Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

5 from 11 votes

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Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional Irish meal that is tailor-made for the crock pot, and the vegetables come out perfectly!

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage is one of those dishes that was practically made for the crock pot. Usually, it’s cooked low and slow in the oven, but the slow cooker gives you even more flexibility and results in the best tender and juicy corned beef and perfectly cooked and extremely flavorful vegetables.

This is really an all-in-one meal, but you can definitely add a salad or some simply cooked broccoli to the plate! The Horseradish Cream Sauce (recipe below) is optional, but boy, it is great. It really makes the meal.

Plate of Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage: This traditional Irish meal is perfectly suited to be cooked in the crock pot – the vegetables come out perfectly as well!

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What Is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a salt-cured flat-cut brisket cut of beef. The cured beef is then traditionally boiled or braised with cabbage and other vegetables, as well as a pickling spice blend. If you buy a package labeled corned beef, there will probably be a little packet of the pickling spice mix in the package to use. Otherwise, you can use any commercial pickling blend.

The word “corned” refers to the meat being cured with salt, which is the way meat (and other foods) was preserved before refrigeration was prevalent. The story goes that the salt granules used to preserve the meat were sizable, roughly the size of corn kernels, and so the term “corned” was born. Often, other spices and sugar are used in the preparation of corned beef.

Corned Beef and Cabbage is a classic St. Patrick’s Day Irish tradition, and here it is cooked in a crock pot, resulting in a satisfying meat and potatoes meal. But you can make corned beef anytime you need a comfort food dinner!

Spoon scooping horseradish cream sauce onto Corned Beef.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage Ingredients

For the Corned Beef and Cabbage:

  • Baby potatoes – The potatoes cook right alongside the beef and end up super tender and flavorful.
  • Carrots – Add sweetness to the juices and help flavor the beef.
  • Celery 
  • Onions – I like cooking the onions in pretty big pieces for this so that they can get soft and jammy in the crock pot without dissolving.
  • Garlic – There’s no need to mince the garlic; just smash it to release its flavor into the cooking juices.
  • Thyme – Adds a subtle herby freshness.
  • Corned beef brisket – If you buy a corned beef brisket, it will come already brined and ready to cook. A lot of the time, they also come with a packet of spices to use for cooking.
  • Pickling spice – If your corned beef doesn’t come with a packet of pickling spices, you can buy it online or in the spice section of the market.
  • Dark beer – Adds a nice hoppiness that brings depth to the beef.
  • Green cabbage – You add the cabbage in towards the end of cooking so that it gets tender but doesn’t overcook.

For the Horseradish Cream Sauce:

  • Sour cream – Softens the bite of the horseradish with its smooth creaminess.
  • Prepared horseradish – Prepared horseradish is creamier and less strong than the fresh stuff, so I prefer it for sauces.
  • Dijon mustard – Adds another little bite to the sauce.
  • Minced parsley – Provides a little green freshness to this sauce.
  • Lemon juice – Acidic lemon juice goes a long way against the rich, fatty beef.

Corned Beef Cooking Time and Temperature in the Slow Cooker

I have made this in a crock pot on the higher setting in 5 hours (including the extra hour for the cabbage) and the lower setting in 9 hours (ditto on the extra hour for the cabbage), both with success. So you can choose the timing that works for you.

The shorter time at the higher temperature will result in a firmer corned beef, while the longer cooking time at the lower temperature will give you a softer corned beef. Both ended up tender and easy to slice, and both were pronounced delicious by my crew. No more dry corned beef!

Tongs pulling Corned Beef out of a Crock Pot.

How to Make Corned Beef

  1. Prepare to cook: Combine the potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and thyme in your crock pot. Then add the beef and the pickling spices. Pour the beer in and add water until the meat is barely covered.
  2. Cook: Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 4 hours, or set to low and cook for 8 hours.
  3. Add the cabbage: Add in the cabbage and cook on low for another hour until everything is perfectly tender.
  4. Make the sauce: Combine the horseradish cream sauce ingredients.
  5. Rest & serve: Once you take the meat out of the slow cooker, make sure to rest it for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving.

FAQs

How do you slice corned beef?

I like to slice my corned beef pretty thin, very thin if I’m using it in sandwiches. Make sure to cut the corned beef against the grain for the meat to be at its most tender.

What is the best sauce for corned beef?

Spoon over a bit of the cooking liquid if desired. This recipe also includes a lush little horseradish sauce, which is downright delicious with the meat.

What is the difference between corned beef and pastrami?

Corned beef and pastrami are similar brined, slow-cooked preparations of beef, so they are easy to mix up. According to Eater, the difference lies in the cut of beef used. Corned beef uses a classic brisket cut while pastrami uses a fattier cut like the deckle or the navel.

Woman slicing corned beef on a cutting board.

Tips for Making Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker

  • Unless the package directs, you do not need to rinse the corned beef before cooking it. Just add the seasoning mix in the little packet to the meat as directed in the recipe.
  • The liquid should just cover the meat, which will result in a consistently tender piece of corned beef.
  • Whatever temperature you choose to cook your corned beef in the slow cooker, you will add the cabbage to the slow cooker for only the last hour of cooking. This allows the cabbage to soften and become tender, but it also allows the cabbage to retain some texture and its pretty pale green color. Carrots, onion, and celery are the other vegetables in the mix, but I prefer to let those get nice and soft with the meat.
  • If the meat isn’t tender at the end of the cooking time, give it a bit more time in the slow cooker. Tough corned beef usually means it wasn’t cooked for long enough.

Leftover Corned Beef

Interestingly, while most of us think of corned beef and cabbage as this traditional Irish dish and the mainstay of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, corned beef is also usually the starring meat in a Reuben, one of the most beloved Jewish deli sandwiches ever. I would have made one…but I didn’t have any leftovers. Next time.

