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!

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