Low Sodium Sloppy Joes

Who doesn’t love sloppy joes?  There is something about them that just screams comfort food and throws you back memories of childhood.

Sloppy Joes are notoriously high in sodium, but they can be a delicious low sodium option if done right.

Sodium In Traditional Sloppy Joes

Traditional sloppy joes made with Manwich or other canned sauce can pack quite the sodium punch.  The meat in one sandwich can have up to 650mg of sodium, or about 28% of your total sodium goal for the entire day!  Add cheese, coleslaw, pickles, fries and a high sodium bun and that salt will add up even faster.

Even traditional homemade sloppy joe recipes with large amounts of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and canned tomatoes can have too much sodium in them.

This low sodium sloppy joe recipe only has 240mg of sodium per 2/3 cup of mixture – about 1/4 the salt in many sloppy joes!

How Did You Get So Much Flavor?

The key to this tasty sloppy joe without the added salt is sauteing the onions, extra garlic (always extra garlic!) and cooking the tomato paste until it gets toasty. Taking time to cook aromatics like onion and garlic will definitely pay off in the long run in terms of flavor.  Thing about the difference between sauteed onions versus onions that have just been thrown in soup and boiled.  No comparison!

Letting the tomato paste cook until it gets to a nice maroon color and has a toasty smell is also important.  This adds a much richer flavor.  Keep this tip in mind when you use tomato paste in other recipes like marinara or pizza sauce.

Another secret to the flavor in this recipe is the apple cider vinegar.  Vinegar is my secret weapon in making many low sodium recipes.  The acidity vinegar adds to food is so good and it really helps brighten the flavor without salt.

Can I Use Ground Turkey?

Of course!  Really any ground meat will work in this low sodium sloppy joe recipe.  I personally prefer the beef flavor with sloppy joes and lean ground beef has a very similar nutrition profile to ground chicken or turkey.

The key is choosing the right lean ground beef.  I always look for ground sirloin, or the 93/7 ground beef option.  Th 93/7 on the package indicates that the meat is 93% lean and 7% fat.  Ground sirloin has about 170 calories, 8 grams fat and 3 grams saturated fat per 4 raw ounces.  Higher fat ground beef, like 75/25 option has much more fat in it (around 350 calories, 34g of fat and 13g of saturated fat for 4 raw ounces). You can buy pretty much any percent fat option in between these two.

Lean ground beef  actually has about the same nutrition profile as ground turkey or chicken.  Ground chicken has about 160 calories, 9g fat and 3g saturated fat for 4 raw ounces.  Ground turkey has 160 calories, 9g fat, and 2 grams saturated fat.

It really just comes down to personal preference!  Ground sirloin, ground chicken or ground turkey are healthy options that work in this recipe.

What About the Bun?

For most people, I recommend choosing a whole wheat bun for extra fiber and nutrition compared to a white bun.  Yes, whole wheat is best even for people with kidney stones or advanced kidney disease!  Most people with kidney stones do not need to worry about the oxalate.  The phosphorus in whole grains is only about 50% absorbed.

Make sure to read the Nutrition Facts label of whatever bun you buy.  Bread products can have a surprising amount of sodium in them. Pepperidge Farms Whole Wheat Hamburger buns are widely available and only have 210mg of sodium per bun, which is pretty good!

Serving Suggestions

Traditional sides of French fries, coleslaw or creamy macaroni salad can also add quite a bit of sodium to your meal.  Try to make sure the side you eat with your sloppy joe has some vegetables in it.

I like to serve it with a simple side lettuce salad, raw vegetable sticks or a marinated cucumber salad.

Can This Sloppy Joe Be Even Lower Sodium?

One can always take even more sodium out of recipes.  You could use low sodium ketchup, low sodium mustard and no salt added tomato paste to bring the total sodium down even lower.  However, some sodium in your food is okay!  You need a little sodium in your food for flavor.  250mg of sodium for the sloppy joe meat is only 11% of your daily sodium goal, which can easily fit into your daily sodium allotment!

You can certainly choose to use the lower sodium ingredients and see how it tastes!

Happy Eating!


sloppy joe with salad
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Low Sodium Sloppy Joes

Meaty, flavorful sloppy joes without the salt! This recipe has 75% LESS SALT than most sloppy joes. Even better, this recipe is SO easy and quick to whip up on a weeknight.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: low sodium sloppy joes
Servings: 6 2/3 cup
Calories: 194kcal


  • 1.25 pound ground sirloin
  • 2 tbsp low sodium tomato paste
  • 1/2 large onion diced
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water


  • In a large saute pan, brown the ground sirloin. If you don't use lean ground sirloin, drain the excess fat after browning.
  • Add tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes until tomato paste has deep red color. Add onion, green pepper and garlic. Continue to cook 3-5 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes.


