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Looking for the best sloppy joe recipe for a crowd that’s easy to make? This homemade sloppy joes recipe has a sweet and tangy sauce that is incredibly easy to prepare and simmer in your slow cooker.

 It’s a great main dish recipe for busy weeknights, church potlucks, or a casual party with friends. This easy recipe is sure to be a hit with the whole family and party guests. 

close up of sloppy joes sandwich

Recipe Ideas –> If you are looking for easy entertaining slow cooker recipes, be sure to browse through these. Creamy Rich Meatballs And Gravy Recipe (Easy Slow Cooker), French Onion Soup Mix Chicken In The Slow Cooker, Cracker Barrel Cheesy Hash Brown Recipe: Crock Pot, and Super Tender Slow Cooker Yankee Pot Roast: Easy Comfort Food

Why Is Sloppy Joe Called Joe?

The tasty sloppy joe sandwich has an interesting history. In 1930, a cook named Joe in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches to improve their flavor and juiciness. This addition transformed the sandwich into a new and delicious creation.

Customers enjoyed the messy yet satisfying sandwich so much that they named it “Sloppy Joe” in honor of the innovative cook who introduced the change. Since then, Sloppy Joes have become a popular dish in American cuisine, known for their crowd-pleasing appeal and messy nature.

Why Make Sloppy Joe From Scratch

  •  Great Flavor: Homemade Sloppy Joes level up the flavor compared to premade mixes in a can or packet. By using fresh ingredients and customizing the seasonings to your liking, you can achieve a rich, flavorful sauce for ground beef. 
  • Budget Friendly: Buying premade Sloppy Joe mixes in a can might seem convenient, but the cost can quickly add up when it comes to feeding a large crowd. Making Sloppy Joes from scratch using simple, affordable ingredients such as ground beef, onions, bell peppers, and pantry staples like tomato sauce and spices can be much more cost-effective.
sloppy joe sandwiches with drink

Feeding A Crowd With Sloppy Joe In A Slow Cooker

  • Convenience: Utilizing a crock pot to cook meals for a large group is incredibly convenient. Prepare the ingredients and set the cooker, then allow it to work its magic without supervision. 
  • Time-Saving: Slow cookers allow you to prepare beforehand, avoiding a last-minute rush. It keeps the food warm, allowing you to spend more time with your guests than in the kitchen.
  • Serving A Crowd: Slow cookers are great if you are hosting a party, potluck, or family gathering. The slow cooker allows guests to help themselves throughout the event without worrying about the food getting cold. 

Ingredients For Homemade Sloppy Joes

This recipe uses simple ingredients you will want to keep on hand to make this easy sloppy joe recipe. 

homemade sloppy joe ingredients
  • Ground Beef: I suggest 80/20 ground beef for the best flavor for this recipe. However, if you prefer lean ground beef, that will also work. Choose fresh, bright red meat and consider organic or grass-fed for best flavor.
  • Veggies: Use a white or yellow onion that has a mild flavor. Choose a green pepper with a firm and vibrant color and smooth skin.
  • Seasonings: Smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  • Sauce: This sloppy joes recipe has several tomato-based items. This is what makes it so sloppy and good! You will need your favorite BBQ sauce. I use Sweet Baby Ray or my Bacon and Whisky BBQ Sauce. Also, ketchup, tomato sauce, and chili sauce.
  • Garlic: For the best flavor, only use fresh minced garlic, not the kind you can buy in a jar already chopped. If you are looking for an easy way to chop garlic, this is my favorite tool, Garlic Chopper With Steel Blades.
small garlic mincer, best way to cut your garlic, hands down!

How To Make Sloppy Joes From Scratch: Step-by-Step Instructions

1 In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef. Cook and crumble the meat until it is browned with no pink showing.

2. Once the ground beef is cooked, tip the pan to allow the grease to drain to one side. Use paper towels to soak up the excess grease and discard them.

ground beef in skillet cooked, and paper towel soaking up grease

3. Return the cooked meat to the burner, set the heat to medium, and add the diced green peppers and chopped onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies are soft.

cooking ground beef in skillet with onions and green peppers

4. Transfer the meat mixture to the slow cooker.

5. Add the rest of the ingredients,  smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, ketchup, vinegar, chili sauce, and brown sugar to the slow cooker with the meat.

hamburger meat, with seasonings and sauce on top

6. Using a large spoon, stir to combine the sauce and meat thoroughly.

slow cooker filled with sloppy joe ready to cook

7. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set it to low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. This allows the flavors to meld together and the meat to become more tender.

Basic Sloppy Joe Recipe Variations

  • Seasonings: If you like some heat to your sloppy joes, add 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 
  • Veggies: For a festive look, add a variety of yellow, orange, red, and green peppers.
  • Ground Meat: This great recipe would also be delicious if you used ground turkey or ground chicken.
  • Bread: Traditionally, a sloppy joe is served on hamburger buns; however, it would be great on hoagie rolls, Hawaiian rolls, brioche buns or Ciabatta.

Serving Suggestions For Sandwich Toppings

You can serve your sloppy joes plain or offer a variety of toppings.

What Goes With Sloppy Joes?

Add a few easy side dishes, and you have a great dinner menu for a crowd. 

Recipe Tips, Storage and Freezing

How long does sloppy joe last in fridge?

If you store sloppy joes in an airtight container, they can last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. However, the shelf life may differ depending on the ingredients and how they are prepared. Generally, it is a good idea to follow the 3 to 5 day rule of thumb.

Manwich vs sloppy joe, what is the difference?

