Beef Main Dishes Recipes Slow Cooker

Last updated on April 25th, 2024 at 05:51 pm

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Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes [Video]

Slow cooker sloppy joes are a comfort food that most likely everyone enjoyed when they were kids. But I still love them as much as I did back then, so I wanted to find an easy way to make them, that also makes them taste even better than before. Mission accomplished, cooking this flavorful ground beef mixture in the slow cooker for a few hours, while I am busy doing something else, is so wonderful! The result is an effortless dinner, that the whole family loves!

Crockpot Sloppy Joes

One thing I love about slow cookers is that I do not have to do much work to get scrumptious meals that taste like I spent all day working on them. This is one of those meals. It is perfect for those on a budget because the ingredients are all very inexpensive. If you have some ground beef and a few other basic ingredients, you can have this yummy dish in just a few hours.

Of course, you can grab a can of Manwich or some other sloppy joe sauce at the grocery store, but it has all sorts of preservatives and additives, not to mention all the sugar. Instead, you can make this simple recipe in minutes and just let it simmer in the crockpot all day. Coming home after a day of work to a ready-to-serve meal, is the best feeling ever.

You’ll only need a few things including tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and some herbs and spices. After letting the slow cooker do its magic, you just need to grab some hamburger buns, and cheese and you have a hearty homemade dinner on the table.

It is the perfect dinner recipe for those busy days to enjoy with the whole family. Paired with various side dishes, you get yourself a complete and satisfying meal! I like to serve mine with mashed potatoes, or these crispy air fryer roasted potatoes, a simple tomato and avocado salad, or creamy cucumber salad on the side.

So, if you are looking for more classic, family-favorite recipes then check out my Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Juicy Homemade Meatballs, and Baked Buffalo Wings! Those are great ideas for a game night spread!

What you’ll need to make a slow cooker sloppy joes recipe

Specific items:

  • A slow cooker or crockpot – I use my slow cooker because it makes more, and I like to have leftovers.
  • A frying pan – To brown the beef.
  • A wooden spoon – For stirring. I always use wooden or silicone utensils, so they don’t scratch my pots and pans.

The ingredients:

  • Ground beef – It is best to use lean ground beef such as 80/20.
  • Vegetable oil – For browning the ground beef. 
  • Tomato sauce – Use the high-quality stuff for the best tomatoey flavor.
  • Ketchup – Adds that special sweet tang that only ketchup has.
  • Prepared mustard – Gives it a taste of vinegar, salt, and mustard seeds.
  • Brown sugar – Adds a little bit of sweetness with a rich background.
  • Worcestershire sauce – Made with malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, anchovies, tamarind, shallots, garlic, and other spices, this sauce has a complex flavor to add to your sloppy joes.
  • Hamburger buns – Any kind you like to use. I prefer soft potato buns.
  • Cheese slices – You can use whatever cheese you like but I use yellow cheese slices for that authentic sloppy joe taste.
  • Garlic powder – Gives your sloppy joes a smoky, smooth, and lightly sweet garlicky flavor.
  • Onion powder – This tastes like a cross between raw and cooked onions with a sharp and zesty flavor.
  • Smoked paprika – Adds a bit of spicy, sweet, and woodsy smoky flavor.
  • Salt – Just add enough to your taste preference. 
  • Ground black pepper – Grinding it yourself is the best way to use pepper in any recipe.

How to make Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes?

  1. Brown the beef: Over medium-high heat, add some oil to a large skillet and brown the ground beef with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients, and continue cooking the beef for about 6-8 minutes until it is no longer pink.
  2. Transfer: Next, transfer the beef mixture into the crockpot along with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Slow Cook it: Then, cover and cook on HIGH or LOW, whichever you prefer. It will take at least 3 hours and 6 hours at most.
  4. Assemble: Lastly, serve the resulting mixture in between toasted buns and add cheese before serving.

Expert tip

Brown the meat

Over the years, I found out that browning the meat makes the difference in flavor and taste. If you want to make the best sloppy joes, then I would recommend browning and crumbling the meat first. 

This will take an additional 5-10 minutes, but it caramelizes the flavors and the whole dish. Also, it will help cut down on the grease. Just like when you cook a roast or steak, it is best to sear the meat to keep the juices in. You can drain the grease before adding it to the slow cooker, so you don’t have to worry about greasy sandwiches.


