ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES ARE EASY, MAKE AHEAD FRIENDLY and CRAZY DELICIOUS! AKA the BEST PARTY/HOLIDAY FOOD!
These Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches are intensely juicy and seeping with flavor in every mouthwatering bite! The Italian beef is seasoned to perfection with homemade Italian seasonings, slow cooked until fall-apart tender then piled on a toasted buns crowned cheese, pepperoncini and your favorite toppings. This Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe not only makes the easiest dinner, holiday or party food/Game Day food, but are a super fun (make ahead!) sandwich bar to feed a crowd! I’ve also included instructions on how to freeze and make ahead!
Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe Video
ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICH RECIPE
These Italian Beef Sandwiches are epic! I first posted a LOADED Italian Beef Sandwich recipe with thinly sliced roast beef and I’m returning with a shredded crockpot Italian Beef Sandwich recipe because I can’t get enough!
These slow cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches boast a dreamy symphony of flavors and textures (seriously you will be AMAZED at how flavorful the Italian beef is) but they are as easy as dump and simmer! You can prep everything ahead of time and you don’t even have to chop any fixings (unless you chop the roasted bell peppers). They also make a fantastic sandwich bar so everyone can make their perfect sandwich. Finally, this Italian Beef makes great leftovers, should you be so lucky.
WHAT SEPARATES ITALIAN BEEF FROM A FRENCH DIP?
If you have followed Carlsbad Cravings for long, you have probably tried my Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches which literally have hundreds of rave reviews. So, what distinguishes Italian Beef Sandwiches from French Dip Sandwiches?
They both use chuck roast, they both are slow cooked, they both get sandwiched in between cheesy buns, so why do you need both recipes? Because trust me, you need BOTH recipes.
- The flavor: This Italian Beef Sandwich recipe slow cooks in Italian-style spices including dried oregano, dried basil, dried parsley and dried thyme for an undeniable Italian flair. Equally important is the addition of Worcestershire sauce and pepperoncini juice to the slow cooker which add a bright, zippy tanginess.
- The toppings: Italian Beef Sandwiches aren’t just Italian Beef and cheese but instead boast toppings such as Chicago-style hot peppers or Italian sweet peppers, giardiniera and of course, pepperoncini. You can also load them with other Italian meats such as Genoa Salami and/or Capacolla.
WHY IS IT CALLED ITALIAN BEEF?
Italian Beef originated in Chicago as far back as the 1830s! Immigrants would bring home the unsold, undesirable cuts of beef from the stock yards. They would slow-roast the meat until tender and seeping with Italian seasonings.
It is said that Italian Beef was served at weddings and other big events where guest lists were long. So, they always cut very thin slices to ensure all the guests were fed. Today, we get to enjoy the same fabulous flavor and tender cuts of beef in our Italian Beef Sandwiches with the ease of our slow cookers instead!
WHAT MEAT Is BEST FOR ITALIAN BEEF RECIPE?
There are many different cuts of beef that can be used for crockpot Italian Beef from bottom round, to top round, to shoulder roast to chuck roast. The boneless chuck roast, however, is the Mercedes of the roasts and should be used in this recipe for the BEST Italian Beef Sandwiches.
Boneless Chuck roast has a melt-in-your mouth texture and succulent, beefy flavor due to its rich marbling. The marbling creates a self-basting effect as it breaks down and drips over the meat, resulting in tender beef every time!
A few notes about the beef in this Italian Beef recipe:
- This recipe calls for 3-5 pounds of chuck roast because the seasonings and liquid are very forgiving – so don’t worry too much about the weight.
- Use boneless beef chuck roast that is thick cut and not rolled and tied with a string.
- If you use a larger chuck roast, you may need to cut it into two portions to fit into your slow cooker. If so, take care you sear all sides of each portion.
- I purchase my chuck roast at Costco, use one roast for this Italian Beef Sandwich recipe and freeze the other. That way you get to enjoy Italian Beef NOW and have it stocked and ready for the future.
INGREDIENTS FOR CROCKPOT ITALIAN BEEF
The BEST Italian Beef Sandwiches start with the best Italian Beef recipe! This flavorful, juicy beef is made primarily with pantry staples. You will need:
- Chuck roast: use boneless chuck roast with rich marbling trimmed of excess fat.
- Oil: high smoking point oil such as vegetable oil to sear the roast.
- Beef Broth: use low sodium beef broth so we can control the salt level
- Coke: tenderizes and adds flavor to the beef; please don’t use diet.
