What do you get when you combine ground beef, onions, tomato sauce or ketchup and seasonings on a hamburger bun? If you guessed a sloppy joe sandwich, you’re right!

Sloppy joes are an American creation that has been around since at least the 1950s. They probably got their start as a variation of the “loose meat” sandwiches that were popular at that time. “Loose meat” sandwiches didn’t contain tomato sauce.

According to legend, a cook named Joe at Floyd Angell’s café in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches and the “sloppy joe” sandwich was born. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Sloppy joes are popular with most children and are a favorite in lunch rooms in schools all over the country. They’re also a favorite of parents when dinner time approaches, since sloppy joes are easy and inexpensive to make.

You can use a homemade recipe of ground beef, onions, tomato sauce or ketchup and seasonings. Fry up the ground beef, add the other ingredients and serve it up hot on a bun.

For your convenience, you can also use a canned product, such as Manwich, that already has most of the ingredients already mixed together. All you need to do is add ground beef! If you’re a vegetarian, you can substitute vegetable protein for ground beef to make meatless sloppy joes!

Many people find the name “sloppy joes” to be rather funny. Would you believe that sloppy joes are often called by different names in different parts of the United States? It’s true! Some other names for sloppy joes include: barbecues, dynamites, gulash, sloppy janes, slushburgers, steamers, wimpies and yum yums. What do you call sloppy joes where you live?

Just like the many names for sloppy joes, you’ll also find all sorts of variations on the traditional recipe around the country. Some areas use other meats, such as chicken, instead of ground beef. Other areas add special spices, like cinnamon and brown sugar. How do you like your sloppy joes?


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    • Great job, Rahul! Thanks for checking out today’s Wonder and being the very first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment! YOU ROCK! :-)

  1. NOOOO!!! I WAS WRONG! :( Oh well, maybe next time. This was an awesome wonder! I think it is WONDERful! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about cats.

    • We think your guess yesterday was right, Nasa! You guessed that today’s Wonder might be about sandwiches or something people like to eat and Sloppy Joes are both of those things! We’re proud of you! We hope you have a WONDERful day…thanks for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  2. I just told mom last night that I will never eat a sloppy joe again ( I DO NOT LIKE SLOPPY JOES! ). SO, that’s funny that it is the wonder today! I think tomorrow’s wonder is gonna be about why cats meow!

    • That is a WONDERful coincidence about the subject of today’s Wonder, Betsy! We appreciate you sharing that you don’t care for Sloppy Joes. We like them here in Wonderopolis, but we also respect the fact that each of our WONDERful Wonder Friends likes and dislikes different things. That ROCKS! :-)

    • We think the people who call this YUMMY kind of sandwich a “Sloppy Joe,” do so because it’s SUPER SLOPPY to eat, Jenna! Some Wonder Friends even eat it with a fork instead of picking it up with their hands like a regular sandwich! :-)

  3. Some of us don’t like sloppy joes and want to call them yuck yucks not yum yums. The rest of our class thinks they are DELICIOUS! Can you make sloppy joe’s in many different ways? Does the cafeteria at Wonderopolis ever serve sloppy joes? We think tomorrow’s wonder is about why cat’s meow or why they hate water? Have a very SLOPPY DAY! It would be very funny if the person who invented Sloppy Joe’s was named James and then it would be a Sloppy James.

    • You guys crack us up, Mr. Draper’s Class! We love your WONDERful sense of humor! That was funny how some of you want to call them, “yuck yucks.” We think the Sloppy Joes from our Wonderopolis lunchroom ROCK! They have LOTS of flavor and are super sloppy…YUM! We think there are probably many different recipes out there for Sloppy Joes. We think it’s neat that everyone kind of makes them their own by adding the things they like (like onions, peppers, or certain spices). :-)

  4. My class loved all the different names for a sloppy joe…especially sloppy jane! We wondered if this was Joe’s wife!?

    • That’s a GREAT question, Mrs. Wollam’s Class! We’re not sure about the answer, but we DO know that we LOVE this delicious lunchtime treat…no matter what people call it! :-)

  5. Wow, my favorite dish. My sister would always prepare Sloppy Joe sandwiches and French Fries for me during my home visit from college. This sandwich was named Sloppy Joe because it’s so sloppy. Perhaps it was named after its creator, Joe?

    • Thanks so much for sharing that special Sloppy Joe memory with us, Tammy! How nice of your sister to make such a tasty treat for you when you were on break from school! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  6. We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about cats and maybe why they meow.