  • Meat: This sloppy joe recipe works perfectly with other meats as well. Swap the beef with ground turkey, or ground chicken and follow the same cooking steps. Or, forget about the calories and fat and use ground sausage for an intense flavor. I love this with pork sausage.
  • Veggies: Feel free to chop some red bell pepper or green pepper and add to the mixture. 
  • Sauce: You can use your favorite sauce here. Instead of tomato sauce, you can use chili sauce, or homemade bbq sauce.
  • Seasoning: Mix in other seasonings like chili powder, cajun seasoning, or ranch seasoning mix
  • Spicy sloppy joes: Make your slow cooker sloppy joes spicy by adding some red pepper flakes to the mix.
  • Taco sloppy joes: Another way to change the flavor is to add taco seasoning to the sauce. Try my recipe for homemade taco seasoning
  • Stove top version: If you don’t have a slow cooker or crock pot, then you can easily make the recipe on the skillet, check my Bacon Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes recipe for directions.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve on Hawaiian rolls for sweeter sloppy joes. My kids love these!
  • Try this creamy macaroni and cheese that everyone loves, it pairs so well with sloppy joes.
  • For healthier options, serve with a light salad on the side or roasted vegetables.
  • Diss the buns, quickly make a baked sweet potato in the microwave, and top with the sloppy joe mixture.
  • This dish is a great picnic food, so it goes well with potato salad.
  • Just like a grilled cheese sandwich, these are delicious with some creamy tomato soup.
  • Also, instead of serving the mixture in between buns, you can opt to use it as a topping for a pizza.
  • Those on a low-carb diet can eat these sloppy joes on lettuce cups.

Frequently asked questions

What exactly is a sloppy Joe?

A sloppy joe is a sandwich made of loose ground beef mixed with tomato sauce and seasoning. Instead of serving the meat as a patty, it is served as loose meat on a bun so some of it often ends up on the plate or the front of your shirt. It is often seasoned with onions, bell peppers, and garlic for extra flavor and sometimes served with cheese.

The name of these is obvious to those who have had sloppy joes in the past. It seems like no matter how careful you are, some of the meat and sauce just manage to slip out of the bun. But some say that the name came from the first place to serve it. It was in the 1930s in a bar in Havana, Cuba owned by a man named Joe. They called the place Sloppy Joe’s because the floor was always wet. Ernest Hemmingway had one of these and took it to his favorite restaurant in Florida later named Sloppy Joe’s.

Is Sloppy Joe just bolognese?

While the ingredients may seem similar, and somewhat the texture is also similar, bolognese and sloppy joes are different. Bolognese is more watery, and has a more prominent tomato flavor since a variety tomato tomato-based ingredients are used. While sloppy joe sauce have more of a BBQ sauce taste, also the texture is thicker, and not as saucy. The mixture is thickened with a cornstarch slurry, so it’s not too runny.

Why are my sloppy joes runny?

The mixture is usually runny if you have used too much tomato sauce and not enough beef. Also, another reason, might be that the sauce was not simmered long enough to thicken it more. Lastly, for the best results, a cornstarch and water slurry should be used to thicken the sauce.

How to store leftovers:

  • Refrigerate:  You can store leftover meat sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for three days. 
  • Freezing: The best way to freeze this is in single-portion freezer bags so you only have to thaw what you need. It can stay frozen for two months.   
  • Defrost: Thaw frozen sloppy joe sauce overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor.
  • Reheating: Reheat the meat sauce in a pan on the stove and then add it to a bun with cheese. 

More slow cooker recipes:

Recipe Tips:

  • Use lean ground beef so your sloppy joes are not full of grease.
  • No matter how lean it is, you should always drain your ground beef. Excess grease can prevent the sauce from sticking to the meat.
  • Instead of using oil, you can use a nonstick pan to brown the ground beef.
  • If your sloppy joes are too watery or greasy, add the cornstarch slurry and stir it until it is thick.
  • This simple dish can be easily doubled. Just double the ingredients, and follow the same cooking steps. 

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes are every child's favorite comfort food and are a true classic! They are made with ground beef, in a flavorful tomato sauce, and served on hamburger buns with a slice of cheese.

Sloppy Joes Sandwich
  • Prep Time30 MIN
  • Cook Time6H
  • Servings 6 servings


  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Serve with:

  • 6 hamburger buns
  • 6 slices yellow cheese


  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  • Next, place the ground beef in the pan and season it with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 6-8 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until browned.
  • Transfer to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine.
  • Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 6 hours.
  • Spoon the meat onto the hamburger buns, with a slice of cheese, then serve.

Nutrition Facts

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Andi Cogan

Andi Cogan

Depending on the Worcestershire sauce, this recipe may or may not be Gluten Free. Please correct the comment that says it is before someone gets sick.



Not all Worcestershire sauce is gluten free, so you need to make sure you get a gf Worcestershire sauce in addition to a gf bun.



Is this gluten free?

Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

yes, just serve it on gluten-free buns



Great recipe! I'm definitely going to try this with my family. Love the idea of using a slow cooker to make sloppy joes. So easy and convenient. Can't wait to serve them at our next dinner. Thanks for sharing!

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