Sloppy Joes with Ground Turkey Breast

ground turkey sloppy joes on a plate.

If you loved old fashioned Sloppy Joes as a kid, you’ll appreciate this updated version made with ground turkey breast instead of ground beef. With less saturated fat and cholesterol, lean ground turkey makes an excellent stand-in for the traditional beef mince and this quick and easy dinner is loaded with vegetables and spices for a zippy, flavorful loose meat sandwich recipe the whole family will enjoy.

Sautéing green peppers, onions and celery with garlic.

People’s love of Sloppy Joes may have started with Manwich, but, thankfully, it doesn’t have to end there. These tangy, spicy loose meat sandwiches are so much better when they’re made from scratch and no wonder… Compare the ingredient lists and see for yourself. Which would you rather have? The stuff from a can or homemade sloppy joes?

Sauce ingredients for homemade sloppy joes vs. Manwich

Homemade Sloppy Joes


  • Olive oil
  • Green bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Tomato paste
  • Tomato ketchup
  • Brown sugar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Black pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Water
  • Browning sauce (optional)
  • Tomato puree
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Corn syrup
  • Salt
  • Chili pepper
  • Tomato fiber (what’s that?)
  • Guar gum
  • Spices (it doesn’t say which ones)
  • Xanthan gum
  • Dried garlic (why use dried when you can have fresh?)
  • Natural flavors (specifically, what?)
  • Citric acid

As you can see, the homemade sloppy joes start with vegetables, while Manwich is little more than tomato puree and corn syrup. Ewww.

browning lean ground turkey breast with vegetables.

Vegetables and lean ground turkey

The reason the vegetables are so important to this loose meat sandwich, is because we’re using ground turkey breast instead of ground beef.

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With a higher fat and moisture content, ground beef crumbles easily into small crumbles that work perfectly in loose meat sandwiches. Ground turkey breast is leaner and naturally has a lower moisture content. When it’s cooked in a skillet, the meat clumps in larger chunks. The vegetables add moisture to aid in breaking up the lean ground turkey into smaller bits that blend perfectly with homemade Sloppy Joe sauce.

making sloppy joe sauce

Making homemade Sloppy Joe sauce

Theoretically, you can add individual ingredients directly to the vegetables and ground turkey meat. However, I prefer to blend the seasonings together first in a small bowl before adding it to the ground turkey breast mixture. It coats the meat more evenly and you won’t get any heavy-handed areas of spice that have inadvertently clung to a particular morsel of turkey (that would be bad).

adding Sloppy Joes sauce with ground turkey breast meat.

Simmering Sloppy Joes

To get that saucy, perfect loose meat consistency, add the Sloppy Joe sauce to the ground turkey mixture and stir in some water. Secure the lid and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The rich, spicy, fragrant blend makes the whole house smell good and virtually guarantees that everyone will happily put down their smart phones to come to the dinner table without any griping.

A skillet of the sloppy joes with ground turkey.

Tasters unanimously agreed that these homemade sloppy joes are WAY better than the Manwich’s they remembered from their youth. This turkey sloppy joes recipe is zippy, with a little sweet and heat. This is a loose meat sandwich dinner that everyone will enjoy. Promise.

Are Sloppy Joes healthy?

It depends on your metrics. Most Sloppy Joes are made with ground beef, which has higher saturated fat and cholesterol than ground turkey breast. These old fashioned turkey Sloppy Joes with vegetables and ground turkey breast would be healthier than their beef counterpart. That said, ketchup and the nominal amount of brown sugar, do add extra carbohydrates.

Are they gluten free?

They can be — just be sure to pile the loose meat on a gluten free bun or top a baked potato with the turkey sloppy joe filling.

Do they freeze well?

Yes. Pack the loose meat into a storage container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw before serving. Note: Do not freeze pre-made sandwiches — that would be a mess.

A serving of the sloppy joes with coleslaw in the background.

