Whipping up in just one pot and needing less than 10 ingredients, this Slow Cooker Italian Beef is the ultimate set it and and forget it meal, y’all! Let it do its thing while you’re out living your best life, and come back to beef so tender it practically falls apart at the slightest touch, all swimming in a gravy that’s just bursting with flavor. It’s a no-stress, all-delicious kind of deal that’ll have everyone asking for seconds.
Though my family roots are Southern, I will always be a Chicago girl at heart. Having grown up in the heart of the Windy City, I know my way around the scandalously good eats the city has to offer. From deep dish pies to frozen custard, I’ve just about eaten it all and trust me, I can’t wait until I have it again. One of my favorite classic Chicago bites is an oversized, juicy Italian Beef Sandwich.
From the very first bite to the last, there are delectable pieces of shredded beef studded with crisp hot peppers. Don’t bother with napkins; embrace the mess and let the drippings run down your fingers. You can wash your hands (or lick them clean) later.
Today, I’m changing the game and hitting you with an easy-to-make, sinful-to-eat crock pot variety of a Chicago-style Italian Beef Sandwich. This recipe is as simple as dump, cook and serve. No mess, no problem. Let’s get to work!
What is Italian Beef?
An Italian Beef, invented in Chicago, is a sandwich made with thin slices of seasoned sirloin, simmered and served with au jus (also known as ‘gravy’) on a long Italian-style roll. The sandwich’s history dates back to the 1930’s and, like many recipes, was born from the need to use up cheap cuts of meat.
Traditionally, Chicago-style Italian Beefs are topped with giardiniera (hot peppers) or sauteed green peppers (sweet peppers). You can find these tender, moist subs at just about any hot dog stand, pizzeria or Italian-American restaurant across Northeastern Illinois.
If you don’t already own a slow cooker, I highly recommend investing in one! From soups to stews and even cakes, a slow cooker can do it all with little to no effort. Honestly, it’s a mom’s (or dad’s) best friend!
Italian Beef made over the stove can take a full day of tossing, turning and carefully watching. But this recipe nips all that in the butt!
Here’s what we’ll need today:
- Chuck Roast– most Italian Beef is made using sirloin but unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up well in the slow cooker. I find that chuck tenderizes beautifully while also absorbing a great amount of flavor.
- Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing Mix– this mix provides a zest and tang that pairs well with the peppers.
- Italian Seasoning– extra seasoning ensures that the meat is balanced and full of aromatic, earthy notes.
- Onion– onions add a pungent sweetness while also using its own moisture to tenderize the chuck.
- Beef Bouillon– bouillon is a granulated mix of beef, onion, parsley and spices. Its addition creates a depth of flavor and develops the au jus that makes this sandwich irresistible.
- Unsalted Butter– is there anything butter can’t make better?
- Pepperoncini Slices & Juice– these peppers are sweet, acidic and perfectly pickled. The pop of crisp brightness is welcome in this rich, decadent meal.
- Water– this is simply meant to thin out our gravy and create a base for the rest of the ingredients.
How to Build a Classic Italian Beef Sub
A classic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich is built on fresh, soft Italian or Hoagie rolls. When ready to serve, open up the rolls and use a fork to stack the beef as high as you’d like. Top with giardiniera (Italian pickled veggies) or more pickled peppers (pepperoncini) if you prefer a little more heat.
Don’t skip on the juices! In Chicago, most Italian beef subs are fully submerged in the flavorful au jus before serving. Listen, it may be messy but, dang, is it delicious! Use a large spoon or small ladle to drizzle a bit (or a lot) of the extra juice on top of the meat and peppers. Alternatively, serve the juices on the side for dipping.
Hosting a party or tailgate? I love to set out slider rolls or mini pretzel buns and serve along with au jus for more reasonable portions and easier consumption.
What to Serve With
Additional Topping Options
This recipe results in incredibly rich beef that doesn’t need to be met with heavy toppings. Sometimes, there’s beauty in simplicity. But, if you’re craving extra decadence or freshness, there are ways to layer that in without overpowering the sandwich.
- Cheese – provolone, mozzarella and monterey jack are all great options! I suggest lightly toasting the bread with a layer of cheese for ultimate melty goodness.
- Veggies – fresh lettuce, tomato, olives, red onions and jalapenos can all be tasty additions!
Before storing the meat, be sure that it has completely cooled. Then, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Leftovers will also last for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat in the microwave or stovetop.
Use up those leftovers! Serve them with mashed potatoes for a simple weeknight dinner or mix things up by making enchiladas or tacos. Or you can make an Italian Beef Grilled Cheese,
Slow Cooker Recipes
With the Summer heat coming in quick, I’m taking a break from hot ovens and even hotter stovetops. Slow cookers allow for hands-free, cool cooking! Save yourself from an unnecessary sweat swesh by testing out of a few of my BEST slow-cooker recipes:
- Honey Baked Ham
- Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
- Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
- Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken
Slow Cooker Italian Beef
- 3 lb chuck roast trimmed of visible fat and cut into large hunks
- 0.7 oz Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix envelope
- 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 2 beef boullion cubes
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 8 oz pepperoncini pepper slices + splash of juice
- 2 cups water
- Place chuck roast into the bottom of a 5.5 – 6 quart crock pot then sprinkle with salad dressing mix and Italian seasoning. Add onion, bouillon cubes, butter and pepperoncini pepper slices to the bottom of the pot then add water.
- Place a lid on top then cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork. At this point you can either shred the beef with your fork or you can slice the beef. Shred or slice then place meat back into crock pot and cook on low for 1 more hour.