Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe

This juicy and tender slow-cooked Italian Beef recipe is inspired by the Windy City’s classic hot roast beef. An amazing sandwich that’s perfect for serving a crowd!

I love to serve Italian Beef along with side dishes like Au Gratin Potatoes, Sautéed Green Beans, Broccoli Cauliflower Salad, or a Simple Italian Salad. 

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Italian beef sandwich with cheese

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Italian Beef

My family has been making this Italian Beef recipe for decades. While enjoying an Italian Beef Sandwich for lunch at a Chicago eaterie should be on your “must-do” list, there’s nothing quite like homemade Italian beef. The traditional sandwich is made with thinly sliced roast beef that is slow-cooked with seasoning and au jus aka “gravy”. 

This Italian Beef recipe is a multi-day process that uses the oven and a slow-cooker the following day. I know that sounds long and complicated, but trust me, it’s really easy, and I will have a few suggestions for short-cuts if you are looking for a quicker process. The flavorful slow-cooked beef is a big hit with everyone perfect for a football party, holiday meals, or anytime you need a delicious dinner!

Italian beef sandwich with cheese on a red checked tray

What Is The Best Cut Of Meat For Italian Beef:

There are several different cuts of beef that can be used for Italian Beef from a rolled rump roast, which is what I always use, to top round chuck roast or sirloin roast.  The rolled rump roast, also known as a bottom round roast is a lean and flavorful roast and is what I recommend for the BEST Italian Beef Sandwiches.

  • Rolled Rump Roast aka Bottom Round
  • Top Round
  • Chuck Roast
  • Sirloin Roast

ingredients for Italian Beef, seasonings and meat

How To Make Homemade Italian Beef

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*note – this recipe needs to be prepared a day ahead, then slow cooked the following day.  So plan accordingly.  I usually bake the roast the day before, then put it all in the slow cooker the following morning, so it’s ready to go when I’m ready to serve!

Ingredients And Tools Need For Italian Beef Sandwiches

(full printable recipe at the end of this post)

Tools:

Ingredients

  • rolled rump roast
  • dried onion soup mix (packets)
  • dried oregano
  • dried sweet basil
  • crushed red pepper
  • garlic cloves (or minced garlic)
  • water
  • provolone cheese (optional)
  • buns

Italian beef day 1 prep photo collage

On day one, you are going to slightly bake the roast in the seasonings. It will finish cooking the following day in the slow cooker. Why do we do this? Italian Beef should be sliced very thin, and it slices best when it’s undercooked and cold. On day two it will be sliced and finish cooking.

 I usually get a 6 pound rolled rump roast (it should feed 12-15 people or nice leftover for 6 people). I like to cut the roast in half for quicker cooking in the oven.

Mix the onion soup packets, spices, and garlic with water in a roasting pan (or large oven-safe pan). Place the roast in the pan roll it around to cover with seasonings. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for one hour. *Remember we will be undercooking because we will finish cooking in the slow cooker tomorrow.

Remove the roast from the oven and let it cool completely. Then remove the roast from the pan and wrap in aluminum foil and carefully pour the juices into a sealable container. Place both the foil-covered roast and container of juices in the refrigerator overnight.

Italian beef day 2 prep photo collage

On Day 2 (5-7 hours before you plan to serve the Italian Beef Sandwiches) remove roast from refrigerator and slice paper-thin against the grain with a meat slicer (see Tip below). It’s important to slice the roast cold and firm. 

TIP: if you don’t have a meat slicer you have a few options: Carefully slice as thin as possible with a sharp chef knife or electric knife.  You can also see if your butcher will slice it for you.  For years my mom would take the partially cooked cold roast back to the grocery store and have the butcher slice it for her.  Eventually, we bought a meat slicer since we were making these Chicago beef sandwiches a few times a year, as well as using it for other sliced meats, cheese, bread and more!

Place the sliced meat in the slow cooker (I use and LOVE my Nesco Roaster) and pour juices over sliced meat and add another 2 cups of water. Slow cook on low for 4-6 hours. Now sit back and let the magic happen!

Serve the Italian Beef on a toasted bun with desired toppings. If you want to serve Chicago-style, make sure you dip your bun into the juices!

