Recipe: Turkey Sloppy Joes (and a story)

Turkey Sloppy Joes, Courtesy:
Turkey Sloppy Joes, Courtesy:


It’s been decades since I have had a Sloppy Joe sandwich. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I will anyway – one of my brothers is named Joe. So, of course, when we had these sandwiches for dinner, we would tease him non-stop and call him Sloppy Joe. Yes, this was mean. Yes, this was childish. But, yes, we were kids. Don’t worry, each of us endured our fair share of teasing for one thing or another over the years. It was equal opportunity sibling taunting.


My mother didn’t escape either – remember Shake and Bake (the breading mix for poultry)?  Sure you do. Well, when she would make it, we used to call it Shake and Puke. She really hated that. Interestingly, she stopped making it after a while. (Is it bad taste to say “puke” on a food related blog? Apologies in advance). You can’t make this stuff up. 

Anyway…this is a lightened up version of the traditional Sloppy Joe. Instead of ground beef, we are using lean ground turkey. Also, the whole wheat hamburger buns are a healthier choice than the white version. This mixture didn’t have the same “sloppy” consistency which I remember as a kid.  Probably all that lean, healthy turkey causing the problem. As it was cooking, I could see that it needed more sauce, so I increased the ketchup and barbecue sauce to get to the drippy, messy mix I fondly recalled.  Grab a napkin and get busy.


1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup no-salt-added ketchup
3 Tbsp. barbecue sauce
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, split


  1. In a nonstick skillet, cook turkey and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.
  2. Stir in the ketchup, barbecue sauce, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve on buns (toasted if desired)

Food Mingle Blog Alternatives and Substitutions:

  • This recipe could use more sauce, so I added just a bit more barbecue sauce and ketchup while it was cooking.
  • If you would like to make this with a Mexican-style twist, try adding taco seasoning and shredded cheese.
  • I am not a fan of the celery seed. I used it, but I don’t think that it added anything special, so don’t go out and buy it just for this recipe. Instead, add some minced garlic or red pepper flakes to give this recipe some extra spice.

Yield: 6 sandwich servings

Source: (originally published as Turkey Sloppy Joes in Quick Cooking July/August 1998, p44)



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