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Slow Cooker Thai-Style Braised Beef

Slow Cooker Thai-Style Braised Beef

Prep Time 15 min. Cook Time 4-6 hours

This recipe is really can’t-miss, and you can swap out a number of ingredients and still end up with a hit. Don’t be afraid to experiment with variations or to use whatever you happen to have on-hand. The key is just to braise any kind of slow-cooking beef (i.e. not a steak) with a combination of aromatics, fish sauce, and coconut milk. It really is a highly adaptable - and super easy - process that has just enough authentic Thai flavor to be a crowd pleaser.

What you'll need

  • 3 lbs. beef shank, beef stew cubes, brisket, or other beef stew meat
  • 2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp. tamarind paste, de-seeded
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 stars of star anise, toasted
  • 3 1-cm slices of galangal
  • 2 smallish sticks of cinnamon, toasted
  • 1 tbsp. palm sugar (substitute 1 tsp white sugar or brown sugar if necessary)
  • 2-10 de-seeded Thai bird chilis or 1-3 deseeded and diced jalapenos (depending on heat of chilis and desired spice level)
  • 2 stalks holy (Thai) basil (optional)
  • 1 bunch of mint (optional)


- You can make this more intense by adding more fish sauce and/or chilis.

- This is a rare case where ginger can be substituted for galangal without a problem (though the flavor of the sauce will definitely change).

- Feel free to use cardamom or cloves/mace/allspice instead of cinnamon or star anise.

- If you want more sauce at the end, use 2 cans of coconut milk instead of one.

How to make it

  1. Trim your meat so there’s no excess fat or cartilage. If using beef shank, you can leave intact, but remove any small bones prior to cooking so they don’t get lost in the sauce later. If using brisket or similar, cut into 1-inch cubes. Sear all sides in a skillet or in your slow-cooker, if it has a sear setting.
  2. While meat is browning, toast cinnamon sticks and star anise in a dry skillet until they just begin to blacken. Tear kaffir lime leaves lengthwise. Peel potatoes (optional) and cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
  3. Prepare your tamarind paste by adding 1/4 cup of hot water to about 1/4 cup of paste, then mash with your fingers till you can find and remove all husks and seeds. (If using pre-seeded tamarind paste, increase to 3 Tbsp.)
  4. Remove outer layers of lemongrass stalks until you get to the more tender inner ones. Then use the back of a chef’s knife or a meat tenderizer and pound them until the fibrous walls break down and the stalks flatten out somewhat.
  5. Add all ingredients except potatoes, basil and mint to the bottom of the slow-cooker. Then layer the potatoes over the meat/liquids so they will steam, instead of soaking up all the juices.
  6. Follow your cooker’s instructions for braising/slow-cooking meat or cook on low for 4-6 hours and test for tenderness. Meat should be soft all the way through and have absorbed much of the sauce.
  7. Scoop out potatoes and set to the side. Then scoop out meat and remove lemongrass stalks, lime leaves, cinnamon sticks, galangal and star anise from the bottom of the slow-cooker. Set aside remaining sauce to pour on top, or, if the meat chunks are still a little dry inside, break them apart with a fork and stir in the sauce. (Note: if the meat has bones, you might want to remove them before serving, which of course means you’ll have to let everything cool and then rewarm later.)
  8. Serve with fresh mint or basil, if desired.