You can say goodbye to that can of Manwich, because these Crock Pot Sloppy Joes blow the canned stuff out of the water! This easy sloppy joe recipe is a family favorite, and only takes 15 minutes to prep! If you’re looking for classic comfort food you can make ahead of time, this slow cooker recipe is for you.
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Classic Sloppy Joes in the Crock Pot
Whenever I remake a favorite meal from my childhood, I get a bit nervous. It’s the same feeling I have when I watch a movie I thought was SO AMAZING in my teenage years. Some of these movies, like “Father of the Bride” for instance, absolutely stand the test of time.
Other times, you re-watch a movie like “Dude, Where’s My Car” and realize with some sadness that it was only funny because you watched it with your best friend at 2 AM while breaking off chunks of cookie dough straight from the Tollhouse block.
I had the same feeling remaking my mom’s classic sloppy joe recipe as I did when I made my other childhood favorites, Crazy Cake and Green Bean Tater Tot Casserole. This was either going to go really well or really badly.
Luckily for all of us, this Crock Pot Sloppy Joe recipe is the Father of the Bride of the food world. It holds up! It is just as comforting, wonderfully sloppy, sweet, and tangy as I remember.
Plus, to the great relief of all parents who’ve experienced the mysterious accuracy of the “witching hour,” you can make them in the slow cooker! With just 15 minutes of prep, you can have these homemade sloppy joes in the crock pot and ready for you just in time to beat the dinner-time whinge.
Load them up with a slice of cheese and your favorite toppings for a hearty hands-off recipe the whole family will love!
Key Ingredients in Sloppy Joes
We make our sloppy joes recipe with ground beef and a homemade sloppy joe sauce with ketchup. Here’s what you’ll need to make them:
- Ground beef– You can use 80/20 or lean ground beef. Either will work.
- Onion and (sometimes) green pepper– We always add onion to our sloppy joes. Diced small, it’s hardly noticeable and it adds great flavor. The same goes for the bell pepper! If I have one on hand, I love to add it in for a boost in veggies.
- Brown sugar– I have always preferred a subtly sweet sloppy joe. The brown sugar gives the recipe a definite sweetness, but it’s well balanced by the savory tang of our other ingredients.
- Mustard and Apple Cider Vinegar– For that signature tang! You can use red wine vinegar if you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand.
- Worcestershire sauce– I just love the added depth and savoriness a little worcestershire gives this sauce.
- Ketchup– You’ll need 1 ½ cups, so be sure to check your fridge to make sure you have enough before you head to the store!
- Hamburger Buns– We love serving sloppy joe on brioche buns, but any kind of bun will work just fine. This recipe can also be used to make sloppy joe sliders!
NOTE: This sloppy joe meat is gluten free, but you’ll need to make sure you get gluten free Worcestershire sauce (Lea and Perrin’s and French’s are both GF) and use gluten free buns for a completely gluten free sloppy joe sandwich.
Toppings for Slow Cooker Sloppy Joe
Now, let’s stop for a moment and talk about toppings, because they can really make the difference between a good sloppy joe and a FANTASTIC sloppy joe.
- Cheese– I don’t often choose American cheese, but when I do, it’s probably because I’m eating sloppy joes. While American cheese is a classic choice, we also love eating sloppy joes with Swiss, colby jack, cheddar, and muenster cheese.
- French fried onions– Adding a little crunch is always a good idea.
- Pickles- We prefer a tangy dill pickle, which plays nicely against the sweet sloppy joes.
- Hot sauce– My husband started adding hot sauce to his sloppy joes, and I quickly realized this was brilliant. Add a few drops to the top of your sandwich, or stir it into the mixture itself.
How to Make Sloppy Joes in the Crock Pot
- Brown the beef and veggies. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers and saute about 2 minutes, until just starting to soften. Push the veggies over to the side and add the ground beef. Cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes until the beef starts to brown. Break the beef into smaller pieces and continue to cook the beef and veggies together, stirring occasionally, until no pink remains. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you have more than a Tablespoon of fat in the pan, drain it off.
