Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs

Few things in life can compare to a luxurious, warming meal when the weather is cold. Especially when said meal includes beef short ribs. But it took me a while to work up the courage to cook these at home for the first time.

Vertical image of a black bowl filled with cooked chunks of meat in a dark sauce next to mashed potatoes, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

The first time I had them was at a local restaurant for a birthday dinner in my mid-20s.

(Side note: is it weird that I remember practically every single meal? I have these intense food memories and whenever I think about a dish, I can immediately bring up the first time I tasted it. Perhaps that’s why I have such a love affair with all things food…)

The meat was so tender it practically melted in my mouth. I thought to myself, “There’s absolutely no way I could ever replicate this at home.”

Vertical top-down image of a black bowl filled with meat in a dark sauce next to mashed potatoes.

Of course, at the urging of my mother who is my biggest fan (and best taste tester), I eventually came around to trying my hand at it.

It’s not often that my mom makes a request for me to cook something specific, so when she does, you can bet I’m more than happy to oblige. She did give me life after all!

That fact has been in the forefront of my mind as a new mother myself, realizing firsthand how much it means to bring another life into the world to nurture and care for.

Vertical top-down image of two black bowls with mashed potatoes and a beef stew on a canvas napkin next to metal forks.

After many different attempts, I discovered that the best and easiest way to produce the most epic short ribs is in the slow cooker.

That’s right! What really stands out about this recipe is that you don’t have to braise the short ribs in the oven. Instead, you can sear them, then place them in your Crock-Pot, and head off to work. When you get home (or travel back to the kitchen from your home office), your kitchen will be filled with the enticing aroma and you can get dinner on the table immediately.

You get the fall-off-the-bone tender meat swimming in a rich sauce with juicy tomatoes that simmered and developed its savory flavor all day long. The delightful combination is so delicious that you might find yourself questioning whether this actually came from your own kitchen or straight from the best restaurant in town.

Vertical image of a black bowl filled with cooked chunks of meat in a dark sauce next to mashed potatoes

Before adding the meat to the slow cooker, I highly recommend searing first, either right in your slow cooker if this option is available, or in a skillet on the stovetop. This helps to caramelize the outside, adding even more flavor to the dish.

In my humble opinion, the best way to serve these short ribs is over mashed potatoes. The hearty and buttery spuds make for a rich base that allows the flavor of the meat to really shine.

You can also serve this entree over creamy polenta, egg noodles, orzo, rice, or even cauliflower rice. All are delicious options!

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Horizontal image of a black bowl filled with chunks of cooked meat in a tomato sauce next to mashed potatoes, all on top of a brown mat.

Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hours, 13 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

For a tender and flavorful entree that can cook while you’re at work with minimal prep required, try these slow cooker beef short ribs.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (homemade, or 8 ounces canned)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions

  1. Season short ribs all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add seasoned beef. Sear on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and place in the slow cooker insert.
  3. Add all other ingredients and stir gently to combine. Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours until the short ribs are cooked through (200-205˚F internal temperature on a meat thermometer). Remove bones and bay leaf from the cooker and discard. 
  4. Serve beef and sauce over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

Notes

If your slow cooker or Instant Pot has the option to sear, you can sear the short ribs in batches instead of using a separate skillet. If you do this, be sure to gently scrape or wipe out the bottom of the insert after cooking so no browned bits remain on the bottom where they may burn.

  • Category: Beef
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: slow cooker, beef, short ribs

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Dice Onion, Mince Garlic, and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Horizontal image of raw meat in a bowl next to other small bowls with prepped dry and wet ingredients.

Peel and dice a medium-sized onion. You should have about 1 cup total.

Peel and mince three cloves of garlic.

Measure all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Sear Beef

Horizontal image of raw chunks of meat seasoned with salt and pepper in a bowl.

Sprinkle the ribs evenly with salt and pepper all over. I prefer to use freshly ground black pepper, for the best flavor.

If your slow cooker has an option to sear or you are using an Instant Pot that has a saute function, you can sear the beef right in the insert and save yourself from having to wash an extra pan.

Let the olive oil heat up a bit first and sear the meat on all sides. Work in batches so the beef can make surface contact for browning instead of steaming, and set it aside when it’s done.

Horizontal image of seared large chunks of seasoned meat cooking in an oiled skillet.

Gently scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan so they won’t burn during slow cooking. Adding a little liquid will help to release them.

Otherwise, you can do this in a large skillet. Heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the short ribs and sear them on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and transfer to the slow cooker insert.

Step 3 – Slow Cook

Horizontal image of tomato sauce, onions, a bay leaf, and chunks of meat in a large bowl.

Add all remaining ingredients to your slow cooker and stir them together to combine.

Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, until the meat is cooked through and registers 200 to 205˚F on a meat thermometer, and meat is falling off the bone.

Horizontal image of cooked chunks of meat in a red liquid in a bowl.

Remove the bones and the bay leaf from the pot. Serve with your choice of sides.

Are Short Ribs Better the Next Day?

There are some recipes that are truly better the next day, and it just so happens that this is one of them.

Horizontal image of a black bowl filled with chunks of cooked meat in a tomato sauce next to mashed potatoes, all on top of a brown mat.

Not to dampen the shine on them when they are fresh out of the slow cooker, because they are delightful when served immediately as well. But if you are planning ahead or need to wait until the next day to serve this meaty entree, rest assured that it will be delicious.

All you need to do is cool the meat and sauce, then add it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator as part of your meal prep. Leftovers will last for 3 to 4 days.

Looking for even more delicious dishes to prepare in the slow cooker? Check out these Foodal favorites next:

What is your ultimate comfort meal to enjoy when it’s cold outside? Tell us in the comments below, and make sure you give this recipe a rating once you try it!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 13, 2011. Last updated on March 1, 2021.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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