Main dish Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex sloppy Joe sandwich

Tex Mex sloppy joe DSC3332

The other day, I was in a taqueria eating a sandwich stuffed with a spicy, saucy picadillo that was rich with tomatoes and chiles. It was delicious, but it was also a bit of a mess as the meat kept sliding out of the bun every time I took a bite. Finally, I gave up on using my hands and grabbed a knife and a fork. While I was tucking into the sandwich, it reminded me of something but I couldn’t figure it out. Then it occurred to me: this was a Tex-Mex sloppy Joe.

Ah, the sloppy Joe—that much loved sandwich often found at tailgates, school cafeterias, and the homes of busy families. Despite its popularity, it’s not a sandwich I indulge in very often, though when I was a kid mom used to make them for Saturday lunches. I asked her why we ate them every Saturday and she said because they were quick yet good.

And it’s true—they’re are a snap to make, but their sweet and savory flavor belies their simplicity. Plus there’s also an adventure in every bite—will the meat stay in the bun or land in your shirt? This sandwich definitely lives up to its name.

Tex-Mex sloppy Joe | Homesick Texan

That said, while the sandwich isn’t very neat, some say actually it was named after a Havana bar popular in the 1940s and not its less-than-tidy appearance. The bar was called Sloppy Joe’s, and as the story goes, its cook took some leftover picadillo and tossed it with a spicy tomato sauce. He then placed the meat between in a bun and called it a Sloppy Joe in a nod to his employer.

Of course, while this is all speculation and its true origins are a bit murky, you can’t dispute that this sandwich has been a classic for almost 70 years. Typically, a sloppy Joe is loose ground beef that’s been cooked in a simple sauce made up of ketchup, Worcestershire and aromatics. From there, however, you can doll them up anyway you like.

For my Tex-Mex sloppy Joes, I throw in a chipotle chile for heat. I also cut back on the ketchup to tone down the sweetness, add smoked paprika for its earthiness, simmer the meat with beer for depth, and finish it with a splash of lime juice to make it bright. To serve, I pile it onto a bun along with chopped cilantro, onions, a sprinkle of Cotija cheese, and a generous spoonful of creamy guacamole.

Tex-Mex sloppy Joe | Homesick Texan

While my family only ate sloppy Joes on Saturdays, I find they are terrific any day of the week. But no matter when you enjoy them, know this: a knife and a fork along with a pile of napkins are a must. It’s delicious, yes, but it’s also very messy. Though I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tex Mex sloppy joe DSC3332
5 from 2 votes

Tex-Mex sloppy Joe sandwich

Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 chipotle chile en adobo
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 12 ounces beer, such as Mexican lager
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 to 6 warm buns for serving
  • Guacamole, for serving
  • Cilantro, for serving
  • Onions, for serving
  • Sliced jalepeños, for serving
  • Cotija cheese, for serving


  1. In a large skillet, on medium-low heat, while stirring occasionally, cook the meat until browned, about 10 minutes. (If you like, you can drain the extra fat once the meat is browned.) Add the onions and diced bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

  2. Meanwhile, in a blender mix the tomato sauce, chipotle chile, oregano, ground cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Pour tomato salsa into the skillet along with the beer, ketchup and half of the cilantro. Stir until well combined.

  3. Cook on medium-low heat uncovered for 15 minutes and then stir in the remaining cilantro and lime juice. Adjust seasonings and add salt and black pepper to taste.

  4. Serve on warm buns with guacamole, cilantro, onion, jalapeño slices and Cotija cheese.

  1. That is a serious-looking sandwich! I like how much guac you served up on that bun.

  2. Becki Jacobs

    I was just daydreaming about sloppy joe's earlier today and then I saw your post. I love the variation with these and the guacamole on top is perfect!

  3. Lisa Fain

    Ileana–I love guacamole!

    Becki–It must be the season for sloppy Joes.

  4. Miss Migas

    What a wonderful sandwich!! I was just having a look on different sloopy joe's recipes those past days, yours looks really yummy.

  5. Lisa Fain

    Miss Migas–It is indeed a wonderful sandwich. Thank you!

  6. DessertForTwo

    Lisa! This is genius! I can't wait to indulge! I would love to eat a taqueria with you some day. We wouldn't have to talk, just pass napkins until the good stuff is gone. Then we can talk about Texas food all day 🙂

  7. Lisa Fain

    DessertForTwo–Sounds like my kind of fun!

  8. This looks amazing. I've never had a sloppy Joe – I'd be tempted to add a fried egg…

  9. Lisa Fain

    Lizzie–A fried egg sounds like a wonderful addition!

  10. bnmseven

    Hi Lisa! I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I'm so excited about it! I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, but I now live in Stamford, Connecticut. And oh how I miss Texas and its food! I look forward to trying out these sloppy joes!