Plates with Corned Beef and Cabbage.

What To Serve with Corned Beef and Cabbage

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5 from 11 votes

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional Irish meal that is tailor-made for the crock pot, and the vegetables come out perfectly!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8 People

Equipment

Ingredients 

For the Corned Beef and Cabbage

  • 1 pound baby potatoes (halved)
  • 3 medium carrots (peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces)
  • 2 stalks celery (cut into 2-inch pieces)
  • 2 medium onions (peeled and cut into 8 wedges each)
  • 4 cloves garlic (smashed)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 3 1/2- to 4-pound corned beef brisket (with pickling spice packet)
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 (12-ounce) can dark beer
  • ½ green cabbage (cut into large wedges)

For the Horseradish Cream Sauce

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Instructions 

  • Place the potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and thyme in a large slow cooker (6 quarts). Rinse the corned beef if the package directs. Then, either way, place the brisket on top of the vegetables and sprinkle over the pickling spices in the packet. Pour in the beer and add enough water to just cover the meat. Cover and cook on the high setting for 4 hours or the low setting for 8 hours.
  • Add the cabbage, cover and cook on the low setting for 1 more hour.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, horseradish, mustard, parsley and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the meat and vegetables from the slow cooker and let the meat sit for 10 minutes before slicing across the grain. Serve with the vegetables and the Horseradish Cream Sauce. Spoon a bit of the cooking liquid over the corned beef and vegetables.

Notes

Tips for Making Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker
  • Unless the package directs, you do not need to rinse the corned beef before cooking it. Just add the seasoning mix in the little packet to the meat as directed in the recipe.
  • The liquid should just cover the meat, which will result in a consistently tender piece of corned beef.
  • Whatever temperature you choose to cook your corned beef in the slow cooker, you will add the cabbage to the slow cooker for only the last hour of cooking. This allows the cabbage to soften and become tender, but it also allows the cabbage to retain some texture and its pretty pale green color. Carrots, onion, and celery are the other vegetables in the mix, but I prefer to let those get nice and soft with the meat.
  • Slice the meat across the grain for it to be at its most tender.

Nutrition

Calories: 586kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 37g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 130mg, Sodium: 2873mg, Potassium: 1200mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 4077IU, Vitamin C: 102mg, Calcium: 98mg, Iron: 5mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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20 Comments

  1. Hi Annie, did you completely cook the brisket for about 3 hours before putting it in the slow cooker?

    1. If you choose high, I would still do 4 hours, but you could start checking it at 6 hours if you are cooking on low.

  2. I’ve cooked this recipe a few times and it’s great! Beef is always tender and juicy and veggies are always delicious. The only thing I’ve tweaked personally is the amount of time in my slow cooker—I like the low and slow option, but when I cook it the full 8 hours everything tends to get a little mushy and the meat falls apart easily, so I can’t exactly pull it out to slice. I cook it for about 5 hours before placing the cabbage on top for the last hour so in total about 6 hours time for myself. All in all, a great and easy recipe!

  3. I first ” cooked” this brisket covered in water, in a stock pot, to skim off the ” scum” . Then transferred the brisket, carrots, potatoes and celery to my slow cooker. Sprinkled the top with the package of spices, added a few bay leaves, one can of light beer and enough water to cover the meat. Cooked on low for 3 1/2 hrs, then added cabbage for 1 hr. Let brisket stand for 10 minutes. Sliced off layer of fat, then cut brisket , against the grain, in beautiful slices. Brisket was very tender, veggies cooked perfectly.Recipe a keeper.

    1. I bought a corn beef brisket in a vacupack with spices. Did you rinse off the brisket before placing in the stock pot???

  4. Wonderful. Meat was very tender, but the potatoes and carrots weren’t mushy. I put the cabbage in two hours before end time; I think an hour would have been enough.

    I didn’t need to use any pickling spice as my piece of meat came covered in spices. I did not use dark beer (I find it bitter even in cooking) so used about a cup of chicken broth, a cup of beef broth and the rest water.

    The leftover liquid is so delicious, I chilled it, skimmed off the fat, and am going to use it to make vegetable soup or beef stew.

  5. After 50 years of married bliss and 30+/- years of cooking corned beef brisket (many successful, one or two like the inside of a golf ball), yesterday I tried your recipe without the beer but with the accompanying spice packet and potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. We used your suggestion of cooking in the crockpot on high for 5 hours (no cabbage added) because we love corned beef sliced for Reubens, and you said the meat would be more firm. EUREKA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who knew this would turn out to be EXACTLY how we needed corned beef to slice for a perfect Reuben???? Today we went to the food store and purchased three corned beef briskets for Reubens in the future months. Hubby is thrilled, and we both thank you so very much.

  6. I followed every detail of this recipe and it could not have been more delicious. Moist and full of flavor. I made it for just my family on a weekend night but it felt like a super special meal which was so welcome in these days of monotony! Will make again very soon!!!

  7. Has anyone tried this in the newer pressure cookers, like an Instant Pot? I’d like to know your settings and cook times please!!

    1. I just tried it on the slow cook setting on less for the 8 hours I’m not sure how this recipe is supposed to be, but the corned beef was not falling apart the way I associate corned beef to be, it’s more like cutting into a normal cut of meat even a little tough. I’m cooking it an extra hour on the slow cook setting but on “normal” heat to see if it gets a little better.

      1. this one was intended to be a bit firmer so it holds together in slices. but it shouldn’t be tough! was you piece of beef extra thick?

    2. I have an electric pressure cooker. It takes about 70 to 90 minutes to cook the corned beef. I take out the meat, leave the juice, add the vegetables takes 8 minutes. It was good and tender.