The king of all sloppy joe recipes: This one is delectable with the addition of melt-in-your-mouth caramelized onions.

Caramelized onion sloppy joes: Adding caramelized onions to these classic sandwiches makes them 10x better!

Sloppy joes are so easy to make – it’s no wonder my mother made them about once a week when we were growing up!

While I still enjoy them today, I like to make more of a grown-up version. (Hence, the caramelized onions!)

These sloppy joes are extra good for a few reasons:

  • There are mushrooms and yellow bell peppers added, for extra flavor and nutritional value.
  • There is umami seasoning blend added (purchased at Trader Joe’s) which gives it more flavor, depth, and a certain something-something in terms of flavor.
  • They’re topped with caramelized onions. Enough said.

Sloppy joes with caramelized onions: SUCH great flavor with the addition of caramelized onions!

Key To Making Great Sloppy Joes

The recipe I’m sharing here will make sloppy joes that are really good. But the key to making awesome sloppy joes is to customize as you go.

I want to encourage you to experiment and tweak this recipe as you go.

Don’t be afraid to taste the meat as you go, and add any of the following based on the flavor:

  • Not sweet enough? Add additional brown sugar, a teaspoon at a time. Or add a bit of white sugar, honey or maple syrup.
  • Not flavorful enough? Add a pinch more salt or garlic powder – or an extra squeeze of ketchup. 
  • Not spicy enough? Add cayenne pepper powder or sriracha sauce, a pinch (or squeeze) at a time. 
  • Kind of blah? Acid can solve that. Add more apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon at a time.

The key is to add slowly and keep tasting. You can’t undo adding these ingredients!

  • The bun: These sloppy joes are great served on a toasted brioche bun. To do this, butter the insides of a brioche bun, and place butter-side down in an oiled frying pan set over medium heat. Toast for a couple of minutes.

Caramelized onion sloppy joes: Sloppy joes with a TON of great flavor!

Need More Reasons To Make Sloppy Joes?

They take about 15 minutes to make

Everything is made in one pan

They can be made ahead of time

Leftovers can be frozen

And finally? The caramelized onions. I chose not to mix them into the meat – they tend to get lost in the mix. But they’re piled on top.

You can make the caramelized onions ahead of time. If you have leftovers, freeze them for future use or use them as a pizza topping, sandwich ingredient, with scrambled eggs or make a batch of homemade French onion soup.

Here Are Some More Sloppy Joe Recipes:

Spicy sloppy joes

Oven-baked sloppy joes

Black bean sloppy joes

Cheesy sloppy joe pie


Caramelized onion sloppy joes: Adding caramelized onions to these classic sandwiches makes them 10x better!

Caramelized Onion Sloppy Joes

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

You can make the caramelized onions ahead of time, and freeze any leftovers you may have.


For sloppy joes

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef (85 or 90 percent lean)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Trader Joe's multipurpose umami seasoning (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • Brioche buns, for serving
  • Pickles, for serving

For caramelized onions

  • 4 medium yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large saucepan, brown ground beef and onion, chopping meat as you go. If desired, drain fat from the pan.
  2. Return meat and onion to the pan, and add rest of sloppy joe ingredients. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. To make caramelized onions: Peel onions, cut in half, and thinly slice into half-moons. Place onions and butter in a large frying pan. Turn on heat to medium, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, add sugar and salt. Continue cooking for 30 or more minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are nicely caramelized.
  4. Serve on toasted brioche buns.

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