Crockpot beef and broccoli that tastes better than Chinese takeout made in right in your slow cooker!
Crockpot beef and broccoli is guaranteed to become a family favorite you will make again, and again because it’s SO good and SO easy! It takes less than 15 minutes to prep, is made with pantry friendly ingredients, is healthier than takeout, reheats like a dream, is wonderfully versatile – and the SAUCE! The buttery tender beef cooks low and slow in a dynamic, savory, salty, soy, ginger, garlic sauce infused with toasted sesame oil and chili sauce that is so intoxicatingly delicious you will be licking the crockpot – or strongly tempted to. The rich, umami sauce is complimented by crisp-tender broccoli that cook directly in the slow cooker and a big bowl of hot steaming rice (or go low carb with cauliflower rice). You can even add homemade egg rolls, crab rangoons, and cream cheese wontons for a complete Chinese feast!
I love using my crockpot all year round because it creates the richest, complex flavor profiles and the juiciest chicken, beef or pork with hardly any effort. Some of my favorite Asian crockpot meals include my Mongolian Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Honey Soy Chicken, Honey Garlic Chicken, Cashew Chicken and now this Crockpot Beef and Broccoli!
SLOW COOKER BEEF AND BROCCOLI
Beef and broccoli is the epitome of Chinese food in my book and now everyone can make it at home with this easy crockpot beef and broccoli recipe! This recipe is a must make now recipe. My husband declared it in his “top 10 recipes” of all time, and I couldn’t put my chopsticks down.
This slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe is mostly dump and simmer – most of the prep is simply slicing the beef! Cooking the beef and broccoli in the slow cooker eliminates the marinade, the searing, the oil, and most of the hands-on cooking time. This means healthier and easier beef and broccoli that is melt-in-you-mouth tender and dripping with flavor.
The epic sauce for this slow cooker beef and broccoli is based off of my readers’ favorite Beef and Broccoli stir fry with hundreds of rave reviews. It makes this recipe. It is rich, umami, slightly sweet, mostly savory, and 100% addictive. All of the ingredients get whisked together directly in the slow cooker, then tossed with the beef. The beef bathes in the aromatic sauce for 3-4 hours while your home fills with the seductive aroma of tender, juicy, beef and broccoli.
The slow cooker beef and broccoli sauce is also extraordinary because it’s not sad and watery like most crockpot sauces but is gorgeously glossy thick. This stunning consistency cannot be achieved with a cornstarch slurry, so the sauce is simmered on the stove at the end of cooking while the broccoli is added to the beef. The resulting sauce is everything you want in the perfect beef and broccoli. Of course, you are welcome to serve the sauce as is and skip the simmering if you like.
As far as ingredients, you should have all of the ingredients to make this slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe if you do much Asian cooking at all, and if you don’t, the ingredients are easy to find at your grocery store. So, stock up because this crockpot beef and broccoli is going to be a repeat family favorite, and maybe even one of your “top 10 recipes of all time.”
Now, I’m going to break down this crockpot beef and broccoli recipe and try and answer all your questions as well as offer some tips and tricks. You can use my “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to skip straight to the recipe.
WHAT DOES crockpot beef and broccoli TASTE LIKE?
Beef and broccoli boasts a dynamic layering of umami rich flavors. Salty soy sauce, salty- sweet oyster sauce, garlic, ginger and sesame oil create a complex, savory sauce with a touch of sweetness from brown sugar that envelops every nook and cranny of the buttery beef. We also like to make beef and broccoli with a splash of chili sauce for a subtle kick of heat.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEEF & BROCCOLI, MONGOLIAN BEEF, AND SZECHUAN BEEF?
If you’re like me, you love Chinese food and hopefully have tried many of my Chinese steak recipes. So, you might be wondering how they are different and if you need to try them all – the answer is YES and they differentiate in:
- BEEF AND BROCCOLI VS MONGOLIAN BEEF: Beef and Broccoli has more of an umami taste whereas Mongolian Beef is more mildly-sweet. Both recipes use some of the same ingredients such as soy sauce and brown sugar but broccoli beef replaces the sweeter hoisin sauce with more savory oyster sauce.
- BEEF AND BROCCOLI VS PEPPER STEAK: Beef and Broccoli and Pepper Steak share a similar flavor profile. They use man of the same sauce ingredients but pepper steak replaces some of the oyster sauce with soy sauce for a less robust umami flavor. Steak and peppers also obviously uses peppers and beef and broccoli uses broccoli.
