These homemade Sloppy Joes without ketchup will be a new family favorite! Made without soy sauce or added sugar and low in sodium, they’ve got a great southwestern flavor that will spice up this traditional weeknight recipe.
I’ve been obsessed with meal prep and easy to freeze recipes trying to prep for the arrival of our first baby, and one recipe that I’ve always wanted to make with my own spin is sloppy Joes! Traditionally made with ketchup and added sugar, along with Worcestershire, I kept finding my recreation of this recipe to just be kind of…boring. That’s when I decided it needed a little more spice and added a bit of a smoky, Texas flavor to it. Casey and I couldn’t get enough! We make this almost weekly now and it’s been a huge hit with the family.
What Makes Healthy Sloppy Joes?
If you’re making it from scratch, the traditional recipe for sloppy joes we grew up with packs quite a bit of added sugar between the ketchup and brown sugar. It’s good, but I think the sugar is making up for a lack of real flavor that’s missing from added spices. By making these sloppy joes without ketchup, you’re saving yourself a little extra sugar and unnecessary additives. This is particularly important for those who find onion to be a trigger.
Along with the sugar, people tend to add Worcestershire sauce. For those on a migraine diet, this fermented condiment can be a potential trigger. Along with onions and anchovies, those sensitive to glutamate would want to be cautious with “natural flavorings”.
Finally, don’t even get me started on the Manwich ingredients. There’s just not a need for it and packaged items like that can be very high in sodium. This way, you can control the amount of salt added to the recipe.
The only major chopping in this recipe is for the garlic and shallots, otherwise everything is just dumped in one pan. All you have to do is measure!! So a shortcut of using a canned item may seem like it’s saving you a lot of time, but really it’s probably only saving about 5 minutes at the most.
The ingredients for these are pretty straightforward, but I’ll go through them just to explain more about them.
- Strained tomatoes – I used the Pomi brand, but this is basically just a tomato sauce that’s a thick smooth liquid. It’s smoother than crushed tomatoes, but thinner than tomato paste. And there are no added seasonings.
- Coconut aminos – These replace the Worcestershire flavoring for those on a migraine diet. Naturally sweet, they do add a hint of sweetness without any added sugar.
- Mustard – I used what I had on hand which was Annie’s dijon mustard. However, you could use regular mustard or even mustard powder (just cut it down to 1-2 teaspoons).
- Poblano – Ok this is my Texas twist. Poblano is my substitute for green bell pepper. I personally am just not a fan of green bell peppers and I love the added hint of spice that a poblano gives. They’re MUCH more mild than a jalapeño, but add more heat than a sweet bell pepper.
- Smoked paprika – This just takes these healthy sloppy joes to another level and adds that southwestern flavor. Trust me. You won’t go back!
- Ground beef – This recipe would also work with ground chicken or turkey, but I do like to use 85/15 ground beef for a boost in flavor. If you’re trying to cut the fat though, definitely go with the turkey, chicken, or a 90/10 beef option.
These cook in just under 30 minutes. All you really have to do is brown the meat, drain it, mix in the garlic and shallots, and add all the spices and tomatoes. There’s not much more to it than that. Simmer a total of 10 minutes until the sauce gets a little thick and you’re done.
I served these on regular burger buns (I recommend Martin’s Buns from Target or a favorite local brand). I also added pickles to mine, clearly, which really isn’t necessary. This could just be an odd pregnancy craving for me. If you’d like to try it, I recommend making your own or Grillo’s fresh pickles if you can find them.
You can even make these a little more healthy by putting the filling on top of baked russet or sweet potatoes, along with some chopped green onion. Cutting carbs? Try on top of spaghetti squash as a “sauce” or zucchini boat style. These little changes would make them paleo and Whole30 compliant if that floats your boat.
I personally haven’t tried this, but if any of my vegetarian friends want to be adventurous, you could try subbing the meat for cauliflower rice. If you do, let me know how it goes!
For a weeknight dinner, we just paired these with a simple side salad and plain potato chips. If you want to get creative, I would recommend some of the following recipes.
I hope you love these healthy sloppy joes as much as we do! If you try this recipe, please let me know how you enjoy it and leave a review below.
Sloppy Joes (without Ketchup)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper*
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ⅓ cups strained tomatoes (plain tomato puree)
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos*
- 1 tablespoon mustard (dijon also works)
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 Burger buns (or baked potatoes)
- In a large saute pan, cook ground beef over medium heat until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Drain any excess liquid/fat. Add minced garlic, shallots, and chopped poblano, cooking another 5 minutes until pepper has softened. Stir often so the garlic doesn't burn. Add salt, if desired, and strained tomatoes, coconut aminos, mustard, vinegar, and paprika along with 1/3 cup of water.
- Bring to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. If it starts getting too thick, just add a little more water.
- If you’re sensitive to spicy food, consider cutting back on the amount of poblano pepper. Some are more spicy than others, but overall this pepper is very mild so 1/2 cup should yield a very light heat without burning your mouth.
- If sensitive to sodium, adjust the amount of salt and check your coconut aminos for one that’s lower.
- I used Pomi brand strained tomatoes. These are just pureed tomatoes, like a thick tomato sauce with nothing added.