This old fashioned sloppy joes recipe is made extra easy in the slow cooker! The meat mixture slow cooks for hours and then is ready to pile onto a bun. This easy recipe is perfect for the whole family and makes enough for a crowd.
After I shared the crockpot hot dog chili recipe last year and it was a hit, I knew you guys wanted more easy beef recipes in the slow cooker. Homemade sloppy joes are next on the list and they’re so good.
Made with simple ingredients, they come together in no time and then simmer in the crockpot to allow the sauce to thicken and sweeten. Once it is done, you can pile it onto hamburger buns, sliders, or even over rice or a baked potato.
I wanted a homemade sauce recipe that didn’t include anything from a can (no shade). The result is a super easy recipe that is perfect to prep before work and come home to on a busy weeknight that the whole family will love.
Why you’ll love these classic sloppy joes
- Made easy in the crock pot (but you can also simmer them on the stove if you’re short on time).
- Even your picky eater should like them.
- Can feed a crowd – serve it at your next party right out of the slow cooker.
- It’s a simple recipe that makes an easy meal that is a family favorite.
Tools you’ll need
- Slow Cooker – I use and recommend this 6 quart slow cooker. If you need to double the recipe, it will fit, but if you need crockpot sloppy joes for 30….you’re going to need an additional slow cooker lol
- Meat Chopper – This little tool is great for breaking apart the meat as it cooks.
- Veggie Chopper – This is my kitchen MVP. It is perfect for chopping the onions and peppers.
Below is a list of ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card.
- BEEF – I like to use ground sirloin (93/7%) because it is lean and has great flavor. You can use up to 80/20, just drain off any excess grease.
- ONION – One medium onion. I like to use yellow or white onion.
- BELL PEPPERS – Red and green bell peppers, diced. Did you know red peppers are just fully ripened green peppers and sweeter?
- GARLIC – Fresh minced garlic works best but you can also use minced garlic packed in oil for convenience.
- KETCHUP – Heinz ketchup is my favorite but you could also use a jalapeno ketchup (like I use in my sweet & spicy meatballs) for a kick.
- BROWN SUGAR – The brown sugar adds a bit of sweetness.
- CHILI POWDER – For a bit of heat. It is generally fairly mild.
- MUSTARD – Use your favorite yellow mustard.
- HOT SAUCE – Again, a little heat for a little kick. This can be omitted if your family doesn’t like it.
How to make sloppy joes in the slow cooker
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- STEP ONE: In a large skillet, brown the meat until no longer pink. If you have any grease, drain it off.
- STEP TWO: Add all the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir (I like to use my wooden spoon). Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.
- STEP THREE: Serve the sloppy joe meat on hamburger buns, sliders, over rice, noodles, or even a baked potato.
Every slow cooker runs differently. Times given are a general recommendation and should be tested in your own slow cooker and adjusted as needed.
Tips & Suggestions
- Use a lean ground beef so you don’t have a greasy mess.
- Serve with potato chips for the classic sloppy joes experience.
- If you don’t have time to slow cook, you can also simmer the beef mixture on the stove for 20-30 minutes.
- If you’re having a party, you can double the recipe and easily serve the meat mixture straight from the slow cooker and use slider buns.
- To switch up the flavor, use your favorite barbecue sauce in place of the ketchup.
- For additional heat, you can add diced jalapenos.
- When serving, toast the bun (I recommend brioche or these homemade french bread rolls) and add cheese and pickles.
Can I use ground turkey? Or chicken?
Yes, you can use a different ground meat (or meat substitute), but you’ll lack a bit of the classic browned beef flavoring.
How long do sloppy joes last in the fridge?
3-4 days when stored in a covered airtight container in the fridge. Turn leftovers into some sloppy joe hand pies!
Can you freeze sloppy joes?
Yes, you can freeze sloppy joes. Using something like Souper Cubes that perfectly portions the meat into one cup portions is very convenient, or any freezer container that is food safe. When you’re ready to use the meat, move it from the freezer to the fridge 24 hours before you need it. Once it has thawed in the refrigerator, you can heat it on the stovetop or back in the slow cooker.
How to reheat
If stored in the refrigerator, you can heat the sloppy joes in the microwave, on the stovetop, or back in the slow cooker.
If frozen, move it to the fridge the day before you need it so it can thaw. Once thawed, you can proceed to heat it on the stovetop or slow cooker.
Yes, you should brown the ground beef before adding it to the slow cooker. You’ll get a much better texture and flavor, though it will cook in the slow cooker if you put it in raw.
Sloppy joe mixture can stay in the slow cooker on WARM for up to a couple hours.
Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes
Need more slow cooker recipes? Try these:
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Originally published March 10, 2022; photos updated January 15, 2024.