Slow cooker Italian Beef is the great equalizer, the old reliable, the thing you can confidently bring to any get together and have everyone asking you for the recipe by the end of the night. In short, it’s exactly the kind of recipe we all need more of in our lives.
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Italian beef is a sandwich that originated in Chicago. The cut of beef used for Italian beef is typically chuck.
The beef is slow cooked until fall-apart tender, then piled high in a hoagie bun with some of the meat’s tasty, sloppy cooking juices.
From there, the sandwich is finished with a shower of pepperoncini, giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables), and provolone cheese.
It’s drippy and salty and cheesy and messy, all in the best possible way.
Italian beef sandwiches date back to the 1930s and are still popular at Italian delis around the U.S. (They also seem to be very popular at Portillo’s, the fast-food chain that, at least here in Milwaukee, commands around-the-building drive-through lines at all hours of the day.)
It wasn’t the omnipresent Portillo’s line that convinced me to come up with my own easy Italian beef recipe, however. It was my neighbor Megan.
We were having a conversation about the struggle to figure out what to bring to a family potluck when everyone has different dietary preferences—no gluten for Cousin X, must be dairy free for Aunt Y, Grandpa won’t touch a vegetable, etc. Have you been there?
Megan mentioned that her no-fail, works-every-time, go-to meal for a crowd is Italian beef.
It’s easy to make, inexpensive, feeds a crowd, and (this is the real miracle) everyone always likes it.
Sign me up! Don’t fuhgheddaboudit.
I took to playing around with the recipe, and I have to say, Megan, her entire family, and (by extension) everyone in line at Portillo’s is right: these drippy Italian beef sandwiches are finger-lickin’ IRRESISTIBLE.
Juicy, tender beef slowly cooked in its own juices with a zesty blend of Italian spices, pepperoncini, and zippy, briny pickled vegetables, this easy crockpot recipe 100% hits the spot.
Looking to feed a crowd from the slow cooker? Try any of these big-batch recipes:
- Crockpot BBQ Chicken. Another tasty pulled meat sandwich.
- Healthy Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes. This one is always a crowd-pleaser!
- Crockpot Beef Stew. Hearty and filling, just like this Italian beef.
Italian Beef vs. Roast Beef vs. French Dip
What’s the beef with all of these different kinds of beef sandwiches? While similar, each of these three icons has its own nuances.
- Italian Beef. Beef is slow-cooked until fall-apart tender in a blend of broth, Italian-inspired seasonings, and pickled vegetables before being served on a bun with some of its juices.
- Roast Beef. Similar to Italian beef, this dish is typically served as a sandwich. The beef is thinly sliced, then served atop bread with cheese and additional toppings.
- French Dip. While it also includes thinly sliced roast beef, this sandwich has an extra juicy spin. The sandwich is served with a cup of beef broth for a scrumptious dipping sauce.
How to Cook Italian Beef Sandwiches
When I started poking around online for crockpot Italian beef recipes, I was disappointed to see that almost every single one called for a packet of Italian salad dressing mix.
Rather than turn to a processed ingredient, I opened my spice cabinet to create my own blend.
Not only is the flavor of this from-scratch Italian beef on point, but you will also feel great knowing exactly what is in it.
- Beef. The star of the show! After spending time in the slow cooker, the beef becomes incredibly tender and flavorful.
What Cut of Beef is Used for Italian Beef
The cut of beef used for Italian beef is typically chuck roast. However, top sirloin, top round, or bottom round would also work well.
- Giardiniera. A delicious blend of pickled vegetables that adds that wonderful, classic flavor to Italian beef.
- Pepperoncini. Pickled sweet chili peppers that add scrumptious flavor to the beef. A classic! (You’ll also love it in this Italian Chopped Salad.)
- Seasoning. A blend of Italian seasoning, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and dried thyme give this classic Italian beef flavor. No need for the dressing mix.
