Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes | Make Ahead Mondays

WARNING: Downton Abbey Spoiler Alert! I’m  putting this on in an excess of caution, but given that last night was the season finale here in the US, I just want to be certain that you have a chance to see it before reading. I don’t actually give anything away, but I don’t want you to draw conclusions and then hate me forever.

This Sunday was a memorable one. Two of my boys had their first ever band practice. I stood in the kitchen listening to the guys jam, sneaking glances as often as I could without looking like a nutty backstage mom. I walked by and took as many surreptitious photos as I possibly could and tried desperately not to cry lest they think I didn’t like it.

Now, if you have a house full of teenaged boys, it doesn’t matter how distracted or otherwise occupied they appear, you’d best get some food going. Thank heavens I practice what I preach with Make Ahead Mondays. I had a freezer full of last minute options. I went with the easiest of the clean up options for dinners.


Lately, on Sunday nights, I’ve done the world’s fastest tucking-in of the kids. We’re talking smooch, pray, blankies-yanked-up-to-the-neck, find lost stuffed animals, pat the head and then a soothing and sincere, “If you come downstairs and interrupt Downton Abbey I will be crankier than Voldemort.”

Then I run back downstairs -wild horses aren’t in it, people… I fly-  to make a pot of tea and plant my backside firmly on the couch, remote-in-hand. Mercifully, DVRs exist, because I am quite clearly not an effective deliverer of threats. Either that, or my children are not good receivers of threats. Because they descend the stairs more often than the staff of Downton.

Forget the Superbowl. I sit here watching Downton Abbey saying things like,


“NO, Mr. Bates! NO!”

“I really like Anna’s hat.”

“Poor William.”

“Poor Daisy.”

“The Dowager Countess is my favourite person in the whole world.”

“Well, you did it NOW, didn’t you, Thomas?”

“Oh, Anna!”

“YES! Matthew socked him!”

But most importantly, and most frequently I scream, “SIR RICHARD IS A JERK!”

Can I get an amen?

Or a subdued, “Very well.”

In fact, I’m so devoted to Downton Abbey, I believe that The Dowager Countess (THREE CHEERS FOR VIOLET!) has a quote for just about everything, including Make Ahead Mondays.

“Oh, is her cooking so precisely timed? You couldn’t tell.”

Okay, so maybe I stretched that quote just a bit. But this last one comes from me talking to Lady Grantham about Make Ahead Mondays:

Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Rebecca: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

Well, alright, that wasn’t quite right, either.  I’m sorry. I’m just so obsessed.

Here’s the point, though…

I got a meal for ten on the table in thirty minutes and cleaned up in just thirty more. The sloppy joes in the freezer made it possible. And that in turn made it possible for me to clap like a seal and start singing, “Mary and Matthew sitting in a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G.”

Let this be a lesson to you. Cousin Violet loves sloppy joes.


Or something.


You’ve never really had sloppy joes until you’ve had homemade sloppy joes. Go on, didn’t some of you curl your lips a bit when you saw “sloppy joes” in the title? Don’t go there! This might be “below the stairs” food, but it’s darned good! When you make them from scratch, they’re an entirely different story! When you take browned beef, luscious tangy sauce, loads upon loads of vegetables and simmer them for hours upon hours their flavours mingle and marry. Kind of like Sybil and Branson. Sigh. Pile that onto soft homemade rolls and you are in heaven. Make no mistake. They are sloppy. You’re going to want a goodly pile of napkins nearby. Or a footman with finger bowls. The choice is yours.

Either way, this stash in your freezer makes dinner a breeze.

A while back, I ran this recipe as a classic Foodie With Family Record-Eagle column. I hope you enjoy this printable version!

