entertainingfoodFood & Drinkin the kitchen withkristina gillrecipes

in the kitchen with: kobekat’s sloppy joe sliders

by Kristina Gill

One of my favorite things to do every afternoon when I get home is play a quick game or two of Lexulous online (modified Scrabble). Over time, I’ve seen the same people and as with any other social activity, I’ve ended up talking to my opponents/teammates about where they live in the world, what time it is when we’re playing, and most importantly, what the next meal is. This week’s recipe comes from one of my favorite players, Kathy Trim, also known as “kobekat.” One day when she mentioned she’d be making Sloppy Joes for dinner, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to invite her to share one of her family’s favorite recipes with us on the column. My adult love for this sandwich was rekindled a few years ago after reading an article by Andrea Strong in the New York Times called “An Ode to Sloppy Joe, a Delicious Mess,” and it’s a recipe I’ve wanted to see here for a long time. It’s so easy to make and it’s the perfect party food when you want to put out a nice make-your-own buffet. We’d love to know how you make your Sloppy Joes delicious, especially if you have a vegetarian alternative! — Kristina

About kobekat: Kathy Trim is a Kansas-native who has lived in Kobe, Japan for over 20 years where she has raised four children, taught English and American cooking, and loved soaking up all things Japanese. In her free time she enjoys baking, collecting recipes, reading, and word games. She has a poodle named Toby and is a proud new grandmother to baby Leo!

CLICK HERE for the full recipe after the jump!

Sloppy Joes


  • 2 lbs. ground beef (or beef/pork mix)
  • 2 medium-sized onions, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or 2–3 tbsp. prepared minced garlic (jar)
  • one 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • two 8 oz. cans tomato puree or sauce (16 oz. total)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (adjust according to taste)
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar

1. Brown ground beef in skillet with onions and garlic until completely browned and onions are translucent and tender. Remove as much grease as possible from the beef mixture.

2. Add tomato paste and tomato puree and mix well.

3. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top and stir in thoroughly.

4. Splash vinegar all over the top and then mix in well.

5. Simmer for about 20 minutes so that the flavors can blend together.

6. Serve on hamburger buns or other type of sliced rolls.

For variation: Saute 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms with the meat, onions and garlic. Add 1 slice of processed cheese, or your favorite cheese, to each sandwich just prior to serving.

Photography by Kristina Gill. Sloppy Joe meat in a small flared bowl (white), on fish platter (milk) and salad plate (milk) all by mud australia; mini hamburger buns on vintage cheese board; napkin by IKEA; towel with red and yellow stripe, spoon and knife, vintage.

Why Kat Chose This Recipe
When I was first married, I found a recipe for a very American hot meat sandwich called “Sloppy Joes.” They are similar to hamburgers, and often served on a type of roll or hamburger bun, but easier to make, especially for a crowd. My husband and I love to entertain so I am always on the lookout for great easy party recipes for a gang of people. Each time I made this recipe, I tweaked it a little more until I got it just the way I like it best and also got the best reviews from my guests.

After a few years, the kids started coming along and we moved to Japan. It was difficult and expensive to get large cuts of beef (like I had grown up with in my native Kansas) and so along with the chicken and fish, I often made this recipe with ground beef/pork for my family. It became a family favorite and even the Japanese really enjoy it because they’ve never eaten anything like it before. Enjoy!!

Suggested For You


  • There is a beach restaurant in Treasure Island, FL that does sloppy joe nachos! Think replace chicken with sloppy joes, yum!

  • One of my favorite recipes of all time happens to be a sloppy Joe recipe that is not only vegetarian… It’s vegan! The recipe replaces the ground beef with yummy lentils. I believe it comes out of the “vegan with a vengeance” cookbook. It’s a MUST try for everyone!

  • Sloppy Joes are my favorite of all time as well. I think I could eat these morning, noon and night.

    What a great recipe. Thank you!

  • Sloppy Joes are one of my all time favorites – instantly brings back memories of many messy but delicious childhood meals! Nowadays I don’t eat beef, I usually substitute ground turkey in all my chilis – I’m going to try it in Sloppy Joes too. Thanks!

  • I had a dream about these Monday night, & I’m not kidding! I think this just clarifies my dream needs to come true very soon–like tonight!

    Thanks for the dinner idea:)

  • I don’t care much for sloppy joes (too many camp out dinners) but those are making my mouth water. Maybe if it actually cools off below 450F around here we’ll have a sentimental revisit.

