Lunch Lady Sloppy Joes

Let’s talk dinnertime, shall we? More often than not I find myself in a bit of a struggle with dinner. Sometimes I just want to eat popcorn and Hershey kisses be done with it. But I have these responsibilities, you know, kids!? 😉 Well, tonight was one of those nights, {no we didn’t eat popcorn and kisses}. After working a couple of 12 hour shifts, I was only in the mood to cook something that didn’t take a whole lot of thought, time and then leave me with dish pan hands and a sweaty upper lip. So as I started flipping through my ever growing stack of recipes, I was suddenly struck by a memory of a childhood favorite!


First before we move on… let me say that before today this recipe was nameless. My Mom didn’t name this, because it was one of those things she made for us kids to use up the leftover sloppy Joe sauce {she’s clever like that}. So there I sat, tapping my fingers on my desk, I just couldn’t think of what to call this?! I was reminded of an old SNL skit, the one of Chris Farley as the lunch lady, {ya know in Lunch Lady Land?}, singing “Sloppy Joe slop, sloppy Joe with that mole on her/his face! {I hope the song is now stuck in your head as it is mine} And that my friends is how I got the name Lunch Lady Sloppy Joes, hey it’s the best I could come up with! But if you can think of a better name… shout it out! I wanna hear it!

Let’s get started on the ‘sloppy’ sauce.

Throw some bacon fat or olive oil into a deep sided skillet.

Finely dice an onion, and I mean fo-ine!

Add them to the bacon fat and cook until soft and translucent, not browned.

Press the garlic cloves into the pan and cook for 1 minute.

Add in the ground round. Mash the meat so it forms small crumbles. My weapon of choice? My mashed potato masher-thingy. Works like a champ!

Add a teaspoon and a half of chili powder. I’m using Ancho… because I lurrrrve it!

Add in about a teaspoon or two of yellow mustard. I go by taste. I know… I’m so one of those.

Add the can of tomato sauce and a small pinch of sugar.

Then a quarter cup of water.

And the worcestershire sauce to taste.

Season with salt…

…and pepper.

Stir and bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile slice up some green onions.

This is the toughest part of the recipe. Ready? Okay, now carefully remove the mozzarella cheese from the wrappers. Phew.

And place them inside of the hot dog buns. Tough stuff isn’t it?

Doesn’t this look freaking weird… like white hot dogs! HA. No. Seriously it’s delicious.

Next you’ll wan to top them with the Sloppy Joe sauce and sprinkle with the green onions. I like to serve them with some Bettermade chips and a Rock & Rye Faygo pop to make the childhood memory complete!

This is a totally fun kid-friendly recipe! My girls ate these up and requested them again the next day! I said “Hecccck naw! Mommy is going to need to eat the rest… now kick rocks kid!” Then I laid a big fat wet sloppy Joe kiss on her cheek.

Totally fun. Totally delicious. You totally see that the proof is in the string!


Lunch Lady Sloppy Joes

A fun twist on traditional sloppy joes.

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes


2 teaspoons olive oil or bacon fat

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1-1/4 pounds ground round

1-1/2 teaspoons Ancho Chili Powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

1/4 cup Water

2 teaspoons Yellow Mustard, to taste

Worcestershire Sauce, a few drops to taste

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 mozzarella string cheese sticks, at temperature or warmed in microwave

8 Hot Dog Buns, toasted if you're in the mood

Sliced green onions, for serving

Pickled jalapenos, for serving


Sauté the onions in olive oil (or bacon fat). Once soft and translucent add in the garlic, cook for one minute. Add the ground beef, use a spatula to break it up into small pieces and cook thoroughly.

Add the ancho chili powder, sugar, tomato sauce, water, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper to the meat mixture. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Place the cheese sticks inside the buns and top with sloppy Joe sauce. Sprinkle with green onions, pickled jalapeno slices and/or anything else your heart desires and serve!

*note for optimal cheese string action, warm the mozzarella cheese sticks in the microwave until very soft before placing in the bun and pouring sloppy joes sauce on top.

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31 Responses to “Lunch Lady Sloppy Joes”

  1. #
    Wanna Be A Country Cleaver — September 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    As if the "Lunch Lady-Sloppy" aspect of these wasn't fabulous enough – the addition of entire string cheeses sends me over the edge!! Must. Make!! ~Megan

  2. #
    Pretend Chef — September 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Sloppy Joes excite me as an adult. The string cheese is a novel idea. Oh my! I would love to give this a try sometime. Perfect lunch for Itty Bitty and I to share.

