A Family Builds a Homestead in the Rain

Sloppy Joes From Scratch

We started making these as we worked through a supply of elk shared by my in-laws a few years ago. I was not raised on the canned mix that so many seem to recognize as a Sloppy Joe. In fact, I had my first one as an adult, made from a supermarket seasoning packet and whatever the recipe called for on the back. It was no life-changer, but I saw the potential that this meal can be more than a cheap, last-resort mess. Much more.

The great flavors stand up to even the gamiest of meats, and anything lean works well, from goat to venison to beef. Anything too fatty has to be drained very well. We enjoy things spicy in our home, but the sugars of this recipe take out a great deal of the bite, so taste often and adjust your seasoning– don’t be too intimidated by the chilies.

The Real Sloppy Joe

I like to serve these with a big green salad drizzled with a simple vinaigrette, or sometimes coleslaw. The recipe serves two and doubles well.

1 T vegetable or canola oil

1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine

1 jalapeño or 2 serano peppers, minced

3/4 Lb. ground elk or lean beef

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t chili flakes

4 T ketchup

1-1/2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 T chili powder

1 1/2 T brown sugar

1/4 t salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup water

burger buns (something light and soft, like potato buns)

1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and pepper and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and cook while breaking it up well until no longer pink. Drain any excess fat as necessary.

2. Push beef to the outside of the pan, making a well in the center, and add the garlic and chili flakes. Crush with the wooden spoon for about 30 seconds, until aromatic. Then add the ketchup, Worcestershire, chili powder, sugar and salt. Stir to mix, then add 1/4 cup of water and mix again. If there is no excess liquid, add up to another 1/4 cup.

3. Reduce heat to a moderate simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

4. Heap half onto each bun to serve, or eat open-faced with a fork.

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  1. This Little Blue Homestead This Little Blue Homestead
    January 15, 2015    

    This is kinda how I make these, though I usually add some tomato paste just for a little more depth and color. I think I may make these tomorrow evening for dinner-thanks for the inspiration!

    • January 15, 2015    

      Excellent! I like the idea of adding tomato paste in addition to ketchup. I’ve done it with it in lieu of (since pretty much every ketchup ingredient is part of the recipe anyway) and as my husband said recently, sometimes you just need the real thing. Yours sound great!


I'm Kelly. Writer, crafter, forager, country winemaker, cook. Mama of an awesome toddler and married to my best friend. We recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, where we're setting out to grow, make, and learn as much as we can as the future unfolds.

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