Healthy Instant Pot (Or Stovetop) Sloppy Joes
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Right off the bat, I have to clarify that I don’t enjoy calling a recipe healthy. It’s such an ambiguous term that means something different to every individual. That said, it’s the easiest way classifying a recipe as a lower calorie and in this case, higher protein, than its alternatives. Like all of my recipes, I’ve made these high protein instant pot sloppy joes with the active person and fitness enthusiast in mind. And of course, the flexible dieters and those keeping an eye on their protein intake.
I must admit my research was limited, but I feel confident in dubbing this recipe one of the healthiest recipes for sloppy joes on the interwebz. Now, that doesn’t mean I’ve stripped all the flavor and sloppy goodness away from them. Using lower calorie substitutions and a unique ingredient lineup, I feel I’ve made it even tastier than your traditional sloppy joe. But enough talking about, let’s be about it.
Oh, and don’t worry, I made ’em extra sloppy for ya.
What’s so special about these sloppy joes?
Well, other than being one of the few food bloggers dropping Billy Madison references, I specialize in making high protein and low calorie recipes. Whether a food is part of a low carb, high carb, ketogenic, plant-based, or any other type of diet, my primary focus is on swapping ingredients for lower calorie and higher protein options.
That’s exactly what I’ve done with this Instant Pot sloppy joes recipe. Even with a plain and simple hamburger bun, you’re only looking at a 260 calorie sloppy joe with 28 grams of protein. However, I’ll give a few bun recommendations below, including a high protein cauliflower bun.
As for ingredients, there are a few obvious substitutions, like reduced sugar ketchup and a lean approach to seasoning the recipe. But there are also a few not so obvious additions, such as a calorie-free sweetener to balance some of the spice in this recipe. Let’s take a look at the swaps and other ingredient notes.
Is there a big difference between reduced sugar ketchup and regular ketchup?
Ya. On a dipping your french fries level, maybe not so much. But when we’re talking about 3/4 cup of ketchup, it really adds up fast. As in, 180 calories and 48 grams of sugar saved by using the reduced sugar version.
Making swaps like this is a key to making healthier recipes. Another ingredient in this recipe, the Walden Farms Pancake Syrup, is also a great example of this. Using an ingredient like this instead of a sticky sweetener like honey or maple syrup saves more than 200 calories and almost 50 grams of sugar. Low calorie food swaps for the win!
Wait a minute, is that protein powder I see?
Why yes, yes it is. To bulk up the sloppy joe sauce and add some extra protein, I added a scoop of unflavored protein to the sauce. This is totally optional, and you’ll only lose around 25 grams of protein from the entire recipe but if you have unflavored protein, put it to good use here.
And if you’re on the fence about investing in unflavored protein powder, check this article out with 6 recipes you can make with unflavored protein. One recipe, in particular, comes to mind since we’re talking sloppy joes—high protein waffle fries. Pictured below, my waffle fries would make for a great sloppy joe pairing.
Not to mention, another recipe on the list is high protein cauliflower buns. I mean, c’mon, I’m more or less giving you the tools to create the highest protein meal of all time.
But like I said, if you don’t have unflavored protein powder, don’t worry about it. You may want to slightly reduce the liquid ingredients, but it shouldn’t affect the recipe that much.
Making this recipe without an Instant Pot
Most Instant Pot or pressure cooker recipes are best left untweaked as it’s difficult to replicate the cooking method without one. The last thing you want is undercooked food, after all. The beauty of this Instant Pot sloppy joes recipe is that it’s one that carries over quite well. Since you’ll be using the saute function before sealing the Instant Pot, the meat is technically cooked without pressure.
So, as long as you’re careful not to burn the sauce, and you’re okay with a slightly longer cook time, a stovetop will work for this recipe. I’ve left notes at the bottom of the recipe below for instructions on cooking without an Instant Pot.
High Protein Instant Pot Sloppy Joes
A simple, tasty way to make sloppy joes in an Instant Pot or on the stove.
- 2 lbs Lean Ground Beef, Turkey, Chicken 96/4
- 2 Tbsp (30g) Minced Garlic
- 1/4 C White Onion diced (optional)
- 1/2 tsp Salt and Pepper to taste
Set Instant Pot to saute and allow the pot to heat up. Spray the Instant Pot with nonstick cooking spray and add minced garlic, onion, salt/pepper, and ground meat to the pot. Brown the meat, draining and rinsing (optional) 3/4 way through cooking. This should take 3-5 minutes, depending on your Instant Pot model. (Draining and rinsing can remove up to half the fat content of ground meat. Not to mention, it will allow some of the water released from the onions to be drained.)
While your meat is cooking, mix remaining sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
After your meat has browned, give it one last stir before adding your sauce to the top. DO NOT stir. Leave the sauce on the top, close the Instant Pot, and cook on manual for 10 minutes with a quick release.
The sauce should look thick and still be on top of your meat mixture, almost like the top of a meatloaf. Using a rubber spatula, fold the sauce into the meat, mixing well. It should lose its thickness and blend nicely.
- Entire Recipe (1,260g): 1,346 Calories | 216P | 44C | 34F
- Per 1/2 C (140g) Serving: 150 Calories | 24P | 4.9C | 3.8F
- Per 1/2 C Serving + Generic Hamburger Bun: 260 Calories | 28P | 26.9C | 5.3F
- Per 1/2 C Serving + Flatout Foldit: 240 Calories | 31P | 19.9C | 6.3F
**If you're using the stovetop instead of an Instant Pot, prepare the meat using a large skillet. Instead of pressure cooking the sauce on top, reduce the heat to low before mixing sauce in and covering. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring often.
If you’re looking for other Instant Pot sandwich ideas, check out my pulled pork sandwiches and high protein southwest slaw recipes.
And as always, if you try any of my recipes, I want to see your re-creations on Instagram. It lets me know you’re putting healthy recipes into action, and I love sharing your recipes to inspire others.
P.S. If you’re looking for dessert ideas, check out my free high protein cookbook for chocolate lovers. You can check it out here or simply enter your info below and I’ll send it your way.