Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Sloppy Joe Casserole

Total Time
Prep: 20 min. Cook: 4 hours + standing
Sweet, savory and pleasantly tangy, this comforting sloppy joe casserole gets warmed to bubbly goodness in the slow cooker. Serve it with a simple green salad or a colorful crudités platter.

Updated: Jun. 27, 2024

Whether you’re looking to feed a crowd or whip up an easy weeknight meal for the family, sloppy joe casserole is a comforting one-pot meal that’s packed with flavor. Requiring just 20 minutes of prep time, the mostly hands-off dish gets piled into a slow cooker, where the juices of the meat soak into crispy Tater Tots. Whether you enjoy it on its own or serve it with a simple salad, this nourishing casserole is easy to prep, serve and store.

We start by browning ground beef, then combine it with the sweet and tangy flavors sloppy joes are known for—tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Next, the meat gets layered into a slow cooker with Tater Tots and topped with shredded cheese and sprinkle of paprika. It’s an easy way to get dinner on the table with minimal prep or cleanup.

Sloppy Joe Casserole Ingredients

  • Frozen Tater Tots: These little pops of shredded potato are so versatile, they’re a great ingredient to keep in your freezer. In this recipe, we start by lining the slow cooker with a layer of tots to act as a sturdy base for the slow cooker Tater Tot casserole. They hold everything together while soaking in the juices and flavor from the meat mixture.
  • Ground beef or turkey: While ground beef is a really rich addition to this dish, you could easily swap it out for lighter ground turkey. Either protein will bulk up this dish with hearty flavor, so you can’t go wrong no matter which you choose. Be sure to break the meat into smaller crumbles to help it disperse evenly throughout the casserole.
  • Tomato sauce: Sweet and acidic at the same time, canned tomato sauce is a great way to add moisture and flavor to this sloppy joe casserole. We add it to the cooked ground beef and let it simmer for a few minutes before pouring it over the tots.
  • Sweet chili sauce: This can be a really rich dish, so adding a bit of tangy spice is a great way to offset any leftover grease from the beef and tots. Bottled sweet chili sauce combines with the meat and tomato sauce to add vibrant flavor that’s equally sweet, acidic, spicy and savory.
  • Brown sugar: Adding a bit of brown sugar is a great way to accentuate the savory flavors in this recipe. Brown sugar also has a more caramelized flavor than white sugar, so it adds a deep complexity that pairs nicely with the ground beef.
  • Worcestershire sauce: Tangy, peppery, salty and just a tiny bit sweet, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce go a long way in this recipe. The umami flavor complements the richness of the beef and adds complexity throughout the dish.
  • Minced garlic: Dried minced garlic has a slightly milder flavor than the fresh version, and it’s a convenient way to add quick flavor to soups and meat sauces. However, you can certainly swap in the fresh version if you prefer it.
  • Minced onion: This rich, slightly nutty dried spice is packed with sweet and savory flavor. Using the dried version also saves a ton of time. It delivers a powerful punch of flavor without the need to spend time mincing a fresh onion by hand.
  • Colby-Monterey Jack cheese: This pleasantly mild cheese melts easily and consistently, so it’s a great choice for casserole recipes like this one. We finish this sloppy joe casserole with a handful of shredded cheese and let it melt gently before serving.
  • Paprika: A few dashes of paprika make for a flavorful and colorful topping here. It’s a warm and vibrant spice that helps add smoky, sweet flavor to whatever dish it’s used in.

Directions

Step 1: Arrange the Tater Tots

Place half the Tater Tots in the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker.

Step 2: Cook the beef

In a large skillet, cook the beef over medium-high heat until it’s no longer pink, five to six minutes, breaking it into crumbles. Drain any excess fat or moisture. Stir in the tomato sauce, sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, salt and pepper, then reduce the heat and simmer for two to three minutes.

Step 3: Pile everything into the slow cooker

Place the beef mixture in the slow cooker and top with the remaining Tater Tots. Cook, covered, on low for about four hours.

Step 4: Top with cheese

Top with the cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Let the casserole stand, uncovered, for 15 minutes before serving.

Sloppy Joe Casserole Variations

  • Opt for hash browns instead: If you don’t have Tater Tots on hand, you can absolutely use hash browns instead. Simply follow the recipe outlined above, lining the bottom of the slow cooker with a thick, even layer of hash browns.
  • Add spicy peppers: Traditional sloppy joe meat is tangy and a little spicy, but if you like to pack in the heat, feel free to add some spicy peppers here. To do so, simply chop up a jalapeno or poblano and add it to the ground beef in Step 2.
  • Choose a sharper cheese: Colby-Monterey Jack cheese is a really mild cheese. If you want something sharper and more fully flavored, try cheddar or extra-sharp cheddar instead.

How to Store Sloppy Joe Casserole

This sloppy joe casserole is easy to store. Once the dish has fully cooked, let it come to room temperature. Next, portion out any leftovers into airtight, refrigerator-safe containers. Affix the lids, then place the casserole in the refrigerator for three to four days.

How do you reheat sloppy joe casserole?

To reheat this casserole, preheat your oven to 350°F. Transfer any leftovers to an oven-safe dish, then place it in the oven, uncovered. Let the casserole warm up until the cheese is melted and the meat sauce is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

How long does sloppy joe casserole last?

If stored properly, this sloppy joe casserole recipe can last in the refrigerator for up to four days. Alternatively, you can freeze individual portions for up to three months.

Sloppy Joe Casserole Tips

How else can you cook sloppy joe casserole?

To make a baked sloppy joe Tater Tot casserole, put the meat mixture in a greased 3-1/2-quart baking dish, lasagna pan or regular 13×9-inch dish. Instead of laying the Tater Tots on the bottom of the casserole, place all of them on top. Bake the casserole at 400° until bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes.

What can you serve with sloppy joe casserole?

This can be a heavy meal, so serving it with some vegetables is a great way to lighten it up. A simple green salad, sliced cucumbers or a colorful crudités platter are all healthy, nutritious ways to round out this meal with vegetables.

What kind of vegetables can I add to this sloppy joe casserole?

Zucchini, diced bell peppers, carrots or spinach all make easy additions to this casserole. If you’d like to add vegetables, add them into the skillet in Step 2.

Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (32 ounces) frozen Tater Tots, divided
  • 2 pounds ground beef or turkey
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 bottle (8 ounces) sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. Place half the Tater Tots in bottom of a 5-qt. slow cooker.
  2. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat until no longer pink, 5-6 minutes, breaking into crumbles; drain. Stir in the next 8 ingredients; reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Place beef mixture in slow cooker; top with remaining Tater Tots. Cook, covered, on low 4 hours.
  3. Top with cheese. Sprinkle with paprika. Let stand, uncovered, 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 466 calories, 24g fat (9g saturated fat), 69mg cholesterol, 1332mg sodium, 41g carbohydrate (18g sugars, 4g fiber), 22g protein.

This sloppy joe Tater Tot casserole is an easy dinner for both you and the kids. Serve with carrot and celery sticks for a fuss-free feast. You can also stir in some spicy brown mustard if the adults want more zing. —Laura Wilhelm, West Hollywood, California
Recipe Creator
Community Cook