Italian Beef Sandwiches

Italian Beef Sandwiches to rival any restaurant!

These Italian Beef Sandwiches are crazy tender and a flavor and texture explosion in every mouthwatering bite!   The beef is seasoned to perfection, slow cooked until tender, piled on a toasted cheesy bun and crowned with your favorite toppings.  These Italian Beef Sandwiches not only make the easiest dinner or party food/Game Day food, but 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

quick italian beef sandwich recipe with a fully loaded Italian beef sandwich on a cutting board

Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe

These Italian Beef  Sandwiches are epic! They boast a dreamy symphony of flavors and textures but they are as easy as dump and simmer!  

These Italian Beef Sandwiches are a sandwich/meat lover’s heaven, but they are also your heaven because you can prep everything ahead of time and  the only fixings you have to chop are the tomatoes and lettuce.  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 beef sandwich 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  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 many different toppings, usually Chicago-style hot peppers or Italian sweet peppers along with Italian meats such as Genoa Salami and/or Capacolla. 

WHY IS IT CALLED ITALIAN BEEF?

Italian Beef sandwiches 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 it to tenderize it (making it much easier to eat!) and to allow the Italian seasoning to seep into the meat.

It is said that this sandwich was served at weddings and other big events where guest lists were long. So, they always cut very thin slices in order to ensure that every guest got to eat meat.  Today, we get to enjoy the same fabulous flavor and tender cuts of beef in our Italian Beef Sandwiches. 

WHAT KIND OF MEAT DO YOU USE?

There are many different cuts of beef that can be used for Italian Beef Sandwiches 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 call for 3 pounds of chuck roast, but the beef can be more or less than 3 pounds because the seasonings and juice are very forgiving.
  • 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.

How do you 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 and exploding flavor?   We remove the roast while its still firm enough to hold together and cut it into thin slices, then add back to the slow cooker along with pepperoncini juice to tenderizes for another 1-2 hours as it soak up even more flavor.  So so much flavor.  

the best Italian Beef Sandwich sliced in half with a hand holding the sandwich

WHAT ARE PEPPERONCINI?

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 aren’t going to use the pepperoncini itself while we cook the beef, but rather the juices from the pepperoncini jar.  You can (and should) use the pepperoncini peppers on your sandwich 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 more of 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.

Where Can I Buy pepperoncini?

Pepperoncini typically come in a glass jar.  They are easy to find at your grocery store next to the sandwich condiments such as pickles, banana peppers and pickled red bell peppers.

How to Make Italian Sandwiches

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, slice, then simmer some more.   Here is a step by step breakdown:  

  • Sear roast.  First we sear our roast to develop flavor and 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.   
showing how to make Italian Beef Sandwiches by searing beef in a cast iron skillet
  • Add roast 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 dry minced onions, beef bouillon, and a plethora of Italian seasonings.  Coke tenderizes and adds flavor to the beef. 
  • Cook and Slice.  Cook Italian Beef on low for 4 hours then remove roast to a cutting board to thinly slice.
  • How do I cut Italian Beef?  It is important to thinly slice the Italian Beef ACROSS the grain.   You can see the “grain” running parallel to each other through the meat in one direction.  The grain is essentially the muscle fibers running through the meat.  We want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers so they become as short as possible.  If you don’t cut across the grain, you will end up with  long muscle fibers which translates to chewy, rubbery tough meat. 
  • Tenderize Meat.  Your meat won’t be tender when its sliced but will become tender as you continue to cook.  Place the sliced meat back in slow cooker along with ⅓ cup juice from pepperoncini jar.  Continue to cook on LOW for 1-2 additional hours.  The meat is thin enough at this point that it can seep up even more flavor and become buttery tender.   If your beef is not tender after 1-2 hours,  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.

showing how tot make Italian Beef Sandwiches by adding sliced beef back to slow cooker

What Bread for Italian Beef Sandwiches?

I find the best bread for Italian Beef Sandwiches are either sturdy French Bread or Italian bread.  You can also usually find good rolls at the bakery section of grocery.  You want something sturdy enough to be piled with toppings and not crispy like a baguette or too soft like some rolls. 

You can leave you bread as is, or sometimes I hollow out the bottom a little bit to cradle in meat and toppings. 

What Toppings for Italian Beef Sandwiches?

