Spicy Jalapeño Sloppy Joe Recipe | Wine Enthusiast
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Embrace the Mess with Grown-Up Spicy Jalapeño Sloppy Joes

In more distance between the two than matching this high school staple with farm-to-table dining? This version may be a little less sloppy (and is probably grassfed), but it’s messy enough to be fun. Meet a Joe who has matured some, but still has some tricks up its sleeve.

The Cuyama Buckhorn roadside resort is a stunningly renovated 1950s motel that is an oasis in California’s high desert. Located about an hour east of Santa Barbara wine country in the shadow of Los Padres National Forest, the restaurant serves American comfort food with ingredients sourced from nearby farms. This grown-up Sloppy Joe has all the nostalgic pleasure you’re looking for, but with complexity from red wine and roasted jalapeños and garnishes that give textural contrast. The recipe multiplies easily for a casual dinner party or high school reunion.

Spicy Jalapeño Sloppy Joes

Courtesy Conrad Mountjoy, Sous Chef, Cuyama Buckhorn, New Cuyama, California; Instagram @cuyamabuckhorn


1 cup ketchup
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3 jalapeños
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
1 cup dry red wine
4 toasted hamburger buns, for serving
Cilantro crema, for garnish*
Pickled onions, for garnish**


Whisk together ketchup, paprika, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, cumin and cayenne until blended.

Blacken 2 jalapeños over a gas flame or under a broiler, then put in a covered bowl for 20 minutes. Peel, remove stem and seeds, mince and add to ketchup mixture. Stem and seed the remaining jalapeño, mince and set aside.

Add beef to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add ketchup mixture and cook until thick and heated through.

Divide mixture among buns and garnish with minced jalapeño, crema and onions. Serves 4.

*How to Make Cilantro Crema

Mix 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 packed cup minced cilantro, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.

**How to Make Pickled Onions

Boil 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, and 2 tablespoons sugar, and pour over 1 thin-sliced red onion. Let cool to room temperature and drain.

Wine Pairing

Santa Ema 2019 Amplus One Carmenère (Cachapoal Valley)

A pairing challenge in this dish is presented by both the ketchup and the jalapeño. Ketchup’s concentrated sweet-tart flavor will overwhelm most wines, while spicy food can make tannic wines taste bitter. The solution? Carmenère, which has powerful fruit without overwhelming tannins, plus a pyrazine note that recalls the roasted jalapeño in the dish. This bottle has rich blackberry and black plum flavors with a tobacco note that works with the smoked paprika. It’s a complex and soul-warming pairing.

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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