Healthy Chicken Sloppy Joes – These healthy sloppy joes are a lighter take on the classic! You’ll love the savory sauce and all our favorite ways to serve them!
Do you ever get a random craving for something nostalgic from your childhood? Maybe a favorite candy? Or something from the school cafeteria? (like Cosmic brownies!) Or something you ate at a friend’s birthday party? (boxed Funfetti cake with store-bought Funfetti frosting!) Or boxed Mac & Cheese or a frozen dinner?
I get these kinds of cravings ALL THE TIME.
About a year ago, I got a SERIOUS craving for sloppy joes of all things. I didn’t remember when I’d last had one. (Pre-kids for sure, and I have a 10 year old!) But for whatever reason, the craving hit, and it hit HARD.
I scrounged around in my pantry and freezer and realized I had everything to make them but ground beef. What *did* I have? Chicken! So, on a whim, I decided to mix up a batch of chicken sloppy joes. I assumed I’d satisfy my craving and my kids would pick at them a bit (neither of them really likes messy foods and one of them hates almost any kind of mixed food), but Sophie DEVOURED THEM. And then had a second one. And then asked “WHEN CAN WE HAVE THESE AGAIN!?”
So, for the last year, we’ve been making chicken sloppy joes about once a month, and you’d think it was Christmas every time. (She’s literally jumped up and down cheering!)
Chicken sloppy joes aren’t anything fancy, which is part of the reason I hesitated to post them, but after a full year of eating them on a regular basis, I decided maybe someone else’s family might love them too. This humble dinner is easy to make, but sure delivers on flavor!
This is all you’ll need to make our chicken sloppy joes…
HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO OUR CHICKEN SLOPPY JOE RECIPE:
- Ground Chicken Breast (Or Ground Chicken). Our healthy sloppy joes recipe starts with ground chicken breast. It’s lean, light and has a very neutral flavor. (See the FAQ below for how to make your own in less than 2 minutes if you can’t find it at the store!)
- Olive Oil. Since our chicken is nice and lean, a little olive oil helps us cook it and add some flavor to the dish. (Fat = flavor!)
- Tomato Sauce. A good-quality tomato sauce can make a big impact here. We love Muir Glen brand (not sponsored just love it!).
- Ketchup & Mustard. We don’t post a lot of recipes with ketchup and mustard, but they both add quite a lot flavor-wise to our chicken sloppy joes. You’ll get tang, some subtle brightness, and a little natural sweetness.
- Dried Minced Onion (Or Minced Fresh Onion). Natalie from Perry’s Plate got me hooked on using dried minced onion in sloppy joes. It’s got the deep flavor that’s a little reminiscent of onion dip. It’s almost toasted in flavor and has less bite. It’s not too expensive, and is totally worth keeping on hand for me (I also use it to make this), but if it’s not for you, you can try using fresh onion instead.
- Chili Powder. Some chili powder adds a lot of the classic flavor you expect in a sloppy joe. I think we’ve got just enough to flavor the dish without making this taste like, well, chili. Ha!
- Sage. Dried sage works a bit of magic in this dish. It’s commonly used in sausage and it adds warmth to the sauce that’s lovely.
- Salt & Pepper. Balance those flavors! I’ve given suggested amounts in the recipe card, but these two are really to taste, especially if you’re using tomato sauce with no salt added or reduced sodium.
- Worcestershire Sauce or Coconut Aminos. My last little flavor oomph for our chicken sloppy joe recipe! Worcestershire is classic for sloppy joes, but doesn’t work for paleo diets. If you’re paleo, use the coconut aminos option. You’ll still get that umami without the soy.
MIX IT UP! TRY ONE OF THESE VARIATIONS ON OUR CHICKEN SLOPPY JOES:
- Add Bell Pepper. One of my favorite ways to mix up our chicken sloppy joe recipe is to add diced bell pepper. Green or red peppers work well. Just dice them fine and add along with the chicken right at the beginning to soften as the chicken cooks.
- Add Grated Carrot. Or, you can add a layer of flavor by adding a grated carrot (or two!) along with the chicken. Grating keeps the pieces fine and adds a subtle sweetness, which can be lovely.
- Serve With Slaw. Almost every time I make chicken sloppy joes, I serve them with the quick slaw I shared with our Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken. The cold, tangy, lightly creamy slaw is delightful next to the warm savory chicken sloppy joes.
- Try Them With Dill Pickles! My other favorite thing is to add pickles! I love the tangy crunch of a dill pickle slice on top of my warm sandwich. SO GOOD.
- Add Some Barbecue Sauce. You can also change the flavor profile a bit by adding 2-4 Tbsp. of barbecue sauce to the sauce. (You can just add this in addition to the other ingredients, or you can reduce the tomato sauce by 2-4 Tbsp. It’s up to you!)
- Add A Slice Of Cheese. I heard from LOTS of folks that adding a slice of cheese on top is apparently amazing. Obviously, we’re dairy-free so it’d be no cheese or dairy-free cheese for us, but I wanted to make sure to pass this idea along if you love cheese!
YUMMY WAYS TO SERVE OUR CHICKEN SLOPPY JOES:
- In (Toasted!) Buns For Sandwiches. The classic! Serve your chicken sloppy joes on toasted buns and dive in for one delicious (if a bit messy) sandwich!
- Scooped Onto Baked Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes. We love sloppy joe stuffed baked sweet potatoes! Learn how we bake the perfect sweet potato here or bake some russet potatoes like this. Then, stuff them with our chicken sloppy joes!
- Served Over Sweet Potato Fries. I love making a batch of sweet potato fries (like these or with this seasoning) and then serving the chicken sloppy joe mixture on top. It’s a great paleo/grain-free option and tastes amazing!
FAQ + TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST CHICKEN SLOPPY JOES:
TOAST YOUR BUNS!!! If I could give you one “secret” trick to making the best chicken sloppy joes, it’s to toast your buns before serving! Toasting the buns gives them better flavor, but also makes them more sturdy, which helps when you’re adding the delightfully saucy chicken sloppy joe mixture on top of them.
For The Best Flavor, Use Ground Chicken Breast. I’ve got a lot of issues around any kind of meat that tastes “gamey,” and I’ve found that ground chicken breast has the most neutral flavor for chicken sloppy joes. If this doesn’t bother you, feel free to use regular ground chicken, which contains chicken thighs/meat in addition to chicken breast.
Can’t Find Ground Chicken? Make Your Own In 2 Minutes Or Less! If you can’t find ground chicken breast or ground chicken, it’s VERY easy to make your own! Add boneless skinless chicken breast (or a mix of chicken breast and chicken thighs, if you prefer) to a food processor and pulse until no large pieces remain and the mixture is fairly uniform. Easy-peasy!
Can I Make These With Turkey Instead? If you like the flavor of ground turkey, you could absolutely use it in place of the chicken in our healthy sloppy joes. I don’t care for the flavor, so I never make them this way.
Can You Freeze Chicken Sloppy Joes? Yes! I love making a double batch of chicken sloppy joes, then freezing half of the meat mixture for another day. Transfer the cooked, cooled chicken sloppy joe mixture to a freezer-safe bag or container, then press out any excess air and lay it flat in the freezer until solid. (It’ll be easier to store when frozen flat and will thaw faster when you’re ready to reheat!) To reheat from frozen, thaw in the refrigerator first, then reheat in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave.
SHOP OUR FAVORITE TOOLS & INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN SLOPPY JOES: