Sloppy Joes with Avocado and Fried Egg (or: the Importance and Psychology of Cooking Classics You’ve Never Eaten)

One of the things I’m doing as I learn how to cook: making classics I’ve never eaten. I’m pretty sure this is a defense mechanism. For example, I made sloppy joes a couple months into cooking. Up until that point, I had never had a sloppy joe, because someone told me that they were sandwiches made of ground beef and Russian dressing. If you don’t think that’s disgusting, get the fuck out of here. But since I’d never had them before, even if I missed the mark, I’d have no way of knowing it, right?

On that note, I saw this recipe and thought to myself that I like all of those things, so why the hell not?

And that’s the story of how I wound up exasperatedly staring over a pot of sloppy joe mix that was sporting a terrifyingly thick layer of ground beef grease, which had risen to the top… and kept rising.

I had a group of supportive friends around me (well, as many as would fit in the kitchen), brainstorming ways to skim the grease off, since we didn’t have any utensils that would do the job well. It finally culminated in soaking it up, still hot, with paper towels laid gently on the top and then quickly removed, while the mix was still cooking. That was probably dangerous, and it was definitely stupid, so even though it’s not in the original recipe, I’ve included a vital step: drain the beef after you cook it. And for all of you scoffing and saying that’s a rookie mistake, well, I’m a rookie, so. I made sure to adhere to the McBride rule of substitutions. This time, I forgot to buy red wine vinegar to put into the tomato sauce, so I used balsamic instead.

If you’re a little intimidated by the idea of making fried eggs to go with it, you’re not alone. I know I’m not competent enough to make six eggs at once, so the temperature would vary per sandwich, right? Someone would wind up with room-temperature eggs by the time the last sandwich was finished. Gross. My solution: I outsourced the eggs to my friend Ryan, who is a master at all things egg-related, and was able to cook them all in an agreeable time frame (possibly all at once. I don’t remember, since I was busy freaking out over the grease). I encourage you to do the same. Since this makes a ridiculous amount of sloppy joe filling, make this for a crowd. Pick the person who will make the eggs. If you’re not sure anyone you know is capable enough to make a batch of sunny side up eggs, pick the person with the most trustworthy face. What could go wrong?

Not entirely sure why the avocado was invited to this party? Don’t doubt it, just go with it. The sweetness balances out the savory egg and sloppy joe mixture.

I adapted this (and doubled it) from the original recipe, which is here, at the always-reliable Damn Delicious. Enjoy!

Sloppy Joe with Egg and Avocado

  • Servings: 6ish, probably more
  • Print

For the base:

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder (you can add more if you like, but we’re not a spice-friendly house.)
  • 2 lbs ground beef (sirloin was recommended, but I am broke AF and was not trying to go into debt making sloppy joes)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 hamburger buns, toasted, for serving
  • 6 fried eggs, for serving
  • 1 or 2 mashed avocados, for serving

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 4 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  1. In a medium bowl, make the gooey stuff that holds it all together: combine tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, Dijon,  and 1/2 cup water. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add chili powder, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. If necessary (depends on the type of beef you use and how fatty it is), drain the beef. Here’s how I did it: line a large colander with a paper towel, put the colander on top of a large bowl to prevent the grease from going into the drain, and pour the beef mixture in there to drain it. Stir it around a little bit to make sure a decent amount of the grease is drained. Do this quickly (within the span of two minute or so) and dump the beef back into the Dutch oven.
  4. Stir in tomato sauce mixture and then add the tomato paste. Stir until well combined.
  5. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened to the desired consistency, about 20 minutes.
  6. Once the mix is getting quite close to desired thickness, get your designated egg person to start frying the eggs in a large frying pan. (Yes, I included this as a step, because I bet you forgot about the eggs, didn’t you?) Or, if you’re way more competent than I am, start making them yourself. You fancy, huh?!
  7. Serve sloppy joes on hamburger buns (preferably toasted; see below) with a fried egg and mashed avocado spread on the bun.

OPTIONAL, but recommended because toasting the buns makes them sturdier:

  1. About 15 minutes into simmering, turn your oven on “broil” and set it to high.
  2. Once the broiler is heated, line the hamburger buns on a baking sheet, with the inside facing up, and put them in the oven.
  3. Watch the buns very carefully because broilers tend to go from “toasty goodness” to “everything in here is on fire, Oh God what have you done” in a span of about 30 seconds, it seems. Once they’ve reach the desired toastiness, take them out.


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