I topped my Italian Beef Sandwiches with the following which I highly recommend for a satisfying, well rounded, flavor, texture bomb:

  • provolone cheese:  the quintessential Italian Cheese for Italian Beef Sandwiches.  
  • roasted red peppers:  I use jarred roasted bell peppers that can be found next to the pickles at the grocery store (or you can certainly roast your own).  Make sure you pat them dry so they don’t get your other ingredients wet.  
  • mild pepperoncini peppers::  I HIGHLY recommend pepperoncini for a tanyg zing, and because you will have them already for the pepperoncini juice. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • red onion:  make sure to slice them thinly so the flavor isn’t overwhelming.
  •  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.
  • red wine vinegar:  a drizzle of red wine vinegar awakens the rest of the flavors.

Additional Topping Ideas

  • bacon
  • olives
  • (spicy) pickles
  • Giardiniera
  • Mozzarella cheese

How to Assemble Italian Beef Sandwiches

Once you have the perfect bread, slather it with creamy, flavorful Aoili of mayo, sriracha and mustard, and toast for 3 minutes.

Next, add the Italian Beef, and top with provolone cheese and broil to melty, bubbly perfection. The sandwiches would be delicious just like that, but just wait for the otherworldly deliciousness of customizable toppings….

a collage showing how to make Italian Beef Sandwiches by topping with provolone, Italian Beef, roasted bell peppers, Genoa Salami, Capacolla, red onions, chopped lettuce, tomatoes and pepperoncini

I can barely handle it.  I topped my cheesy Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches with roasted red peppers, salami, capacolla, red onions,  lettuce, tomatoes, and pepperoncinis and finished it all off with salt and pepper and a drizzle or red wine vinegar.  Insane I tell you.  In the my-mind-can’t-comprehend-this-type-of-deliciousness sort of way.  

The Italian Beef Sandwiches would also be wonderful with pickles, olives, bacon, etc., almost anything as long as they are loaded with perfectly seasoned, unbelievably tender, flavorful Slow Cooker Italian beef.  

HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL IT SERVE?

A 3 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 IS ITALIAN BEEF DIPPED IN?

Some people like to dip their Italian Beef Sandwich in the jus 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.

WHAT CAN I SERVE WITH MY ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES?

These Italian Beef Sandwiches are a meal in themselves piled high with toppings!  You can also serve them up with your favorite side salad, or you can load your beef on top of a bed of rice or mashed potatoes and layer with your veggies of choice. 

Here are a few more side ideas:

Easy, customizable LOADED Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches are crazy tender, seeping with flavor and unbelievably delicious! They make the easiest dinner or party food and super fun (make ahead!) sandwich bar!  

CAN I STORE ITALIAN BEEF 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 4 days in the refrigerator.  You can even eat it straight from the fridge!

HOW DO I REHEAT MY ITALIAN BEEF?

While you can eat your Italian Beef cold from the fridge, if you want a little warmth, you can  reheat it in the microwave at 30-60 second increments.    Don’t forget to reheat it in a little bit of your jus to prevent it from drying out. 

Can I make Italian Beef Sandwiches Ahead of Time?

The Italian Beef is delicious served cold, so feel free to make it completely ahead of time!   You can also make it ahead of time and gently warm. 

I will often cook my Italian Beef then remove the slow cooker ceramic insert and refrigerate the beef in the juices.  The next day, I skim off all the hardened fat then cook on LOW in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours until warmed through.

CAN You Freeze ITALIAN BEEF?

Yes, you certainly can!  To freeze Italian Beef:

  1. Let beef cool completely.
  2. Transfer beef to a an air-tight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag along with some of the juices (to keep it moist).
  3. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  4. Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. When ready to eat, thaw Italian Beef in the refrigerator over night.
  6. Once thawed, beef should be consumed within 3-4 days.

up close of a hand holding half of an easy Italian Sandwich

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Easy, customizable LOADED Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches are crazy tender, seeping with flavor and unbelievably delicious! They make the easiest dinner or party food and super fun (make ahead!) sandwich bar!  

Loaded Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches (Video!)

