Sloppy Joe History: How It Was Made | Blue Apron (2024)

Sloppy Joe History: How It Was Made | Blue Apron (1)

The Origin of the Sloppy Joe

There’s nothing complicated about a Sloppy Joe.

At its most basic, the Joe is a sandwich made with ground beef and a tomato sauce. The Sloppy Joe’s history, however, is a bit more complex.

Some attribute the original Sloppy Joe to a cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, where, many years ago, in 1930 a cook named Joe added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches. Voila: a new between-the-bread offering, and the sandwich’s official name. (Loose meat sandwiches continue to be a staple in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest.)

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Others say that the original sandwich was born at the iconic restaurant in Key West, Florida, Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

And then there are those who say that the concept of the sandwich was dreamt up in Havana of all places, at Sloppy Joe’s saloon, which recently re-opened after a half-century hiatus (!).

But while people may contest where the “official” Sloppy Joe was born, the concept of mixing meat, cheese, and bread is so simple that it’s no surprise that Sloppy Joe soon it became an American favorite.

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Loose meat sandwiches

Let’s start at the origin: the loose meat sandwich.

And the origin of that Midwestern delicacy? Well, as ground beef gained popularity in the 19th century, it became renowned as a nourishing and economical food option: it delivered lots of protein for your money. Fillers (like bread crumbs, ketchup, tomato paste, cheese, etc.) were often added to stretch the meat and the ground beef mixture was then turned into things like meatballs, meatloaves and stews. The loose meat sandwich was just another way of using that meat in a creative manner, one that stretched the meat even further because of the carb-filled bun.

While the name leaves something to be desired, in the Midwest loose meat sandwiches are very much a culinary tradition, particularly in Iowa. If you watched the sitcom Roseanne in the late 1980s and early 90s you may remember the loose meat sandwiches that were served up at the Lanford Lunchbox.

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Sloppy Joe’s: A Cuban Specialty?

If there’s one restaurant that has become synonymous with the sandwich, it’s Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida, which opened on December 5, 1933—the day Prohibition was repealed.

Originally launched under a different name, it was none other than Ernest Hemingway who encouraged rebranding the bar as Sloppy Joe’s. But it had nothing to do with a sandwich. Nope, the name was adopted from Jose Garcia Rios’ Havana Club, which sold liquor and iced seafood.

“Because the floor was always wet with melted ice, his patrons taunted this Spanish Joe with running a “sloppy” place,” said Donna Edwards, Sloppy Joe’s Brand Manager. “The name stuck.”

But why do so many people order Sloppy Joes at Sloppy Joe’s? While some say we have that chef back in Sioux City to thank for it, we can’t forget about the Cuban connection.

“A loose beef sandwich was on the menu at the original Sloppy Joe’s in Havana,” confirmed Edwards.

Either way, the Key West version of Sloppy Joe’s has been serving the sandwich since the beginning, Today, the joint sells more than 50,000 Sloppy Joes a year.

The Manwich

Manwich, slush burger, yum yums, dynamite, spoonburgers, tavern sandwich; a Sloppy Joe can be called by many other names. The most well-known however is Manwich. Much as we’d like this to constitute a reference to the SJ being a man’s favorite sandwich, this nickname derives from a brand of canned Sloppy Joe sauce that was launched by ConAgra Foods and Hunt’s in 1969.

Marketed with the slogan “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a manwich is a meal,” it’s no surprise that this one-pan meal became so popular during the 1970s and 80s, and for many years, Americans made their Sloppy Joes straight out of a can.

Sloppy Joe Goes to School

Just like people in the early 20th century saw cooking with ground beef as a smart economical choice when it came to nourishing food, school cafeterias embraced the Sloppy Joe even more firmly than the patrons in Key West. Why? A question of value and nutrition. And so, the messy sandwich got a bad reputation as cafeteria food.

“I think the origination of placing Sloppy Joes on school menus likely came from a need for a fulfilling a hearty meal with a minimal cost,” says Robert Jaber, Director of Office of Food and Nutrition Services for District of Columbia Public Schools. “The Sloppy Joe, if served properly, can be the perfect combination of economics, nutrition, heartiness, and student acceptance – it’s a perfect fit for a school menu.”

But as we all know, it’s rare that kids care about money and nutrition; they just want to eat, which means that ultimately, the popularity of Sloppy Joes is all about taste. “It’s funny—It must just be the mixture of spices and sauce which people love,” says Margo Livingston, Kitchen Manager of Stonepark Intermediate School in Charlottetown, Canada, adding that “with Sloppy Joes you can throw some veggies in there and they don’t know the difference.” As Jaber adds, they’re also “a comfort food, especially in the colder months,” which might be why so many of us have childhood memories of the sandwich.

Sloppy Joe History: How It Was Made | Blue Apron (5)

Sloppy Joe Variations to Make On Your Own

As a comfort food, Sloppy Joes are certainly a staple, and while we most often think of them as a cafeteria food, you can find upscale versions at restaurants across the country. From serving the sandwiches with aged cheddar to using challah buns, there’s a different variety depending on what you want. But why wait to go out? Using quality meat, or even chicken, making good Sloppy Joe’s at home is easy and a fun way to incorporate a classic comfort food into your weekly meal plan.

Sloppy Joe recipes

Other Sloppy Joe Variations

Try these ideas for some fun twists on a classic sandwich.

Add vegetables. Chop up some carrots, dice a red bell pepper, sauté some mushrooms.

