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A decidedly classic and simple part of North American cuisine, sloppy joes are made from meat and sauce that’s placed on a traditional hamburger bun. National Sloppy Joe Day seeks to celebrate this delightful little sandwich that has been around for almost a century.

History of National Sloppy Joe Day

What is known about sloppy joe sandwiches is that they originated in the 1930s. This is likely due to the fact that ground beef became a popular and inexpensive way to serve beef in the early 19th century.

But the sloppy joe sandwich itself is shrouded in a bit of mystery as to its exact place of origin, and several people have claimed the idea for the famous sandwich. Some people refer to a story about a chef named Joe in a cafe in Sioux City, Iowa in the United States.

Others attribute the dish to a bar called Sloppy Joe’s that was started in Key West, Florida in 1933, just after prohibition ended in the US. Another story has to do with a bartender in Havana, Cuba who was named Joe and was a bit messy in the care and keeping of his bar.

No matter where it started, the sloppy joe sandwich likely began because it was an easy way to add a bit of sauce and flavor to “loose meat sandwiches” by adding tomato sauce, and spices. Of course, the recipe has developed over time to include things like green peppers, onions and some people even like to add a slice of cheese.

In the 1940s, the sloppy joe got some mentions in a couple of iconic films, including Citizen Kane (1941) and the classic Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) starring Jimmy Stewart.

National Sloppy Joe Day Timeline


Sloppy Joes make an appearance 

Some people attribute sloppy joes to a chef named Joe in Sioux City, Iowa, who added tomato sauce to his “loose meat sandwiches”.[1]


The bar called “Sloppy Joe’s” opens in Florida 

Famous and slightly infamous, Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West started on December 5, 1933, the day prohibition was repealed.[2]


Sloppy Joe’s are mentioned in the movies 

With nods from Citizen Kane in 1941 and It’s a Wonderful Life in 1947, the sloppy joe sandwich begins to gain in popularity.[3]


Manwich is introduced 

Combining “man” and “sandwich”, this canned sloppy joe sauce makes food preparation even more convenient.[4]

How to Celebrate National Sloppy Joe Day

Enjoy a Sloppy Joe Sandwich at a Restaurant

Though not an extremely popular menu item at most restaurants today, some fast casual diners, as well as southern barbecue joints, are probably the most likely places that the sloppy joe sandwich can be found on the menu.

Try places like Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas; Denny’s restaurant chain in the US, Puerto Rico, New Zealand and other countries; or Longman & Eagle in Chicago, Illinois. White Castle in the US also sometimes has sloppy joe on their menu.

Visit a Sloppy Joe’s Restaurant

Because it’s so much more than a sandwich, the name “Sloppy Joe” works perfectly for a food related establishment. Try out one of these in honor of National Sloppy Joe Day:

  • Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida, USA. Originally founded in 1933, on the very day that prohibition ended, this place serves food all day long, and even has a retail store. Among many finger foods, one of their most popular items is a pizza topped with sloppy joe mix.
  • Sloppy Joe’s Saloon and Spoon in Hubertus, Wisconsin, USA. With a delicious menu that includes sloppy joe sandwiches, of course, this restaurant offers catering as well as tons of events and live music to entertain their guests.
  • Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Old Havana, Cuba. A mythical place that dates back to the 1930s when it was run by Jose Garcia and frequently hosted famous Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, John Wayne and Spencer Tracy. It was closed in 1959 and was renovated and restored for its reopening in 2013.
  • Sloppy Joe’s on the Beach, Treasure Island, Florida, USA. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Key West location, this restaurant and bar serves a wide menu, including The Big Sloppy, which is their world famous sandwich.

Try Making Sloppy Joe Sandwiches at Home

This is one of the easiest cuisine days to participate in because just about anyone with a pan and a stove can successfully create sloppy joes! Start with a lean portion of ground beef (sometimes called minced beef) and cook it through until it is browned. Some people also like to add diced onions and green peppers to the mix, for a bit of flavor as well as some vitamins.

Create the sauce using ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Mix everything together and serve on hamburger buns. It’s a cinch to make for lunch or dinner in observance of National Sloppy Joe Day!

Get Creative with Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joe has a basic recipe that’s hard to beat for simplicity. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. This barbecue-type sandwich offers a basic palette that can be added to and upgraded in a variety of fun and creative ways.

  • Grown-Up Sloppy Joes. One option for “grown-up” sloppy joes can mean making them with red wine, roasted vegetables and small pickle flags on top.
  • Chipotle Havarti Sloppy Joe Sliders. Make sloppy joe sandwiches into sliders by using smaller buns, then add chipotle and jalapeno peppers to the sauce. Finish it off by creating a creamy sauce from milk and melted Havarti cheese.
  • Cuban Style Sloppy Joes. To the meat, add poblano peppers, shallots, sweet peppers, fresh garlic, Spanish olives, raisins, crushed tomatoes, spices and tomato sauce to make a sloppy joe that mirrors the flavors of the Cuban cuisine.

Hold a Sloppy Joe Cookoff

Many Americans have a recipe for sloppy joe that was passed down to them from their mom, grandma or favorite aunt. Hosting a cookoff for National Sloppy Joe Day is a super fun way to get friends, family or coworkers to show off their favorite recipes.

Have each participant make ahead their family recipe for sloppy joe and bring it to the gathering in a slow cooker. Invite other guests to bring buns, side dishes, drinks and dessert. Recruit a few unbiased guests to act as taste testers and judges to decide which one of the sloppy joe recipes is the very best.

No matter who wins the contest for making the tastiest sloppy joe sandwich, everyone who attends the party actually wins because they all get to enjoy some delicious food and fun in celebration of National Sloppy Joe Day.

National Sloppy Joe Day FAQs

Are sloppy joes healthy?

While sloppy joes offer a good source of protein, they also are fairly high in fat and are lacking in vegetables.[1]

How to make sloppy joes?

Make by browning low-fat ground beef, then adding sauce made from ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and spices. Some also include diced green peppers and onions. Serve on a hamburger bun.[2]

How to eat sloppy joes?

Eating a sloppy joe is mostly just like eating any other sandwich, but do be careful or the filling will fall out and make a mess!

Do sloppy joes have cheese?

While sloppy joe sandwiches can certainly be served with cheese, the original sloppy joe was just the meat with sauce on a bun.[3]

Can sloppy joes be frozen?

Sure! Sloppy joe meat that has been cooked and mixed with the sauce can be kept in the freezer for up to six months.[4]

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