What Is a Manwich?

For anyone Gen-X or younger, the sloppy joe has been immortalized by Adam Sandler and Chris Farley’s famous sketch from Saturday Night Live. But our parents, grandparents, and—for those Gen-Alphas out there—great-grandparents, have been chowing down on these messy sandwiches for far longer. And no matter your age, there’s one name that’s become synonymous with sloppy joe: Manwich.

What is a Manwich? Well, before I really get into it, I’d like to go on record and say these gendered sandwich names should go the way of the dinosaur and the Saturday Evening Post. Please leave your naming suggestions in the comments.

What is a Manwich?

A Manwich is a sloppy joe made with Manwich sauce. Because Manwich is a brand of sloppy joe sauce. What’s a sloppy joe? The sloppy joe has existed for over one hundred years and has had nearly a dozen monikers: loose meat sandwich, chopped meat sandwich, Spanish hamburger, Hamburg a la Creole, and, my personal favorite, toasted deviled hamburgers.

The original sloppy joe is often attributed to a Cuban bar owner named José Abeal Otero. In 1917, he included a “simple sandwich filled with ground beef stewed in tomatoes” on the menu, which, allegedly, became a favorite of visiting author Ernest Hemingway.

As the sloppy joe spread in popularity throughout the U.S., especially in public school cafeterias—right next to the fish sticks and the tater tots. Eventually, a business decided to put it in a can, as American businesses are often wont to do.  

In 1969, Hunt’s Food Company created their own version of a sauce that, when mixed with ground beef, would approximate a sloppy joe. They called their new product Manwich and used the slogan “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.” 

Maybe they thought only manly men like Hemingway would want to get their hands dirty while eating this sloppy sammie. The name stuck, and the Manwich name has become interchangeable with the original sloppy joe.

What is Manwich sauce?

Manwich sauce is basically a dolled up version of tomato sauce. It includes tomato puree, corn syrup, dried green pepper, spices, and all those delicious preservatives that allow it to stay in your cupboard for months.

What can you add to Manwich?

Well, you really should be adding ground beef to the Manwich sauce, but you could add other types of meat (or meat substitute) I suppose. The traditional sloppy joe is literally just sauced ground beef in a bun of your choice (for me, a potato bun). 

If you’re making a sloppy joe with manwich sauce at home, you can just stop there. But I’ve tried mixing in the following: fried onions and peppers, cheese (any), sour cream, extra spices like cayenne pepper or hot sauce, potato chips, coleslaw, and I even swapped the potato bun for a pretzel bun, which is just as good.

Is Manwich vegan? Is Manwich gluten-free?

It’s absolutely wild to think about, but Manwich sauce is actually vegan. That means that someone, somewhere, has made a tofu sloppy joe and wept tears of joy. 

As for gluten, there aren’t any ingredients on the label with gluten in them. However, it is not certified gluten-free, so tread carefully. 

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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