Use fresh herbs. A little thyme or oregano will liven up the dish.

Or all kinds of spices. You can change the flavor profile of your Sloppy Joes by adding different spices like cumin, curry powder, or chipotle. You can even try an Asian inspired Joewith Sambal Oelek and Hoisin sauce.

Embrace fusion. You might also want to give Sloppy Joe Tacos or Sloppy Joe Grilled Cheese a try.

Make the sauce with wine. Just like a good meat-based pasta sauce benefits from a red-wine base, so will your Sloppy Joes.

Mix in sun-dried tomatoes. You can change up the tomato flavor by using sundried tomatoes in addition to the tomato base in your recipe.

Go vegetarian. Switch out ground beef for a veggie protein.

This post was written byAnna Brones,a food and travel writer based in Paris, France who has a love for bikes, coffee and all things organic.

Sloppy Joe History: How It Was Made | Blue Apron (2024)


Sloppy Joe History: How It Was Made | Blue Apron? ›

The Sloppy Joe's history, however, is a bit more complex. Some attribute the original Sloppy Joe to a cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, where, many years ago, in 1930 a cook named Joe added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches. Voila: a new between-the-bread offering, and the sandwich's official name.

What was the original sloppy Joe made with? ›

Many believe the Sloppy Joe is the namesake of a Sioux City, Iowa cook, who in 1930, combined the regionally popular loose meat sandwich with tomato sauce.

What is the history of the sloppy joe shirt? ›

Our Story. Sloppy Joe Clothing is the UK's ultimate sustainable, smart-casual fashion brand. Launched in London by Fashion Designer Jackie Harris 30 years ago, we are the home of the must-have, oversized Sloppy Joe Sweatshirt.

What is the original slogan of Manwich? ›

It is marketed as a quick and easy one-pan meal for the whole family. Manwich's slogan is, "A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal." Manwich Heat & Serve was introduced in 2004. It contains both the seasoned tomato sauce and ground beef in a microwavable bowl.

What is the Manwich controversy? ›

Manwich wasn't banned, despite rumors to the contrary

According to widely spread myths reported by Snopes, the state of California allegedly banned the sale of Manwich, as well as the use of its name, due to it not being gender-neutral.

Where is the original Sloppy Joes? ›

Sloppy Joe's Bar is a historic American bar in Key West, Florida located at the corner of Greene and Duval Street since 1937.

What does Sloppy Joe mean in slang? ›

a man or youth whose appearance is habitually slovenly.

Why is Sloppy Joe called Manwich? ›

The most well-known however is Manwich. Much as we'd like this to constitute a reference to the SJ being a man's favorite sandwich, this nickname derives from a brand of canned Sloppy Joe sauce that was launched by ConAgra Foods and Hunt's in 1969.

Why do they ring the bell in Sloppy Joes? ›

The tip bell (which is rung with gusto when a generous tip is received) is from a Coast Guard cutter boat. Big Skinner used the bat to keep the bar in order in the 30s and 40s.

What is the sloppy Joe sauce made of? ›

What is the sloppy joe sauce made of? It's made with ketchup, brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire, chili powder, garlic, dry mustard, and a little Tobasco (if you want). That sauce coats the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper to make the filling.

What is the difference between Manwich and sloppy joe mix? ›

What is the difference between Manwich and Sloppy Joes? Sloppy Joes are the sandwich, while Manwich is the store-bought canned sloppy joe sauce, produced by ConAgra Foods and Hunt's. While the brand markets this product as a quick and easy one-pan meal, I strongly recommend you make the sauce from scratch.

What is the difference between original Manwich and bold? ›

The majority used ground beef in the sauce - a concoction of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic and spices - and made it into sandwiches. Food scientist Bill Skinner occasionally buys Hunt's Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce and described the bold version as being a little sweeter with more tomato flavor.

What is the slogan for Sloppy Joes? ›

Hunt's marketed Manwich with the slogan, “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.” Over time, the exact genesis of this American sandwich has been lost.

What do people in Wisconsin call Sloppy Joes? ›

sloppy Joes. Some in southeastern and central Wisconsin call these "barbecue" sandwiches. For those who say Spanish hamburger, there's a good chance they grew up in the Fox Cities. Outside of Wisconsin, sloppy Joe is the dominant name.

Is there MSG in Manwich? ›

This product is likely msg free.

Who is the owner of Sloppy Joes? ›

Since, 1978, the historic watering hole has been owned by Sloppy Joe's Enterprises comprised of families of the late Sid Snelgrove and the late Jim Mayer. Just as in Joe Russell's day, Sloppy Joe's bartenders' welcome patrons at virtually all hours of the day or night.

What's the difference between a sloppy joe and a sloppy Jane? ›

If you're aiming to eat a lower-fat diet, then consider fixing yourself a sloppy jane. This variant on the sloppy joe swaps out regular ground beef for leaner beef. It also places a higher focus on vegetables and other low-calorie ingredients.

What is the difference between a tavern and a sloppy joe? ›

A Tavern Sandwich, also known as a Loose Meat Sandwich, is remarkably similar to a Sloppy Joe, but without the tomato sauce or ketchup. Sloppy Joes are a must-try for meat lovers looking for a great, uncomplicated sandwich to enjoy on any occasion.

Is Sloppy Joe made of pork or beef? ›

Ground beef is the traditional meat for this recipe. Choose more lean meat for less fat during cooking, I use 92% lean when making these. Ground pork is a unique addition to a Sloppy Joe recipe.

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