Smoked Sloppy Joes

5 from 9 votes
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Add a touch of smoke flavor to your Sloppy Joe recipe. Cook ground beef on a smoker or kettle grill with wood chunks to wow your guests and take your Sloppy Joe recipe to the next level.

Smoked Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a bun with pickled red onions

To really blow peoples minds, we add wine to richen to the sauce mix. Yep. Wine.

The thought of a sloppy joe will no doubt conjure up memories of school lunch (you know, back when they actually cooked hot lunches in school) or the memorable Adam Sandler & Chris Farley SNL Lunch Lady Land skit (how could we ever forget that?). But instead of yesterday’s meatloaf, we’re taking high quality ground beef, cooking it on the smoker, and incorporating it into a rich and indulgent sauce with the oh-so-super ingredient (wine!).

This is comfort food at its finest, my friends!

What is a Sloppy Joe?

Sloppy Joes are ground beef (or chicken, pork, turkey) mixed with spices and a tomato based sauce served with bread (most commonly a burger bun). The common ingredients of a Sloppy Joe are typically:

  • Ground Beef
  • Onion and Green Pepper
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato Sauce or Paste
  • Sugar
  • Chili Powder and Other Dried Spices

Where did Sloppy Joes come from?

Depending on what sources you review, the Original Sloppy Joe potentially came from a few different sources. From Sioux City Iowa, to Cuba. Check out this article from Chowhound for a nice run down of the history. One thing we are fairly certain about, is the chef was likely named… Joe.

How To Make Sloppy Joes From Scratch

We are all about making these from scratch. We start by smoking seasoned ground beef for about an hour. While it is smoking, we make our tomato/season base in a large cast iron pan.

You can make the tomato sauce on the stovetop, or if you have room you can cook it on the smoker to give it added smoke. Our preference is to smoke the ground beef, then add it to the mix, and let it thicken and incorporate on the grill. If this isn’t an option, then on the stovetop is just fine!

Sloppy Joe filling in a cast iron skillet in a smoker

When the beef has developed a nice smoky flavor, we combine them together and let simmer to incorporate that smoke into the sauce and serve with a Brioche bun and something pickled over the top. We love our smoked pickled onions.

Pro Tip: What makes our recipe stand out? Well, it’s the wine. We add wine to the sauce. Yep. We did that. What wine you may ask? A fruit forward wine like a new world Syrah (we like those from Washington or Australia). You can also use a Zinfandel or Malbec for the sauce.

Smoking the Ground Beef For Sloppy Joes

Use a fruit wood and set the smoker for 225 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the ground beef with your favorite rub, and spread out the ground beef on a sheet tray. Smoke for about an hour or until the internal temperature of larger clumps of the beef is 160 degrees F.

Ground beef cooking on a baking sheet in the smoker

The fat will collect while it cooks, so stir up the beef about 20 minutes into the cook. Drain the fat before you add the ground beef to the tomato sauce mix.

What Type of Ground Beef Should I use for Sloppy Joes?

80/20 ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat) or up to 90/10 is perfect. The flavor and texture tend to get lost when using really lean ground beef. Yes, you can substitute ground chicken, pork, or turkey as well.

We prefer to select really good quality ground beef. Ours comes from Snake River Farms. I would go out of your way to buy a local high quality beef or grab a few pounds from Snake River. These American Wagyu ground beef packs have a ton of flavor. And no, the flavor does not get lost in the sauce. It makes it even better!

Smoked Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a bun topped with pickled red onions

How Do You Thicken Sloppy Joe Sauce

High heat and a simmer will help reduce and thicken any sauce for this recipe. Also consider adding more tomato paste, ketchup or a combination of both. If the sauce is too thick, add chicken stock, Worcestershire, or more wine, and continue cooking until you like the consistency.

How To Serve Sloppy Joes

  • Classic sandwich
  • Sliders, for smaller portions
  • Served over eggs and roasted potatoes for a breakfast take
  • Go bun-free and top a bed of greens with a scoop of the mixture, or with butter lettuce or endive as lettuce cups
  • 2 am microwave reheat after an evening of IPAs

What Sides Go With Sloppy Joe’s?

Chips, plus a dill pickle for that lovely salt and acid combo. That’s it. Not into that? Try some of these recipes:

Is Manwich and Sloppy Joes the Same Thing?

Yep. Basically Manwich is the seasoning or sauce (or both) for the quick and easy version. Ours is arguably better.

Sloppy Joe Recipe made with Smoked Beef

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Smoked Sloppy Joe Sandwich on a bun
5 from 9 votes

Smoked Sloppy Joes

Add a touch of smoke flavor to your Sloppy Joe recipe. Cook ground beef in a smoker or kettle grill with wood chunks to take your Sloppy Joe Sandwiches to the next level.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6 people


  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80/20
  • 2 tablespoons favorite dry rub
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup diced green pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 cups syrah or other fruit forward red wine
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


How To Smoke Ground Beef

  • Preheat smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (F) using fruit wood.
  • Layout bulk ground beef on a sheet tray. Coat with dry rub. And place on smoker for up to 60 minutes or until the larger clumps reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
  • Chop up the ground beef into smaller pieces and add to the sauce simmer.

For The Sloppy Joe Sauce

  • While beef is smoking and using a large cast iron skillet over medium heat add olive oil, red onions and peppers. Stir to soften, but not brown or caramelize. About 10 minutes. Adjust heat down if needed.
  • Add garlic and stir for additional two minutes. Add wine bring to a simmer for 2 minutes while stirring.
  • Add kethcup, tomato paste, Worcestershire, hot sauce, paprika, dry mustard, and salt and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for additional 10 – 15 minutes. Add the smoked beef.
  • When done, serve topped with a pickle and a Brioche hamburger bun with your favorite side.


For Our Dry Rub: We use SPG (Salt, Pepper, Granulated Garlic) as our beef rub base. We make it in bulk by combining 1/2 cup of each and storing it in a mason jar. So for our rub we used 2 tablespoons of our SPG rub.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: dinner
Cuisine: bbq, Comfort Food, dinner
Servings: 6 people
Keyword: sloppy joes
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!
Someone holding a Smoked Sloppy Joe Sandwich

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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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    1. The wine does simmer out if you follow the steps. After 2 minutes of simmering or a boil the alcohol evaporates with how little wine is in the recipe.

  1. 5 stars
    I used a cabernet sauvignon instead of syrah, any dry red should work well. I also used Traeger Saskatchewan rub for the ground beef and 2 Tbsp prepared mustard instead of dry mustard. Never had sloppy joes this good. Kudos.

  2. 5 stars
    Awesome! I followed the recipe as written except smoked the meat on a 16×16 teflon cooking mat and seasoned with Hey, Grill Hey Sweet Rub (brown sugar, sea salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard and cayenne). I was second guessing myself on the rub since I was adding brown sugar and doubling down a few ingredients. Ultimately the bit of sweet in the rub didn’t take away from the wine. I was conservative with the amount of rub that I used and it did have a bit of kick to it, likely due to the aforementioned doubling down. Great sloppy joes and I can see using this as a base to other appetizers etc. that use ground beef.

      1. 5 stars
        Follow up to original review:

        Made a pizza on the smoker suing this meat. Canned pizza sauce and sliced gouda. Was very tasty.