  • Blast from the past! My old lunch lady would be proud. Trend prediction: now that “elegant comfort food” has been the rage, I see “stylish cafeteria food” as the next big thing!
    Maybe it is already and I didn’t notice. Next time I see a menu with a mission statement I’ll be sure to look for tater tots!

  • Hi Sara,

    Funny you should say that. The first time I shot these, the bread was not very nice. Grace asked me if the recipe called for uncooked dinner rolls. LOL. The next week, I went to the bakery and was lucky to find a batch of these buns coming straight from the oven. It was such a nice smell carrying the bag to my office and then home later in the day!!!

    I’m sure you can find the right bun that soaks up the sauce but doesn’t fall apart! If not, we’ll try to post a recipe some day for buns that fit that bill!


  • My recipe is similar, and I add a little dry mustard and some ginger.

    A different take on it is to go for a mole’ flavor. That is, add chiles, unsweetened chocolate, and spices for a Mexican take on it.

    And, dare I say it? Go completely off the diet and top with cheese!

  • Yum! I love Sloppy Joe’s, and needed a fun idea for tonight- thanks!

    No little ones in my house so we cut the sugar in half (a cup seemed like a LOT!), added fresh ginger and dry mustard, as Jackie suggested, and used some great rolls from a local organic bakery. Husband made a Barnum (Was Right) Cocktail (it’s a variation on a Pegu Club) to go with.

    Super yummy night in for the end of the week!

  • Jackie and Cat–

    I thought that a cup for 2.2 pounds of meat might seem like a lot for some people. I experimented with a variation of adding half that amount and instead of regular vinegar using balsamic vinegar. I find that I like a little bit of sweetness in the sloppy joe, but am intrigued by Jackie’s mustard and ginger idea and think I will try that variant next time!

    Thank you both for sharing!


  • For somebody that doesn’t love to cook, this recipe actually looks very appealing. I lean towards uncomplicated recipes because I don’t trust myself in the kitchen. Sloppy Joes will now be on next week’s dinner menu!

  • Nom nom, this is simmering on my stove as i type! I made it with buffalo (which i think is sweeter to begin with, so i about quartered the sugar), added some smoked paprika, and as per Jackie’s suggestion tossed in some dry mustard too. The little tidbits I’ve tasted have been scrumptious!

  • Morningstar Farms and Boca both make great veggie crumbles which work beautifully in any recipe calling for ground beef. I make tacos this way for my omnivorous hubby and nephew, and they both swear they can’t tell the difference. AND remember, using the veg alternative cuts out the cholesterol, as well as much of the fat and calories!

  • I’m betting a brioche or sourdough roll would compliment the flavor and be sturdy enough to absorb all the “slop” and not fall apart.

  • easy, lovely recipe. too sweet for me, i tried adding other things to make it less sweet but didn’t work. i will cut back on the sugar by a lot next time!

  • @diana – Thanks for trying the recipe and letting us know how it worked! It is indeed a good idea to start with a tiny bit of sugar and add more to fit your palate.

  • i completely agree with diana – these were easy and i reduced the sugar, but these were still too sweet for us. i also tried adding other things to make it less sweet but to no avail.
    i’m excited to make them again, though, with next to no sugar.

  • This recipe looks yummy for sure but my problem is also the sugar AND the bread! So what I do is leave out the sugar or use just a touch of splenda or the like and I then use lettuce leaves to use as a wrap instead of the bun. I add cheese a little sour cream and avocado and I’m all set. You can also vary this a bit and add cumin instead to make it more of a taco recipe. I hope that inspires!

  • LOL! I was just telling my husband this week that I needed his mother’s recipe! I know she uses ketchup and no (or little) sugar and a bit of peppers as well as onions… I guess I’ll try this one instead and just add the veggies. Looks SOOO yummy!

  • I don’t eat meat, but I really enjoyed Kathy’s story! I’m even more curious how she ended up in Japan :)

  • I wish I had read the comments before I dove into the recipe! It came out super duper sweet … but oddly enough, a lot like the spaghetti sauce I had in Singapore (long story!) I trooped though and added mustard and dill pickles to my sandwich to cut it a bit. I took a part of it out the next day, threw in some taco spices, and have them rolled up in tortillas with cheese for baked chimichangas :)

  • Hello there. I bumped into your ste while surfing the net. Your bread looks delicious! I am also living in kobe and trying to start up a sandwich buisness. Im looking for someone who can make some nice sourdough for my sandwiches. Could you point me in the right direction? Thanks for your time!