- BEEF AND BROCCOLI VS SZECHUAN BEEF: Both recipes begin with a similar stir fry sauce but Szechuan Beef contains Szechuan peppercorns that adds the unique, complex flavor notes and a tingly sensation that sets it apart. Szechuan Beef also contains chili peppers which makes its spicier.
WHAT KIND OF MEAT IS best for crockpot BEEF AND BROCCOLI?
I recommend top sirloin steak for crockpot beef and broccoli. Top sirloin is a cut of beef from the primal loin, or the upper (“top”) portion of the cow that runs just under the backbone. It provides naturally tender, flavorful cuts of beef, including the top sirloin, T-bone, strip steak, porterhouse steak, and tenderloin. Top sirloin steaks are made by removing the tenderloin and bottom round muscles.
Top sirloin is a favorite for everyday cooking because it’s fairly affordable, relatively lean yet tender even without a marinade and boats beefy flavor. It is comprised of exquisite finely marbled fat which results in great flavor, generally second only to the ribeye. Here’s the breakdown:
- Finely marbled: the finely marbled fat melts during cooking, resulting in superior flavor and juicy tenderness.
- Little connective tissue: this means the muscles have done very little work so they aren’t tough. The lack of tough connective tissue keeps your steak melt-in-your-mouth through and though without chewy pockets.
- Affordable: you reap the juicy, beefy tenderness of a more expensive cut of beef without paying the extra $$.
Can I use flank steak?
I do not recommend flank steak or skirt steak for this recipe. Cheaper cuts will yield tougher and chewier results and only should be used if marinated first.
INGREDIENTS FOR crockpot BEEF AND BROCCOLI
The BEST slow cooker beef and broccoli needs the best sauce! It’s made with beef broth, oyster sauce, Japanese rice wine, brown sugar, Asian chili sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and cornstarch. Once you have everything stocked (if you don’t already), you’ll be ready to make this recipe again and again – AND all of my other Asian recipes!
- Broccoli: fresh broccoli cut into bite size pieces. You can also purchase a prechopped broccoli florets, but you’ll still want to chop them into uniform pieces.
- Ginger, Onions and Garlic: this slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe relies heavily on the aromatics for flavor, which adds a warm, spicy, almost pepper taste. Of course, use more or less to taste.
- Beef broth: use low sodium beef broth so you can control the salt level. Please don’t use vegetable broth or it will leave you with sad, wanting results.
- Oyster sauce: is a necessity in Asian sauces and stir fry recipes. It adds that extra punch of flavor that takeout sauces have and will elevate your crockpot beef and broccoli to new heights. Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce with a balance between sweet and salty with an earthy undertone, due to the oyster extracts. You can find oyster sauce in the Asian aisle of any supermarket for only a few dollars. Please use QUALITY oyster sauce such as Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman. You truly can taste the difference and will be sorely disappointed with less quality brands.
- Soy sauce: use low sodium soy sauce or your beef and broccoli will be too salty.
- Brown sugar: adds just a little adds sweetness to balance the oyster sauce. You may need more or less depending on personal taste.
- Rice wine: should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking. I use it in almost all of my Asian Recipes from my Beef Bulgogi to my Mongolian Chicken and Sesame Noodles. Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out. Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor; rice vinegar, on the other hand, will add an acidic flavor.
- Asian chili sauce: use your favorite chili sauce like Sambal Oelek or sriracha (I use Sambal Oelek with the green lid). If you feel like your slow cooker beef and broccoli beef is missing something, it is probably heat! It elevates the beef and broccoli recipe to another dimension of deliciousness. I recommend staring with less and adding more to taste at the end of cooking if you would like it spicier
- Toasted sesame oil: a “secret ingredient” that adds an irresistible, subtle nutty flavor.
- Cornstarch: helps thicken the sauce to a glossy, luscious consistency.
- Salt and pepper: every recipe benefits from salt and pepper – they enhance the rest of the flavors. Use more or less to taste.
Can I use frozen broccoli?
For the best texture, I recommend using fresh broccoli versus frozen broccoli; frozen broccoli will be more mushy. If you aren’t big on texture, you may swap the fresh broccoli for one 12 oz. bag frozen broccoli florets. If you are using frozen broccoli florets, you don’t need to defrost them prior to adding to the slow cooker. Add them at the same point in the recipe that calls for fresh broccoli and cook closer to 30 minutes. Also, please note the frozen broccoli will release more water and produce a watery sauce.
