Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce – Nutritious? [Inside the Label]

Sloppy Joes are an iconic American family meal dating back to the 1930′s. They are comprised of ground beef, tomato sauce, onions, and seasoning, all inside a hamburger bun. In this era of minimum preparation at the kitchen, most consumers forgo a full blown preparation and opt to mix cooked ground beef with a ready made everything-else. ConAgra’s Hunt’s division introduced its Manwich line of sauces exactly 40 years ago and has been very successful through good marketing (“A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.”) and palatable products.

At 40, the Manwich brand must be having a mid life crisis, so Hunt’s marketers decided to change the advertising strategy from “family fun” to “nutritional value”. The new tag line, seen in commercials – “There’s a full serving of vegetables in every Manwich.”

Our nutrition investigation team decided to take a look inside the label to uncover the real story. We took a look at the Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sauce.

What you need to know:

Here is the ingredient list:

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Less than 2% of: Salt, Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Dehydrated Red and Green Bell Peppers, Chile Pepper, Tomato Fiber, Spices, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dehydrated Garlic, Carob Bean Gum, Natural Flavors.

Tomato Puree as a first ingredient is to be expected. But why is it composed mostly of water? The reason is that tomato paste is highly concentrated (they take the water out when manufacturing paste).

Next – why sweetener in the #2 position?  Chefs know that adding a spoon of sugar to round out the flavor of the slightly acidic tomatoes is fine, but come on folks, we were first expecting to see some more veggies.

Ingredient #3 is vinegar, not something you would add to a homemade tomato sauce. and then at #4, another sweetener. Seems like a lot of liquids for the first 4 ingredients. That’s where the gums come in later on in the list (guar gum, xantham gum, carob bean gum – all natural). They all serve as thickeners, so you’ll feel like you’re getting less water, more tomato.

The nutrition facts are as follows: a serving is a quarter cup of sauce (not including the beef) which seems quite small. Mixing a 15.5 oz can with 1 lb of beef and then dividing to 7 portions as suggested will yield much less “joe” than is pictured in the  images on the product label and in the commercials. The “mini-serving” has 40 calories, 6 grams of sugar (1.5 teaspoons) and 2 grams of fiber (good, but comes from added ingredient called tomato fiber…). The sauce is not a substantial source of vitamins A or C, but cooked tomatoes are a great source of lycopenes, a kind of antioxidant that is supposed to help ward of cancer. The little serving has 410 mg of sodium, about 16% of the daily maximum value. A real manwich serving would be double the sodium though – upping sodium to a third of your daily max.

So is this a nutritious product? Yes and No. You can’t argue with tomatoes, although they are heavily watered down in this product. And all the added sugars / high fructose corn syrup seems superfluous.  And if you eat a portion as pictured in the label – you’ll be getting a hefty amount of sodium. On the other hand, there are no artificial preservatives here and the calorie count is low (lots of water…). There are worse things you could add to lean ground beef.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you’re going to be sauteeing the beef anyhow, why not start off with a tablespoon of canola or olive oil, a diced onion, 2 bell peppers and some spices? When the veggies get soft, add the beef, and when it loses all its pink, add a can of crushed or diced tomatoes and simmer for 15-30 minutes. Salt to taste. If required, a single teaspoon of sugar will round out the flavor of the entire skillet.

So much better, not much harder. Can keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Here’s the shopping list: lean ground beef, can of diced tomatoes, 2 bell peppers, one onion, (oil, spices)

Help us test our new food comparison tool:

  • Joanna Sutter (Fitness & Spice)

    I think they just redefined SLOPPY Joe’s!

  • Dr. Susan Rubin

    And of course, there is that pesky little ingredient: Natural Flavors.
    What is it? MSG? Some beefy like chemical only found along the corridors of the NJ Turnpike?
    I know its at the end of the list, so there isn’t much there. But I’m betting it packs a pretty powerful punch.

    One more question, does the lining of this can contain epoxy like substances that may be leeching BPA? Cans containing acidic ingredients like tomatoes seem to have more of this hormone disrupting chemical?

    These two questions override the convenience factor. A sick family is NOT convenient. I’ll make my sloppy joes from scratch, thank you!

  • annie avery

    and think of the fun creating your own sloppy joe spice blend and sharing with your friends, gifts, etc… i avoid anything in a package, even cans.. choose to make my own!

  • Mearow

    What spices go good in sloppy joe sauce? When I tried to make a homemade version, it ended up tasting very flat and something was definitely missing (maybe it was missing sugar). I added onion powder and celery salt along with the fresh onions and green pepper.

    • Nathan

      Ground cumin is one of the main spices I use to make it authentic. A good heaping tablespoon of it.

  • sam


    • jeff

      Onions and green pepper. A little chili powder. A touch of vinegar. The more green pepper the better the sauce.

  • seamus

    Their claim as to having a full serving of “vegetables” is absolutely wrong since they are relying on tomatoes. Tomatoes are fruits not vegetables and I doubt that the onions areenough for a full serving.

  • Phil

    Tomato is not a vegetable.

    • Equineluvr

      The government says that it is. Don’t you remember all the bru-haha during the Reagan administration?

  • Jennifer

    I use for sloppy joes:

    Browned Lean Beef (drained after cooking), Corn Syrup Free Ketchup, Chili Sauce, a bit of brown sugar.. salt, pepper.. ect. The chili sauce is awesome!

  • Joe

    I want to know how Hunt’s can advertise that one quarter cup of Manwich contains one half cup of vegetables. How can that possibly be?

    • Sharondparker

      Food conglomerates have lobbied to haveas 1/4th cup of tomato puree labelled a ‘serving’ of vegetables. Thus, Manwich has a ‘full serving’ of vegetables per sandwich.
      Chef Boyardee does the same thing with all of their offerings.

  • Joe

    Chili powder, paprika, tabasco for a little kick of heat/flavor…@Mearow

  • Carrie

    Manwich is disgusting and now there is proof.

  • Nick Lento

    Are the “natural flavors” any kind of msg???  That garbage is super toxic. see


      MSG is not toxic…… stop spouting what you don’t know. in fact MSG is heather for you more so than salt…. true facts

      • Equineluvr

        MSG is a KNOWN neurotoxin, so cut the crap!!!

  • Debs1953

    I wish I knew if Manwich was gluten free? I don’t want to kill my husband.

  • Nathan

    When my son asked for it a few years ago, I decided to figure out what was in it and make it. I have never looked back. I make it better than anything out of a can, and it is one of my easiest meals.

  • cindy

    how many carbs are in manwish sloppy joes

  • shtol

    That crap is garbage. A real sloppy Joe isn’t red. A $1 can of this will ruin a pound of meat? No thanks.