    One question–I was looking around Stop and Shop (the grocery chain here) the other day to see if they have cotija cheese (since you seem to use it in many of your recipes) but I couldn't find it… any suggestions?

  11. Lisa Fain

    bnmseven–If there are any Mexican grocers in Stamford, they'll have it. Likewise, Whole Foods in NYC sells Cotija so perhaps they have it in CT, too. Though for a simpler solution, crumbled feta is in an excellent substitute.

  12. clockwork lemon

    This looks fabulous! I especially love the addition of guacamole!

  13. marthameetslucy

    I haven't had a sloppy joe in years, and I was just thinking last week how good one sounded. Your sounds even better. Anything with guacamole is going to be good. I'm pretty sure it's a scientific fact.

  14. Lisa Fain

    clockwork lemon–Guacamole pretty much makes everything bette.r

    marthameetslucy–Thank you. And yep, that's a science I completely understand!

  15. The Cozy Herbivore

    Love the addition of the guacamole! And as a kid, sloppy joe's were my FAVORITE. There's something about being allowed to be messy that's so much fun, right? I'd love to try a vegetarian version of your recipe– great idea!

  16. bubsthename

    I love cotija cheese! And this looks so delicious.

  17. Lisa Fain

    The Cozy Herbivore-Yes, the messiness factor definitely makes eating them a lot more fun. And I bet this would be good with beans, tofu or TVP.

    bubsthename–Cotija cheese is one of my favorites, too!

  18. This looks ridiculous and Amaazzzzing!

  19. Looks great! I made your 1 hr chili last week and we loved it. It is yummy and like none I have ever eaten.

  20. Lisa Fain

    Natsumi–Thank you!

    Winnie–I'm so glad you enjoyed the chili!

  21. Haven't had a sloppy joe in years! I think I'll have to make some soon. My memory is kicking in. 🙂

  22. FirePhrase

    Mine eyes have seen the glory. Thanks for planning my Sunday dinner!

  23. Emily Garten

    My mother is a great cook, but her version of Sloppy Joes was something she called "souper burgers." Ground beef with a can of Campbells vegetable soup stirred in. It tasted just about as gross as it looked. She's such a good cook otherwise, it must have been her "oh dear lord I have 5 kids and have to feed them SOMEthing!" dinner. So, I'll pass on the Joes and just take that beautiful guac if you don't mind. 🙂 I love your site!

  24. Wow Lisa, another home run! I would love to taste this. I represent your "busy family" part of the story. We wouldn't make it without a tub of Joes in the freezer to get us through a hectic time; it's our ultimate "dinner in a minute". This would be a lovely change to it but I confess I think it would be great rolled up as a burrito.

  25. I have always loved sloppy joes! It's one of those kid foods you never grow out of. And I love the idea of some heat, and the guacamole on there too. It looks wonderful!

  26. I made this tonight for dinner using ground bison. It was delicious! We made soft tacos instead of a sandwich. I adored sloppy joes when I was a kid. This spicier, more complex version is just the recipe I needed. Thanks so much.

  27. Lisa Fain

    Maureen–They're definitely nostalgic.

    FinePhrase–Enjoy your Sunday dinner!

    Emily–That does sound pretty unappetizing!

    Celeste–You know, i think it would be great in a tortilla, too!

  28. Lisa Fain

    Katie–I stopped eating them but when I started again, I'd forgotten how great they can be.

    Deena–So pleased that y'all enjoyed the sloppy Joes. And I love that you made soft tacos with them.

  29. This texmex version of sloppy joes sounds amazing!

  30. Adrienne @ TinyGirlTinyKitchen

    I'm not usually a sloppy joe fan, but this looks amazing!
    I just discovered your blog and I'm obsessed! I too am a Houston girl living in new york and there are few things I miss more than tex-mex (especially ninfa's)!

  31. Tex Jernigan

    Mmmm. Delicious. Just made it! We did everything wrong and it still tasted great. Added some Crystal brand hot sauce to make it Louisiana style, too.

  32. No "school cafeteria" Sloppy Joe ever looked like that!

  33. Holy crap, jalapenos on a sloppy joe?? Thats genius. Looks so spicy-delicious.

  34. I'm making these tonight!

  35. Lisa Fain


    Adrienne–Yep, I know just how you feel!

    Tex–Crystal Hot Sauce sounds like a fine addition!

  36. Lisa Fain

    Shelley–Nope, I reckon you are correct!

    Paige–I can put jalapeños on just about anything!


  37. We had these last night and they were wonderful. The cheese was a perfect complement to all the spices going on. Truly a keeper for our family!

  38. Lisa Fain

    Leslie–Thank you! I'm so pleased y'all enjoyed them!

  39. Anonymous

    I made these last night. A big hit with my hubby who ate too much. 😉 They were so good!

