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An easy recipe for Sloppy Joe Casserole, perfect for those times when you want to eat Sloppy Joes on a fork instead of on a bun. Based on my wildly popular Sloppy Joe recipe, it’s made all in one pot and ready in 30 minutes or less, start to finish.
Table of Contents
Why are they called Sloppy Joes?
According to legends, Sloppy Joes are the offspring of Iowa’s famous Loose Meat Sandwiches. An enterprising cook named Joe, at Floyd Angell’s cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to his version of Loose Meat Sandwiches.
It’s easy to see why people have loved Sloppy Joes. It’s simply a thrifty, filling, and delicious meal. Swapping out the buns for noodles makes it even easier to eat, especially if you don’t have buns around.
Sloppy Joe Casserole ingredients:
Here’s what you need to skip the Manwich:
- Ground beef. Or ground turkey.
- Onion. My mom always adds finely chopped celery, too.
- Tomato sauce. Canned tomato sauce is perfect.
- Brown sugar. Because it tastes so good!
- Ground mustard. (An equal amount of Dijon mustard works if you don’t have it.)
- White vinegar.
- Worcestershire sauce. This fermented British condiment, packed with umami flavors, is your sloppy Joe secret weapon. Just a little bit gives the sauce extra body and makes it rich and savory.
- Pasta. I like curly rotini, but any small pasta will do.
- Chicken broth. Or water is fine too.
How do you make Sloppy Joe Casserole?
- Brown the beef and onions, then drain the fat if you want.
- Stir in a mixture of tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Add pasta and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer until the noodles are tender.
Sloppy Joe swaps:
- Bread crumb topping. Just like baked mac and cheese, Sloppy Joe Casserole is fancy with a buttery crumb crust. Transfer the finished casserole to a baking dish, add your buttered crumbs, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
- Cheese on top. Sprinkle the top of your finished casserole with shredded cheddar, then cover until melted through, about 5 minutes.
- Sloppy Joe Casserole with BBQ sauce. Your favorite barbecue sauce can be added in place of ketchup for a sweet and smoky taste.
- Mix up the meat. Sub in ground turkey, chicken, or lamb. Got a venison connection? By all means, get wild and use it.
- More veggies. Diced bell peppers, extra onion, shredded zucchini, even garlic make this simple recipe a little more unique. Your kids won’t even know!
- Tomato soup. A can of tomato soup can be added to the ground meat if that’s what you have. Add a little extra ketchup to give it some extra tomato flavor.
- Spicy. If you love some heat, throw in a tablespoon of ancho chili powder, a teaspoon of ground cumin, or a couple of chipotle chilies in adobo. Don’t forget to pass the hot sauce, too!
- Wine is fine. As it does in a bolognese sauce, a splash of wine adds a wonderful depth of flavor and some acidity. Use it in place of some of the chicken broth. Don’t worry, the alcohol will cook out over time.
- No sugar Sloppy Joe casserole. Leave the sugar out, and make this recipe with no-sugar-added ketchup. If you want a little sweetness, try monk fruit sugar or a tiny bit of honey.
- Philly Cheesecake Sloppy Joes: Two family favorites merged into one skillet or slow cooker-friendly meal.
How to freeze and reheat Sloppy Joe Casserole:
- Cool the finished casserole, then wrap tightly in foil and plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 2 months. If possible, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- To reheat when thawed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the casserole in foil and reheat until it reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.
- To reheat straight from the freezer, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the casserole in foil and reheat until it reaches 165 degrees, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Sloppy Joe Casserole
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta or other small pasta
- 4 cups chicken broth or water
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (see note 1)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard (see note 2)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese for serving, optional
- hot sauce for serving, optional
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add beef and onion and stir to combine. Cook until the meat is mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
- To the pot with the drained beef, add pasta, chicken broth, tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, white vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and dried mustard. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until pasta is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Serve with cheddar cheese and hot sauce if desired and garnish with fresh parsley.
- Brown sugar: Omit the sugar if you don’t love extra sweetness in your casseroles. The ketchup has plenty!
- Ground mustard: Or substitute an equal amount of prepared yellow mustard or Dijon mustard.
- Yield: This Sloppy Joe Casserole makes over 8 cups of casserole (not including the cheese), enough for 8 servings, 1 cup each.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: This a great freezer meal to keep on hand. Freeze the whole casserole or divide into smaller portions. Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.