Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes That Even Your Little One Will Love!

These Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes take a classic Sloppy Joe recipe and turn it into something the whole family – even your youngest eaters – will love. Sloppy Joe filling is tucked into fluffy crescent cups for a neater, handheld version of the popular weeknight dinner.

If you have questions about starting solid foods, consult a physician or health care provider.

An overhead shot of Not-So-Sloppy Joes laid out on a cooling rack.

This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.

I hope you’re ready for an easy weeknight dinner that the entire family is going to love, because these Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes totally fit the bill. They’re quick, easy, and so tasty you won’t even know they’re made specifically for tiny appetites.

That’s right, I’m thrilled to be partnering with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. to bring you this baby-led weaning-friendly recipe and share all of the amazing benefits of introducing beef as a first food to your babes.

By now you likely know what a huge proponent I am of the baby-led weaning method, which encourages the introduction of ALL foods in their most natural form starting from very early on in a child’s solid food journey. With BLW, it’s recommended that foods like peanut butter, eggs, dairy, and, yes, beef are all introduced before a child turns one in order to expand their palates and set them up for optimal physical and cognitive development.

You can read more about the baby-led weaning method here. In the meantime, let’s dig into some of nutrition benefits of beef, and how it lends itself to these important developmental milestones.

A close-up shot of "Not-So-Sloppy" Joes in their baking pan.

Nutritional Benefits of Beef for Babies

Beef contains high-quality protein, iron and zinc, all of which are essential nutrients for a child’s healthy growth and development. With more than ten essential nutrients, beef can assist in improved recall skills and reasoning abilities, and also support brain health and optimal cognitive development. You can read more about the nutritional benefits of beef as a first food on

While beef purées are certainly an option for ensuring your baby receives all of these benefits, I wanted to create a recipe with beef in one of its more natural forms for all of my baby-led weaning fans out there. So how did I create a Sloppy Joe recipe that’s baby-led weaning approved?

A "Not-So-Sloppy" Joe on a kids' plate with zucchini and tomato salad.


Let me tell you!

Ground Beef Sloppy Joes That are Baby-Led Weaning Approved

If you’re not too familiar with baby-led weaning, there are a few things to pay special attention to when offering foods to your little one:


When presenting food to a babe who’s just starting to eat, you want to make sure it’s appropriate for his or her current chewing and swallowing abilities. Ground beef – which I used for these Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes – is a great option as it’s already in small pieces and easy to chew. It’s even “gummable” for babies who may not have many (or any) teeth yet.


Sodium deserves some special attention when it comes to cooking for your little one. While adults can consume between 1,500-2,300 mg of sodium a day, babies and toddlers should be consuming much less, between 400-800 mg per day. That’s why you won’t see any added salt in this recipe, however, if you feel you want more salt in your Sloppy Joe mixture, feel free to set some “joe” mix aside for your baby and then season the rest as you wish.


While many traditional Sloppy Joe recipes use brown sugar as a sweetener, I try to steer away from pure sugar as much as possible when cooking for new eaters. To sweeten up the sauce a little bit, I recommend adding just enough maple syrup to tone down the acidity of the tomatoes.


If there’s one thing anyone who’s already gone through baby-led weaning can attest to, it’s that it makes a huge mess! In BLW, babies are encouraged to practice self-feeding from the very beginning, so things definitely don’t stay neat and tidy. The great thing about this Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joe recipe is that the mess of the Joe filling will be at least somewhat contained by those fluffy crescent cups, and babies won’t even need to wield a fork to get to the good stuff.

"Not-So-Sloppy" Joes cooling on a rack, surrounded by a blue and white checked napkin.

While the nutrients in beef offer an ample amount of benefits, tomatoes and bell peppers give the recipe an extra dose of nutrition. With less mess and babies’ nutritional needs in mind, these “Not-So-Sloppy” Joe’s will be the perfect addition to your weeknight dinner rotation, not to mention they’ll be enjoyed by the whole family!

For more great family recipes and additional information about the health benefits of beef, be sure to check out

I’d love to hear all about your BLW adventures with beef in the comments below!