- Pepperoncini: the juice is used to cook the beef and the peppers are used as a topping. Pepperoncini typically come in a glass jar and is easy to find at your grocery store next to the sandwich condiments such as pickles, banana peppers and jarred roasted red bell peppers.
- Worcestershire sauce: boasts a complex savory, tangy flavor.
- Soy sauce: use reduced sodium or the Italian Beef will be too salty.
- Dried minced onions: are dried onions that deliver a concentrated flavor – and save you chopping! They are located next to the other spices at the grocery store. If you make this recipe with raw onions, it can overpower the meat unless you sauté the onions first.
- Beef bouillon: adds a depth of concentrated beefy flavor. You may also use an equal amount of better than bouillon.
- Seasonings: we make our own Italian seasoning blend with dried oregano, dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, dried thyme, salt and pepper.
WHAT ARE PEPPERONCINI?
A key ingredient in this slow cooker Italian Beef recipe is pepperoncini juice – DON’T SKIP IT! You might be familiar with pepperoncini if you have made my Mississippi Pot Roast in which they are a main ingredient. In this Italian Beef Sandwich recipe, we will use the pepperoncini juice in the crockpot and the pepperoncini as a topping.
Pepperoncini are type of mild, yellow-green chili pepper that belong to the same family as bell peppers. When pickled, they deliver a tangy zing and their juices boast the same tangy zing. You don’t need to worry about the Italian Beef being too spicy, however, it will just be wonderfully flavorful.
WHAT BREAD IS BEST FOR ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES?
The best bread for Italian Beef Sandwiches are either sturdy French Bread or hoagie rolls. You can also usually find good rolls at the bakery section of your grocery store. You want something sturdy enough to be loaded with juicy beef and not become mushy but you don’t want it too crispy like a baguette.
You can leave your bread as is, or sometimes I hollow out the bottom a little bit to cradle in meat and toppings – because it just means more meat and toppings.
WHAT TOPPINGS FOR ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES?
The following are popular toppings for Italian Beef Sandwiches which I highly recommend for a satisfying, well rounded, flavor, texture bomb:
- provolone cheese: the quintessential cheese for Italian Beef Sandwiches. It melts beautifully and has just the right amount of bite to hold up against the beef. I like to use 12 thinly sliced pieces provolone (2 per sandwich) or you can use 6 regular slices and use 1 per sandwich – cutting in half to fit the roll.
- mild pepperoncini peppers: the quintessential topping for Italian Beef Sandwiches AND you already need the jar for its juice. Your sandwiches would be tasty just with provolone and pepperoncini! Pepperoncini add a tasty tangy, vinegar zing as well as a lovely mild crunch. If you only can find whole pepperoncini instead of sliced, then you can slice them yourself.
- roasted red peppers: I use jarred roasted bell peppers that can be found next to the pickles at the grocery store but you can certainly roast your own! Make sure you pat the jarred bell peppers dry so they don’t get your other ingredients wet. You can slice the bell peppers or chop them.
- Giardiniera: is an Italian preparation of marinated, pickled vegetables with loads of tangy flavor. It often contains celery, cauliflower, onions, carrots, red bell peppers and green olives. It comes in both MILD and HOT – so pay attention! Giardiniera can be used not only as a topping for these Italian Beef Sandwiches but for any sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, eggs, salad, pizza, pasta salad, etc. I love it so much I’ll eat it with just a fork! Giardiniera can be found in a jar near the pepperoncini at your grocery store.
If you want fully LOADED Italian Sandwiches or to create a sandwich bar, here are some more topping ideas:
- Genoa salami: Genoa salami is a kind of salami believed to have originated in Genoa, Italy. It is seasoned with garlic, salt, black and white pepper, and red or white wine. You can purchase Genoa Salami either at the deli counter or they often have it pre-packaged with the specialty deli meats. If you can’t find Genoa Salami, you can use your favorite salami. Layer it on top of the melted cheese.
- Capicola: is also known as coppa, capocollo, or gabagool. It is a lightly spiced and smoked pork shoulder and one of the most delicious meats you can put on a sandwich. Some describe it as a cross between prosciutto and sausage in taste. It can be found in the deli or specialty meat section of your grocery store or at gourmet food shops. If you can’t find it, or don’t want to spend the $$ for it, then you may substitute smoked ham. Layer it ton top of the melted cheese.
- red onion: make sure to slice them thinly so the flavor isn’t overwhelming. You can also add the sliced red onions to a bowl of water and let them soak for 10 minutes to remove some of the bite.
- tomatoes: use ripe tomatoes so they are sweet but firm enough so they aren’t mushy.
- iceberg lettuce: finely chopped lettuce is the Italian Beef Sandwich way. It adds a fabulous fresh crunch.
