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You can absolutely make delicious sloppy joes without ketchup! Using ground turkey, vegetables, and a veggie-loaded homemade sauce, this comfort meal can be on your table in 30 minutes!

a close up shot of sloppy joe.
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Healthy Sloppy Joe Recipe

Yup, that’s right! It’s totally possible to capture the savory and sweet flavors of this beloved American classic without ketchup, added sugar, or preservatives.

This healthy Sloppy Joe is made with with lean ground turkey, lots of vegetables, and a flavorful sauce that’s so delicious, you’ll want to drizzle it over everything.

This is seriously the perfect weeknight dinner for the whole family and the leftovers taste even better! Whether enjoyed on a bun, over sweet potatoes, or in tacos, it’s incredibly versatile and satisfying.


Instructions for turkey sloppy joes.

I am highlighting just the ones that need further explanation. The complete list is in the recipe card below.

  • Ground turkey – I recommend not going any leaner than 93% lean turkey for the best flavor and texture.
  • Vegetables – I like to use green bell pepper and onion but feel free to use whatever you wish. Mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini are all great options!
  • Dates – A great refined-sugar-free alternative to the traditional brown sugar and ketchup. They also help cut through the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Pumpkin puree – Makes the sauce nice and creamy while boosting nutrition. You can use store-bought or homemade pumpkin puree.
  • Tomato sauce – This is a great place to use your favorite jarred sauce, like marinara sauce. If sharing this meal with your baby, you can use no-salt-added tomato sauce or this homemade veggie pasta sauce!

Step-by-Step Instructions

Healthy Sloppy Joe sauce ingredients blended.

Step 1: Make the sloppy joe sauce – place all the ingredients in a food processor/blender and blend until smooth.

Cooked ground turkey in large skillet with vegetables added.

Step 2: In a large skillet, Cook the turkey over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook for several minutes.

Sloppy joe sauce added to the skillet.

Step 3: Add sauce to the pan and combine.

All the ingredients cooked and sauce thickened.

Step 4: Cook until thickened.

Tips for Success

a close up shot of cooked sloppy joe filling.
  • Be sure to soak the dates in hot water for at least 15 minutes, until soft and just starting to fall apart. I suggest reserving the date-soaking water to use for thinning out the sauce, if necessary.
  • Toast the hamburger buns! Spreading on some butter is always a good idea.
  • Add the sloppy joe mixture to the bun right before serving. Otherwise the bread will get too soggy.
  • I actually like to keep the vegetables a bit larger so my kids can see them and also for added texture. If you’d like to finely chop instead, I recommend using a food chopper like this one! It’s so handy for quick vegetable prep.
  • Double or even triple the recipe! It freezes beautifully.

Ways to Enjoy this Healthy Sloppy Joes

Turkey Sloppy Joes plated three ways - for an adult, toddler, and baby.

Besides on a toasted bun, here are some other fun ways to enjoy this delicious meat mixture!

Homemade Sloppy Joes for Baby

a large broccoli floret, toasted bread, and a small portion of sloppy joe filling for baby.

Start by serving a very small portion to make it less overwhelming for your baby. You can always offer more, following your baby’s lead.

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How to serve to toddlers

A two image collage showing sloppy joe cut into smaller pieces on the left and deconstructed on the right.

If your child has a difficult time biting into burgers (or sandwiches), cut into smaller, more manageable pieces.

And if your child is not a fan of foods touching, try serving it deconstructed. Makes for a great addition to toddler school lunch.

toddler pushing bowl away

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this sloppy joe with other meat?

Absolutely! You can use ground chicken or lean ground beef.

What’s the best way to store leftovers?

Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Leftovers taste even better! You can also freeze for up to 3 months.

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave or in a skillet before serving.

How can I make a vegetarian sloppy joe?

Lentils will be a great, flavorful alternative to ground meat. Start by cooking a cup of lentils until they’re tender, not mushy. Then cook the vegetables, add the cooked lentils to the mix, and combine with the sauce.

More Healthy Comfort Food Recipes

Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!

5 from 26 votes

Healthy Turkey Sloppy Joes

Made with lean beef, vegetables, and a super easy homemade sauce with pumpkin, this quick and easy meal can be on your table in 30 minutes! 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
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  • 3-4 medjool dates, see note
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup no salt added tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree

beef mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, can add less or leave out


  • Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook for 3 minutes or so until browned, stirring to crumble. Add the vegetables and cook until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  • In the meanwhile, place all the sauce ingredients into a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth.
  • Add sauce to the pan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes, until mixture gets thickened. If too thick, add reserved soaked date water to desired consistency.


note: for the dates, remove the pit and soak in hot water for at least 15 minutes to soften. Reserve the soaked water and add at the end to thin out the sauce, if necessary


Calories: 295kcal | Sodium: 112mg | Fiber: 5g | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 5mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

This post was first published in 2020.

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

5 from 26 votes (22 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe! As I was preparing the sauce, my husband was a little skeptical seeing everything added together, ha! I usually am not a fan of dates, but following the recipe as written- we were both surprised at how well it came together. Our toddler has a hard time with ground meat, so even though she usually sticks to the bun with just a little bit of sauce, it’s a winner in our house!

    1. Haha I can imagine! These aren’t typical ingredients for sloppy joes but I’m so glad you gave it a chance and enjoyed it!!

  2. Any ideas for a pumpkin puree substitute? Hard to find in Japan (unless I can use Kabocha? but the taste is a bit diff). Sweet potatoes maybe?

  3. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious, and easy! It’s so different from our typical sloppy joe recipe, but still amazing in flavor! And I actually like it better. My 13 month old wanted seconds – he cleaned his plate in no time. I served it to him with bite size pieces of lightly toasted Ezekiel bread. This recipe is definitely a keeper 🙂 Thanks Min!

  4. Are we able to make the sauce ahead of time and keep in fridge to be used later in the week? Trying to meal prep and make it easier for my husband to throw together during the week!

    1. Absolutely! I do it all the time. In fact, you can even double or triple the recipe and freeze extra for the future 😉

  5. 5 stars
    My 6 mo old son devoured this last night! Thank you for this delicious baby friendly recipe. How long do you recommend freezing leftovers?

  6. This one is on constant rotation in our house! Baby loves it, husband loves it — it’s a win win. I love how, as with most of Min’s recipes, this one is customizable based on what I have on hand in my fridge.