Slow-Cooker Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe

While nothing quite compares to a true Italian beef from Chicago, you can get pretty close with a chuck roast, a jar of giardiniera, and a slow cooker. And if you can get your hands on Turano rolls — recipe developer Michelle McGlinn stores some in the freezer after every trip to the city — you're looking at a pretty good dupe of the real deal.

If you haven't heard of this sandwich from the windy city yet, Italian beef is a finely sliced braised beef sandwich served on a sturdy hoagie roll. It's not the same as French dip; not only is the beef seasoned and served differently, but the sandwich is dressed in peppers and softened in jus. There's a whole vernacular surrounding the sandwich that Chicagoans grow up learning like a second language, involving the toppings (sweet for bell peppers, hot for giardiniera) and the amount of jus (wet, for beef placed directly into the hoagie, and dipped for a sandwich dipped fully in jus). 

This recipe written by native Chicagoan McGlinn makes every serving style possible in one slow cooker by heating beef, giardiniera, bell peppers, and broth together all day until tender, juicy, and spicy. If Buona Beef is your jam, this slow cooker recipe is for you — the beef and jus have built-in spice that only gets hotter with additional toppings. Whether you're craving the cuisine from a thousand miles away or simply can't afford to buy a Johnnie's every week (inflation, we get it), this recipe is for you.

Gather the ingredients for slow-cooker Italian beef sandwiches

You'll need to pick up a large beef chuck roast. Luckily, these aren't too expensive, especially if you can score them on sale. If you can't find chuck roast, you could also try a brisket or round, which are a little more pricey. Besides beef, you'll need salt, pepper, and vegetable oil, as well as giardiniera, oregano, bay leaves, and thyme. The best giardiniera for this is, of course, the jarred varieties found in Chicago supermarkets like Marconi or Mezzetta. Outside of Chicago, try searching near the jarred peppers and pickles for brands like Vienna, which sells across the country.

For the jus, you'll need green bell pepper, onion, garlic, and beef stock. We don't recommend swapping in water here, since the jus is integral to the sandwich and won't taste quite the same if only water is used. For serving, find a dense, crusty hoagie roll (but not too crunchy, like a baguette) and slice off the ends for true Chicago-style serving.

Sear the beef

There is a lot of flavor that comes with browning beef before stewing it. The trick with this step is searing only the outside of the beef, leaving the inside as untouched as possible to avoid overcooking the meat and drying it out. Once you sear the beef, the rest of the recipe is painless and foolproof.

To sear the beef, heat up a cast-iron skillet and oil until very hot. If you hover your hand above the skillet, it should be very hot. Season the beef and carefully add it to the hot skillet and sear it until dark brown on each side. If the skillet was properly heated, this should take less than 2 minutes per side. Remove the beef as soon as it has a nice color on each side.

Throw it all in a slow cooker

Add the beef to a slow cooker, then cover it in giardiniera, spices, sliced bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Submerge a little over half the beef in beef stock and stir it gently to disperse everything in the liquid. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 9. Told you it was painless, didn't we?

Shred the beef and serve on hoagies

You can shred the beef directly in the slow cooker, but trust us, it's way easier to remove it and shred on a cutting board. The beef will be completely soft and tender, so you'll barely need a second fork to pull it apart. Once it's shredded, return it to the jus and use tongs to pull the beef out and directly onto the hoagie rolls. Stuff the rolls with beef, then grab the sandwich firmly and dunk it quickly into the jus in the slow cooker (it's a good idea to keep your slow cooker on warm while serving). Top with extra giardiniera for a spicy sandwich, or pull the bell peppers from the jus and add them on top for a sweet version.

Serve the Italian beef sandwiches with cheese fries and a chocolate shake, à la Portillos. The leftovers store surprisingly well; just store the beef and the jus, peppers and all, in an airtight container in the refrigerator and reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave until warm. The batch makes about 5 to 6 sandwiches, so you can store it for up to a week for a delicious daily beef.

Slow-Cooker Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe
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Learn how to make the Chicago classic Italian beef sandwich with this easy recipe that allows the meat and fixings to cook all day in your slow cooker.
Prep Time
Cook Time
italian beef sandwich on a tray
Total time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
  • 3-4 pound beef chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup Vienna Beef giardiniera
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • ½ tablespoon ground thyme
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 4 Italian hoagie rolls
  1. Season chuck roast on either side with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add oil. Once hot, add the beef and sear on either side until a crust forms, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not cook all the way through.
  2. Add the seared beef to a slow cooker, then cover with giardiniera, bay leaves, oregano, and thyme. Arrange the bell pepper slices, onion, and garlic around the beef, then pour the beef broth to cover.
  3. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours, until beef is fall-apart tender. Remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred using 2 forks, then return the beef to the jus.
  4. To serve, add beef and peppers to hoagie rolls. To serve dipped, dip the sandwiches in the jus, or spoon the jus over the beef.
Calories per Serving 254
Total Fat 10.3 g
Saturated Fat 3.2 g
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 88.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 9.3 g
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g
Total Sugars 0.9 g
Sodium 497.8 mg
Protein 31.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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