What goes with Sloppy Joes?

We are serving the turkey sloppy joes on a bun with coleslaw.

More dinner sandwich options:

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Sloppy joes on a potato bun.
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5 from 13 votes

Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes with Lean Ground Turkey

These zippy, tangy Sloppy Joes are made healthier with lean ground turkey and plenty of veg. The classic Sloppy Joe sauce gets a kick from Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword ground turkey, loose meat, sandwiches
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4


  • 10 inch skillet with a lid


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ green bell pepper diced
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (white meat, preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard 1
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • teaspoons red wine vinegar (can use apple cider vinegar)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon browning sauce such as Gravy Master, optional

Serve On:

  • 4 brioche rolls or other sandwich buns


  • In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, ketchup, brown sugar, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, cumin and vinegar. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Stir in the onions, bell pepper and celery and salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  • Add the ground turkey and break it up with the back of a spoon or fork as it browns so that the turkey resembles little crumbles.
  • Add the Sloppy Joe sauce to the cooked turkey and vegetables and stir to combine. Stir in the water and heat to a low simmer. Place the lid on the pan and gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture should be saucy, if it’s too dry add water a few tablespoons at a time.
  • Stir in the browning sauce, if using. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste.
  • Divide the sloppy joe mixture between the brioche buns and serve. Great with coleslaw, fries or tater tots.


Calories: 405kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 1115mg | Potassium: 665mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 505IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 3mg

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This easy, homemade, old fashioned Turkey Sloppy Joes recipe is made with lean ground turkey breast for a healthy take on this comfort food dinner. It's the best quick and easy meal and WAY better than Manwich. #groundturkeydinner #sloppyjoes

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  1. 5 stars
    This is, hands down, my absolute favorite sloppy joe recipe now. I wouldn’t change a thing!

  2. Catherine says:

    5 stars
    My husband was skeptical when I told him I was making this. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. He pronounced them “the best sloppy joes I’ve ever had!” I highly recommend adding the browning sauce (I used Maggi) at the end – just gives it that extra little zing. I did not use the celery or green pepper as we don’t really like either and it was perfect (for us). Quick, easy and healthy. My kind of recipe! Also easy to make for a crowd. Just double or triple the proportions. It’s super easy and quick. NOTE: I make my own ketchup from scratch using Stevia for the sweetener – thus, no high fructose corn syrup. YUM!

  3. 5 stars
    Made this and it was delicious! Even my picky 13 year old ate it. The zesty sauce made boring old ground turkey pack a yummy punch!

  4. Too spicy for my tastes. I’m used to sloppy Joe’s being more on the sweet side than spicy side.

    1. You can leave out the cayenne pepper and chili powder for a sweeter profile. Cumin gives it a smoky flavor without the heat.

  5. Can you make this in an instant pot? If so, do you know on what setting and for how long?

    1. Since the Sloppy Joes only simmer for 10 minutes, I don’t think you’re really saving time with an Instant Pot. It takes time to bring it up to pressure and release, so it might actually increase the cook time. If you want to make it in the Instant Pot, I would cook for 3 to maybe 4 minutes at high pressure.

  6. 5 stars
    The sauce looks perfect to me! I would love to have such a lunch.

  7. Claudia Lamascolo says:

    5 stars
    This surely brings me back to my childhood when mom made everything from scratch and nothing came out of a can except tomatoes! this made me smile great memories of her

  8. 5 stars
    This recipe seems so much healthier and I love sloppy Joes. Thank you for this wonderful and detailed recipe.

  9. 5 stars
    Can you believe that I have never tried sloppy joe’s?! I need to give this a go. It looks super comforting.

  10. Heather Johnson says:

    5 stars
    This version is so much healthier! I’m on WW and have been dying for sloppy joes! Thanks!

      1. 5 stars
        This is delicious! I’ve made this for my family several times and it’s always popular. Thanks!