  40. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Excellent! I'm glad y'all enjoyed them!

  41. shoreacres

    I still have my mother's hand-written recipe for what she called "Saturday Night Sandwich Spread". It was a sloppy joe, for sure, and her version still tastes wonderful to me when I need some comfort food.

    But that was Iowa, and this is Texas! Your version looks great, & I'll give it a try this week.

  42. leftovers of this work well for fillings for empanadas!

  43. Kimberly

    I made this recipe with ground tofu "meat" and used monterey jack instead of cotija… smashing! I looooved the heat!

  44. Amanda Fry

    I'm so glad I stumbled upon this blog today! This sloppy joe sandwich looks divine! I will definitely be making it this week!

  45. Linnea, 23

    I'm a long time lurker and fan. This sandwich looks so delicious. It reminds me of when I was a kid and our babysitter would make us 'taco burgers, brings back memories. Same concept, but this looks so much better, and homemade! Love your stuff!

  46. netnet87

    I am so excited to try these! I'm a Texan that's been stuck in North Dakota for 2 years now and you're blog just made my day! 🙂

  47. Anonymous

    This sounds great. I'm also a homesick texan. i was wondering if i could sub the beer for something else? thanks. btw, i love your picture of the bluebonnets & cant wait to get back home to see them for myself.


  48. Lisa Fain

    Michelle–You could use beef broth or club soda.

  49. NativeNM

    Hi Lisa,
    I'm a longtime fan of your blog and absolutely loved these Tex Mex Sloppy Joe's. I made a similar version with some changes to the chiles and spices and wondered if it would be okay to post on my blog. I would love to give credit to your wonderful blog for the inspiration.
    Jan aka NativeNM

  50. Just wanted to let you know I made these a few days ago, and we all liked them (including my toddler)! I didn't get a good pic so I won't blog them now, but it's just another reason to make them again. L)

  51. The Fierros

    Made these last night….SO good. Even my husband, my macho Mexicano, liked them and he hates Sloppy Joes. So spicy, so delicious! Thank you so much for this riff – the family voted it into the "keeper folder"! Wish I had brought some to work to have for lunch…could use a little spice today! 🙂 Thanks again for your complete and utter awesomeness!

  52. I made these last night, and they were a big hit. I can't find Cotija cheese in Australia, so I subbed crumbled Greek feta. I also used homemade pickled onions. Great recipe!

  53. I stumbled upon your recipe while looking for a sloppy joe with egg recipe for my college son who had loved a similar dish at a Mexican restaurant near his school. I made them tonight for the family and they were a hit. Definitely keeping the recipe handy for future meals.

  54. Like Shoreacres, I grew up in Iowa (outside of the Air Force years in Texas in the middle 50s) and although my mom sometimes made sloppy joes, I mostly remember them from the school cafeteria which never served patty hamburgers. Mom used canned tomato soup for the sloppy part and always included plenty of sauteed diced onion–my dad didn’t care for them, so it wasn’t often on our dinner table. Canned Manwich sauce showed up in 1969 when my kids were tiny, and I used that a few times. I probably haven’t cooked a sloppy joe since 1980. During a visit to Iowa in the late 90s, DH and I sought out a Maid-Rite, advertised as THE iconic Iowa sandwich (it was a pork “loin” during my growing up years because I never saw a Maid-Rite in East Central Iowa during my youth). YUCK! Your more sophisticated recipe, however, does sound interesting enough to try again. Chipotles, ground beef, and guac–what could go amiss?

    • Lisa Fain

      Janet–Little known fact but I lived in Iowa City briefly in the early 1990s. Hope you enjoy this recipe–I’m certain it’s an improvement on Midwestern loose meat sandwiches!

      • I did later live in Austin from 1986 through 2000 and have always been a Texan in my heart.

  55. Patrick T. Soltis

    Ms. Fain,

    If I’m not mistaken, Sloppy Joe’s was a bar in Key West, Florida, and a favorite hang-out of Ernest Hemingway at one time. It may still exist. I don’t know whether the bar had any relationship to the sandwich.

    We used to get them in junior- and high-school cafeterias in the 1960s. Your version looks good. Need to try it one of these days!



    • Lisa Fain

      Patrick–I’ve never been to Key West but will look up that bar when I visit. What an interesting history!

  56. Lisa, I am making this tomorrow at our little trailer on the beach in Jamaica Beach. The recipe sounds delicious and I have everything except the beer and chipolte pepper. Easily remedied. Thanks for this recipe.

  57. Carl Moore

    Made this last night. It was the best Sloppy Joe sandwich I’ve ever eaten! I had two, matter of fact, one with only the mix and the other with Cotija cheese, diced onions and Old El Paso jalapeno slices. This will be my go to recipe for Sloppy Joes. Good job Lisa!

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