    Most of our class wants to share one of the recipes with their families so they can eat sloppy joes at home. It is called “sloppy joe” where we live in Texas. :) We think the names, slushburger and wimpies are funny! :)

    • We like that guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! Several of our other Wonder Friends think it might be about cats, too! It will be FUN to see if you guys are right! :-)

      It’s AWESOME that many of you want to share what you learned about Sloppy Joes with your parents! Let us know how all your WONDERful meals turn out, OK? :-)

    • We think they’re pretty tasty, Ashley and Elizabeth! They ROCK! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder and sharing your comment with us! :-)

  7. I think todays wonder was AWESOME! I think it’s called a sloppy Joe because it is very sloppy and Joe for its creator. I’m going to karate with my aunt brother and cousin today. We’re just looking at it to see if it is the right class for the 3 of us + I love wonderopolis I go here every day!
    :) :) :) :) :) :) I LOVE IT!

    • We like them super sloppy, too, Mr. P. and Ms. Gentile’s 4th graders! To us, they’re not Sloppy Joes unless you have to eat some of them with a fork or spoon! Thank you for visiting today’s Wonder together and letting us know how you like your Sloppy Joes! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT guess, Zac! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow to learn if your guess is correct! It would be FUN to WONDER why cats meow, wouldn’t it? :-)

  8. Hi, wonderopolis. I am in Mr. Draper’s class. I like today’s wonder. Can you give me another hint about tomorrow’s wonder? I am sick, that’s why I am not at school. I like your website very much. I like going on your website at school. Thank you for all your great wonders. I sure hope you have a great comment back. See you tomorrow.

    • We’re super sorry you’re sick today, Johnny, but we’re really glad you still visited Wonderopolis! We’re sure Mr. Draper will appreciate your sense of WONDER, also! We’re not sure about another hint for tomorrow’s Wonder…we guess you’ll just have to “CHECK UP” on us tomorrow to see what we’ll all be WONDERing about! ;-)

  9. Thank you for today’s wonder. Most of our class loves VERY SLOPPY sloppy joes! We even like to scoop up the extra slop with chips. Yum. We have a wonder question for you: How do we preview the next wonder of the day or make a guess. We have read lots of posts about cats and are wondering were they see that. Thanks again- your friends from Buffalo, Minnesota.

    • Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today and sharing how you guys like your Sloppy Joes, Mrs. Ouverson’s Fourth Grade Class! We think super sloppy Sloppy Joes are AWESOME!

      Each Wonder of the Day® has sections full of Wonder to explore! If you look at the end of each day’s Wonder, you’ll see a section called, “Wonder what’s next?” That’s where we like to give our Wonder Friends a special hint about the next day’s upcoming Wonder of the Day®! The hint from today’s “Wonder what’s next?” section is leading some of our Wonder Friends think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about cats.

      Because we share a new, exciting Wonder of the Day® every day, the learning and fun never stops in Wonderopolis! :-)

  10. Hi again, just found the answer to our question! Thanks again for all you do to keep learning fun.

    • We’re glad you guys WONDERed more about Wonderopolis and went exploring to find the answer to your question, Mrs. Ouverson’s Fourth Grade Class! YOU GUYS ROCK! :-)

    • We really like your enthusiasm today, Mushkale! We think it’s SUPER! Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend…we’re proud of you! :-)

  11. That looks yummy. I love sloppy joes because I love all of those things you put in them. (Ellis)

    I like that video because the sloppy joe looks so good. (Caleb)

    • Those Sloppy Joes in the video really DID look good, Caleb, and we love them, too, Ellis! We are SUPER thankful for you guys and all of our WONDERful KF Dragons friends. We really appreciate how you visit Wonderopolis together and let us know what you think! :-)

    • We like that question a lot, Mrs. Foster’s Class! We think it might have something to do with the fact that the meat gets brown when it is cooked in the pan. It might also have to do with the color of the sauce or other ingredients. It might even be a combination of ALL of those things! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder and leaving us a comment, guys! :-)

  12. Hi wonderoplis. Me and Prabh are huge fans. We liked all your wonders. We thought if you guys could post of bridges because we are learning about bridges.

    • We are guessing you’re not a fan of Sloppy Joes, Muskaan? :-) We’re sorry you didn’t care for the video for today’s Wonder, but we hope you had as much fun as we did learning all the cool names different people have for Sloppy Joes! Thanks for sharing your opinion with us today…we really appreciate it! :-)

  13. Wonderopolis,

    The sloppy joe video is just GROSS! I’ve never tried a sloppy joe before, but I sure don’t want to try one now! I also think that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about why cats meow! Can you please do a wonder about singing and One Direction?

    Mikayla T

  14. I wonder why it is called sloppy joes? I wonder if it is yummy? I wonder if it is supposed to be hot or cold when you eat it?

