The recipe for Maid-Rites is a well-kept secret. But this home version is as good as you can get to the secret Iowa Maid-Rite sandwich recipe!

Growing up in Iowa, I’ve had some pretty amazing food unique to the state. I’m sure that you have similar memories from your own home state or from other states that you’ve lived in.

Although Maid-Rite sandwiches have been offered in other Midwestern states, the origin of this cult-following sandwich hales from the Hawkeye state where they first created in 1926 in the small town of Muscatine, Iowa. This sandwich is close to being 100 years old!!! Now that’s a stamp of approval and LOVE if I’ve ever known one! Currently, there are 31 remaining locations for Maid-Rite diners. Since the original recipe is a well-kept secret, everyone who prepares Maid-Rite sandwiches has their own version. For our family, we prefer to stay true to the simple, and most minimalist, unadulterated recipe.

People have even said that these sloppy, loose meat sandwiches are a favorite comfort food that’s part of many Americans’ lives. So much a part of the Midwestern regional culture, these messy sandwiches are on school lunch menus, served in large and small hometown lunch counter diners, and even my mother included them in our family’s weekly budget meals.

After school, my friends and I would walk to the nearby Maid-Rite shop as many times as we could afford to splurge our tiny weekly allowance money on. These little diners had a special, small-town ambiance. A lot of nostalgia goes with Maid-Rite sandwiches, back to a more simple, less complicated period in life, just like the sandwiches. We could never resist these juicy sandwiches with fries and an ice-cold Coke or root beer soda! One can never get enough of these ‘sloppy joes without the sauce’ sandwiches.

The recipe is so insanely simple, it really doesn’t even need a ‘recipe’!

Well, it’s simple: It’s like a sloppy joe but without the sauce. And yet, it’s not a burger either.

The ground beef is minimally seasoned — at the most, just add some plain, dried onion soup mix. I also season ANY ground beef recipe with my holy trinity seasoning of Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Original Seasons, Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning Blend , and Ac’cent Flavor Enhancer.

To make this sandwich, you just slowly cook finely crumbled-up ground beef. “Steaming” the beef is the original cooking method; Maid-Rites are not cooked on a grill like hamburgers. In the restaurants, a huge metal steaming box is used that looks similar to an old-fashioned metal ice box. In this unique ‘cooker’, the ground beef is ‘steam-cooked’ right in front of you while you sit around a lunch counter that wraps around the steaming area.

But to cook Maid-Rites at home, you use a tall pot or a slow cooker to do the job. While the steaming is going on, you want the beef to cook slowly. The ground beef is barely browned, it’s not supposed to be a crispy brown, but rather it has a gentle, subtle browning to it.

To prevent drying out, add moisture to the beef crumbles with some beef or chicken stock while it cooks. I use “Better Than Bouillion” beef in hot water (or even chicken-flavored works well to achieve a more subtle flavor).

  • Brown sugar? NO!
  • Soy sauce? Certainly NOT!
  • Worcestershire sauce? NO!
  • Condensed French Onion Soup? Absolutely NOT!
  • Milk or evaporated milk? NOT!
  • Mushroom soup? OMG NOT!
  • Vinegar? NO WAY!

These ingredients may indeed add to one’s own flavor preferences, but they do change the flavor significantly.

Onions are added that have been slightly cooked to soften. Then the beef is spooned onto a soft, super-fresh, white hamburger or brioche bun (my family prefers a brioche bun since it’s a larger bun and holds a lot more beef)! For this slider recipe, I use the small Hawaiian Sweet Buns. These sandwiches are amazing with just some dill pickle slices, and only mustard, thank you. Dill pickles are an absolute must to get the distinctive flavor of these sandwiches.

Mustard alone is ideal (but not a lot of it) which gives a nice tangy bite to the overall flavor. Traditionally, ketchup is not the norm to add to a Maid-Rite, so just save the ketchup for your French fries! When you add ketchup, the sandwich is too sweet and becomes more saucy like a true sloppy joe with a completely different texture. These minimalist sandwiches also aren’t great with American cheese added as in a cheeseburger. Nothing is appetizing about melted cheese in crumbled meat (other than nachos, I guess, but that’s a whole different recipe)! The texture is just all wrong.