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes | Make Ahead Mondays
You've never had a sloppy joe until you've had a sloppy joe made from scratch. Crammed full of veggies, big on flavour and huge on comfort, these sloppy joes are a great way to get your daily vegetable servings into picky eaters. As if they weren't wonderful enough, they're kind to the wallet and half-your-brain-tied-behind-your-back easy. If you're feeding a big family, I highly recommend doubling or tripling this recipe (most slow-cookers can handle the upsize with no difficulty) and freezing the extras for last-minute meals.
  • 3 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 large ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 6-oz. cans tomato paste
  • ⅓ c. cider vinegar, plus extra for adjusting flavor after cooking
  • ⅓ c. firmly packed light brown sugar, plus extra for adjusting flavor after cooking
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder, more or less, to taste
  • 1 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper, more or less, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the beef with the onions, bell pepper, celery, carrot, and garlic, breaking up meat with a fork or wooden spoon until meat is lightly browned. Drain meat mixture and remove to a slow cooker, adding remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly combined, cover and cook on low for six to seven hours. Adjust flavor by adding additional brown sugar and vinegar to taste, if desired.
  2. Serve filling loosely piled on rolls with choice of toppings.
To Freeze:
  1. Cool the leftovers completely, scoop into a pre-labeled (with contents and date) resealable zipper bags in one-meal-portions. Close the zipper partway and squeeze as much air from the bag as you can without spilling the contents. Finish closing the zipper and lay the bag flat, gently squishing the bag to evenly distribute the sloppy joe filling. Lay the bags on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until solid.
To Reheat:
  1. Snip the top from the freezer bag and empty the contents into a microwave safe bowl or a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid. If microwaving, cover bowl with plastic wrap, venting one side. Thaw first, then microwave on high, stirring every 2 minutes or so, until the filling is hot through. If using the stovetop, add ¼ cup of water, lid tightly, and warm over low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the filling is hot through and through.


  1. Yasmin says

    Hahahaha. I LOVED this post. I’ll have to try this recipe. But, mostly, it’s nice to know that my fiance and I weren’t the only ones hooked on Downton Abbey. How am I supposed to wait for the next season to begin! Sigh…

  2. says

    Best line in all of television, ever.

    Cousin Violet: “Do you promise?” buwahahahahaha

    My husband even looks forward to this, and he’s not typically a fan of period dramas. His ending remark: “all over America, there’s are squeees of delight right now.”

    Thanks for the recipe – I’m always on the lookout for good varieties of this quick and easy meal!

  3. LaNell says

    Next to Downton Abbey, my favorite thing to watch for is Foodie with Family. I can’t wait to read your posts. I love the recipes and the stories about your family. Your blog is the only one that I read! I’ve tried many of your recipes and enjoyed them all. I think my favorite was the brussel sprouts with grapes – not only was it delicious, but pretty quirky for this southern (meat and potatoes)cook!

  4. says

    Holy Moly! That looks divine. It’s 2:30am here and I’m running out to liberate the ground meat from the deep freeze so I can make this tomorrow.

    Great blog/great post! :)

  5. TiffH says

    Mmmm…. I like good homemade sloppy joes with all the veggies hidden there, and made with ground turkey but no ones knows because the other flavors make up for it. I’m going to give your recipe a try next time I have a craving. On another note…. I too love Downton Abbey and rush my sweet boy to bed on Sunday evenings putting him to bed 20 minutes earlier so I won’t miss the beginning! I can’t wait for season 3!

  6. Jean Pearce says

    These slow cooker recipes look great. Don’t you just love Downton Abbey. It’s one of those series you hope will never end. J

  7. says

    It had been YEARS since I had a sloppy joe. So this recipe lit a fire under me to correct that. I used your recipe to make a batch in the crock pot on Sunday and I can’t stop myself from sneaking back into the bowl for a taste every time I open the refrigerator. They are THAT good.

  8. Missy Klem says


    You are a rock star in my book. I love your Make Ahead Monday recipes. I rely on those. I have two kids, a job, a high maintenance yellow lab, a husband,…and I love cooking food that kids will at least try. You never let me down. I made the southwest egg rolls last night. I left the spinach in – a bold move in my house. One of the kids wanted seconds and the other kid took a couple of bites. That’s a 10 for me. Your recommendation to run veggies through the food processor. Brilliant. Just finished the sloppy joe recipe and you’d never know there’s 4 vegetables lurking. Thanks again!

    • says

      It stands for teaspoons. I went back through and noted that in the recipe. Old-fashioned recipe writers used to use a lower case ‘t’ to indicate teaspoons and an upper case ‘T’ to indicate tablespoons, but that dates back to having to pay for each character when things were published, so there’s no good reason for those of us who write recipes to keep using it. Old habits die hard, sometimes, though. It’s all fixed! Thanks for the question.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe: