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.

A close up of a sandwich on a plate, with Sloppy joe

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.

A close up of a hot dog on a bun covered in toppings

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.

A pile of fries with sloppy joe on top

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 Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.