When you serve these, you have to remember that the crumbles of ground beef need to be SPILLING OUT of a super soft, fresh bun onto the plate. Yes, the meat should literally be falling out of the sandwich, and all over your hands with every bite! Big napkins are required! Therefore a spoon is necessary to gather up all of that beefy goodness! That’s right, you need a spoon to scoop up all the beef crumbles tumbling out of a (hopefully) stuffed sandwich!

Also keep in mind that there are 2 ways to serve Maid-Rites: “Wet” or “Dry”. The dry version has most of the grease pressed out and then spooned on the bun. The wet version is served without squeezing any of the grease from the beef. Needless to say, the wet sandwiches taste much better (where there’s fat, there’s flavor, right?). But the one bad thing about the wet, more tasty version is that the bottom of the bun gets soggy fairly quickly.

Iowa Maid-Rite Sliders
  • High-quality ground beef that is not super lean . . . 85% is what I choose to use. For flavor, Midwestern corn-fed beef makes a huge difference. Iowa beef is what is used in the restaurants. If you can’t find it in your area, then get the best ground beef available.
  • Onion – white or yellow is fine
  • Dry onion soup mix
  • Boullion (Beef or Chicken) some say to use Coca Cola, so it’s up to you!
  • White hamburger buns (preferably ‘brioche buns’ that hold more beef crumbles)
  • Dill pickles
  • Mustard

That’s it! Don’t ruin this recipe by adding more of this or that . . . unless you want to. But seriously, this is closest copycat recipe to the real deal!

And now let’s get to the kitchen to make some incredibly delicious Maid-Rite Sandwich Sliders!

After you’ve completed each of the steps above, add the bouillion and just sit back, relax, and cook the beef on very low heat for a few hours, keeping an eye on the beef to see if it is drying out. Add more bouillion as needed to keep the beef crumbles moist.


Traditionally, Maid-Rites are served with:

  • French fries
  • Potato Chips

But the options are truly only limited to your preferences and imagination!

Maid-Rites pair wonderfully with:

  • Potato Salad
  • Fresh Sweet Corn
  • Baked Beans
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Lettuce Salad (a 7-layer salad would be perfect!)
  • Maid-Rite beef stores well for up to 4 days in the fridge.
  • It freezes well (in freezer-safe containers) for 2-3 months. Break down a larger amount of beef mixture into smaller freezer containers for individual grab-and-go meals! Perfect for packing a delicious lunch or on-the-go meal!
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Iowa Maid-Rite Sandwich

Iowa Maid-Rite Loose Meat Sandwich Sliders – Copycat

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 25 sliders or 12 sandwiches 1x
  • Category: Sandwiches
  • Method: Stovetop, Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American



  • 4 lbs. high-quality ground beef (preferably Midwestern corn-fed beef)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 packet dried onion soup mix
  • Roz’s holy trinity of seasonings * see note below and in the post]
  • 1 Tbsp. “Better Than Bouillion” (beef or chicken) in 1-1/2 cups of hot water
  • White hamburger buns (Brioche or Hawaiian Sweet Slider Buns)
  • Dill Pickles
  • Mustard


  1. In a slow cooker or a tall pot, begin to brown the ground beef, chopping it down into crumbles throughout the entire cooking process.
  2. Add Roz’s “Holy Trinity” seasonings. * (See notes and in blog post). Stir well.
  3. Add chopped onion.
  4. Add the dried onion soup mix.
  5. Add 1-½ cups of bouillion in hot water (beef or chicken), or chicken broth.
  6. Continue to break up any clumps of ground beef to develop the crumbled effect.
  7. If using a slow cooker, set it on ‘low’ and cook for 4 hours, stirring occasionally to maintain the crumbly effect desired.  A ‘smooth’ texture should develop.
  8. If using a large, tall pot on the stovetop, set the burner temperature to low, and cook for 1-½ – 2 hours, stirring occasionally to develop a crumbly, yet smooth texture.
  9. ENJOY!  Buon Appetito!



  • Serving Size: 1 sandwich
  • Calories: 325
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Sodium: 125mg
  • Fat: 23g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Protein: 20g
  • Cholesterol: 80g
Iowa Maid-Rite Sandwiches