Minnesota Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes made from scratch in the crockpot, that familiar, comfort-food favorite from our childhoods that somehow still tastes so good. A great make-ahead recipe for feeding a crowd or hungry fishermen.

My aunt's recipe for sloppy joes is such an easy summer classic
that it belongs in a special collection of easy summer recipes
published throughout the summer of 2009.
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Who shudders from memories of the school lunches of our childhoods? So many suffered from bland, overcooked and mushy food slapped onto trays in big glopsfuls. Appetizing, yes?

But who smiles? I remember fresh bread hot from the oven during the USDA wheat surplus and my first taste of chocolate milk, a treat on Fridays in grade school, poured cold and dark from a white-tubed milk stainless steel milk dispenser. I salivate at the memory of fresh-fried fish, real filets, not ‘fish sticks’, with homemade mashed potatoes and red slaw. (Admittedly, that last was in a Finnish high school, not the U.S.)

In Minnesota, the school lunch menu was published in the local paper. I’d scan for my favorite lunch, sloppy joes. Talk about kid-friendly food – though when I served sloppy joes to a mostly grown-up group last week, everyone went back for seconds.

What makes these sloppy joes “Minnesota” sloppy joes? In Minnesota, sloppy joes are always served with hamburger dills and potato chips. If you’re like me, you tuck them right inside the bun.

ALANNA’s TIPS Who’s noticed that famous brands of ketchup (Heinz, my favorite, but also Hunt’s) contain high-fructose corn syrup? I’ve got test bottles of Heinz’ Organic Ketchup and Whole Foods’ house-brand 365 ketchup in the pantry. Neither of these contain high-fructose corn syrup, an ‘ingredient’ that sneaks into sooo many processed foods.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 6 hours
Serves 4, easily doubled or tripled for a crowd
  • 1 pound ground turkey or lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup ketchup (see TIPS)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard (yellow ‘ballpark’ mustard works fine)
  • To taste, chopped onion
  • To taste, chopped celery
  • Buns, preferably toasted
  • Hamburger pickles
  • Potato chips

In a skillet, cook the meat til done, breaking apart into small clumps as it cooks. (For double or triple batches, cook the meat in a couple of skillets for more surface area.) Meanwhile, collect all the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker. Stir in the cooked meat, cover and cook on high, stirring occasionally if possible, for 4 – 5 hours, longer is fine too. Can be made ahead and rewarmed for later. Freezes well.

To serve, scoop meat onto a bottom bun, top with pickles and chips, put the top hat on. Serve and savor and – yes – smile.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Serving, Meat Only, Made with Ground Turkey: 194 Cal; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 77mg Cholesterol; 604mg Sodium; 16g Carb; 0g Fiber; 14g Sugar; 26g Protein; Weight Watchers 3 points
Many thanks to my Michigander-turned-Minnesotan Auntie Karen for sharing her recipe for sloppy joes -- and for the reminder that sloppy joes taste especially good after a cold day's fishing!

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. In 2009, Kitchen Parade celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special collection of my mother's recipes.
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© Copyright 2009 Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous6/18/2009

    Pickles and potato chips IN the sloppie joe? That has to be tried to be believed.


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