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Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bun

Sloppy Joe Buns

TOTAL TIME: 4 hours
Yield: 12 buns
I have deeply loved Sloppy Joe's all my life, but the mess vexes me sorely and reduces me to plate licking, an act frowned upon in polite society. By encapsulating the S.J. mixture in a sealed bun, not a morsel need be dropped. You can in fact, dispense with the plate altogether.
Photo by Lynne Calamia
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For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing bowl and sheet pan
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons malt vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 10 dashes liquid smoke (we like Lazy Kettle brand)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Specialized Hardware

Digital scale
Rolling pin or small dowel
Pastry brush
TOTAL TIME: 4 hours
Yield: 12 buns



  • Combine the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup and nuke on high for 30-40 seconds, or until the temperature is between 110℉-115℉. Stir in the yeast, sugar, and salt and set aside for 5-10 minutes or until foam forms on the surface. (If there's no foamy by this time, chances are good your yeast had expired.)
  • Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, drizzle in the oil, add the yeast mixture, and stir until you have a shaggy looking dough.
  • Lightly coat a large mixing bowl with oil and set it aside, Sprinkle the countertop with a little flour and turn the dough out onto it. Knead with your hands 20 times, then form into a ball, and move to the oiled bowl.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, away from direct sunlight or air-conditioning, for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the dough has almost doubled in size.


  • While the dough rises, heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable oil followed by the onion, green pepper, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the ground chuck, the remaining salt and pepper, ancho chili powder, cumin, onion powder, mustard powder, and brown sugar. Cook just until the beef loses its pink color, 2-3 minutes.
  • Momentarily kill the heat, tip the pan keeping the meat to one side and spoon off and discard as much fat as possible. Set the heat to medium-low and add the yellow mustard, ketchup, tomato paste, malt vinegar, Worcestershire, and liquid smoke. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes, then remove the skillet from the heat so the mixture can cool.


  • When the dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured countertop and knead for 3 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking. Form the dough into a ball and divide in half. Roll one of the halves into a 6-inch log shape and cut into 6 equal pieces (46-47 grams each-a digital scale is helpful here). Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover the balls with a clean kitchen towel and rest 15 minutes.
  • Lightly grease a half-sheet pan with a little of the oil and have standing nearby. Roll out one of the balls with a rolling pin or small dowel to a circle 5-inches in diameter. Place 1/4 cup of the filling in the center of the circle followed by 2 teaspoons of the chopped pickle, then fold the edges up and over the filling. Pinch the pleats with your fingers then give it a little twist to seal, being mindful to remove as much air from the buns as possible. Place seam-side down on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, placing them 1/2-inch apart from each other. You should be able to fit all 12 balls. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and rest 30 minutes.
  • Crank your oven to 375℉ and place a rack in the middle position. Brush the buns with the egg wash and poke a few holes in the tops with a toothpick to allow steam to vent. Top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove the buns from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before consuming.
Store leftover buns in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
To reheat, wrap individually in aluminum foil and bake in a toaster oven or conventional oven preheated to 350 F for 20-25 minutes from the fridge or 45-50 minutes from the freezer.
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