Hearty and satisfying, Slow Cooker Short Ribs are an easy, elegant and deeply flavorful entrée that’s perfect for both everyday and entertaining. “Slow and low” is the perfect method for cooking beef short ribs to ensure they come out tender, and a slow cooker makes the process a snap. Just 15 minutes prep, then 4 to 6 hours in the cooker, results in fall-off-the-bone tender ribs accented with a luxurious sweet and savory sauce.

Cooked Beef Short Ribs sitting atop Creamy Parmesan Polenta
(Photo by Laurie Smith)

Short Ribs Slow Cooker Recipe

When I’m looking for a hearty and satisfying main dish that’s easy to prepare ahead, I often turn to beef short ribs. While elegant, they’re more casual in presentation than other hearty meat entrées like tenderloin or leg of lamb, and more special than pot roast. And, this Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs recipe is a particular favorite, for these reasons:

  • The ribs themselves are super tender, deeply flavorful and pair perfectly with the slightly sweet and savory sauce of onion, garlic, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard.
  • They’re super easy to prepare, calling for 15 minutes prep with minimal chopping (and who likes to chop?). Plus, I can put it together in the morning, then let it cook away all day.

What are Short Ribs?

Short ribs come from the chuck portion of a cow. The meat in that section of the cow is too small to be used for steaks, so they’re cut into 5 ribs. Plus, the meat is from muscle that’s used a lot, so it’s less tender (hence why it requires slow cooking) but is still very flavorful.

close up shot of cooked Beef Short Ribs sitting on Creamy Parmesan Polenta
(Photo by Laurie Smith)

How to Make Short Rib Sauce

The sweet and savory sauce in this recipe only takes around 5 minutes to prepare. Here are the steps:

  1. Chop the onion and garlic. Peel and chop the onion into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the garlic into small pieces – can also press it.
  2. Whisk together all the ingredients. Put onion, garlic, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard in a bowl and whisk together until well blended
  3. Put in slow cooker. Spoon or pour onion mixture over top of ribs in slow cooker, covering ribs completely.

How To Make Short Ribs in Slow Cooker

Time needed: 5 hours and 15 minutes.

As mentioned elsewhere in this post, these ribs are super easy to prepare. Here are the steps:

  1. Make rib sauce.

    See directions above. Set aside.

  2. Sear ribs.

    If needed, cut the ribs into individual pieces (one bone per piece). Season ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ribs, meat side down, and cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining sides, for around 1 minute per side. Place in slow cooker, in one layer to the extent possible.

  3. Cook.

    Spoon or pour prepared onion mixture over top of the ribs, covering ribs completely. Place cover on cooker and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

  4. Serve.

    Depending on the fattiness of your beef, you may need to spoon off some grease before serving. When serving, spoon sauce over ribs; pass any remaining sauce on the side.

Cooked Beef Short Ribs sitting atop Creamy Parmesan Polenta
(Photo by Laurie Smith)
Should you sear short ribs before slow cooking?

In general, it’s always good to quickly sear meat before baking or braising. The caramelization adds another dimension to the flavor. With crockpot cooking, it’s not required and if you’re short on time, you can cook the ribs in the sauce without searing first. (Mom never seared the ribs when making this recipe.) However, if you’re cooking ground meat, then always cook it first and drain off the grease before adding to the slow cooker.

Can you cook short ribs too long in a slow cooker?

Slow cooking is more forgiving than traditional braising in an oven, so it’s difficult to overcook short ribs using this method. The longer the ribs cook, the more tender they become. At some point, they can become a bit mushy, but I’ve pushed the cooking time to 8 hours (on low) and they were still perfect!

Can this recipe be made with boneless short ribs?

Yes, you can make this dish with boneless short ribs – I’ve made it both ways. The bones do add another dimension to the flavor.

What to serve with Crock Pot Short Ribs?

My favorite side to serve with these Slow Cooker Short Ribs is our Creamy Parmesan Polenta (in my first cookbook “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®”). They’re also delicious with Mashed Potatoes with Parsley and Chives, cooked egg noodles, other heftier pastas like pappardelle, or roasted or boiled potatoes.

Storing and Reheating Beef Short Ribs

These beef short ribs are actually delicious the next day! Cool, put in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Scrape off any solid grease that may have formed on the top. Bring to room temperature; place in a large sauce pan or dutch oven and heat over medium heat until heated through, around 15 to 20 minutes.

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Cooked Beef Short Ribs sitting atop Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Bone-In Beef Short Ribs (Slow Cooker)

  • Author: From “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®” by Sally Clayton and Lee Clayton Roper
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 5 servings 1x
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Comfort food
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Hearty and satisfying, Slow Cooker Short Ribs are an easy, elegant and deeply flavorful entrée that’s perfect for both everyday and entertaining. “Slow and low” is the perfect method for cooking beef short ribs to ensure they come out tender, and a slow cooker makes the process a snap. Just 15 minutes prep, then 4 to 6 hours in the cooker, results in fall-off-the-bone tender ribs accented with a luxurious sweet and savory sauce.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 pounds beef short ribs (bone-in)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or other non-flavored oil

Instructions

  1. Make rib sauce: Whisk together the onion, garlic, catsup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and 1/2 cup water. Set aside.
  2. Sear ribs: If needed, cut the ribs into individual pieces (one bone per piece). Season ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ribs, meat side down, and cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining sides for around 1 minute per side. Place in slow cooker, in one layer to the extent possible.
  3. Cook: Spoon or pour prepared onion mixture over top of the ribs, covering ribs completely. Place cover on cooker and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
  4. Serve: Depending on the fattiness of your beef, you may need to spoon off some grease before serving. When serving, spoon sauce over ribs; pass any remaining sauce on the side.

Notes

Gluten free: Use gluten-free Worcestershire sauce.

Make ahead: Cool, put in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature; place in a large sauce pan or dutch oven. Heat over medium heat until heated through, around 15 to 20 minutes.

Keywords: sweet and savory sauce, make ahead, meats

Lee Clayton Roper

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I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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