This is a recipe that is always a little different depending on what I have around the house and how hungry I am. Best case scenario? I’ve got a crock pot and I just ate so I have plenty of time for my Sloppy Meat to simmer. That’s when I call this a Sloppy Joe recipe. If I’m starving and I want it done quick and dirty, then I call them Sloppy Ho’s.
The nice thing about Sloppy Joe meat is that if you make enough, they can become Sloppy Ho’s whenever the mood strikes you. There’s pretty much always a bowl full of this meaty treat in my fridge. Throw it on roasted mashed sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash for a warm and filling meal. Want something lighter? Make lettuce wraps. REALLY need some protein? Eat a bowl by itself. If you’re not doing a Whole30, be super traditional and slop some on a bun. If you are doing a Whole30, make some sliders out of sliced, baked rounds of sweet potato and go town (fair warning – that combo is the sloppiest of my suggestions).
So let’s get cooking! The ingredients listed are for a full batch – enough to feed 12-14 hungry people.
- 2 lbs ground turkey (you’re going to season the crap out of this, save the good meat for another dish)
- 4 medium(ish) sweet yellow onions, diced
- 1-2 TBSP of ghee
- 2-3 small cans of tomato paste
- 1 can of tomato sauce
- 2-3 individual cups of unsweetened applesauce (the kind with the foil lids that you pull off – I’m pretty sure that equates to a cup if you’re measuring from a jar)
- Coconut aminos (this is a Whole30 staple – if you are doing a Whole30 buy a bottle ASAP!)
- 100% pure apple juice or 100% pineapple juice (this is to sweeten to taste and/or to thin out the mix – you’ll have to decide how much on your own)
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Date syrup (I know, some people won’t consider this Whole30 compliant. I’m using it in a savory dish and I know my triggers. You do you though, this can absolutely be omitted.)
A quick note about the onions: you could totally make this without the onions. I am a firm believer in sneaking vegetables in wherever I can for 3 reasons; 1 – it’s healthy, 2 – it adds flavor and texture, 3 – it bulks up the recipe and makes it last longer without having to spend a ton on extra protein.
I don’t know about you – but to me, the key to a good Sloppy Joe is the sweetness. As Raj discovered in one of my favorite Big Bang Theory episodes, good Sloppy Joes should be “sweety and meaty at the same time.”
The first step to this dish is to get the onions ready. You’re going to want to caramelize these low and slow in a skillet. Use minimal cooking fat (the ghee) and keep your heat absolutely no higher than medium. Properly caramelized onions take a little love. Keep an eye on them and stir them pretty often. If they start to stick or blacken instead of slowly brown then your heat is too high. Done right, your onions will reduce in volume by almost 75%.
As you’re slowly but surely caramelizing your onions, you can throw the following in a slow cooker on high:
- The ground turkey
- 2 cans of tomato paste (save 1)
- The tomato sauce
- 2 containers (or 1 cup) of applesauce (save 1)
- About 1/3-1/2 cup of coconut aminos
- 2+ Tbs of onion powder
- 3+ Tbs of garlic powder
- A generous dash of salt
Stir everything together very well. This will cook for 4-5 hours. Unlike traditional slow cooker recipes, you’ll want to stir this pretty frequently in the first hour-hour and half to make sure all the ground meat breaks up and mixes. Whenever your onions are done caramelizing, just dump them straight into the the slow cooker. Again, make sure you mix everything up well.
When the meat is fully cooked (around 3.5 hours) we get to start having fun. First things first, TASTE IT! Then – let’s play! Too sweet? Add that extra can of tomato paste. Did that make it too acidic? Throw in another container of apple sauce? Still not sweet enough? Add the date syrup. Too runny? Leave the lid off the slow cooker and let it cook down. Not savory enough? Add. More. Garlic. (FYI – I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much garlic. If a vampire ever bites me, he’s screwed.) And don’t forget salt and pepper are your friends. Season as you go, not at the table!
Once you get you batch of sweety and meaty seasoned to your liking, let it all the flavors meld together for another 30-45 minutes. Taste it one more time and if it’s still great, you’re done! Serve it up with your favorite fixin’s and chow down!
To prep for storage, fill your containers and let them cool down a bit before putting them in the fridge. Store them all in the fridge over night, and then move any you’re planning on freezing into the freezer the next day after they’ve had time to cool completely.
Note: This post was not sponsored by or affiliated in any way with the recommended products.