  3. #
    Aarthi — September 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Wow…i am drooling over here…I love anything cheesy and gooey.This is totally yumoooo….And the name suits it well…no other suggestion from my side…

    BTW I am going to try this tomorrow…I have everything on hand….

  4. #
    clare suzanne — September 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Oh my gosh. The string cheese just made this recipe a must make. I applaud your creativity!

  5. #
    Danielle — September 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    What a great treat for the kids! We love string cheese in our family and I can't get my hubby to eat sloppy joes when I love them. I'm going to have to try this one 🙂

  6. #
    Bev Weidner — September 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I am dying. I am looking at that cheese and I'm dying. I'm looking at that seasoned meat and I've just died.


  7. #
    Kaitlin — September 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Seriously? WOW! I was sure there was going to be a hot dog under that gorgeous meat sauce, but a mozzarella stick?! I'am drooling!

  8. #
    Karen — September 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I love it. What a great idea. We have man-size teenage boys running through our house all the time and this looks like something I good throw down in front of them quickly. And of course, save some for ME!

  9. #
    RavieNomNoms — September 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    OH MY! I was shocked when I saw those cheese sticks go into those hotdog buns!! What a creative idea…great for kids! Thank you for sharing it.

  10. #
    Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. — September 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Now this is a sloppy joe that I would want to eat!

  11. #
    Lauren's Latest — September 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Your daughter looks like a mini you! How cute is she! Sloppy joes are one of my go to meals, for sure!

  12. #
    Sabrina-eat.drink.and be merry. — September 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    WONDERFUL IDEA! I dont have kids but I think my husband would be just as happy if I made him these for dinner! 🙂

  13. #
    Christine — September 17, 2011 at 1:23 am

    YUM!!! Perfect for kids…and the kids in us adults too!!! Totally saving this one!!! Your awesome!

  14. #
    Amanda — September 17, 2011 at 1:33 am

    omgoodness! this is soooo clever! must try this!

  15. #
    jesica @ Pencil Kitchen — September 17, 2011 at 1:48 am

    LOOK AT THE CHEESE STRETCH! I'm hungry now and its your fault… :p

  16. #
    Christine's Pantry — September 17, 2011 at 3:27 am

    What a great idea. Easy and tasty… love it.

  17. #
    Yesim — September 17, 2011 at 8:25 am

    while i was going down and see all the photos, my mouth was getting wating:)) great photos , presantation, delicious food..

  18. #
    Curt — September 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    What an awesome idea to put the string cheese in the hot dog bun! I will definitely be making this.

  19. #
    Sandra — September 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Oh I am ready to talk about dinner every morning hahaha Wow lady you did it again! What a FUN idea..I think I have to make it for my kids, they would be so happy! I have almost everything except the buns, will have to run to a store..Awesome!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

  20. #
    Baking Serendipity — September 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    The string cheese trick is awesome! I love this 🙂

  21. #
    Andrea — October 5, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Just made it for Renee and Joao and Xime, well she can't really eat it, but she liked watching me cook it 🙂

  22. #
    Mama-Inski — October 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I had some leftover sloppy joe filling and happened upon your site (through Pinterest) today… so, we tried these for dinner. they were delish! thanks again 🙂

  23. #
    ~Kim~ — October 31, 2011 at 3:15 am

    This was a hit – even from my son who "hates sloppy joes but these homemade ones rock". I didn't use water at all, let it cook down to a thicker consistency, and I threw some dark molasses in there too. Even Nana gave it a thumbs up, and she is a hard sell!

  24. #
    Mrsblocko — November 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I borrowed this idea and wrote about it here. I used cheater cheater Manwich, but the cheese stick idea is brilliant. My daughter now LOVES sloppy joes. Thank you!

  25. #
    Felisa — May 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Your mom was creative! I can’t wait to try this. I know my husband and kids will love it. And so will I!

  26. #
    Rachelle — May 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

    These are the best! A new favorite- could not believe how easy these were to make & how yummy they were. My family loved them as all, definitely making these homemade from now on- no more nasty sloppy joe mixes.

  27. #
    Jessica — March 4, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    This recipe promised leftovers…. well, not in my house! My boys devoured the pan and asked me to make them again. This will definitely be a regular in our house. Simple to make and delicious. The only change I made was instead of Ancho Chili Pepper (I was out), I used a Pub Burger seasoning with a little chili pepper.

  28. #
    VIVIAN — May 13, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Most clever recipe. Must try to make this!


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