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.
Minnesota Sloppy Joes ♥ KitchenParade.com, made from scratch in the slow cooker. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

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Remembering School Lunches

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.


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 until 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.

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. What about vegetarian (vegan, actually!) sloppy joes?! Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes are also made in the crockpot and yes, with meaty lentils, which make a very credible substitute for ground meat. My "to cook soon" list includes mixing the two recipes, substituting the more "whole food" ingredients in the lentil recipe for the ketchup in this one.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving (Meat Only, Made with Ground Turkey): 197 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 73mg Cholesterol; 600mg Sodium; 16g Carb; 0g Fiber; 14g Sugar; 26g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 5 & Freestyle 3
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!

More Ground Turkey / Ground Beef Favorites

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Jerusalem Turkey Burgers with Zucchini Green Chile Burgers Chicken Burgers with Fresh Spinach, Feta and Garden Tzatziki Sauce
~ more sandwich recipes ~
~ more ground beef recipes ~

More Minnesota Recipes

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Creamy Wild Rice Soup Wild Rice Salad Swedish Rye Bread
~ more Minnesota recipes ~

Recent Favorites from A Veggie Venture

~ Summer Lentils ~
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If you like Kitchen Parade's recipes, you'll love A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables with more from-scratch recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, home to the famous Alphabet of Vegetables and vegetables in every course, seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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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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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna