Sloppy Joes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They can be served as little sliders, or they can require nearly three hands just to hold onto them. Hello, napkin nirvana!
Whether you like your Sloppy Joe a little more on the spicy side or a little more on the sweet and savory side, there’s really no denying the appeal of this well-loved favorite.
The base can vary as much as the flavor profile. They can be made with beef, turkey, chicken, or meatless and vegan.
There’s no “wrong way” to make a Sloppy Joe. As long as it’s a little messy – you’re doing it right.
And of course you want to do your entire meal right, and that includes everything on your plate!
As with any dish, once you figure out what to serve with Sloppy Joes this beloved sandwich just gets better and better.
Why get this right?
For many Americans, this unique sandwich brings back fond memories of middle school lunch breaks where this sandwich was the height of popularity.
Sloppy Joe day was always the best day.
You grabbed your lunch tray and eagerly formed a line.
And tried not to tap your toes too impatiently while that dreaded thought ran through your mind, “What if they run out?”
There were urban legends of kids denied a Sloppy Joe – and getting liver and onions as a substitute.
But then, when that bread was finally placed on your plate and ladled with meat sauce? Pure bliss.
And of course, there were summertime potlucks, with all the happy grown ups and kids with their paper plates weighted down with huge Sloppy Joes, potato and macaroni salads.
How to swat a mosquito while balancing the paper plate should have been designated part of everyone’s Home Ec curriculum.
All these memories add up to some sinful indulgence.
What Goes with Sloppy Joes: Our Favorite Sides
So now let’s settle in and let’s talk side dishes. There are classic combinations that help to sop up the mess.
There are contrasting additions that brighten up and lighten up the meal without detracting from all that decadence.
Whether you’ve got a fresh batch in the pan or some leftover Sloppy Joe mix, these sides sides will bring out the best in that classic, whimsically sloppy sandwich.
1. BAKED POTATO CHIPS WITH PAPRIKA AND SALT
Not only do chips and Sloppy Joes taste great together, the chips also make a super useful tool.
Just scoop up the messy bits that fall off your sandwich with those crispy chips, and taste those flavors melding right on your plate. Your palate will thank you!
These little guys are baked instead of fried, so you can enjoy them with nary a moment of guilt. And Caroline at the Pickled Plum has the perfect recipe for chip aficionados. See what she does at: pickledplum.com
2. QUICK AND EASY SPIRALIZED DILL PICKLES
Heidi over at Foodie Crush has a fast, flavorful and fun recipe for dill pickles that really fits the bill.
And the ancient argument about which is better – spears or slices –has hereby been settled! Spirals for the win!
So, while you’ve got the chips out, it would be silly not to balance all those wonderful Sloppy Joe and chip flavors with the spicy, dilly crunch of a homemade pickle or two.
The crunchy dill plays amazingly well with hearty meaty sandwiches.
Click here for Heidi’s full recipe: foodiecrush.com
3. MEXICAN CORN ON THE COB
Break out a bib and a tall pile of clean napkins! It’s gonna get messy!
Sure, you could just put a spoonful of buttered corn kernels beside that Sloppy Joe and call it a meal. And sure, the flavors would pair and contrast beautifully.
But while your hands are already deliciously dirty, why not steer into the sloppy curve and make some equally messy – and decidedly decadent – corn on the cob? Just toss that fork away entirely.
And while you’re at it, should you throw in some Mexican flavors for added fun and flavor?
So many questions. And Marissa over at Pinch and Swirl has all the answers you need to do some Mexican corn on the cob up right! pinchandswirl.com
4. BEST CAULIFLOWER MASH
Sure, potatoes get a lot of (well deserved) love when it comes to side dishes. But Jessica Segarra at The Novice Chef has opened our eyes to another flavorful side dish – mashed cauliflower with two cheeses.
Yum. Just, yum. This dish retains its light texture because the cheeses are tangy goat cheese and mild cream cheese, so this hearty mash won’t weigh your plates down.
It’s perfect with savory meat and bread!
5. SWEET POTATO HASH
From mash to hash! Sweet potato hash, that is.
