Back-to-(home)school Sloppy Joes

“Do you miss school?” I asked my youngest as what would have been the end of the school year neared.

“I miss sloppy joes.”

How could I say no to that? In honor of all the kids who miss sloppy joes, here’s the recipe I’ve been working on all summer. It has two unusual components: onions that are nearly liquefied (so you get the taste without your children who freak out at the sight of the tiniest bit of onion objecting to them) and the use of baking soda to keep the meat moist. It’s weird, but it’s science.

a sloppy joe o a potato bun

  • 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4-1 onion, finely chopped or nearly liquefied in a food processor, then strained
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 c ketchup
  • 3 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1/4 c + 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs paprika
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 2 Tbs cold water
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar


  1. Mix 1 tsp water and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Add to meat and begin to brown. Mix onion and 1/8 tsp baking soda and add to meat as it cooks. When nearly brown, add garlic. When meat has finished browning, drain some or all the liquid.
  2. Combine ketchup, brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and paprika. Add to meat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Create a slurry with cornstarch and cold water. Make sure cornstarch is entirely dissolved in water so no chunks remain. Stir into meat mixture.
  4. Add red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar and stir once more before serving on potato rolls.


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