- Provolone. No Italian beef sandwich is complete without a melty cheese. Provolone has a slight smokiness that I think pairs wonderfully with the beef.
- Hoagie Buns. The ideal vessel for all the drippy, flavor-packed beef goodness.
- Let the meat rest at room temperature. Salt the beef.
- Sear the beef, then transfer it to the slow cooker.
- Deglaze the pan with beef broth, then add the liquid to the slow cooker.
- Stir the seasoning ingredients together, then sprinkle them over the beef.
- Add the peppers and giardiniera.
- Cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Shred the beef. Cook for another 30 minutes.
- Toast the buns at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes. Top the buns with the beef, cheese, and additional pepperoncini and giardiniera. DIG IN!
Browning the beef on the stove, then deglazing the pan and adding those tasty brown bits to the slow cooker along with it builds deeper, more complex flavor. It makes this the best homemade Italian beef you’ll ever taste!
How to Serve Italian Beef
Once you have a tasty slow cooker of this juicy Italian beef, you have options for serving!
- Italian Beef Sandwich. The classic! Serve the Italian beef on a bun with Provolone cheese and additional giardiniera as desired.
- Over Rice. A perfect option if you have guests who are gluten free.
- Cauliflower Rice. This will give you a low-carb Italian beef.
- Over Potatoes. A delicious all-in-one meal! For easy potato cooking methods, try my Crock Pot Baked Potatoes, Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes, or Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes.
- Alongside an Italian Appetizer. To add an extra nod to the Italian flavors, serve this Italian Beef with Mozzarella Cheese Sticks.
- To Store. Refrigerate the beef in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. If you have leftover sandwich bread or cheese, store them separately from the beef.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftover beef in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze beef in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Plan Tip
Mix the seasoning ingredients together up to 1 day in advance. Cover and store at room temperature.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Slow Cooker. The key to our slow-cooked beef.
- Dutch Oven. Ideal for searing the meat.
- Extra Large Cutting Board. You’ll love all the extra space!
Whether you are looking to serve a crowd, need a dinner you can prep in advance, or are looking for a freezer meal, this Italian beef has you covered.
As always, if you try this slow cooker beef recipe, please a comment and rating below. Your feedback keeps me going and is so important to others too!
FOR THE BEEF:
- 3 to 4 pound chuck roast or round roast trimmed of large chunks of excess fat
- Kosher salt
- 14.5 ounce can beef broth divided
- 8 ounces pepperoncini pepper slices plus 1/4 cup of juice and additional peppers for serving
- 8 ounces giardiniera (mild or spicy) drained, plus additional for serving (look for the kind that is chopped, versus whole pickled vegetables)
- Provolone cheese slices for serving
- Hoagie buns for serving
- Let the meat rest at room temperature for 15 minutes (this is a good time to measure your other spices and seasonings). Season the beef all over with kosher salt.
- Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high. Once it is hot, sear the meat on all sides until golden brown, moving it as little as possible so that it develops a nice crust (this will take about 10 minutes). Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Turn the heat to medium. Carefully splash in some of the broth and with a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan (this is FLAVOR). Pour the liquid and any bits into the slow cooker on top of the beef.
- In a small bowl, stir together the seasoning ingredients: Italian seasoning, granulated sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and thyme. Sprinkle on top of the beef.
- Add the pepperoncini peppers and juice. Add the giardiniera (do not add any giardiniera juice).
- Pour in the remaining broth.
- Cover the crockpot and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork. Shred the beef, then stir it together with the juices. Cover and cook on low for 30 additional minutes.
- To serve, split the hoagie buns and toast on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes (if desired). Fill with the shredded Italian beef (get plenty of that yummy, messy juice!) and top with provolone, pepperoncini, and Giardiniera as desired. Enjoy!
- *You can swap the homemade Italian seasoning mix in this recipe with a .7 ounce packet of Italian dressing mix.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate Italian beef in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze beef in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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