An amazing variation on the classic potato-based side dish, sweet potato hash really ups the Sloppy Joe game. The starchy sweetness marries well with tomato, bell pepper, and ketchup elements of the beefy classic.
And the crunch of these cubes is also the perfect foil to the softer textures of the Sloppy Joe.
So, sit back and indulge in a zippy, hearty, smoky, hash and be prepared to fall in love.
Alberto and Iosune over at Simple Vegan Blog have the perfect recipe to try: impleveganblog.com
6. BEER BATTERED ONION RINGS
The secret to these amazingly crunchy and flavorful onion rings is – wait for it…
Vidalia onions and cornstarch! Cornstarch keeps them light and the Vidalia gives them an inherent sweet and savory bite.
Oh, and did we mention that there’s beer too?
Your Sloppy Joe will think it’s in heaven when it’s nestled up against these onion rings.
Check out this video from Foods101withDeronda for a little tutorial. Yum, yum, yum.
7. FRENCH FRIES
And while we’ve got the frying oil out, let’s not forget another ever-popular classic – the French fry.
There’s a reason that French fries are always such a staple with hot sandwiches.
The flavors and textures pair beautifully. And this case, it’s an no-brainer for what to serve with Sloppy Joes.
Again, they’re also great for scooping up bits of leftover sauce and stray pieces of beef.
Lisa over at Garlic and Zest picked up a great technique that makes the perfect fry without all the hassle. Check out the recipe here: garlicandzest.com
8. CHEESY TATER TOTS
Who doesn’t love cheesy fried potatoes? We mean, c’mon.
They’re just little bites of perfection.
And over at Sweet and Savory by Shinee, there’s a simple recipe that makes such an irresistible side dish for Sloppy Joes, you’ll wonder how they didn’t coexist before now.
Bonus: They’re incredibly simple to make so you’ll be inclined to make them over, and over, and over.
Crunchy. Cheesy. Decadence.
Get the recipe here: sweetandsavorybyshinee.com
9. WORLDS BEST BAKED BEANS
You know how some studies show that married couples, (along with pets and their owners), start to resemble each other over time?
Well, have you noticed there’s an unmistakably red-hued resemblance between baked beans and Sloppy Joes? That’s how you know they want to be together for the long haul!
Savory, succulent beans seasoned with brown sugar and bacon come together perfectly with meat and tomatoes making it one of the best sides for Sloppy Joes.
Alyssa over at The Recipe Critic has a recipe for baked beans that she says are the “world’s best.” Take her at her word and check out the recipe here: therecipecritic.com
10. STUFFED POBLANO PEPPERS
Spicy, hearty, full of veggies, beans, and rice – these peppers will nearly become the star on the plate.
Brown rice, white rice, or even quinoa would be the perfect base for the bright and lively flavors that burst from these spicy little bundles of joy.
Top stuffed peppers with cheese and cilantro and watch how delightful they are and how quick the become a one of your fave sides to go with Sloppy Joes
Sonja and Alex over at A Couple Cooks walk you through the steps to make these perfect peppers: acouplecooks.com
11. ITALIAN PASTA SALAD
Mary at Barefoot in the Kitchen has a recipe for an Italian pasta salad that wants to be served with Sloppy Joes. They’re flavor companions!
Sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, tangy red wine vinegar, briny black olives, and crisp cucumbers all flatter the sweet meat filling of the hot sandwich.
Not only is this salad hearty and flavorful, it also makes the plate sing and dance.
Grab the recipe here and enjoy: barefeetinthekitchen.com
12. EASY POTATO SALAD
Adam and Joanne over at Inspired Taste have a fantastic video tutorial on how to make an easy and elegant potato salad that will bring out the best in your next Sloppy Joe.
One of the tricks? Keep the small waxy potatoes whole while boiling them. Keeping them whole retains some of their sweet flavor.
Now that’s a handy tip!
Once they’re boiled and cooled, toss them with tangy pickles, Dijon, veggies, and a sour cream mayonnaise combination that’s both light and creamy.
What Sloppy Joe wouldn’t want to be served with this potato salad?
