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Sweet Pepper Sloppy Joes

Do we ever really outgrow Sloppy Joe night? There’s just something so magical about a bite of gooey, delicious Sloppy Joe topping on a crisp toasted bun that transports me back to happy family dinners or fun times in the school cafeteria. Sure, I’ve grown up a bit since then, and my tastes are a little more refined, but I’m still the same kid at heart and this recipe for Sweet Pepper Sloppy Joes ticks all the right boxes to satisfy my Sloppy Joe cravings while also serving up a little more grown up taste that makes me smile.

To me, tomato catsup (or ketchup) is the key to any good Sloppy Joe. I know some people prefer to start with a tomato paste and build up their own sauce from scratch — and I’ve tried that — but there’s something about classic American ketchup that is really tough to replicate on your own. At least not when you’re trying to whip something up to get dinner on the table!

I say tomato catsup, you say tomato ketchup.

I don’t get fancy when it comes to tomato catsup, either. I use the same tried-and-true stuff that my parents and grandparents kept in the fridge when I was a kid. You know, the kind you’d find at a diner or really good local burger joint. Sure, there are probably some preservatives and unpleasant things in there, but we’re making the rest of these babies from scratch, so I just use the real thing and don’t worry too much.

Sweet Pepper Sloppy Joes

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Carmen Course: Lunch, Dinner
Servings

12

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

35

minutes

This tangy sweet pepper twist on the classic Sloppy Joe will have them coming back for more!

Ingredients

  • 2 lb Ground beef

  • 1/2 lb Sweet peppers

  • 12 Hamburger buns

  • 1/4 cup Butter, melted

  • 1/2 Onion

  • 2 Garlic cloves

  • 1 1/2 cup Tomato catsup

  • 1/2 cup Chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons Yellow mustard

  • 2 tablespoons Brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable or canola oil

  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt

  • 3 dashes Hot sauce, any (ie Tabasco, Cholula, Sriracha, etc.)

  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  • In large skillet or saute pan, brown ground beef over medium to medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until fully cooked. Break up ground beef into crumbles as it cooks and allow it to caramelize to a deep golden color.
  • While ground beef cooks, stem and de-seed sweet peppers. Slice or dice peppers very fine.
  • Peel and mince onion to fine dice. Peel and mince garlic, or use garlic press or grate using microplane.
  • When ground beef is cooked, remove from pan with slotted spoon and set on plate lined with a paper towel.
  • Add vegetable oil to remaining drippings in skillet over medium-low to medium heat.
  • Add sweet peppers and onion to pan. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow onions and peppers to char, adjust heat if necessary.
  • Add garlic and cook 30 seconds stirring regularly, do not allow garlic to brown. Remove onions peppers and garlic from pan with slotted spoon to plate with ground beef. Pour off all pan drippings and return skillet to burner.
  • Over medium low heat, add chicken stock to skillet to deglaze. Stir up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Add tomato catsup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt, hot sauce, and black pepper to taste. Stir quickly to combine.
  • Return ground beef, sweet peppers, onions, and garlic to pan and stir into sauce. Bring to low slightly bubbling simmer over low to medium-low heat. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce should reduce and thicken. If sauce reduces too much, lower heat and add more chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time to loosen back up.
  • As Sloppy Joe mix simmers, brush (or spoon) melted butter on each side of hamburger buns. In skillet or saute pan over medium-low to medium heat, toast hamburger buns butter side down in batches for 30-60 seconds or until toasted to a lovely golden brown.
  • After Sloppy Joe mix has simmered 15-20 minutes, taste for seasoning. If needed, add more salt, black pepper, hot sauce, mustard, brown sugar, tomato catsup or Worcestershire sauce to your taste. Serve on toasted hamburger buns, as composed sandwich or open-face.

Notes

  • Ground beef with 80/20 or 85/15 leanness is recommended. If using leaner ground beef, an additional tablespoon of vegetable oil may be required to brown ground beef.
  • Any ground meat or meat substitute can be used in place of beef. Cooking times may vary and taste will change. Additional oil may be needed to cook ground meat other than beef. Follow package directions for any meat substitute used.
  • Mini sweet peppers, bell peppers, or any other sweet pepper will work as the sweet peppers required for the recipe. Recommend mini sweet peppers.
  • Onions may be white, yellow, or red. Shallots may be used as substitute. Onion may be omitted altogether, but recommend adding 2 teaspoons onion powder to sauce as substitute.
  • Beef or vegetable stock may be used as substitute for chicken stock, or water may be used; taste will change. Broths or stock made from bouillon are perfectly acceptable as substitutes.
  • Any sort of hamburger bun or roll is acceptable in this recipe, use your favorite. (Sourdough, whole wheat, sesame, brioche, or gluten free.)

There is a trend toward a more barbecue flavored Sloppy Joe that I also find delicious, but to me a barbecue Sloppy Joe is really a separate sandwich. It’s a little sweeter, a little more vinegary. I like my Sloppy Joes a little bit sweet, and you get that from both the tomato catsup and the brown sugar in this recipe, but I really love the way the sweetness comes through from the sweet peppers themselves. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, which is just what I like.

Mini sweet peppers: red, yellow, and orange.

I like to buy the little bags of mini sweet peppers. Either all red, all orange or the mix of red, yellow, and orange together. They’re handy to have in the fridge and I find myself throwing them in everything. They’re also delicious, even out of season. I usually just lop the stems off and then just bash them against the cutting board to shake out any seeds I can’t quickly scoop out with my finger. If a few sweet pepper seeds get into the Sloppy Joe mix, that’s just fine with me, they aren’t very spicy.

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