Ground Beef "Not-So-Sloppy" Joes
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
42 mins

These Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes take a classic Sloppy Joe recipe and turn it into something the whole family - even your youngest eaters - will love. Sloppy Joe filling is tucked into fluffy crescent cups for a neater, handheld version of the popular weeknight dinner.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, beef, entree, kid-friendly, main course, weeknight
Servings: 24 cups
Calories: 212 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground mustard
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons coco aminos
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste (for adults)
  • 3 cans refrigerated crescent dough (enough dough for 3 dozen crescents)
  1. Preheat oven according to crescent dough package directions. Spray cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

  2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until just translucent, about 3 minutes, then add bell peppers. Once bell peppers begin to soften, add Ground Beef. Stir in pan until it begins to brown, then add garlic powder and ground mustard. Continue stirring until most of the meat is browned.

  3. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to pan and stir until combined, then stir in the coconut aminos, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. If you want to add some salt for the adults and older kids in the family, now’s the time to do it, but go as light as you can. Turn the mixture down to low and let it simmer while you prepare the crescent cups.

  4. Unroll the crescent dough from its package and separate each triangle. Cut the top off of each triangle and then reattach it to the side to make a rectangle (as shown in the photos). Press rectangles one by one into the cupcake molds.

  5. Take a tablespoon measure and scoop 1-2 tablespoons into each crescent cup. Place cupcake pans in preheated oven and bake according to the crescent package directions (typically at around 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes), or until golden. Leave in pan until cool enough to touch, then gently remove, using a butter knife to gently ease them out if necessary.

Recipe Notes


Best First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning

These are some of the best first foods you can introduce to your baby if you are following the baby-led weaning method.

Title graphic showing four of the best first foods for baby-led weaning, including zucchini, squash, bananas and oatmeal.

So, your babe is consistently demonstrating signs that they are ready to start solid foods and your doctor has given you the go-ahead to start on the solid food journey with your babe. Now what? It can be a bit scary when you first introduce solids to your little one, but these five foods are all great ways to get started.

While none of the below foods are common allergens, I encourage you to read up on the baby-led weaning method of introducing new foods. BLW (baby-led weaning) advocates introducing your babe to common allergens early and often, but one at a time so you’re aware of any adverse reactions. We are lucky that our little one doesn’t seem to have any food allergies or sensitivities, but if your little one does, you may want to consult a medical professional.

Another quick note: Don’t worry if your child doesn’t yet have teeth! Raia didn’t get her first tooth until after she was a year old, and that didn’t seem to hold her back one bit when it came to eating. You’ll be amazed at what they can do with just their gums!

So, without further ado, here were some of our favorite first foods for baby:

#1 Roasted Zucchini Sticks

A dish of roasted dill zucchini sticks.

Quick Fix: Cut zucchini into 3-4 inch long sticks. Toss with olive oil and some sort of fresh or dried herb (oregano and dill are both favorites) Roast in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until soft enough for your little one to “gum”. If you want to be extra cautious, peel the skin off the zucchini before cutting it into sticks.

#2 Oven-Baked Butternut Squash Fries

A dish of roasted butternut squash zig zags,

Quick Fix: Prepare in the same way as the zucchini sticks, but try using curry powder or a mix of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

#3 Sliced Avocado

Quick Fix: Cut your avocado in half, then in quarters. Peel off the skin and slice in half again. Serve plain.

#4 Banana

A clear glass dish full of sliced banana.

Quick Fix: When baby is first starting out, I might recommend cutting the banana lengthwise in half or quarters. Once they have swallowing down pat, you can just hand them an unpeeled banana, or cut it up into discs.

#5 Oatmeal

A clear glass dish of oatmeal topped with berry compote.

Quick Fix: Make oatmeal however you usually make it, but be sure you are using PLAIN rolled or steel-cut oats and are not adding in additional sugars or salt. Some of my favorite early oatmeal additions are pureed pumpkin or a homemade (no sugar added) fruit conserve.

*Note: Unless your little one needs extra iron in his or her diet, it is not necessary to start them out with baby oatmeal or rice cereal. Instead, you can go straight to real oatmeal or rice cereal that you would make for yourself.

Finally, one of my very favorite things about baby-led weaning is the fact that it encourages you to introduce your little one to as many herbs and spices as possible as early as possible. One resource that I have found INCREDIBLY helpful when preparing food for my little one is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg [*affiliate link]. It lists out common foods and then gives recommendations of flavor pairings that complement each one. I highly recommend you invest in it!

I hope this post has given you the tools you need to feel confident in preparing your baby’s first foods. As your little one’s oral and manual dexterity progresses, you’ll find more and more foods that they are able to eat. For some easy baby-led weaning recipe ideas, be sure to check out my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers, this post on Easy Breakfast Recipes That Are Baby-Led Weaning Friendly and this list of 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes.

Happy cooking!