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Dorothy Dean presents: Sloppy joe recipe packs big flavor for Memorial Day weekend

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

You ready for some great news? This Memorial Day weekend will not be spent flipping burgers and turning hot dogs over a blazing grill.

Instead, it will be spent mingling with your loved ones, relaxing in the sun — cold drink in hand — while your trusty slow cooker does all the cooking. (And, no, silly, we are not making stew.)

We’re taking it back to that sweet and savory childhood staple: sloppy joes.

But unlike the sloppy joes of your past, no canned sauce or seasoning packet is needed. And aside from browning the beef and chopping vegetables, this recipe requires little effort but packs big flavor.

Speckled with bits of red and green bell peppers, celery, onions and garlic, the ground beef simmers in a zesty tomato-based sauce seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, cumin, garlic powder and paprika.

With the ingredients having ample time to meld together, it develops flavors and texture that are utterly delicious and tender.

Sandwiched between toasted buns, the sweet, tangy and satisfying mixture lives up to its name; it’s innately messy, so have the napkins ready.

I enjoy my sloppy joes topped with cheese and pickles, though any typical burger toppings are welcome, or none at all.

Ground turkey or chicken can be used in place of beef. And the amount of onions and other veggies added can be adjusted, or omitted, depending on your preferences.

With the slow cooker keeping your sloppy joes warm, it’s an easy, serve-yourself meal, giving you a stress-free holiday and also making it perfect for picnics and potlucks.

If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, try it piled on a baked potato — or over hot dogs, transforming them into sloppy dogs. It also can be used in shepherd’s pie, tacos, pasta and quesadillas.

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, small diced

1/2 red bell pepper, small diced

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon pepper

For serving: buns and optional toppings: shredded cheese, pickle chips, tomato slices, shredded lettuce, onion slices

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the ground beef, breaking up the meat and stirring, until browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the grease from the meat and transfer it to a slow cooker. To the slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients (except the buns) and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Serve over toasted buns with desired toppings.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at

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