance so it is great for weekend meal prep. Just let the meat cool, then transfer it to a resealable glass storage container and refrigerate for up to four days. Reheat on the stovetop in a non-stick skillet or in the microwave. 

Can this be frozen?

This sloppy joe filling can also be frozen for up to three months. Thaw it in the refrigerator, or in the microwave. Make sure to reheat thoroughly.

How do these low sugar sloppy Joes get their sweetness?

These healthy sloppy Joes get their sweetness from slow cooked (aka caramelized) sweet onions plus only one tablespoon of maple syrup for the whole 8 servings. There’s no ketchup in these Joes at all. These come in at 2 grams of added sugar per serving. I think that’s quite an improvement from 10. No?

What to serve with sloppy Joes:

I love serving classic sides with sloppy joes such as this Healthy Coleslaw, made with Greek yogurt to lighten it up, this Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad (a garlic lovers recipe!) and this Tomato Soup.
My kids will also eat a ton of raw veggies if I make this Ranch Dip.

close up of sloppy joe meat

Additional Recipes to Try

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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Healthy Sloppy Joes | Comfort Food Makeover | Beef | Mushrooms | Main Course | Dinner | Healthy Seasonal Recipes | Katie Webster

Healthy Sloppy Joes


  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

These Healthy Sloppy Joes may skimp on added sugar, coming in at only 2 grams per serving, but they definitely don’t skimp on lip smacking flavor. And you’ll be able to get dinner on the table in under 45 minutes making this a perfect weeknight recipe!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or organic canola oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, about 4
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, preferably grass fed
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dry thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch allspice
  • 8 whole grain buns, toasted if desired

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often until very soft, translucent and browned, 12 to 15 minutes. If onions are browning too quickly, add 1 to 3 tablespoons water.
  2. Meanwhile, pulse mushrooms in a food processor fitted with steel blade attachment until finely chopped. Alternatively, finely chop with a knife.
  3. Add mushrooms to the onions, and cook, until the mushrooms have release their juices and the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes. Add beef, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until broken up, about 3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle flour over the meat mixture, and stir to coat. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, pepper and allspice and simmer, stirring occasionally until the beef is cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Serve on buns.
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: Generous 1/2 cup each
  • Calories: 300
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Sodium: 548mg
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 39 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 20 g

Keywords: Sloppy Joes,healthy sloppy joes, low sugar sloppy joes

This Sloppy Joes Recipe is Part of  a Meal Prep Menu

One more thing! This recipe is part of my Meal Prep Menu which also includes five make ahead dinners! In this plan, I give you the prep list, shopping list and plan to prep on the weekend, so you can have all your weeknight meals ready to go with 20 minutes (or less) of time in the kitchen! 

To get the full details, print your shopping list and get started, head over to the Meal Prep Menu to check it out!