- olives: if you aren’t adding Giardiniera, then sliced olives are a fabulous addition.
- red wine vinegar: a drizzle of red wine vinegar awakens the rest of the flavors.
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICH RECIPE
Italian Beef Sandwiches are very easy to make because the slow cooker does most of the work! Simply sear the meat, add it to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, cook, shred, then soak. Here is a step by step breakdown:
Step 1: Sear roast
First, sear the roast on all sides to develop flavor and to seal in the juices. I recommend a cast iron skillet because it gets piping hot and cooks more evenly. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use a nonstick pan, it will just take a little longer to brown. Make sure you use vegetable oil because we need an oil with a high smoking point – don’t substitute olive oil. Make sure you brown the chuck roast on all sides until deeply golden. You can use tongs or two forks to rotate your roast.
Step 2: Add ingredient to slow cooker
Next, transfer roast to slow cooker and add its bath of beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Coke (inspired by my Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork), showered with dried minced onions, beef bouillon, and a plethora of Italian seasonings.
Step 3: Cook Italian Beef
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours OR until roast is super tender and easily sheds with a fork. I suggest checking your beef on the earlier end of the cooking spectrum but don’t be alarmed if it takes another two hours. There are many factors when it comes to cooking times – the size and thickness of the beef, the shape/size of your crockpot and your actual slow cooker (they all cook differently!). If your beef is not tender, then cook on, it just needs more time. Even 30 minutes can make the difference between okay Italian Beef and melt-in-your-mouth Italian Beef.
Step 4: Shred Beef
You may shred the beef directly in the slow cooker but I prefer (contrary to the video), to remove the beef to a cutting board. This way you can more easily see and remove excess fat.
Step 5: Soak Beef AKA HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN BEEF TENDER
While many Italian Beef Sandwiches have good meat, this Italian beef is AMAZING! The secret to this practically fall-apart-tender meat is to shred the roast then add it back to the slow cooker for 30 minutes. You can also cook it longer at this point if needed for meal planning purposes.
The now shredded beef is thin enough to soak up even more flavor in every nook and cranny. This is when the magic really happens and your beef emerges buttery tender and exploding with flavor.
This shredding and soaking trick will change your culinary life. I do it with EVERY shredded meat or chicken I cook in the slow cooker.
Step 6: Prep Buns
While your shredded beef is soaking, prep your hoagie rolls by splitting them in half. Lay them cut side up on a large baking tray. Bake for 5 minutes to toast the buns. This will help your buns not get soggy once you add the juicy beef.
Step 7: Add Toppings
Using tongs (or place meat in a colander over a bowl to drain juices), pile bottom side of buns with meat, followed by desired toppings such as pepperoncini, roasted bell peppers, giardiniera etc., followed by cheese.
If using thinly sliced cheese, fold each slice in half (like the video) and use two slices per hoagie so it fits the shape of the bun. If using traditional slices, then cut each piece in half and use one slice per hoagie. Of course, you can always use more cheese if you wish!
Step 8: Melt Cheese
Return baking tray to the oven (leaving both top and bottoms cut side up) and bake at 400 degrees F for 5-10 minutes or until cheese achieves melty, bubbly perfection.
WHAT ARE ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES DIPPED IN?
Some people like to dip their Italian Beef Sandwich in the jus (juice) it cooked in, like you would a French Dip sandwich, but this is optional. I find the Italian Beef Itself is plenty flavorful without dipping.
If you choose to use the jus, you may want to separate the fat. The easiest way to do this is by pouring the juices into a fat separator with a spout. If you don’t have one, a freezer bag works great!
To separate fat with a freezer bag:
- Allow juices to cool a little so they don’t melt through the bag.
- Add the slow cooker juices to the freezer bag.
- Allow the fat to separate to the top.
- Seal the bag and hold over a bowl so that one bottom corner tip is facing down into the measuring cup like a spout.
- Make a small cut in this corner with scissors. The bottom liquid will flow through the cut into the bag without the fat and into the large measuring cup.
HOW MANY SANDWICHES DOES this recipe MAKE?
A 3-5 lb. cut of beef should yield 6 Italian Beef Sandwiches, but could be more or less depending on how high you pile the beef and how big your rolls are.
WHAT SIDES CAN I SERVE WITH MY SLOW COOKER ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES?
