Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s

Man is this recipe good. I almost cringed writing the title because I really hate the idea of “hidden veggie” anything, but I felt like the world needed to know just how versatile and nutrient-packed these SJ’s are. Whether you’re cooking for picky kiddos or just trying to add a bit more vegetables into your dinner, I’ve got you covered with this one-pan wonder of a meal.

Ingredients needed to make Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s

This recipe makes a large amount of SJ filling. It calls for two pounds of ground beef, plus a large portion of food-processed veggies that leaves you with enough for 6-8 servings. I created this recipe on the larger side on purpose, firstly because Jeff eats the equivalent of two adult portions in one sitting and secondly because this recipe works wonderfully for meal prep. The leftovers keep for a solid 5 days in the fridge and it’s incredibly versatile. I serve it over buns, cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, scooped up with chips, or even eaten with a spoon as-is. If you don’t need this much sloppy joe action in your life, just half the recipe! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Grass-fed ground beef
  • Zucchini
  • Red bell pepper
  • Mushrooms, any variety
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned tomato paste
  • Maple syrup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hamburger buns, for serving

You may be wondering, can you:

  1. use ground chicken or turkey, instead? Yes! Since ground poultry is leaner than ground beef, I would add two Tbsp cooking oil per pound of meat
  2. substitute other veggies in your kitchen for the ones listed in this recipe? Yes! I have made these using cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, different varieties of mushrooms, hot peppers instead of bell peppers for extra heat, and fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Use what you have and what you like, just keep the amounts the same.
  3. omit the sweetener? Yes, but I would be aware that traditional sloppy joe’s are on the sweeter side. Omitting the sweetener will leave you with more of a chunky Italian meat sauce rather than a sweet sloppy joe flavor. You can, on the other hand, sub out the maple syrup for whatever you’ve got on hand- honey, agave nectar, or other forms of sweetener.
  4. use beef that isn’t grass-fed? Absolutely! Grass-fed is my preference for a multitude of reasons, but regular beef is just fine.

Tools used to make Hidden-Veggie Sloppy Joes

I love this meal for easy, weeknight-friendly meal prep. It comes together in one large skillet or pot, making for easy clean up. You’ll need just five pieces of equipment for this recipe, which are as follows:

How to make Hidden-Veggie Sloppy Joes

As mentioned above, this recipe can happen rather quickly, making it perfect for weeknights. It’s also very kid friendly, if that’s something you’re looking for in the kitchen. I don’t yet have kids, but I can imagine the joy on their faces while helping food process all the veggies in this recipe. Every kid loves to push the button, ya know?

You’ll start by processing all the vegetables in the food processor. You may need to work in batches, because an over-crowded food processor can lead to some veggies being pureed and some being too large. We’re looking for everything to be a nice, uniform mince that is similar in size to pieces of cooked ground beef. Once everything is processed, set it aside.

Brown the ground beef in your large skillet or pot. While the beef cooks, you can measure out the remaining ingredients.

Once the beef has browned, add the minced veggies and let everything cook together for 10-15 minutes, until all the water from the veggies has cooked out. Then, add the remaining ingredients to create the sauce. At this point, the sauce can be done after just 10 minutes. However, if you want even more developed flavor, you can let it go over very low for a few hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. If I’m making this on a lazy Sunday, I’ll often opt for the longer route, but both options taste delicious!

Serve the sloppy joe’s over whatever your heart desires. Traditionally, they’re served on hamburger buns. I’ve also been known to eat it over rice or cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, or even as-is with a spoon. Jeff loves to dip tortilla chips into the filling, like a sweeter version of chili on chips. Go for it!

