Thai Beef Cheeks in the Slow Cooker

20 Jan

And now for the recipe that keeps overflowing my slow cooker, but is so incredibly tasty that I continue to make it. It is so tasty that I am willing to spend $180 (in gift cards – but it’s still money!) to buy a slow cooker that will enable me to eat this more often.

I found this recipe on a Melbourne food blog, The Hungry Lawyer. The initial prep is a bit more complicated than I normally use for slow cookers – there’s a lot of chopping and measuring, and I always forget how much extra work it is, and allocate myself 10 minutes when I actually need closer to 20 or 30.

It’s supposed to serve 6, but I find it actually serves 4 (even if I buy an extra beef cheek), maybe because James and I are pigs and take giant serves of beef. I could stretch it out to 6 meals, but that would mean less delicious meat. Easier just to buy a bigger slow cooker so I can make more cheeks at a time (Me justifying a new slow cooker: “yes, but when you consider it in terms of cheeks per minute …”)

To cut down on prep get the butcher to trim the cheeks for you. The first time I made these I did it myself – first of all, it was gross because cheeks are pretty ugly, and second of all, it took forever. Yes, I do need to sharpen my knives. But it’s still easier to get the butcher to do it.

Even after trimming, it’s not a super lean cut of meat. If you’ve ever had those Asian stews where the meat melts in your mouth because they’ve used a nice fatty cut of meat, that’s what these cheeks feel like. Some people don’t like that mouthfeel, but stewy meat reminds me of mumfood, which I always find comforting. The beef in the picture is a particularly fatty piece – most of the cheeks were leaner than that.

Also the sauce this makes it incredible. Like James will lift the plate to his lips and slurp it down.


  • 5 or 6 beef cheeks, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 large brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cm piece galancal, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 4 cm piece ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks (Note: If you cannot source galangal, just double the amount of ginger used)
  • 2 lemongrass stems (pale part only), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup tamarind paste (Note: I used something called tamarind puree, hoping it was the same thing, and it seemed to work fine)
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • small handful of coriander stems (roots and all), thouroughly washed to remove all dirt and grit and finely chopped
  • 3 hot chillies, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 kaffir lime leaves, crush in your hands before adding to the dish to release the lime oils
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 3 cups water (Note: I add 1.5-2 cups because of my small slow cooker and it’s fine)


  1. Place the sliced onions, lemongrass, chilli, galangal, ginger, garlic, coriander stems and crushed kaffir lime leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  2. Slice each beef cheek into two even sized pieces. Coat each piece of meat in the seasoned flour.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over medium-high heat. In batches, brown the beef for 2 or 3 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown. Make sure that your beef is well browned to ensure that it does not look grey and unappetising after slow cooking.
  4. Arrange the browned beef cheeks on top of the sliced vegetables.
  5. Add tamarind paste, brown sugar, fish sauce and water to the slow cooker.
  6. Cook on the slow cooker’s ‘Low Setting’ for 8 hours. I personally like to start the cooking on ‘High’ for an hour or two, then reduce the heat to ‘Low’. (Note: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could cook this dish in a casserole dish in the oven on 170 degrees for 3 hours and 30 minutes).

(Sorry, no macro breakdown because my calorie counter doesn’t have beef cheeks listed and I am too lazy to go hunting around. My guess is mostly fat and protein, very little carb. Higher in calories than a cut like chuck because it’s fattier)

10 Responses to “Thai Beef Cheeks in the Slow Cooker”

  1. The Hungry Lawyer January 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Great to discover that someone else loves this dish as much as me!

    I get my beef cheeks from the butcher in the bottom-right hand corner of the Queen Vic Market Meat Hall (viewed from when you are coming in through the Elizabeth Street entrance) – just oppoiste the free range chicken place. He actually labels his beef cheeks as ‘ox cheeks’ and they are absolutely massive! Might assist in stretching the servings out to 6 meals.

    • pamperedhousewife January 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      That’s where I get mine too! They ARE pretty big, though they lose a lot int he trimming. I suspect James and I are just big eaters.

      Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. =)

  2. Max Rawlings June 21, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Sounds great I will be trying this recipe next week

  3. Lucy September 22, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    OMG… I have just made this dish and words cannot describe the taste sensation in my mouth!!! Yum yum yummy!!!!!

    Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou

    • pamperedhousewife September 22, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      I know, it’s amazing right?? All of the work is at the start and after that it’s just waiting while you sniff the air. =D

  4. Desley August 30, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    When do you put in the stock you don’t say thanks

    • pamperedhousewife August 30, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

      Heya! Once you’ve browned the beef everything goes in at the same time. Hope you like it!

  5. Helen August 15, 2016 at 12:30 am #

    could this work with boned lamb as well

  6. Helen August 15, 2016 at 12:37 am #

    will this work with lamb as well

    • pamperedhousewife August 15, 2016 at 9:31 am #

      I’m not sure, sorry. =( I don’t think I’ve ever actually cooked lamb in the slow cooker so I have no basis for comparison. I’ve moved somewhere where I can’t easily get beef cheeks anymore so I sub beef chuck and it’s still delicious!

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