These Crock pot Italian Beef Sandwiches are the main event and really only need a big green salad and some fruit and chips, but of course I’ll give you some more fun and flirty options:
- Pasta Salads: are always a fabulous addition with sandwiches, especially because you can prep them ahead of time. I LOVE my Italian Pasta Salad with Tortellini with these Italian Beef Sandwiches as well as BLT Pasta Salad with Lemon Chive Dressing and Creamy Bacon Pea Pasta Salad with Lemon Chive Dressing. Salad.
- Green Salad: my Cucumber Tomato Salad with Italian Dressing is crisp and refreshing as well as my Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Ranch or sweeter Strawberry Avocado Broccoli Salad or Strawberry Spinach Salad.
- Veggies: are easy to throw together but can be incredibly delish! Try any of these veggie recipes with your Italian Beef: Roasted Asparagus, Glazed Carrots, Roasted Cauliflower, Sautéed Lemon Garlic Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Honey Carrots.
- Fruit: sweet, refreshing fruit pairs beautifully with the robust, tangy beef. Creamy Grape Salad, Berry Salad in Mascarpone, Perfect Fruit Salad or Winter Fruit Salad are all winners.
- Potatoes: are always a good idea! Baked Parmesan fries, Potato Salad, Kicked Up Classy Creamy Potato Salad, Smashed Potatoes or Mashed Potatoes all pair beautifully with these Italian Beef. Sandwiches without introducing too many new flavors.
- Comfort food: Million Dollar Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Beans with Brown Sugar and Bacon, Slow Cooker Creamed Corn for the win!
CAN I MAKE ITALIAN BEEF RECIPE AHEAD OF TIME?
YES! I think this Italian Beef tastes very best if made ahead – or partially made ahead. Once the beef is cooked up to shredding, I like to refrigerate it, then the next day reheat it, shred it and proceed with making the Italian Beef Sandwiches.
- Cook Italian Beef until tender but don’t shred.
- Remove ceramic insert from slow cooker and let cool to room temperature (for food safety and because it can crack if placed directly in the refrigerator).
- Refrigerate the beef in the juices up to 24 hours.
- When ready to heat, skim off all the hardened fat.
- Cook on LOW in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours until warmed through.
- Shred beef and let soak for 30 minutes.
- Continue per recipe instructions.
How long Does ITALIAN BEEF LAST IN THE REFRIGERATOR?
You should store your cooked Italian Beef in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I like to refrigerate mine with some of the slow cooker juices for extra moisture and flavor. When stored correctly, cooked beef will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. You can even eat it straight from the fridge!
HOW DO I REHEAT MY Crockpot ITALIAN BEEF?
Italian Beef reheats beautifully, just don’t forget to save some of the slow cooker liquid so you can add it to your leftover beef when reheating to prevent it from drying out.
- Crockpot: add some of the jus and heat on low for 1-2 hours.
- Stove: transfer Italian Beef to a Dutch oven with some jus and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through.
- Microwave: transfer smaller servings of Italian to a microwave-safe dish with some jus, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 60 seconds, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
CAN I FREEZE SLOW COCOKER ITALIAN BEEF?
Yes, you certainly can! You may freeze both the rolls and the Italian Beef so you’ll be all ready for Italian Beef Sandwiches!
To freeze Italian Beef:
- Let beef cool completely.
- Transfer beef to an air-tight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag along with some of the juices (to keep it juicy).
- Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
- Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, thaw Italian Beef in the refrigerator overnight.
- Reheat in the slow cooker, microwave or stove.
HOW CAN I USE LEFTOVER ITALIAN BEEF RECIPE?
If you don’t have any rolls leftover, or just want to devour the Italian Beef, try it with some of these fun options:
- Mashed Potatoes: top mashed potatoes with Italian Beef – and drool.
- Baked Potatoes: pile beef on baked potatoes with cheese, sour cream, green onions and bacon or twice baked potatoes.
- Mac and cheese: stir beef into your favorite mac and cheese recipe like my Million Dollar Mac and Cheese.
- Pasta: just like the aforementioned mac and cheese, you can stir it into any of your favorite pastas like my Creamy Mushroom Orzo – yum!
- Ramen: this might sound unconventional, but my husband’s favorite use of leftover shredded beef is to stir it into ramen. The textures are a match made in heaven.
- Nachos: Top your favorite cheesy chips with Italian Beef and all the toppings – pepperoncini, Giardiniera, sour cream, green onions, jalapenos, etc.
- Rice: top rice with Italian Beef or stir it directly into rice.
LOOKING FOR MORE BEEF RECIPES?
- Slow Cooker Beef Brisket Sandwiches
- Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches
- Mississippi Pot Roast
- Mom’s Pot Roast
- Beef Stroganoff
- Slow Cooker Beef Tips and Gravy
- Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew
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