These Italian Beef Sandwiches are crazy tender and a flavor and texture explosion in every mouthwatering bite!   The beef is seasoned to perfection, slow cooked until tender, piled on a toasted cheesy bun and crowned with your favorite toppings.  These Italian Beef Sandwiches not only make the easiest dinner or party food food, but a super fun (make ahead!) sandwich bar to feed a crowd!  I’ve also included instructions on how to freeze and make ahead!
Servings: 6 large sandwiches (6-12 servings)
Total Time: 5 hrs 20 mins
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 5 hrs

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Ingredients

Sandwiches

  • 6 French rolls or hoagie buns
  • 12 slices provolone cheese
  • 1 16 oz. jar sliced roasted red peppers patted dry
  • 1 16 oz. jar mild pepperoncini peppers/sliced pepper rings
  • 1/4 pound Genoa Salami
  • ¼ pound thinly sliced Capicola or smoked ham
  • 1 thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
  • a drizzle of red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Additional Topping Ideas

  • bacon
  • olives
  • (spicy) pickles
  • Giardiniera
  • Mozzarella cheese

Slow Cooker Italian Beef

Add Later

  • 1/3 cup juice from jar mild pepperoncini peppers/sliced pepper rings (from pepperoncini jar listed above)

Aioli

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sriracha

Instructions

  • Sear: Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Using two forks or tongs to hold roast, sear on all sides until lightly browned. Add to slow cooker and top with all remaining Slow Cooker ingredients EXCEPT pepperoncini juice.
  • Cook: Cook on LOW for 4 hours then remove roast to a cutting board. Thinly slice roast across the grain. Place sliced meat back in slow cooker along with ⅓ cup juice from pepperoncini jar. Continue to cook on LOW for 1-2 additional hours or until very tender.
  • Broil: When ready to serve, whisk together the Aioli ingredients. Spread Aioli on each inside half of rolls. Broil rolls, Aioli side up, for approximately 2 minutes or until edges are slightly golden. Layer bottom half of rolls with beef, followed by 1 slice provolone. I cut each piece of provolone in half so it fits the shape of the roll. Layer the top rolls with 1 slice provolone (cut in half). Broil until cheese is melted.
  • Assemble: Layer sandwiches with all or some of your favorite toppings (in any order). I like to order mine: roasted red peppers, salami, capacolla, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pepperoncinis. Drizzle with red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Dig in!
  • Serve the remaining liquid as a dip for the sandwich, if desired.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!
*The beef can be more or less than 3 pounds, but 3 pounds is roughly the amount for 6 sandwiches.

Toppings Notes

  • roasted red peppers:  I use jarred roasted bell peppers that can be found next to the pickles at the grocery store (or you can certainly roast your own).  Make sure you pat them dry so they don’t get your other ingredients wet.  
  • mild pepperoncini peppers::  I HIGHLY recommend pepperoncini for a tanyg zing, and because you will have them already for the pepperoncini juice. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.

HOW TO MAKE AHEAD

The Italian Beef is delicious served cold, so feel free to make it completely ahead of time.
  •  I like to refrigerate mine with some of the slow cooker juices for extra moisture and flavor.  
  • You can serve beef straight out of the refrigerator, or microwave a minute or so (also helps to melt any fat).  
  • I will often cook my Italian Beef then remove the slow cooker ceramic insert and refrigerate the beef in the juices.  The next day, I skim off all the hardened fat then cook on LOW in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours until warmed through.

How to FREEZE 

  1. Let beef cool completely.
  2. Transfer beef to a an air-tight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag along with some of the juices (to keep it moist).
  3. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  4. Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. When ready to eat, thaw Italian Beef in the refrigerator over night.
  6. Once thawed, beef should be consumed within 3-4 days.
 
 

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8 Comments

  1. 2pots2cook says

    God gracious ! You’re good ! Keep on rocking !

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much! You will love them!

  2. kathi @ Laughing Spatula says

    These look amazing! You make everything look soooo good! Did you make your own video? I am struggling in that department and am having two made by Entice instead :).

    • Jen says

      Thank you Kathi! Yes, I do all my own videos starting in February. I have posted a bunch on FB but was waiting to switch ad networks before I started posting them to my site – so now you will be seeing more of them 🙂 I HIGHLY recommend Show Me The Yummy’s Video Workshop. I didn’t know anything about video or editing before I took it. Its all on line (or they have a hands on one too) so you can take it at your own pace. They also have a FB group for any questions. http://showmetheyummy.com/workshops/ Best money for my blog I ever spent!

  3. Lindsay says

    These were amazing!!! So flavorful. Next time I will use tougher bread so it doesn’t get so soggy. I will make these again and again. Thanks for the recipe!!!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Lindsay, thanks for taking the time to comment! I’m so pleased these sandwiches were a huge hit!

  4. Kelly says

    This is my dinner plan for tonight. I just found your site, and I think I may try out at least three of your recipes this week for family dinners!! I can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

    • Jen says

      Welcome to my site Kelly! I hope you loved the Italian Beef Sandwiches and the other recipes you have planned for this week!

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