Healthy Sloppy Joes

These Healthy Sloppy Joes are made with lean ground beef, low-sugar ketchup and BBQ sauce and low-fat cheese. The indulgent recipe you crave without the guilt. Watch the video below!

Can you say sloppy joe in your head without instantly picturing Adam Sandler singing that Lunch lady song about them? 

I definitely cannot.

These Healthy Sloppy Joes are made with lean ground beef, low-sugar ketchup and BBQ sauce and low-fat cheese. The indulgent recipe you crave without the guilt.

Sloppy Joes are quintessential American food, aren’t they?

Here’s the funny thing, I never ate a single one growing up. Not one. 

My mom just didn’t do sloppy joes for some reason. We also didn’t do taco night or chicken nuggets. Breaded chicken cutlets, yes but not chicken nuggets.

Pasta was always on our weekly menu but typical “American” food just never made its way into rotation.

For a long time I equated sloppy joes to nothing more than a hamburger helper type of meal but when I finally ate a proper sloppy joe years later, I realized that’s not the case.

An indulgent recipe for healthier sloppy joes that doesn't skimp on flavor.

What is a Sloppy Joe?

Sloppy Joes are a quick and easy skillet meal that’s almost like a broken down hamburger. The basics are:

  • ground beef
  • onions
  • ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce

While not always “traditional” I prefer mine with cheese.

The whole premise of the sloppy joe is that it’s quick, cheap and easy food.

Nothing new when it comes to American cuisine.

These healthy sloppy joes have all the comforting elements of the classic recipe without the guilt!

How Do You Make A Sloppy Joe Healthy?

By definition, sloppy joes aren’t really unhealthy but there are definitely a few tweaks you can easily make to the recipe to make a healthy sloppy joe.

  1. Use lean ground beef
  2. Use no sugar added condiments like ketchup and BBQ sauce
  3. Use low-fat cheese if you’re adding cheese
  4. Throw a diced vegetable (there’s red bell pepper in these) into the ground beef mix for some added nutrition
  5. Serve on a whole wheat bun or English muffin

I love using Trader Joe’s 96/4 lean ground beef but 93/7 or even 90/10 are all good options for lean beef.

Of course, you could use ground turkey or chicken as well if you wanted to. Those are usually 92/8 or a 93/7 mix from the store.

Sloppy joes get a healthier makeover with lean ground beef and low sugar ketchup and BBQ sauce.

What Seasonings Are In These Healthy Sloppy Joes?

The condiments and seasonings are the best part of a sloppy joe in my opinion and what set it apart from being just a ground up burger.

While ketchup is traditional, I like to add BBQ sauce to my healthy sloppy joe recipe as well. It brings a little smokiness and you can easily find low-sugar or no sugar added BBQ sauce these days (I personally like the G Hughes brand).

The other *key* ingredient to sloppy joe seasoning is the vinegar.

love the tang that the apple cider vinegar brings to this dish.

I purposely use apple cider vinegar rather than red wine vinegar because I think it’s a little stronger in flavor which I really like against the ketchup and BBQ sauce.

A healthy version of the traditional sloppy joe recipe so you can indulge without the guilt.

How Do You Serve Sloppy Joes?

On a bun of course!

Tradition says sloppy joes are served on hamburger buns but in keeping with the healthier twist to these sloppy joes, I like to use a whole wheat English muffin instead.

If you’re looking to keep things gluten-free you could always make your own with this 2 minute paleo English muffin recipe, it’s made right in the microwave!

Some lettuce and homemade pickles round things out and if you really love the sweet and tangy thing, try some relish too!

Lean ground beef, low-fat cheese and low sugar condiments make these healthier sloppy joes a great alternative to the traditional dinner.

There aren’t many classic American meals I can say I truly love but that’s not the case with these healthy sloppy joes. 

I truly love this recipe.

It’s easy, ready in 25 minutes, healthy and an explosion of flavors with each bite.

It rivals a good burger for me and mostly because of that sweet and tangy savory flavor. Combine that with the melted cheese and it’s really a hard meal to beat.

Quick and easy healthy sloppy joes are a great dinner option that can be ready in under 30 minutes.

More Recipes Like These Healthy Sloppy Joes

Here are some other easy skillet meals to try:
Buffalo Turkey Cauliflower Skillet 
Turkey Skillet Mac and Cheese 
20 Minute Sweet & Spicy Pork Ramen Stir Fry 

This sloppy joe mac and cheese looks outrageous too for when you want some major comfort food in your life!

Or try these sloppy joe sweet potato fries – it’s like nachos and poutine had a baby in that creation!

Yield: 4 servings

Healthy Sloppy Joes

Healthy Sloppy Joes

These healthy sloppy joes are made with lean ground beef, low-sugar ketchup and BBQ sauce and low-fat cheese. The indulgent recipe you crave without the guilt!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (I use 96/4 from Trader Joes)
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup no sugar added ketchup (I use Heinz brand)
  • 1/4 cup sugar free BBQ sauce (I use G Hughes brand)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 -4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup low-fat shredded cheese (I use a Mexican tri-blend)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Once hot, add the beef to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes until browned, breaking up the meat with a spatula as it cooks.
  3. Add the onions, red pepper and garlic and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until softened.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of water to the pan. Stir to combine, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 7 minutes. If the mixture starts to stick to the pan and gets too dry, add up to an additional 2 tablespoons of water while cooking.
  6. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the meat mixture in the skillet. Cover with a lid for 2 minutes until melted.
  7. Serve with toasted english muffins, lettuce and pickles.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 432Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 674mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 37g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

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  1. Cooking newb

    I have to tell you – I am teaching myself how to cook (I don’t know how!) and of all the recipes on the internet, I chose this one to be my first. I hope you feel special because I looked at a million of them. Well, I am happy to report that I made sloppy joes today and they were absolutely amazing!! Your recipe was very easy to follow, quick, and so delicious. I’ve already eaten two (BTW for lack of any better options at the store, I ended up using Sticky Fingers BBQ and it tastes incredible). Thanks for making my first cooking experience a huge success. I cannot wait to try again and will be checking out your other recipes!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      Love this! So happy you liked the recipe and good luck in your new cooking adventures :)

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      You could try using tempeh instead and treating it like ground meat while cooking. I don’t use faux-meat products but there are many out there to resemble ground meat in the form of “crumbles” and things. For a real food alternative, maybe just use some finely chopped mushrooms and nuts. I know many that make vegetarian taco “meat” this way.


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