WHERE DO I BUY RICE WINE?
I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for. The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.
What if I’m allergic to shellfish?
If you’re allergic to shellfish, use LEE KUM KEE Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce instead of oyster sauce.
Can I Omit the Sugar in This Recipe?
As written, the sugar balances the beef broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce and aromatics. You may slightly reduce the sugar but it will change the balance of flavors. You cannot omit the sugar in this recipe and expect it to taste delicious.
How spicy is this recipe?
Beef and broccoli isn’t meant to be spicy but does boast a combination of peppery zing and a kick of heat from the garlic, ginger and chili sauce. If you would like a mild broccoli beef, omit the chili sauce; you’ll still enjoy a little kick form the ginger and garlic but it won’t be “spicy.” For a medium crockpot beef and broccoli, use 1-2 teaspoons chili sauce. For a spicier broccoli beef, use 1 tablespoon chili sauce.
IS THIS RECIPE GLUTEN FREE?
As written, this recipe is not gluten free – but almost! To make gluten free, use gluten free soy sauce or tamari. You will also want to double check that your oyster sauce and chili sauce are gluten free. The rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
BEEF AND broccoli RECIPE VARIATIONS
While this beef and broccoli is just right for us, you can adjust it to make it just right for YOU and your family’s personal tastes:
- Sweeten it up: with additional brown sugar at the end
- Make it less sweet: by adding less sugar to the sauce
- Spice it up: add additional Asian chili sauce to taste
- For extra tang: add additional rice wine
- Amp up the garlic and/or ginger: for a stronger punch of flavor, or use less for a milder sauce
- Add veggies: add additional vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, etc.
- Add crunch: with peanuts or cashews; take care to purchase raw, unsalted nuts so your recipe isn’t too salty. To elevate your cashews or peanuts, dry roast them in a skillet until toasted- YUM!
- Water chestnuts: are delightfully crunchy and easy to find at any grocery store.
- Sesame seeds: add a nutty sesame flavor. Take care to use toasted sesame seeds or toast them yourself.
- Fruit: pineapple, Mandarin oranges or mangos add a juicy, fresh, sweet dimension. They are the sweet ying to the umami yang– just think teriyaki chicken and pineapple. If you’re intimidated by choosing or cutting mangos, check out this post here. For the oranges, fresh oranges hold together better but canned or super convenient.
How to make the beef extra tender
Successful slow cooker beef and broccoli depends on melt-in-your-mouth beef. Here’s how to make your beef extra tender:
- Use the correct beef. As previously discussed, avoid super lean, tough cuts of steak such as flank steak or skirt steak. Top sirloin will deliver tender beef and broccoli every time.
- Slice the beef THINLY across the grain. The beef doesn’t have to be razor thin like Beef Bulgogi, but should be as thin as you can get it. Aim for 1/8-inch thick or thinner. Thin slices help the steak cook more quickly, and emerge buttery tender, seeping with flavor. It is much easier to thinly slice your steak if you freeze it for 30 minutes or so.
- Slice your beef across the grain. You also want to take care to slice the beef ACROSS the grain. You can see the “grain” running through the meat in one direction. The grain is essentially the muscle fibers running through the meat. You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers so they become as short as possible. If you cut it parallel to the grain you will end up with long muscle fibers which make your steak chewier.
- Cook crockpot beef and broccoli on low. Cooking the beef low and slow provides enough time for the protein fibers to break down which results in tender beef. High heat will essentially boil the beef which is always a big no-no because it dries out your the beef.
- Cook beef for long enough. If you’ve followed all the aforementioned steps and your beef isn’t as tender as you like, it just needs more cooking time. Even 30 minutes can make a huge difference, so be patient, and cook on!
HOW TO MAKE Crockpot BEEF AND BROCCOLI
This slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe is very simple with mostly hands of low and slow cooking. Here’s how to make it:
- Add sauce and beef to crockpot. Add all of the sauce ingredients to the crockpot and whisk to combine. Make sure to whisk thoroughly until the cornstarch dissolves. Add the beef and stir to combine.
- Cook beef until tender. Cover and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours, until the meat has cooked through and is very tender.
