Corned Beef and Cabbage (Crock Pot or Instant Pot)

6 mins read

Cook it fast or cook it slow, either way this easy corned beef and cabbage creates tender, fall-apart chunks of beef thanks to braising it in the Crock Pot or Instant Pot with beer and vegetables for an unbelievably easy and delicious one-pot dinner.


Each spring as the pansies peek through the snow and college basketball’s March Madness plays through the weekends, corned beef and cabbage is the highlight of our spring menu, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve made my corned beef so many different ways over the years — cooking it on the stove-top or in the oven. But the method I always come back to is tossing everything in the Crock Pot or Instant Pot for one of the simplest dinners you’ll make all year.

This corned beef and cabbage recipe with potatoes, carrots, and a tangy horseradish sauce for dipping takes all of 5-10 minutes of prep and 4-5 hours in the Crock Pot or slow cooker. Or, make it in the Instant Pot pressure cooker and it’s done in just about 1 hour 30 minutes. The ease of making this meal is why I’ll cook a whole corned beef just so I can make my favorite Reuben sandwichesCorned beef and cabbage. It’s how we do March around here.


What’s in Corned Beef and Cabbage

For such a flavorful dish, homemade corned beef and cabbage requires surprisingly few ingredients. Whether you’re making slow cooker corned beef or Instant Pot corned beef, the ingredients remain the same:

  • Carrots
  • Yellow onion
  • Small potatoes (red or purple)
  • Corned beef round (leaner) or beef brisket (fattier)
  • Beer (any ale, even Bud Light will do)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Head of cabbage
  • Sour cream
  • Prepared horseradish


What is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is made with beef round (leaner) or beef brisket (fattier) that has been preserved through salt-curing. This preservation method goes back forever, and is especially popular in Irish and Jewish cuisine. Herbs and pickling spices are added to the beef then slowly cooked making it flavorful and tender.

Is corned beef actually Irish or not? Traditionally served in the U.S. each and every St. Patrick’s Day, you won’t likely find it served at the local pub in Ireland, but it IS Irish-American.


The Difference Between Corned Beef Round or Corned Beef Brisket

Corned beef is usually offered in two cuts: beef round and beef brisket. Brisket comes from the front of the cow and round is from the back. Because these beef muscles are used most often, both cuts are relatively tough unless cooked low and slow. That’s what makes corned beef the perfect slow cooker meal.

Beef brisket cuts into more shreddy pieces with lots of juicy flavor while beef round cuts into more uniform slices that don’t fall apart. I’ve made corned beef with both cuts of beef with different results. So, which cut of corned beef is best?

Beef brisket, has more marbling and fat that makes this corned beef juicy, fall apart-tender and delicious. Brisket is offered in a point or flat cut. The flat cut has a generous fat cap on top of the meat that melts flavor into the meat as it cooks. The point cut has lots of fat and connective tissue for loads of flavor, but not as much meat.

If you prefer a leaner corned beef, go with the round cut. It’s leaner with far less marbling. But just like meat of any kind with less fat and collagen, this cut won’t have quite the flavor and won’t be as juicy as beef brisket.

  • When choosing your package of corned beef, remember it will shrink by about one third when cooked.
  • Look for an uncured corned beef round that has had no nitrates or nitrites added, that could have potential carcinogenic affects.
  • I usually buy a 3 to 4 pound piece of the pre-brined point cut beef that handily serves 4 for dinner with enough leftovers for the best Reuben sandwiches.
  • Like any meat, cut your corned beef against the grain for the best slices.


Do You Rinse Corned Beef Before Cooking

You can definitely rinse corned beef before cooking if you’re concerned about excess salt (don’t worry, it won’t make it less flavorful). However, I’ve found it’s really not necessary, so I never rinse mine. It’s all personal preference.

How to Cook Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker

  • Arrange the carrots, onion, potatoes, and corned beef in the slow cooker.
  • Pour the beers over the veggies.
  • Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
  • Cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or until the corned beef is tender.
  • Place the cabbage on top of the beef and continue cooking for 1 more hour until the cabbage is tender. So easy, right?


How Long to Cook Corned Beef in the Crock Pot

Cook in the slow cooker on high for closer to 6 hours. Most recipes recommend you cook the brisket for 4 to 4 1/2 hours on high in the slow cooker. In doing so you’ll have nicely cut portions that while tender, simply don’t fall apart when stuck with a fork.

However, if you’re like me and want that fall apart texture like the corned beef in the photo below, the longer you cook it, the more tender it will be.


How to Cook Corned Beef in the Instant Pot

Because I’m such a fan of pressure cooking in the Instant Pot, this slow cooker corned beef recipe was easy to convert.

  • Cook the corned beef with the onion, spices, thyme, and beer on HIGH pressure for 90 minutes.
  • Quick release, then add potatoes, carrots and cabbage to the pot.
  • Set to HIGH pressure and set for 5 minutes.
  • Quick release, and check for doneness.

How to Cook Corned Beef Even Quicker

Cut the beef it into 2-3 chunks so it cooks faster and more evenly. Since I slice mine up to serve anyway, I didn’t care whether I had a big chunk of meat to plate or not, and the tender bites were a-okay with me.


What’s the Best Beer for Corned Beef and Cabbage?

I douse the whole set up with two 8-ounce beers. Choose a brown ale, a lager or even a regular old Bud Light will do.

Can I Omit the Beer?

If beer isn’t your thing, simply cover the beef and veggies with 16 ounces or so of cold water or beef broth and let the stewing begin. The spices should flavor it all well enough.

Or, you can always go half and half water/broth to beer. It’s totally your choice.


Tips for Making the Best Corned Beef Recipe

Corned beef usually comes with its own spice packet included. If your spice packet feels a little skimpy, feel free to make your own pickling spice, or add an extra teaspoon or more of coriander seeds and allspice and another bay leaf or two to the whole deal once you’ve popped it into the slow cooker. Or, you can always brine your corned beef yourself (here’s a recipe for that) but in my opinion, that’s simply taking the ease right out of this Crockpot corned beef recipe.

Cook the veggies with the corned beef for more flavor, except for the cabbage. Because of its delicate nature, add the cabbage in the last 45 minutes to hour of cooking time. You could also add the potatoes at the 3 hour mark if you like a firmer potato.

Don’t overcook the potatoes. The only part of this cooking cautionary tale is I would recommend removing the vegetables from the slow cooker at about 4 hours so they don’t turn into mush, then return them when you add the cabbage to the cooker. The result is a fall apart chunks piece of corned beef.


What to Serve With Corned Beef and Cabbage

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a altaltaltaltalt rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.

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