    • Those are all AWESOME things to WONDER about Sloppy Joes, Vickie! We think they are VERY yummy, but we know other Wonder Friends who don’t care much for them. We have only eaten warm Sloppy Joes, so we WONDER if anyone eats them cold, too! :-)

  15. You have made us hungry! Mrs. Krupp makes sloppy joes from venison. She also adds brown sugar and mustard to her mix. Our school served sloppy joes yesterday for lunch. Many of us guessed why the sandwich is called sloppy joes. We would call Mrs. Krupp’s sandwich…”Sloppy Bambi” “Sloppy Krupp” “Sloppy Kids”

    Mrs. Krupp’s Class

    • Happy Wednesday, Mrs. Krupp’s Third Graders! Those are VERY creative names for Mrs. Krupp’s venison Sloppy Joes…we like them a lot! We think it’s a YUMMY coincidence that your school served up the same thing to eat yesterday as Wonderopolis served up to learn about today! :-)

    • That’s a SUPER GREAT guess, Wonder Girl! We can’t wait to visit the next Wonder of the Day® to see if your guess is correct! :-)

  16. We were wondering why you use the celery leaves in the recipe for slopppy joes. Here in Australia, we cut off the leaves of the celery.

    • Hi, Mrs Ware’s Class! Thanks so much for sharing how you guys like to enjoy celery! We think different people put different spices and herbs in their own Sloppy Joe recipes to make their own flavor creations. Some people like to spice the recipe up with peppers and chili powder, others like the sauce to be sweeter with brown sugar and cinnamon. The people in the video must have liked celery leaves a lot!

      We think it’s really AWESOME that we have Wonder Friends in Australia! Thank you for visiting us and learning new things with us today! :-)

  17. Hi! This is Alia from Ms. K’s 5th grade class at Mill Pond School. We go on wonderopolis almost weekly, sometimes more than 1 time a week. We read the wonders of the day then we get a wonder sheet and we write words that we wonder and what is the meaning of the story what we learned and then last, what we wonder. Here is a wonder I was wondering. Are sloppy joe’s famous all over the world? Please answer thank you!!!! :) :D :o ;)

    • What a REALLY great comment you left for us, Alia! Thank you so much! We really liked hearing how you and your Mill Pond School classmates enjoy exploring and learning in Wonderopolis…that’s AWESOME! We think Sloppy Joes are famous in lots of places, and maybe some other countries have their own versions of the Sloppy Joe. We’re not really sure, though, so we’ll both have to do a bit more WONDERing about that! :-)

    • We like that guess a lot, Earthling Alice! Thanks for sharing it with us! We can’t wait to explore the next Wonder to see if your guess is correct! :-)

    • We LOVE getting comments from our Wonder Friends (like YOU!), Lizzie! Thanks for letting us know you thought the Sloppy Joes in the video for this Wonder looked good. We thought so, too! YUM! :-)

    • Hi, Landon! Thanks for letting us know what you thought about this Wonder of the Day®! We’re super sorry that you got upset by the Sloppy Joes. :-( We hope you will give learning in Wonderopolis another try sometime soon! :-)

    • Hi there, Jeff C! Thanks for commenting and sharing your cool Sloppy Joe story with us! We always LOVE learning new things with our Wonder Friends… we think it’s cool that sometimes Sloppy Joes are referred to as “Tavern sandwiches”! What a neat thing to know! Thanks for visiting, Wonder Friend! :)

  18. My friend always says when I’m feeling sad “Hey have you ever met sloppy joe? You probably don’t want to becuase he’s REEEEAAALLLLYYY sloppy. And he has a freind named attle and he goes to Se-attle alllll the time!!” It cracks me up every time.

  19. I ran across MANY people in Cedar Co, Nebraska who religiously refer to Sloppy Joes as “Taverns”. I found it odd at first, but then it struck me as really odd when I just read that the Sloppy Joe was born in Sioux City, IA, a 45 minute drive for most of Cedar Co. Any explanation and has anyone else ever heard of this term?

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why are they called sloppy joes?
  • How do you make sloppy joes?
  • Are they called sloppy joes all over the United States?


Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to eat? We are! We’re hungry. Hungry for what? Sloppy joes, of course!

Grab a friend or family member and get cooking. Check out the recipes below and choose one to make at home tonight. If you don’t have all the ingredients you need, ask an adult to take you to the store to get what you need. And make sure you have an adult help you in the kitchen!

Do you have your own special sloppy joe recipe you’d like to share with your Wonder Friends? If so, be sure to post it on Facebook. We can’t wait to try your special recipe!


Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ Nutrition 2: Good Food, Good Health lesson to learn more about the ways in which food provides energy and materials for our bodies.


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