- Stir it all up. In a slow cooker or crock pot, combine the cooked beef mixture, brown sugar, mustard, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. Stir well to combine.
- Cook and serve. Set the crock pot to low and cook for 2-3 hours. The crock pot can then be set to warm and kept warm for another 1-2 hours. To serve, pile the sloppy joe mixture onto the buns. Top with the cheese, pickles, and onions and enjoy!
Make Ahead and Storage Instructions
This slow cooker recipe is not one you’ll want to start in the morning before work and leave to cook all day. The sloppy joes only take a few hours to cook, so it’s best to start the crock pot in the mid to late afternoon.
HOWEVER, you can do all the prep work the morning of or even the night before. Go ahead and brown the beef and mix everything together in the slow cooker insert. Cover, and place it in the fridge. Whenever you’re ready, transfer it to the slow cooker and turn to low!
You can also cook the sloppy joes in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days. Reheat when it’s convenient for you.
- To reheat sloppy joe in the crock pot: Add the mixture back to the slow cooker along with a splash of water and heat on low for 1-1.5 hours.
- To reheat on the stove top: Add to a large pan or pot over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture is heated to 165 degrees.
- To reheat in the microwave- Microwave, covered, for 1 minute. Stir, and reheat an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, until hot through.
Can you freeze homemade crock pot sloppy joes?
Yes! Sloppy soes are GREAT for freezing! Place the meat mixture in a freezer safe container or ziplock freezer bags. Lay flat and freeze for up 4 months. Thaw overnight then reheat as desired.
Can I double this recipe? Can I make enough slow cooker sloppy joes to feed a large crowd?
Yes and yes! This recipe can easily be doubled and is perfect for larger gatherings.
Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?
Yep! This is technically called a Sloppy Jane, and it’s quite delicious!
Why do you have to brown ground beef before putting it in the crock pot?
Unfortunately, ground beef almost always has to be browned before adding it to the crock pot. Browning in advance prevents the meat from clumping together and keeps the final dish from being too greasy.
What sides go with sloppy joes?
My favorite side dish for sloppy joes is plain potato chips! The crispy, salty chips play so nicely with the tangy sloppy joe. In fact, I love to dip potato chips into leftover sloppy joe meat for a delicious snack!
For a really easy meal, pair sloppy joes with frozen french fries, tater tots, or air fryer potatoes.
Our creamy mac and cheese is another great side dish. Adding a scoop of sloppy joes to a bowl of mac and cheese is a great way to make a second meal out of the leftovers!
More Easy Crock Pot Recipes to Enjoy
Try these other favorites:
- Slow Cooker Steak Chili
- Slow Cooker Beef and Noodles
- The Best Slow Cooker Shredded Beef
- Slow Cooker Chicken Chilaquiles
- Crock Pot BBQ Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Goulash
- Olive oil, to coat
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 green pepper, diced (optional)
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- Salt and pepper
- 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons mustard
- 1 1/2 cups ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 8 buns or rolls
- 8 slices American cheese
- Bread and butter pickles
- French fried onions
- Heat the oil In a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers and saute about 2 minutes, until just starting to soften. Push the veggies over to the side and add the ground beef, spreading it out over the pan. Cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes until the beef starts to brown. Break the beef into smaller pieces and continue to cook the beef and veggies together, stirring occasionally, until no pink remains. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you have more than a Tablespoon of fat in the pan, drain it off.
- In a slow cooker, combine the cooked beef and veggies and all the remaining ingredients, up to the rolls. Stir to combine. Set the crock pot to low and cook for 2-3 hours. The crock pot can then be set to warm and kept on warm for another 1-2 hours.
- To serve, pile the sloppy joe mixture onto the buns. Top with the cheese, pickles, and onions.
Add hot sauce to the sloppy joe mixture for a pleasant kick!
Leftover sloppy joes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 4 months.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 605Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 117mgSodium: 1154mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 2gSugar: 21gProtein: 40g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.