- Thicken sauce. The sauce will be slightly thickened after the beef is cooked but will thin once you add the broccoli. You can choose to add the broccoli and not thicken the sauce any more, or if you prefer a luxuriously thick sauce, you’ll need to thicken it on the stove. To do so, tilt the slow cooker to the side and ladle out as much sauce as possible into a saucepan. Simmer the sauce on the stove until quite thick. You want it thicker than the final desired consistency because it will thin when combined with the broccoli in the slow cooker.
- Steam broccoli. Meanwhile, add broccoli to the top of the beef in the crockpot and cover (don’t stir it in, we want the broccoli to steam). Cook for 20-30 minutes longer, or until broccoli reaches desired crisp-tenderness.
- Stir in thickened sauce. Transfer thickened sauce to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Serve with rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions if desired.
How to Thicken the Crockpot Beef and Broccoli Sauce
The only way to make truly gorgeously thick, glossy beef and broccoli sauce is to thicken the sauce on the stove. Adding a cornstarch slurry to the crockpot will not simmer and reduce to create a thick enough sauce. It can work for thickening soups, but not for Asian Sauces.
- No extra time! The broccoli is added to the crockpot at the same time that you simmer the sauce, so you have to wait for the broccoli to cook anyway, so thickening the sauce on the stove doesn’t add any extra time to the recipe.
- Customize consistency: By thickening the sauce on the stove, you can also control the consistency. For a thicker sauce, simmer longer, for a thinner sauce, simmer for less time. You can also whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 1/2 tablespoons water and add it to the simmering sauce to make it even thicker.
When to Add the Broccoli to the Slow Cooker
For best results, wait to add the broccoli until the last 20 minutes of cooking. This will guarantee that your broccoli is crisp-tender, the same texture of stir-fried broccoli. Don’t be tempted to add the broccoli any earlier, or don’t add it the crockpot and forget about it, or you will be left with sad, mushy, watery broccoli instead.
Can I steam broccoli in the microwave?
Absolutely! Instead of adding broccoli directly to the crockpot, you can add it to a microwave safe bowl. Fill the bowl with water to about 1/8-inch up the sides. Cover and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until the broccoli is crisp-tender.
Can I Cook This Recipe on High for Less Time?
I don’t recommend cooking this recipe on high. The meat should be cooked low and slow doing in order to break down the muscle fibers and become buttery tender.
WHAT other VEGETABLES CAN I ADD?
This slow cooker beef and broccoli is delectable in its simplicity or you can mix and match the veggies based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale. You will want to equally swap the broccoli for the other veggies to maintain the veggie/sauce ratio. Most vegetables (with the exception of carrots), will only need 20-30 minutes to cook in the crockpot. Don’t cook them from start with the beef or they’ll become soft, or worse, mushy.
Here are a few vegetable add-in ideas for crockpot beef and broccoli:
- Bell Peppers
- Snow Peas
- Snap Peas
- Baby corn
- Bok choy
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR crockpot beef and broccoli RECIPE
This slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe is pretty straightforward, but here is a summary of some tips and tricks to make it a sizzling success:
- Use a sharp knife. Sharpen your knife before slicing the steak to ensure buttery clean cuts.
- Freeze steak. Place your steak in the freezer 30 minutes before cutting. This will help it not wiggle beneath your knife so it’s much easier to slice thinly and cleanly.
- Slice steak into thirds. I recommend slicing your steak into thirds before you freeze it so you can work with one third at a time while the rest of the steak stays frozen.
- Slice steak across the grain. You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers running through the steak in one direction so they become as short as possible and virtually undiscernible. If you cut with the grain, the fibers are left long which results in chewy, rubbery steak.
- Slice steak thinly. This goes with slicing your steak across the grain – by slicing your steak thinly (about 1/8-inch slices or less), you are shortening the muscle fibers which results in more tender steak.
- Use quality ingredients. QUALITY oyster sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman is essential because you can TASTE the difference!
- Garlic pro tip. Purchase the pre-bagged, already peeled garlic to save time. They are actually less expensive than whole garlic cloves (at least when I did the math).
- Garlic substitute. Use more or less garlic depending on your garlic love. You may substitute the fresh garlic with 1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder whisked directly into the sauce.
- Ginger substitute. Adds a warm spicy, almost pepper taste. You may substitute the fresh ginger with 1 teaspoon ginger powder whisked directly into the sauce.
