This slow cooked Italian beef is used to make a sandwich of epic proportions! This easy dinner recipe is perfect to feed a crowd and makes incredible leftovers.
There is no shortage of epic beef sandwiches out there. From Philly cheesesteaks to beef dips to chopped cheese, there are endless options! And each one is better than the next, with juicy and tender beef, amazing toppings, and fresh bread. This particular beef sandwich is a game changer!
After spending time in Chicago and borderline obsessing over these delicious sandwiches, I had to make my own homemade version!
In this Italian beef recipe, the crave-worthy flavors of the Chicago classic are recreated with slow roasted chuck roast, beef broth, and a handful of seasonings! After braising in a rich beef gravy for hours, the beef is ready to be shredded and stuffed into sandwich rolls. Add some pickled peppers and provolone on top, and you have a sandwich to end all other sandwiches!
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
- A copycat recipe from a Chicago institution. Portillo’s Italian beef is famous in Chicago for good reason. The slow roasted beef melts in your mouth while the beef gravy and pickled peppers on top make every bite heavenly.
- An overall addictive sandwich. This Chicago beef sandwich will turn everyone into a fan thanks to the rich and savory flavors and mouth-watering beef.
- Simple ingredients. You don’t need to travel to Chicago to find the ingredients to make a copycat Italian beef sandwich. All it takes is a cut of beef and simple spices!
This epic beef sandwich is surprisingly easy to assemble, thanks to a handful of easy-to-find ingredients. This is what you need:
- Chuck roast. Boneless chuck roast is a large and flavorful cut of beef that’s often used in beef stews and other dishes where the meat is slow cooked. After spending a few hours simmering in the aromatic beef gravy, the beef shreds like butter and becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender.
- Beef broth. This is used as the base of the beef gravy. The chuck roast is submerged in the gravy, then it works its magic to break down the meat fibers and fill every bite with a rich flavor.
- Garlic. Only fresh garlic cloves will fill the gravy with a rich savoriness.
- Bay leaves. A few bay leaves infuse a gorgeous herbaceous flavor into the beef and gravy. Remember to remove and discard them before serving!
- Italian seasoning. Use any store-bought blend or a homemade blend made from dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, and marjoram.
- Smoked paprika. This adds a hint of smoke to the gravy.
- Sea salt and pepper. For flavor.
- Fresh parsley. For garnish.
- Hoagie rolls. To assemble the sandwiches.
- Sandwich fix-ins. We stuck to the classics like provolone cheese, pepper rings, giardiniera, and pickled jalapenos.
How to make an Italian beef sandwich
The secret behind crowd-pleasing Italian beef is to slow cook a marbled piece of beef in a rich and flavorful beef gravy for several hours. Here’s how it’s done:
Prepare the beef. Trim the excess fat from the chuck roast, then cut it into large chunks.
Sear the chuck roast. Heat some oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the sliced chuck roast and sear until each piece is nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the seared beef to a plate and saute the garlic in the now empty pot.
Boil the gravy. Add the seared chuck roast back to the pot. Pour in the beef broth to submerge the beef. Next, add the bay leaves, Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, sea salt, and pepper. Stir, then bring the mix up to a boil.
Slow cook. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and let the beef simmer in the gravy until it’s fork tender (about 3 to 4 hours).
Shred the beef. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Shred each piece with two forks, then add it back into the pot. Continue simmering.
Assemble the sandwiches. Stuff some shredded beef into each hoagie roll. Top with provolone cheese, pepper rings, and any other toppings you love. Enjoy!
Slow cooker Option
For a more hands-off approach, you can make slow cooker Italian beef.
Sear the beef and garlic as normal, then transfer them and the rest of the gravy ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 5 to 6 hours. Shred the beef, stir it back in the pot, then serve.
Recipe tips and tricks
Make sure the chuck roast is at room temperature before cooking. Set it on the kitchen counter for 15 to 20 minutes, then trim and sear.
To melt the cheese, pop the assembled sandwiches under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until the provolone is melted and bubbly.
The best way to serve Chicago beef sandwiches is “wet”, AKA with a drizzle of beef gravy on top.
Change up the toppings. Pickles, jalapenos, and peppers are classics, but feel free to change it up with your favorite fix-ins!
To store: Store the Italian beef and gravy together in an airtight container in the fridge. It should stay fresh for up to 3 days.
To freeze: The beef and gravy also freeze well for up to 3 months. Let them thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: Either reheat the thawed beef in the microwave or a large pot over medium heat until it’s warmed through.
More sandwich recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
Boneless chuck roast is the best for slow cooking, but if you can’t find it, feel free to use top round roast or bottom round roast instead. You can also use shaved steak for a quick option.
While Italian beef is a fantastic filling for sandwiches, you can also use it as the main dish for dinner with simple sides. Top the shredded beef on a bed of rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, or mashed potatoes with garlic knots, cabbage steaks, and/or asparagus on the side.
Italian beef is a Chicago’s specialty with seasoned roast beef on an Italian roll, often dipped in beef juices. Philly Cheesesteak are a ribeye steak sandwich with melted cheese on a roll, usually topped with sautéed vegetables. French dip sandwiches feature roast beef on a French roll, served with au jus for dipping.
Italian Beef Sandwiches
- Trim excess fat off the chuck roast and cut it into large chunks, around 2-3 inches in size.
- Add some oil to a large pot or Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chuck roast and sear on all sides until a crust forms. Once browned, remove the meat from the pot.
- Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant. Return the seared beef, along with the beef broth. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
- Bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 3-4 hours or until the meat is fork tender.
- Once the meat is tender, remove it from the pot and shred it with two forks. Return back to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Once cooked, assemble into hoagie rolls with provolone cheese, sliced pepper rings, and pickles.
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