Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes are an easy crock pot dinner recipe. Ground beef and veggies simmer in the slow cooker for a tasty, hands-off dinner. Perfect lunch or dinner for busy days!
All-day crock pot recipes are amazing, and I make them on a regular basis. I love it when I don’t have to worry about making dinner because it’s in the crock pot first thing in the morning.
Other days, though, I need something that I can throw in the slow cooker and then walk away from for a few hours. These crock pot sloppy joes are perfect for either time!
I can just brown the ground beef, toss everything into the crock pot, go run errands (do pick-ups, after school activities, whatever), and I come home to a finished dinner. It’s great!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Lean ground beef – I like to use 90% lean ground beef. It’s lean enough that the ground beef mixture doesn’t end up too fatty, but it has enough fat that it doesn’t dry out while it cooks.
- White or yellow onion
- Bell pepper – I usually use red, but green, yellow, or orange peppers will all work.
- Tomato sauce – Tomato sauce is just canned tomato puree.
- Tomato paste
- Brown sugar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Yellow mustard
- Molasses – The molasses gives the mixture a richer depth of flavor. However, you can omit it if you prefer.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Liquid smoke
- Ancho chili powder – Regular chili powder works, too.
- Garlic powder – Be sure to use garlic powder, not garlic salt.
How to make Sloppy Joes in the slow cooker
Add ground beef to large skillet, and brown over medium heat. If your slow cooker has a stovetop function, feel free to brown the ground beef in the slow cooker.
Drain browned ground beef, and return to pan along with onion and bell pepper.
Cook, stirring regularly, until vegetables are just softened, about 2-3 minutes.
Add beef and vegetable mixture to slow cooker along with remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
Cover, and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours.
- Buns: Hamburger buns can make all the difference with Sloppy Joes! Toasting the buns before adding the meat mixture helps the buns hold up better. We’ve tried everything from fluffy white bread buns to whole wheat buns to brioche buns to Hawaiian buns, and every type of bun has gone well with the Sloppy Joes.
- Toppings: The sandwiches are delicious as-is. However, some people like to add toppings like cheese or pickles to their sandwiches.
- Sides: Green salad, fruit salad, fries, chips, and fresh veggies all go well with Sloppy Joes.
Can I skip browning the ground beef?
I wouldn’t recommend it. Browning the beef takes about 10 minutes, but it’s 10 minutes well-spent.
Browning and draining the ground beef keeps all of the fat from ending up in your sauce. Otherwise, you’d end up a greasy, watery sauce.
Can I use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of ground beef?
Absolutely! If you prefer to use ground turkey or ground chicken, either one will work in this recipe.
Since ground turkey and ground chicken tend to be leaner, you’ll just need to add a bit of oil to your pan to keep the meat from sticking as you brown it.
Can I make this vegetarian?
You can! Feel free to use either meatless crumbles or drained and rinsed canned beans (like kidney beans) in place of the ground beef.
If you’re using either of those ingredients, you can skip browning, and just add a bit of oil to the pan when sautéing the vegetables.
Can I double the recipe?
Absolutely! I almost always make a double batch of Sloppy Joes to have as leftovers or to freeze for another day.
I use a 6 quart slow cooker, and it works well. When doubling the recipe, there’s no need to increase the cooking time.
How to freeze
It’s really easy to freeze Sloppy Joes! Simply cook the Sloppy Joes as directed.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Place in a freezer-safe container, and freeze.
How long will this keep?
Sloppy Joes keep and reheat well. When stored in the fridge in an airtight container, the meat mixture should keep for up to 5 days.
More easy crock pot recipes!
More easy sandwich recipes!
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Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes
- 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1/4 cup brown sugar firmly packed*
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Add ground beef to large skillet, and brown over medium heat.
- Drain browned ground beef, and return to pan along with onion and bell pepper.
- Cook, stirring regularly, until vegetables are just softened, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add beef and vegetable mixture to slow cooker along with remaining ingredients.
- Stir to combine.
- Cover, and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours.
- Beef: I use 90% lean ground beef. See the notes above the recipe for using ground chicken or ground turkey.
- Brown sugar: We like our sloppy joes a little on the sweeter side. If you don’t, try starting with half the brown sugar (2 tablespoons – unpacked), and go from there by taste.
- Chili powder: There is no kick to this recipe. The chili powder just gives the dish some extra flavor. If you like a little more heat, increase the chili powder to taste.
- Nutrition values are estimates.
Originally published 4/19/18. Updated on 10/12/21 with additional pictures, new tips and information, and the recipe has been slightly modified.
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