The Best Sloppy Joes I’ve Ever Made and 10 Delicious Meals to Make with the Leftovers

One simple substitution resulted in the most flavorful sloppy joes I've ever had -- and with these 10 leftover friendly meals, the fun lasted all week.

Sloppy joe doesn't receive near the respect it deserves. As soon as you read that, you were probably like, “Yeah that's true, never thought of that before.” And that's the problem.

You don't see lots of sloppy joe restaurants. You don't even see it as a menu item on either a diner's menu or some place like a gourmet burger spot. But sloppy joe is truly one of the most American dishes.

And it just got a whole lot better.

Ever have one of those mental moments when you realize that you can make something that's good way better with a simple modification that you can't believe you've never heard of before?

I had this moment a few weeks ago. I'm prepping to make some sloppy joes for dinner, as any upstanding, modern, health-conscious gentleman would choose to do. I open the fridge to pull out the ground beef when I stop myself.

Right in front of the ground beef is a package of spicy hot ground Italian sausage that I had bought to make some pasta with. If you've never swapped ground Italian sausage for ground beef in your spaghetti, you've got to try it. But not before you make sloppy joes with it.

The best part about this recipe is that there are literally only two ingredients you need: ground hot Italian sausage and a can of Mannwich. Now of course, you can spice this up with some diced onions, peppers, and celery if you'd like, but you don't have to.

The result changed my life forever. Ok, I'm exaggerating, but it did change how I'll make sloppy joes forever. The Italian sausage adds an awesome kick to the sauce's sweet and tang. Instant flavor upgrade.

Taste and memories from being a kid aside, there's an even greater reason I love making sloppy joes. It's one of the most versatile foods you can make.

Say what? It's true.

Make up a family sized batch of sloppy joes and you're going to be eating tasty for a week with the various spinoff dishes you can create with leftovers.

Don't believe me? Here are just 10 ideas you can use sloppy joe for that are as good, or better than, the original dish:

1. Chili Dogs
If you're lucky enough to be in the tri-state area of central Pennsylvania then you've probably had a Sheetz hot dog before. If you're unfamiliar, Sheetz is a family-owned gas station chain with a whole line of food better than most fast food restaurants, and the menu got its start with chili dogs, the likes of which are the best I've ever had.

Every other chili dog I've had in my life uses canned chili. Even if they do make it themselves, they put whatever that damn ingredient is in canned chili to make it taste like canned chili. Not Sheetz. Their recipe is more along the lines of Texas style chili, and you'll get a similar result at home topping your dogs with sloppy joe. Extra credit if you put the ground sausage in a food processor after cooking it, but before adding the sauce. This will give you a nice Coney-style texture.

2. Stuffed Bell Peppers
Have yourself sloppy joes on Monday, and serve your girlfriend leftovers on Tuesday by mixing some leftover joe with rice and cheese, stuff that into some peppers and bake for a bit.

3. Garlic Bread Topped with Sloppy Joe
Skip the Wheat Thins and give your guests something that'll blow their mind. Warm up French bread with butter and garlic on top, and spread on some sloppy joe. The garlic and French bread make it similar to cleaning up the excess sauce from your spaghetti dinner, arguably the best part of any pasta meal.

4. Shepard's Pie
Mix vegetables in with some sloppy joe in a casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes. Bake until warm.

5. Chili Fries
Pick up some frozen seasoned curlies from the grocery store and make yourself the best chili fries you've ever had. Bake the fries, then top with sloppy joe, onion, and shredded cheese.

6. Cincinnati-style Spaghetti
God bless all ya'll Ohioans. If you're unfamiliar, folks in Ohio love them some chili. They even have whole restaurants devoted to it. Ever been to a Skyline? Cincinnati-style spaghetti is noodles served with chili on top. The sloppy joe makes a nice substitute to chili or traditional marinara sauce. And with the kick from the Italian sausage swap, it makes even more sense.

7. Supreme Nachos
Top your favorite tortilla chips with refried beans, sloppy joe, onions, corn, black olives, sour cream, and shredded cheese. Bim bam boom. Best supreme nachos you've ever had.

8. Baked Potatoes
So maybe you're a little healthier than I, and you don't want to eat curly French fries. Bake some potatoes, and top with sloppy joe, shredded cheese, and chives. It's a whole meal by itself, man.

9. Mac & Cheese
The perfect mid-night snack after going out with friends? Mac & Cheese. The even perfect-er midnight snack? Mac & Cheese with spicy Italian sloppy joe mixed in.

10. Scrambled Eggs
Rounding out your week of joe, whip up scrambled eggs and mix in some sloppy joe and shredded cheese. You'll never order huevos rancheros again.

Got a tip for making delicious sloppy joe, or another recipe to include leftovers in? Share it with everyone in the comments!

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • markdotnet

    Try mixing sloppy joe with rice. Super easy, super tasty and super CHEAP! AWESOME!

  • Michael

    Ok so now you have made me dead hungry & I’m @ work 🙂 what can I do do ?? 😉

  • Kenneth

    yeah, the problem with this article is now I want a sloppy joe and I just went to Whole Foods yesterday. so … thanks for that.

  • Dan


    As a resident of the Western-PA area surrounded by Sheetz, I respectfully must disagree with you. There are many small local places which make chili dogs that far exceed the quality of a Sheetz chili dog.

    • Deb

      I am in SW Pa and the BEST is Shorty’s Hot Dog in Washington,Pa.

  • Andrew

    Hey Dan,

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. 😉 I lived in Central PA, not far from the first Sheetz, for almost 20 years. Moved around a good bit since then, and have yet to have one I like better.

    I order chili dogs any place I think they’ll be good and am always disappointed. Here in Los Angeles, Pink’s is famous for their hot dogs. People stand in line for an hour to get a Pink’s hot dog. I’ve done it three times, and every time I say it’s not worth it because Sheetz does it better and you get 2 for a buck fifty instead of the $7 Pink’s charges for one.

    I’d love to hear any recommendations for the Western/Central PA area the next time I’m back that way!

  • Daniel

    I love sloppy joes and I think I will be putting this article into practice soon. Thanks for reminding me how much I love sloppy joes.

  • Anna

    Can I have this Hot-Dog?

    Looks so–ooooo delicious!!!

  • Clark Minn

    Oh… Sloppy Joe makes me feel so hungry… Anyway, thank you for sharing these tips to take care of the left overs.

  • Jeremy

    Andrew, you have solved the problem of the week for me. I bought Italian sausage and am using half tonight to make a noodle-broccoli-sausage recipe. The other half of the sausage? Sloppy’in it up! THANKS for the great alternative use ideas!

  • Kenneth

    sloppy joe tacos! ohhh man.

  • Vernon

    What the ***. Thats tasty and i feel hungry. Thanks man. Great post.

  • Jo

    Thanks Andrew! I used to make a Shepard’s pie from the leftovers, and now I have 9 more options

  • Patrick

    This is a fantastic idea! I’ve been discovering the joy and versatility of left overs from black bean and corn quesadillas.

  • Nate

    Great post. Sloppy joes have been my favorite food since i was a kid and i have come up with lots of ways to use the leftovers . i can easily turn your 10 tips into 100 pretty quickly… how about sloppy joes breakfast burritos, sloppy joe pizza, sloppy joe over biscuits and cheese, sloppy joe tacos, all kinds of sloppy joe casseroles, sloppy joe topped burgers, open faced sloppy joe topped with a fried egg, etc, etc, etc… let’s be honest. you can put sloppy joes on anything and it will be great!