Italian beef in a slow cookier

What Goes On An Italian Beef Sandwich

Although we don’t top our Italian Beef sandwiches with sweet peppers and giardiniera or serve it on a hoagie roll like they are famous for – it’s delicious just the same! {wink} Dipping your sandwich in the au jus or serve some on the side is a must though!!

Classic Toppings:

  • SWEET: Sweet Peppers or Pepperoncinis which are sweet, mild chili peppers, usually sold pickled in a jar. 
  • HOT: Giardiniera – an Italian relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil. 
  • CHEESY: Cheese (Provolone or Mozzarella) 
  • DIPPED: Dip the whole bun in the au jus 

 

Italian beef sandwich with cheese and a bowl of au jus

Shortcut Suggestions For Making Italian Beef

The true magic comes from a roast that has been cooked low and slow and sliced thin. While the process I’ve shared here in this recipe seems a little time consuming, it’s really not. You put the roast in the oven for an hour one day, then the next morning, slice and put it in the slow cooker.  But I understand that sometimes you just don’t have the time and want a little quicker process for this Chicago beef sandwich. 

  • SLOW COOKER ONLY: You can skip the oven and slicing and just cook the roast and juices in the slow cooker on low for 8-10 then shred the meat with two forks then place back in with the juices and serve!
  • USE DELI BEEF: A really quick option would be slow cook thin slices of deli beef in the exact same seasoned liquid that I use in this recipe.

 

How to Reheat: Place your desired amount of meat into a small pot along with some of the juices and heat over low heat until hot.  Or, place meat and juices in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up until hot.

How to Store: Place Italian Beef with juices in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Or freeze, covered for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating and serving.

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No need to make a trip to Chicago when you have this Italian Beef recipe.

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Italian beef sandwich with cheese and a bowl of au jus and pepperoncini

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Originally posted January 2011. UPDATED JANUARY 2021. We spiffed up this post with more info and better pictures! No changes to the original recipe.

Italian beef sandwich with cheese

Italian Beef

Yield: 12-15 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours
Inactive Time: 10 hours
Total Time: 17 hours 30 minutes

This juicy and tender Italian Beef recipe is inspired by Chicago's classic hot roast beef. An amazing sandwich that's perfect for serving a crowd!

*note – this recipe needs to be prepared a day ahead, then slow cooked the following day. So plan accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 6 pound rolled rump roast (should feed 12-15)
  • 2 packets dried onion soup mix
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic ( 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic)
  • 4 cups water
  • Provolone or Mozzarella Cheese (optional)
  • buns 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix onion soup packets, spices, and garlic with water in a roasting pan. Add roast (I cut my roast in half for quicker cooking) . Roll roast around in the pan to cover with seasonings.
  3. Cover with lid or foil and bake for one hour. *we will be undercooking because we will finish cooking in the slow cooker.
  4. Remove the roast from the oven and let it cool completely. Then remove the roast from the pan and wrap in aluminum foil and carefully pour the juices into a sealable container. Place both the foil-covered roast and container of juices in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. The following day, (5-7 hours before you plan to serve) remove roast from refrigerator and slice paper-thin against the grain with a meat slicer (if you don't have a mean slicer see Tip in notes). It’s important to slice the roast cold and firm. 
  6. Place sliced meat in the slow cooker, pour juices over sliced meat, and add another 2 cups of water.
  7. Slow cook on low for 4-6 hours
  8. Serve on toasted buns with cheese. If you want to serve Chicago-style, make sure you dip your bun into the juices! and juices/broth in small bowls on the side for dunking.

Notes

TIP: if you don't have a meat slicer you have a few options: Carefully slice as thin as possible with a sharp chef knife or electric knife.  You can also see if your butcher will slice it for you.  For years my mom would take the partially cooked roast back to the grocery store and have the butcher slice it for her.  Eventually, we bought a meat slicer since we were making Italian Beef a few times a year, as well as using it for other sliced meats, cheese, bread and more!

How to Reheat: Place your desired amount of meat into a small pot along with some of the juices and heat over low heat until hot.  Or, place meat and juices in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up until hot.

How to Store: Place Italian Beef with juices in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Or freeze, covered for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating and serving.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 50Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 465mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, and freshness of ingredients used.

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Italian beef on a bun with cheese