13. WARM LENTIL SALAD
What would be more perfect for a picnic than this warm lentil salad tossed with a classic red wine vinegar and shallot vinaigrette?
Hearty and toothsome lentils combined with parsley, thyme, and goat cheese creates an utterly addictive side dish. The texture of the lentils pairs amazingly well with Sloppy Joes.
Karen at Familystyle Food gives readers an excellent walk through of how to make this salad that everyone will love. Seriously. Everyone will love it: familystylefood.com
NOW, LET’S TALK SLOPPY JOES!
Now that we’ve covered a variety of side dishes that rock the Sloppy Joe world, let’s talk about the big, hearty, hot sandwich itself.
It lends itself to a wide variety of ground meats, such as poultry and beef – and there are even vegetarian and vegan versions with green lentils as a base.
All of these options are delicious and can be pulled out for different company with different flavor or dietary preferences.
Kaiser roll? Whole wheat roll? Mini ciabatta? Or the classic, soft hamburger bun? All have individual qualities that lend the Sloppy Joe a different flavor and texture, so don’t be afraid to play around.
Whatever you do, though, butter that bread and grill it or toast. This is non-negotiable. That extra caramelized crunch makes all the difference.
So, now, the one thing that’s up in the air is who was the original, eponymous “Joe?”
Considering how well-loved the sandwich is, it’s not a shock that a couple of regions and a couple of places both claim to be the birthplace of the messy and beloved sandwich.
A SLIPPERY HISTORY FOR A SLOPPY SANDWICH
Two Iowan restaurants both claim to have invented the Sloppy Joe. Ye Olde Tavern in Sioux City is sure that Dave Heglin invented the loose meat sandwich – minus the tomato sauce.
And Maid-Rite in Muscatine is sure that their “Joe,” came up with the idea to combine the loose meat with the tomato sauce. Read more here.
A third version of this superhero sandwich’s origin story is even more fun, because it involves one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering holes.
José Abeal y Otero (nicknamed Joe by his American clientele) was the proprietor of “Sloppy Joe’s” in Havana, Cuba. He served loose meat sandwiches along with cocktails.
Hemingway was such a fan that when he moved to Key West, Florida, he convinced the proprietor of his new haunt to serve the sandwich. He also encouraged the owner to change the name from “The Silver Slipper” to “Sloppy Joe’s.” Read more here.
In 1969, not only did we go to the moon – the “Manwich” was invented. Boo ya!
The sandwich only grew in popularity in the 1970s, to the point where it wasn’t just served in lunchrooms, it became a staple of weeknight cooking.
All you had to do was sauté some meat, add a can of the sauce and serve the concoction on a soft bun.
What to Serve with Sloppy Joes: Appetizers
Balance the Sloppy with a Clean, Crisp Opener
When serving your favorite tomato and meat (or lentil) sandwich, it’s not just all about the sides when it gets to the table.
For appetizers think of food that will be a metaphorical “Felix” to the Sloppy Joe’s metaphorical “Oscar,” a la “The Odd Couple.”
A cheese plate with mild cheeses and fruit along with crispy crackers are the perfect lead-in to the meal. Think, cheddar, provolone, and goat cheese as a creamy warm-up before the main course.
Platters of crudité with bright cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and celery are also flavor boosters for the sweet sauce and meat.
Also, a large bowl of salad bursting with different types of lettuces and loads of veggies, together with a red wine or sherry vinegar vinaigrette would be the perfect palate opener for your messy two-handed meal.
Sloppy Joes aren’t just a childhood favorite from the twentieth century, they’re also a classic comfort food that wants to be on the table in 2019.
And what to serve with Sloppy Joes isn’t just an afterthought either; picking a good one is showing your utmost respect to this timeless dish.
What to Serve with Sloppy Joes
- Potato Chips
- Dill Pickles
- Corn on the Cob
- Cauliflower Mash
- Potato Hash
- Onion Rings
- French Fries
- Tater Tots
- Baked Beans
- Poblano Peppers
- Pasta Salad
- Potato Salad
- Lentil Salad
- Choose your desired Sloppy Joes side dish recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create a tasty Sloppy Joes side to complete your meal!