Nutrition Facts (per 2/3 cup): 148 calories, 10g carbohydrate, 1.6g fiber, 3.9g added sugar, 4g fat, 1.6g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol, 19g protein, 238mg sodium, 25mg calcium, 437mg potassium, 169mg phosphorus, 5mg oxalate

27 thoughts on “Low Sodium Sloppy Joes”

  1. 5 stars
    My husband is just home from open heart surgery, so I’m quickly and desperately (lol) learning meals to prepare on a cardiac diet (2g sodium). He’s always loved my sloppy Joe, so I thought I’d give this a try. It was fabulous!! Only things I did differently was use ground turkey, and then yellow mustard as I would in my original recipe. It was absolutely delicious!! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      I’m so glad you loved the recipe! Wishing your husband a speedy recovery! All of my recipes are low sodium and very in line with heart health recommendations (kidney health = heart health after all!).

  2. I’m concern with eating too much ketchup, tomatoes sauce/paste too. I HEAR you, cooked the tomatoes paste/sauce until it is brownish color, and this lowers the oxalate in tomatoes? I will try doing this in other red receipts.

    Thank you again,

  3. Mary Jane Plemons

    5 stars
    My husband thinks he doesn’t care for sloppy joes, but he’s only had the Manwich version, and it was many years ago, so guess what we are going to have soon? Yes! Your recipe! We use red bell pepper instead of green, so I will make that substitution. When I was a schoolgirl, back in the 1950’s and early ’60’s, our school cafeteria was very good, serving all from-scratch meals, and my favorite was the days we he had Glorified Hamburgers, which was similar to this. Glorified Hamburgers, here we come! Thank y

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Yay! I’m so glad he liked it. Sloppy Joes definitely have that nostalgic factor!

  4. I made this recipe tonight and we loved it! Even my husband! I will share with family and will use this again. I am experiencing high blood pressure, more than normal so I am trying to reduce the sodium. Thanks!

  5. 5 stars
    i tried this recipe today and it is delicious – even without green pepper which doesn’t agree with me. i did find it a little too sweet for my taste and next time will cut back on the ketchup and maybe add some stock instead. also, another poster mentioned they added celery and Worcestershire i will give those a try also.

    i’ve recently been diagnosed with ckd so finding recipes that taste good, fit the guidelines and my fussy stomach has been a challenge. thank you for this one.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Yay! So glad you enjoyed it. I’m all for modifying recipes to make them work for you and your taste buds. Enjoy!

  6. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe! My mom has CKD and it has been difficult to find tasty recipes she enjoys. This one’s a winner, and this website generally has been such a great resource for me to help her navigate the confusing kidney diet info out there and enjoy her meals! Thank you!

  7. 5 stars
    Thanks for a great recipe. My daughter has CKD due to an autoimmune disease that wreaked havoc on her kidneys. Combine that with a recent gastroparesis diagnosis and the fact that she is a really picky eater – we’ve got the perfect storm of dietary challenges! This is something I can make that follows her dietary rules, and the whole family enjoys it.

    1. 5 stars
      I’m also a picky eater who was just diagnosed with Autoimmune Disease that’s been attacking my liver.

      On top of the medicines prescribed to help me get better, there’s the changes to my diet now. I’ve never been one to experiment with food but I’m trying to change that.

      The ingredients here make me feel like “I can do that” and it seems like it’ll be good!

  8. 5 stars
    This sloppy joe recipe was a winner with my husband! So grateful to have found your website. We left the urologist’s office the other day with a very restrictive list of foods – not very empowering… I printed off your food-oxalate list along with various recipes to try. Thank you so much for these wonderful resources!

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Yay! I’m so glad you loved this recipe. One of my favs as well! Sorry to hear you had a rough time at the urologists office (at least in terms of the nutrition “guidance” they gave you). Whenever people are told to limit oxalate, I always like to make sure they read this article about who really NEEDS a low oxalate diet. Thanks again for your kind words!

  9. 5 stars
    This was soooo delicious! I used low salt catsup so felt I could add a little Worcestershire sauce for the smoky flavor. My husband really enjoyed it also as he eats my diet (low sodium, low potassium, low phos. and 50 oxalates daily, for breakfast and dinner except more protein for him. Thank you so much. So pleased that I found this site as I’ve been so confused since the doctor added Oxalates to my restricted list.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      YUM! That does sound delicious. Thanks for sharing. You could even add a dash of liquid smoke (most don’t have salt in them!) too if you love that flavor!

  10. This is almost exactly my homemade Sloppy Joe recipe! I use a red pepper instead of green and add celery for more crunch. Love it!

  11. Hello Melanie-
    My Dietician told me to avoid cooked tomatoes at all cost because cooking them concentrates the oxalates and they have the highest level of oxalates of any food. I would like to use tomato paste but one meal would be more oxalates than I could have in one weeks worth of meals. Please help me clear my concerns.
    Thank You

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Daniel! Thanks for your comment! I find this recommendation interesting. Tomatoes definitely are not the highest oxalate food. For example, a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce only has 17mg of oxalate. A 1/2 cup of cooked spinach has more like 750mg of oxalate. Cooking reduces the volume of food (for example, a cup of raw broccoli is about the same amount of a 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli). So, cooking doesn’t really “concentrate” oxalate, its more about just shrinking the food. I find tomatoes and tomato sauce can absolutely be a part of most people’s kidney stone friendly diets, even if they do have to limit oxalate. I might respectfully ask your dietitian where they are getting their oxalate amounts, and question why you need to be on such a strict low oxalate diet.

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