Manwich and sloppy joe are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between them.

  • Manwich is a brand name for canned sloppy joe sauce that was introduced in 1969. It is a pre-made sauce that is made with tomato puree, high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, corn syrup, salt, sugar, carrot fiber, dried green and red bell peppers, chili pepper, guar gum, spices, xanthan gum, dried garlic, natural flavors, and citric acid.
  • Sloppy joe is a type of sandwich mix made from scratch with ground beef, tomato sauce, and spices. It is typically served on a hamburger bun.

Freezer Meal Idea: Sloppy Joe

Making Sloppy Joes ahead of time and freezing them is a great way to save time and have a convenient meal ready for easy entertaining or a quick family dinner.

  1. Prepare the Sloppy Joe Mixture: Follow the directions for this recipe. However, mix the cooked meat mixture with seasoning and sauces in a large bowl instead of a slow cooker. 
  2. Portion Size: Divide the Sloppy Joe sauce into meal-sized portions based on your needs. You can use an individual airtight container that is safe for freezing or sealable freezer bags. Leave some headspace in the containers or bags to allow for expansion during freezing.
  3. Label and Date: Label each container or bag with the contents and the date of preparation. This step ensures you can quickly identify the Sloppy Joes and keep track of their freshness.
  4. Freeze: Place the portioned Sloppy Joes in the freezer, ensuring they are stored flat to maximize freezer space. 
  5. Thawing and Reheating: When you’re ready to enjoy the Sloppy Joes, remove the desired number of portions from the freezer. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost function of your microwave. 
  6. To prepare the thawed sloppy joe mixture, place it in the slow cooker and set it to low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. This will help the flavors blend perfectly and make the meat more tender.

How To Make A Big Batch Of Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

  1. To make a big batch of sloppy joe meat for a party or church potluck, decide how many servings you want. 
  2.  Each sandwich should have 1/2 cup of sloppy joe meat filling on a regular-sized hamburger bun.
  3. This recipe yields approximately 12 servings of sloppy joe meat mixture. After figuring out how many servings you will need, follow these instructions to change the ingredient amounts in the printable recipe card. 

Need a big batch to feed a crowd? You can easily change the number of servings in the recipe card below by tapping 2x or 3x. The ingredient measurements will automatically double or triple. You can then tap print and there you have it, a recipe for a crowd.

How many pounds of meat do I need?

Pounds Of Ground BeefNumber of Sloppy Joe Sandwiches
(Approximately 1/2 cup Mix Per Sandwich)
1 Pound6 Sandwiches
2 Pounds12 Sandwiches
3 Pounds18 Sandwiches
5 Pounds30 Sandwiches
10 Pounds60 Sandwiches
20 Pounds120 Sandwiches
gina in the kitchen cooking and image of dishes made by intentional hospitality
sloppy joe sandwich close up
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Homemade Sloppy Joe Recipe For A Crowd: Easy Slow Cooker

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12 1/2 cup servings
This homemade sloppy joes recipe has a sweet and tangy sauce that is incredibly easy to prepare and simmer in your slow cooker.  It's a great main dish recipe for busy weeknights, church potlucks, or a casual party with friends.

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

Ingredients
 

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80/20
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 8 ounce tomato sauce, 8-ounce can
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chili sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Instructions
 

Cook Ground Beef and Veggies

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef. Cook and crumble the meat until it is browned with no pink showing. Make sure to break apart the ground beef while cooking to achieve a crumbled texture.
    2 pounds ground beef
  • Once the ground beef is cooked, tip the pan to allow the grease to drain to one side. Use paper towels to soak up the excess grease and discard them.
  • Return the cooked meat to the burner, set the heat to medium, and add the diced green peppers, minced garlic, and chopped onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies are soft.
    1/2 cup onion, 3/4 cup green bell pepper, 2 cloves garlic

Mix Seasonings and Sauces

  • Pour the meat mixture into the slow cooker.
  • Add the remaining ingredients.
    1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, 8 ounce tomato sauce, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/3 cup chili sauce, 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • Stir and combine: Using a large spoon, stir to combine the sauce and meat thoroughly.
  • Set the slow cooker on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.

Notes

Freezer Meal Idea: Sloppy Joe
Making Sloppy Joes ahead of time and freezing them is a great way to save time and have a convenient meal ready for easy entertaining or a quick family dinner.  
  1. Prepare the Sloppy Joe Mixture: Follow the directions for this recipe.  However, mix the cooked meat mixture with seasoning and sauces in a large bowl instead of a slow cooker. 
  2. Portion Size: Divide the Sloppy Joe sauce into meal-sized portions based on your needs.  You can use an individual airtight container that is safe for freezing or sealable freezer bags.  Leave some headspace in the containers or bags to allow for expansion during freezing.
  3. Label and Date: Label each container or bag with the contents and the date of preparation.  This step ensures you can quickly identify the Sloppy Joes and keep track of their freshness.
  4. Freeze: Place the portioned Sloppy Joes in the freezer, ensuring they are stored flat to maximize freezer space. 
  5. Thawing and Reheating: When you’re ready to enjoy the Sloppy Joes, remove the desired number of portions from the freezer.  Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost function of your microwave. 
  6. To prepare the thawed sloppy joe mixture, place it in the slow cooker and set it to low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.  This will help the flavors blend perfectly and make the meat more tender.
Serving: 11/2 cup, Calories: 265kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 54mg, Sodium: 476mg, Potassium: 398mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 329IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 2mg
Cuisine: American Classic
Course: Main Dish
Author: Gina Dickson

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