Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joes. (Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

You can’t take yourself too seriously when you’re eating a sloppy Joe sandwich. You’re bound to giggle at some point when the saucy meat starts spilling out of the bun, and, inevitably, at least some winds up on your face and fingers. It’s officially fun food, loved by kids and adults alike.

While it’s typically not considered healthful, with fatty meat, salt and sugar in spades, just a few swaps can turn the sandwich into a good-for-you meal that is just as joyful.

In the accompanying recipe, there’s ground beef, but it is lean, and once browned it is mixed with lots of finely chopped, sauteed mushrooms whose meaty taste and texture allow them to blend in with the beef, adding vegetable nutrition, seamlessly. There’s plenty of red bell pepper upping the produce ante, too.

The mouthwatering sauce gets its sweetness from molasses, rather than refined sugar, which adds a distinctive deep flavor and valuable minerals. And healthful seasonings — onion, garlic, chili powder, powdered mustard, cider vinegar — bring big flavor to the tomato-based sauce so you don’t need to lean on salt to get a punchy taste.

Served on whole-grain buns, the sloppy Joe makes for a meal that allows the cook to use a single skillet. Just remember to bring extra napkins to the table — and forks for the delicious overflow that lands on the plate. I dare you not to smile while eating it.

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Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joes

4 servings

From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.


12 ounces lean ground beef (90 percent lean or higher)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces sliced white button mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and finely chopped

One 15-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 whole-wheat hamburger buns


Brown the beef in a very large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks, for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a plate.

Add the oil to the pan (medium-high heat); once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion and red bell pepper; cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have picked up a little color and the red bell pepper has softened. Stir in the garlic; cook for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until they release their moisture and begin to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium. Return the beef to the skillet, then stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, molasses, chili powder, vinegar, powdered mustard, salt and black pepper, until well blended. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens and most of its liquid has evaporated.

To serve, pile about ¾ cup of the mixture onto each split hamburger bun. Serve warm.

Nutrition | Per serving: 410 calories, 27 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 520 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

Recipe tested by Carol Cannizarro; email questions to

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