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 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.
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.
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.