Spicy Sloppy Joes


Got leftover meatloaf? Use it to make these hearty sandwiches spiced with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

Spicy Sloppy Joes
Photo: © Raymond Hom
Total Time:
15 mins

Sloppy Joe sandwiches are among the messiest things you can eat, but are a beloved meal at dinner tables and in bars all over. They are said to have been created at a bar in Iowa in the 1930s when a cook named Joe added tomato sauce to the loose meat sandwiches — aka Maid-Rite sandwiches — that were popular in the Midwest at the time. The version caught on, making the sandwich a fixture at taverns and homestyle restaurants around the country.

With that said, you can find loose meat sandwiches around the world. Kheema pavs, featuring ground goat or lamb seasoned with cumin, ginger, garam masala, and other spices and served on a bun, are a popular street food in Mumbai. In the Shaanxi Province of China you’ll find rou jia mo, a spiced pork or beef sandwich tucked into baijimo, a type of flatbread. And in Havana and Key West, the story is that Ernest Hemingway was such a big fan of a picadillo sandwich served at a Havana bar named Sloppy Joe’s that he convinced a friend to rename his Key West bar Sloppy Joe’s, and serve a similar sandwich there. The spices vary according to the version offered around the world, but any way you have it, this sandwich satisfies.

Make this easy weeknight dish using leftovers from Mom's Meatloaf or another meatloaf recipe. Or, if you want to start from scratch, brown a pound of ground meat in a pan, then add the sauce and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes. Add a few slices of onion and pickle on top for a crisp contrast. Hamburger buns or another soft bun are perfect for this recipe; a hard, crusty roll won't work well with the soft filling.


  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the jar or can

  • 1/2 Mom’s Meat Loaf, crumbled

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

  • Onion and dill pickle slices, for serving


  1. In a blender, combine the tomato sauce with the chicken broth, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chipotle and adobo sauce and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce into a large skillet. Stir in the crumbled meat loaf and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the meat onto the buns, top with sliced onion and pickles, close and serve.

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