- Ginger pro tip. I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips. To freeze ginger: grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months. You can add frozen ginger directly to your stir fry. You can also grate frozen garlic if you have a quality microplaner.
- Swap veggies. You can substitute the broccoli with your other favorite veggies or you can swap some of the broccoli with other veggies.
- Use rice wine and NOT rice wine vinegar. Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out. Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor; rice vinegar, on the other hand, will add an acidic flavor.
- Add heat. Customize the heat with additional sriracha or chili sauce. If the beef and broccoli feels like it’s missing something, it is probably heat.
- Don’t overcook broccoli. Take care not to over-cook the broccoli. It should be crisp-tender like in a stir fry and not tender-crisp.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT slow cooker BEEF AND BROCCOLI
This crockpot beef and broccoli reheats wonderfully for lunches or dinners, just take care to not overcook the broccoli initially.
- How to store: store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- How to reheat in microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals.
- How to reheat on the stove: for larger portions, rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.
HOW TO PREP BEEF AND BROCCOLI AHEAD OF TIME
Slow cooker beef and broccoli has a few steps, but you can prep EVERYTHING ahead of time so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is cook! Here’s how:
- Slice Beef: thinly slice beef and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- Make sauce: whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator.
- Chopping: chop broccoli, chop garlic, and grate your ginger 24 hours in advance and store in the refrigerator.
- Cook! Now all that’s left to do is add everything to your crockpot and cook!
CAN YOU FREEZE THIS RECIPEE?
Beef and broccoli freezes well, just take care to not overcook the beef or broccoli initially. If you want your beef and broccoli to tastes as fresh as when it was made, I suggest freshly stir-fried broccoli or freshly steamed broccoli.
- Let beef and broccoli cool completely in the refrigerator.
- Transfer to an airtight container. If using a freezer bag, squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
- Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, let beef and broccoli thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Reheat in the microwave for 60 seconds then at 30 second intervals or gently on the stove.
WHAT DO YOU EAT WITH SLOW COOKER BEEF AND BROCCOLI?
Traditionally, beef and broccoli is served with rice to soak up all the sauce and for a neutral textural component because sauce is SO flavorful.
- Rice. You can pile your beef and broccoli on white rice (I recommend jasmine), or brown rice. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.
- Low carb. Cauliflower rice, quinoa or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also serve the beef and broccoli in lettuce wraps.
- Noodles. Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up! You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
- Crockpot Veggies. As previously discussed, you can add vegetables directly to the crockpot to cook with the beef.
- Stir Fry Veggies. You can stir fry any veggies your heart desires from bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc.
- Shortcut Veggies. You can purchase pre-chopped veggies perfect for stir fries or use a frozen stir-fry blend or steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies.
- Salad. Add a fresh, crunchy salad such as Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, or Asian Pineapple Salad.
- Fruit. Fresh fruit such as chopped pineapple is always an easy, welcome sweet Asian side. Grilled Pineapple, Summer Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad, and Pina Colada Fruit Salad are also fantastic.
- Appetizers: You can turn slow cooker beef and broccoli into a feast by pairing it with Chinese appetizers such as Crab Rangoons, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Pineapple Cream Cheese Wontons, Egg Rolls or Chinese Chicken Wings. It is also delicious with potstickers, even though they are technically Japanese and not Chinese.
- Soups. Let the Chinese feast continue with soup! I love to warm up to Egg Drop Soup which is SUPER easy and always a satisfying favorite.
IS BEEF AND BROCCOLI RECIPE HEALTHY?
This beef and broccoli recipe is loaded with nutritious protein and broccoli with minimal oil. The broccoli is free of cholesterol and provides many of vitamins and minerals.
Just some of the nutrients in fresh broccoli include vitamins K & C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber. Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure and dietary fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from damaging free radicals. It also builds collagen, which forms body tissue and bone, and helps cuts and wounds heal.
To make you’re the recipe even healthier:
- Substitute some beef for vegetables. The more vegetables, the better!
- Serve over cauliflower rice, quinoa, or zucchini noodles instead of rice.
LOOKING FOR MORE CHINESE FAKEOUT TAKEOUT RECIPES?
- Mongolian Chicken
- Asian Caramel Pulled Pork
- Cashew Chicken
- Pineapple Ginger Chicken
- Coconut Cashew Chicken
- Honey Lemon Chicken
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