Sloppy joe

A sloppy joe is a sandwich consisting of ground beef, onions, tomato sauce or ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings, served on a hamburger bun.[2] There are several theories about the sandwich's origin.[3]

Sloppy Joe
A homemade sloppy joe with coleslaw
Place of originUnited States
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsGround beef, onions, sweetened tomato sauce or ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning, hamburger bun
Food energy
(per serving)
634[1] kcal
Nutritional value
(per serving)
Protein46.3[1] g
Fat27.1[1] g
Carbohydrate48[1] g


Sloppy joe meat being prepared with Manwich sauce

Early and mid-20th century American cookbooks offer plenty of sloppy joe-type recipes, though they go by different names: Toasted Deviled Hamburgers,[4] Chopped Meat Sandwiches,[5] Spanish Hamburgers,[6] Hamburg a la Creole,[7] Beef Mironton,[8] and Minced Beef Spanish Style.[9]

One theory of the sandwich's origin is that in 1917, Havana, Cuba, bar owner José "Sloppy Joe" Abeal y Otero created "a simple sandwich filled with ground beef stewed in tomatoes."[3] This was possibly his interpretation of ropa vieja.[3] His bar was reportedly frequented by Americans and Brits, including Errol Flynn, Ernest Hemingway, and Graham Greene.[10] Circa 1937, Hemingway convinced Joe Russell, a bar owner in Key West, Florida, to rename his Silver Slipper bar to Sloppy Joe's.[11]

Marilyn Brown, director of the consumer test kitchen at H.J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the sloppy joe's origins lie with the "loose meat sandwiches" sold in Sioux City, Iowa, in the 1930s and were the creation of a cook named Joe.[12]

A 1940 advertisement illustrates another use for the term "Sloppy Joe;" a women's cardigan sweater, described as "ever popular."[13]

References to sloppy joes as sandwiches begin by the 1940s. One example from Ohio is a 1944 Coshocton Tribune ad under the heading "'Good Things to Eat' says 'Sloppy Joes' – 10c – Originated in Cuba – You'll ask for more – The Hamburg Shop" and elsewhere on the same page, "Hap is introducing that new sandwich at The Hamburg Shop – Sloppy Joes – 10c".[14]

Food companies began producing packaged sloppy joe, in cans with meat,[15] or just the sauce, such as Manwich, by the 1960s.

A 1975 Dictionary of American Slang defines sloppy joe as any cheap restaurant or lunch counter serving cheap food quickly.[16]


Several variations of the sloppy joe exist in North America. In Quebec, Canada, sandwiches of stewed ground beef such as pain à la viande and pain fourré gumbo are usually served on hot dog buns. A similar sandwich, the "dynamite", exists in the area around Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and is distinguished by the use of onions, bell peppers, and sometimes celery.[17]

Stewed meat sandwiches are common in several other culinary traditions as well. The rou jia mo, from China's Shaanxi Province, consists of stewed pork, beef, or lamb on "baijimo", a type of flatbread. Keema pav of Indian cuisine uses a pav (from Portuguese "pão", a country-style soft roll) bread roll filled with keema, a minced, stewed, curried meat.[18]

Ground turkey or textured vegetable protein may be used as a substitute for ground beef.

A sloppy joe differs from a traditional loose meat or tavern sandwich owing largely to its tomato-based sauce.

In some stores in northern New Jersey, an unrelated sandwich made with a combination of deli meat, such as turkey, roast beef or especially ham, with coleslaw, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese on three slices of rye bread is also known as a sloppy joe.[19]

See also


  1. "Sandwich, Sloppy Joe w. Sauce (7 oz) w. 3 oz Bread". Calorie King. CalorieKing Wellness Solutions, Inc. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  2. Ingram, Gaye G., Labensky, Sarah R., Labensky, Steven. Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts 2nd Edition.
  3. "Who is the "Joe" behind the Sloppy Joe?". The Takeout. 2018-11-27. Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  4. Good Housekeeping Cook Book, Katharine Fisher [1944] (p. 534),
  5. Young America's Cook Book, Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune [1940] (p. 36)
  6. Cook Book, McCordsville Methodist Church [1951] (p. 7)
  7. Prudence Penny's Cookbook, [1939] (p. 67)
  8. The New Butterick Cook Book, Flora Rose [1924] (p. 266)
  9. Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book, Sarah Tyson Rorer [1902] (p. 157)
  10. "Who is the "Joe" behind the Sloppy Joe?". The Takeout. 2018-11-27. Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  11. "Who is the "Joe" behind the Sloppy Joe?". The Takeout. 2018-11-27. Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  12. The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson.
  13. Advertisement, Pittsburgh Press. Oct. 8, 1940
  14. Coshocton Tribune (Coshocton, Ohio), Oct. 29, 1944, p. 11
  15. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Sloppy Joe by Libby's Commercial". YouTube.
  16. Dictionary of American Slang, Wentworth & Flexner, 2nd supp. edition, p. 488
  17. Jonic, Flo (May 9, 2011). "Woonsocket's Dynamite Sandwich". Rhode Island Public Radio. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  18. "Kheema Pav - Indian Sloppy Joes".
  19. "New Jersey Sloppy Joe". The Washington Post.

Further reading

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