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When I was growing up, Manwich, the canned sloppy joe sauce, was a family favorite for making and enjoying quick skillet meals. My still-speedy take uses gochujang for a smoky, spicy undertone. Treat this recipe as a way to hone your ideal levels of heat and sweetness by playing with the amount of gochujang, ketchup, and vinegar. Potato buns provide an ideal soft landing and cold pickle spears are a bright, crunchy counterpoint. When it comes to sloppy joes, the sloppier the better, so be sure to load up those buns and arm yourself with plenty of napkins! 

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4 servings


Tbsp. vegetable oil


lb. ground beef (ideally 20% fat)

tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more

Freshly ground pepper


medium green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped


medium onion, chopped


garlic cloves, finely grated


Tbsp. gochujang


Tbsp. ketchup


Tbsp. soy sauce


Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce


Tbsp. dark brown sugar


tsp. yellow mustard


15-oz. can tomato sauce


Tbsp. balsamic vinegar


potato rolls

Kosher dill spears and potato chips (for serving; optional)


  1. Step 1

    Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add 1 lb. ground beef (ideally 20% fat), spreading out in a single layer; sprinkle with 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt and season with freshly ground pepper. Cook, undisturbed, until a light brown crust forms underneath, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until almost completely brown all the way through, about 3 minutes more.

    Step 2

    Push meat to one side of pan. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 medium green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped, 1 medium onion, chopped, 6–8 garlic cloves, finely grated, and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt; season with pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 Tbsp. gochujang, 2 Tbsp. ketchup, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, and 1 tsp. yellow mustard, then add one 15-oz. can tomato sauce and ¼ cup water and stir again to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until thick and saucy, 10–12 minutes. Remove beef mixture from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar; season with salt and pepper.

    Step 3

    Spoon beef mixture onto 4 potato rolls. Serve with kosher dill spears and potato chips if desired.

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