A fusion between two classic comfort dishes, sloppy joe mac and cheese strikes the perfect balance between smoky, savory, salty, and cheesy flavors. This easy twist on a standard pasta dish combines the creaminess of mac and cheese with the hearty meat of sloppy joes to create a dish everyone is sure to love.
Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese is a perfect blend of meat, cheese, veggies, and pasta that’ll please the senses. This tantalizing dinner is so packed with fun, nostalgic flavors that it’s sure to please everyone—even your pickiest eaters. This simple recipe comes together in only four steps, allowing you to have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes!
One of the things that I love about this dish is the versatility that can be utilized! With just a few tweaks here or there, you can easily personalize this dish to your liking. Try using different kinds of cheeses, spices, and meats. Play it safe and use medium or mild cheddar or toss in some pepper jack and smoked gouda to give this dish a spicy, smoky flavor. No matter how you choose to customize this sloppy joe mac and cheese, it’s sure to be a big hit!
- Macaroni Noodles—Or really any pasta shape you happen to have lying around. Can also be substituted for gluten free noodles.
- Cheese Sauce— composed of butter, flour, milk, and cheddar cheese. Substitute flour for cornstarch for a gluten-free option.
- Ground Beef— for the classic sloppy joe meatiness.
- Tomato Paste— Brings sweet flavor to the sloppy joe meat.
- Bell Peppers— For texture, color, and yummy veggies.
- Spices—A simple mixture of garlic powder, minced onion, smoked paprika, and cumin.
Equipment You’ll Need
One of the best things about this sloppy joe macaroni and cheese recipe is that you’ll hardly need to dirty any dishes to make it! You will need a large cast iron skillet for your main cooking as well as a small saucepan and a small mixing bowl to make the sloppy joe mix.
How to Make Savory and Smoky Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese
- In a large cast iron, make your cheese sauce by first melting the butter.
- Once the butter is completely melted, stir in the flour then the milk until homogenous.
- Add the cheese and stir until completely melted and the mixture begins to bubble.
- Once the cheese sauce is bubbly and has reached an internal temperature of 165°F, fold in the noodles until they are evenly coated in the sauce.
- In another saucepan, cook the ground beef. Add in chopped bell peppers and stir occasionally until cooked through.
- Combine the ground beef, bell peppers, spices, and tomato paste in a small bowl and then fold it into the pasta until evenly distributed.
- Serve and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sloppy joe sauce made of?
It’s typically a combination of ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and spices. This combination of ingredients makes for a more savory sloppy joe. This recipe, on the other hand, is perfect for those who like their sloppy joes on the sweeter side. The added smoky and sharp flavor of cheese and paprika helps to balance out the sweetness a bit.
How do you make mac and cheese gooey?
Allow the butter, flour, and milk mixture to thicken before adding the cheese, or the cheese sauce could become grainy.
Can I make this recipe even if I don’t have a cast iron?
Any large skillet will also work, or you can make the sauce in a smaller pot on the stovetop and then assemble everything in a casserole dish.
How to Store and Reheat Sloppy Joe Macaroni and Cheese
You can store this dish in the fridge for about five days and reheat it in the microwave. You can also store this dish in the freezer for up to two months. I like to let it thaw in the fridge before putting it in the oven at 350°F until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
Tips & Tricks
- To make this recipe gluten free, use your favorite brand of gluten-free noodles. Cornstarch can also substitute for the flour in the cheese sauce.
- If you’re needing to make this recipe ahead of time, put the mac and cheese mixture in a covered Tupperware and the sloppy joe mixture in a separate Tupperware in the fridge for up to two days. Combine the two and heat just before serving.
- Medium or sharp cheddar is recommended for the mac and cheese to balance out the sweet tomato paste, but feel free to experiment with other cheeses.
Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese Recipe
Sloppy Joe Mac and Cheese
- ¼ cup salted butter
- ½ cup white flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups medium cheddar cheese
- 1 lb macaroni noodles cooked
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon minced onion
- 1 teaspoon smoke paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon crushed bell peppers
- 1 lb ground beef cooked
- ¾ cup tomato paste
- Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet. Once the butter is completely melted, stir in the flour until homogenous.
- Add the milk and cheese and stir constantly until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture begins to bubble.
- Once the cheese sauce is bubbly, fold in the noodles until they are evenly coated in the sauce.
- Combine the ground beef, spices, and tomato paste in a small bowl and then fold it into the pasta until evenly distributed.
- Serve and enjoy!
- I like to use medium cheddar cheese instead of mild because it helps balance out the sweetness of the tomato paste.
- The smoked paprika and cumin also help cut the sweetness of the tomato paste.
- You can store this dish in the fridge for up to about five days and reheat it in the microwave.
- You can also store this dish in the freezer for up to two months. I like to let it thaw in the fridge before putting it in the oven at 350 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.