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Get Your Little Buns to the Table: Slow-Cooker Turkey Sloppy Joes

sloppy joe hero

Kiddos, jobs, grocery shopping, taking the dog to the vet, going to the dentist, trying to hit the gym, and (shudder) doing your taxes—trust us, we know you’re busy. That’s why you’ll love our slow-cooker turkey Sloppy Joes. Before you leave for work/kid drop-off, simply toss a few basic ingredients in your slow cooker, set the timer, and voilà! You’ll have the savory, scrumptious base for dinner all ready to go when you get home—which means there’s more time for snuggling, stories, and dance parties before bed.

We also know that health is important to you, so we’ve swapped out the traditional Sloppy Joe’s heavier ground beef for lean, light ground turkey and nixed the sugar-and-sodium-heavy ketchup in favor of tomato sauce and tomato paste (full recipe below). Plus, we’ve loaded up our Joe filling with lots of fresh veggies. Yup—you can go right on ahead and have seconds guilt-free!   

sloppy joes ingredients

Ground turkey (a great staple to always keep stocked in your freezer), some chopped veggies, and a few basic pantry items—that’s all you need to whip up a tasty, nutritious meal the kids will love. Once you’ve enjoyed our recipe, try experimenting with other healthier takes on the Sloppy Joe, like this belly-filler with beans and extra-lean ground beef by Ellie Krieger for the Food Network.   

closeup holding sloppy joe

We’re of the mindset that there’s no wrong way to dress up (or not dress up) your Joe. Keep it classic with nothing but a hearty scoop of filling sandwiched in a bun, or add any and all of your favorite toppings. Popular add-ons include sliced or grated cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, coleslaw, mustard, or a little ketchup.

Our Sloppy Joe mixture is super versatile, too—try using it as a topper for spaghetti, filling for tacos, or stuffing for baked potatoes!

Lets eat sloppy joes with text

In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches them important social skills (like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you”) and how to listen to their own hunger cues. Allowing them to get in on the serving action can also inspire them to try new foods, like Sloppy Joes filled with veggies.

When it’s time to eat, transfer the filling to a serving bowl and place on the table along with buns, various toppings, and yummy sides. Invite your child to build his own sandwich, including scooping up a big ol’ spoonful of filling.

Sure, there will likely be some spills when children take the lead, but also lots of smiles. And aren’t Sloppy Joes supposed to be sloppy anyway?

Excited for sloppy joes

Future-Meal Genius Move: Put any leftover filling in an airtight container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to three months. Even better? Whip up an extra batch, separate it into two or three meal-size portions, and freeze each portion for multiple fast, easy, and super kid-friendly meals in the future.

To defrost and reheat quickly, check out these smart and safe tips from Good Housekeeping.


* Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.

Yields: 6–8 servings

Time: 10 minutes prep/2–8 hours in slow cooker


For the filling:

  • 1½ pounds ground turkey
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, minced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, minced
  • 1 large carrot, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

For serving:

  • Whole wheat hamburger buns
  • Cheddar cheese slices
  • Pickle spears, mini pretzels, fruit, veggies, etc.
  • Optional: Ketchup, mustard, lettuce, sliced onion, sliced tomato, etc.


  1. Add all the filling ingredients to a slow cooker and thoroughly stir. Make sure you break up the turkey. 
  2. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. When done cooking, stir the filling again.
  4. To serve, first place a slice of cheddar cheese on the bottom half of a toasted whole wheat hamburger bun. Next, add a scoop of filling followed by any additional toppings (ketchup, lettuce, etc.), and then cover with the top of the bun. Enjoy!
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