Looking for other veggie-packed recipes?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Chicken and Dumplings

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Recipe Ingredients

2lbs grass-fed ground beef

1 large zucchini, minced

2 medium carrots, minced

1 red bell pepper, minced

4oz baby bella mushrooms, minced

½ yellow onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

28oz can crushed tomatoes

6oz can tomato paste

¼ cup maple syrup

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce 

Salt and pepper, to taste

Hamburger buns, for serving (optional)

Recipe Instructions

  1. Process or very finely mince the zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Set aside. 
  2. In a very large skillet, brown the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper,
  3. Add the minced veggies and stir everything together thoroughly. Season again with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until most of the water from the vegetables has cooked out.
  4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Let the mixture come to a boil, then simmer an additional 10 minutes to let the flavors meld together. 
  5. Adjust salt and pepper as needed, and serve over hamburger buns for a traditional sloppy joe. Alternatively, serve over rice, cauliflower rice, or mashed potatoes for a fun twist. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Smothered Fries with “Animal Style” Sauce

Whether you’re enjoying a big game, craving some loaded french fries, or just looking for a new way to enjoy potatoes, these Smothered Fries with “Animal Style” Sauce are exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Crispy, oven-baked fries get topped with an easy burger sauce and an unassuming line-up of toppings. What follows is a complete party in your mouth, and it doesn’t stop there. While these fries have a healthy array of goodies piled on top, you can completely customize your own toppings to fit your taste. Love cheese on your french fries? Layer it on! Don’t have ground beef? Use ground chicken, sausage, or even shredded pork. As long as you get crispy fries as your base and lots of that “animal style” sauce, you can’t go wrong with whatever you add on top! Let’s make them!

Ingredients needed to make Smothered Fries with “Animal Style” Sauce

I love the earthy taste of russet potatoes in this recipe. It compliments the grass-fed ground beef extremely well. If you don’t have russets or don’t care for them, this dish would also be excellent using sweet potatoes, another variety of white potato, or even a bag of frozen french fries. As long as you’ve got one form of potato, you can make this recipe. Here’s everything you’ll need to pull these fries off:

Tools used to make Smothered Fries with “Animal Style” Sauce

You’ll need basic equipment to make these delicious fries: a large cutting board, a sharp knife, a rimmed sheet pan, a skillet, a stirring utensil, and a mixing bowl. That’s it!

How to make Smothered Fries with “Animal Style” Sauce

The secret to any great oven-baked fry recipe is simple: preheat your sheet pan! By placing your sheet pan in the oven while the oven heats up, you ensure that the fries immediately start crisping up on contact. It works like a charm.

To begin, set the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and place your sheet pan inside, as described above. Cut the potatoes into fries and coat in avocado oil, salt, and pepper.

Once the oven has preheated, carefully remove the hot sheet pan and add the fries to the hot pan in an even layer. They will sizzle upon contact. Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes, flip, then bake for an additional 15-20 until the fries are cooked through.

Meanwhile, you’ll prepare the ground beef, “animal style” sauce, and other toppings. Brown the ground beef in a skillet and break up all the clumps. Combine mayo, ketchup, relish, honey, vinegar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper and stir well. Chop up the red onion, cilantro, and pickled jalapeños and set aside.

Once the fries are done, top with the ground beef, red onions, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and drizzle all over with the sauce. If desired, other toppings may be added. Serve the fries hot with extra sauce on the side!

Looking for other game day food ideas?

Try these other recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

Baked Goat Cheese with Herbed Orange Olives

Mom’s Checkerboard Chicken Chili

Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings

Recipe Ingredients

1 1/2  pounds russet potatoes, sliced into thin fries (3-4 large)

2 Tbsp avocado oil

1 Tsp salt, plus more to taste

Black pepper, to taste

1lb grass-fed ground beef

½ cup mayonnaise 

3 Tbsp ketchup

2 Tbsp dill relish

1 Tsp honey

1 Tsp white vinegar

½ red onion, finely chopped

Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

Pickled jalapeños, chopped (optional)

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange an oven rack to the lowest height possible. Place a clean sheet pan in the oven to heat as the oven heats. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cut fries, avocado oil, salt, and pepper. Once the oven and sheet tray are preheated, spread potatoes out into an even layer on the sheet tray. Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes, toss, then bake again for another 15-20 minutes until browned and cooked through. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the ground beef until browned and cooked-through, breaking up any large clumps, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. Make the sauce. Combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, honey, and vinegar. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Spread the cooked ground beef evenly over the finished fries. Spoon the sauce over the fries and ground beef, then top with chopped red onion, cilantro, and pickled jalapeño. Serve immediately.

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.