Italian Beef Sandwiches are easy to make using the Crockpot. Topped with cheese and giardiniera, these sandwiches are a cozy comfort food for a dinner or game day snack.
I don’t know about you, but I am all about that slow cooker life right now. In fact, I just bought a new fancy one after my older one started burning everything – even on low.
There’s just something about tossing a few ingredients into a slow cooker that makes me happy – especially on busy weeknights.
This slow cooker Italian Beef is simple to throw together, but is full of flavor and just perfect for leftovers!
WHAT IS ITALIAN BEEF?
If you’ve never been to Chicago or aren’t from the Midwest, you might not be familiar with Italian Beef Sandwiches.
Italian beef is beef that has been seasoned, slow cooked, and either shredded or thinly sliced, then served on an Italian roll with giardiniera and au jus.
Italian beef originated in Chicago and is one of the city’s iconic foods, but don’t worry if you’ve never been to Chicago before. I promise that anyone can enjoy these comfort food sandwiches at home!
Since I don’t live near Chicago, it’s sometimes hard for me to find the “traditional” Chicago-style rolls or giardiniera, so this recipe is my own spin on the classic.
WHAT INGREDIENTS DO I NEED?
Most of the ingredients to make Italian Beef Sandwiches are pretty straightforward: chuck roast, onion, garlic, beef stock, and Worcestershire sauce.
But there are a few ingredients that are what really make this into Italian Beef, and not just your average pot roast.
Aside from the beef itself, the star ingredients for these sandwiches are:
- Italian beef seasoning
- Pickled sweet cherry peppers
- Pepperoncini peppers
- Banana peppers
- Giardiniera mix or spread
I’m not here to tell you what brand of things you have to buy, but I do have a few opinions when it comes to this recipe, okay?
My favorite seasoning for this recipe is Louie’s Italian Beef Seasoning. I like to add a little extra dried oregano, but that’s really the only extra seasoning I need when using this brand.
As for all of the pickled stuff? I really like Mezzetta brand. There are other good brands of giardiniera and pickled peppers, but the Mezzetta brand is easy to find at most grocery stores and all of their stuff is good.
WHAT IS GIARDINIERA?
We like to top our Italian Beef Sandwiches with sliced banana peppers and giardiniera, but you really only need the giardiniera to be really traditional.
Giardiniera is a relish of pickled vegetables. It usually has peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, and gherkins.
Giardiniera can be mild or hot, so it’s easy to amp up the spice if you like things really hot. You can make homemade giardiniera, but there’s no shame in buying it from the store.
While I tend to buy mild to medium banana peppers and pepperoncini for the beef itself, I like to top my sandwich with a nice hot giardiniera. You could use hot peppers throughout the recipe, though, if everyone in your family is all about the heat!
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES
Just like with my Easy Crockpot Pulled Pork, we’re gonna use the slow cooker to do most of the work for us.
Start by searing your roast in a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet. While you can technically skip this step if you’re short on time, it really adds a lot of flavor.
Once the meat is seared, add it to a large Crockpot with the sweet cherry peppers, the pepperoncini, some of the banana peppers, onions, garlic, and all of your seasonings and beef stock.
I also add some of the sweet cherry pepper brine to add some extra brininess to the gravy later on.
From there, let your Crockpot do its thing for 8-10 hours. Go to work, do some chores, take a nap…it’s up to you.
When the meat is done cooking, it’ll be super tender and falling apart. Take it out of the slow cooker and shred it up.
Then strain the rest of the solids from the cooking liquid and add the liquid to a saucepan. Simmer it until it has reduced considerably and thickened. This is your au jus!
Assemble your sandwiches with a hearty portion of the meat on a hinged roll, such as a French roll, Italian roll, or hoagie roll. Top it with sliced cheese if you like, and plenty of banana peppers and giardiniera.
I like to drizzle the au jus over my sandwich, but my husband prefers to dip his. If you want to really serve it like they do in Chicago, dip the entire sandwich into the au jus before serving!
(I’m not into mushy bread, though, so I’ll stick to drizzling my au jus.)
CAN YOU FREEZE ITALIAN BEEF?
The nice thing about making slow-cooked beef like this is that it freezes well.
You could cool and freeze the meat immediately after cooking, then make the au jus before you serve it. Or you could make the au jus and freeze it in a separate container from the Italian beef.
You could also freeze it all in one big batch or portion it out into smaller containers for making just a couple sandwiches at a time.
Either way, it’s a great recipe to make ahead for easy weeknight dinners, or even take to a friend or loved one who needs a bit of a pick-me-up dinner! Comfort food is always a win.
Italian Beef Sandwiches
For the Italian beef:
- 3 pounds Beef chuck roast boneless
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 ounces pickled sweet cherry peppers reserve brine
- 16 ounces whole pepperoncini peppers
- 16 ounces sliced banana peppers divided (1/3 of the jar for the meat, reserve the rest as a sandwich topping)
- 1 large yellow or red onion cut into thick julienne
- 3-4 large cloves garlic minced or grated
- ½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup reserved sweet cherry pepper brine
- 32 ounces beef stock
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 3oz packet of “Louie’s” Italian beef seasoning (my favorite)
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- salt & pepper to taste
For the sandwiches:
- Italian French, or hoagie rolls
- Sliced cheese such as provolone, Swiss, or cheddar, optional
- Reserved Sliced banana peppers
- “Chicago style” giardiniera sandwich mix or spread hot or mild
- Remove roast from packaging, place on a rack over a sheet tray. Season all sides liberally with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes. Once Dutch oven is hot, add olive oil to pan. Once the oil is hot (about 1 minute), use tongs to gently add the beef roast to the pan, laying it down away from you.
- Sear until deep golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Repeat on all remaining sides/edges of meat. Once seared, place in the slow cooker.
- Remove the stems from the sweet cherry peppers and pepperoncini peppers, leaving the peppers whole. Add to slow cooker along with 1/3 of the jar of sliced banana peppers, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add beef stock along with ¼ cup of the reserved sweet cherry pepper brine, Worcestershire sauce, Italian beef seasoning packet and oregano into slow cooker.
- Make sure roast is mostly if not fully submerged. Add the lid to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- After 8-10 hours, gently remove beef to a large bowl or cutting board. Shred the meat with tongs or a fork.
- Strain the liquid from the solids in the slow cooker, reserving the liquid, and add the solids (onions and peppers) back to the slow cooker along with the shredded beef, and up to 1 cup of the cooking liquid, stirring to combine. Set slow cooker on lowest setting (low or warm, if available).
- Pour the remaining cooking liquid into a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium high heat until it has reduced considerably and thickens. Serve as an “au jus” for dipping or drizzle it over the sandwiches.
- To assemble sandwiches – Place sliced cheese in the hoagie roll, fill with shredded Italian beef, top with another half or whole slice of cheese. If desired, place under the broiler until cheese is melted. Top with banana peppers and giardiniera.