Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

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Slow Cooker Beef Ragu packed with tender shredded beef and tomatoes for perfect sauce that tastes like you stood at the stove for hours.


Crockpot Beef Ragu is the classic Italian meat sauce dish you will want to serve with everything from pasta to polenta to mashed cauliflower and even rice. We usually serve it with this delicious Kale Caesar as well.

As a kid, the most amazing thing happened at my house every Friday. My Dad would get home from work and inevitably be carrying a large, overflowing cardboard box. He would drop it on the kitchen table and we would all run to the kitchen to see what was inside.

Most of the time we were looking for dough-doughs a magical fried dough creation I think my grandmother invented that we would toast and cover in cinnamon and sugar but there were always other delicious treats as well homemade macaroni and cheese (the best you’ve ever had), homemade pizza, the occasional chop suey, and always delicious, unbelievable spaghetti sauce.

Thinking back she must have made sauce every week because we were always stacked three high in the freezer and more always came. Neighbors and friends would ask for it and relatives would almost always take some home. Her sauce was famous. I really wish I would have learned to make that sauce.

And today as I start to build my own repertoire of sauces, including today’s beef ragu a slow cooked tomato sauce with shredded beef I think a lot about my grandmother and make a mental note that someday, in the very far off future, I want to be just like her and her magical Friday boxes.

What is beef ragu? How is it different than bolognese?

Beef ragu is a classic Italian recipe that is essentially a slow cooked meat sauce with the focus on the meat. Usually, you will also find things like minced carrots, onions, celery, and sometimes pancetta in a ragu. Ragu can be made with virtually any kind of beef, but is commonly made with slow cooked shredded beef or ground beef. It normally has tomatoes but also has either red wine or beef broth. 

Similarly, bolognese is also an Italian meat sauce but it is almost exclusively made with ground beef. It can have any number of other ingredients and according to most sources, is actually a type of ragu. 

One other note, a ragu is also different than a ragout. A ragout is actually a French stew that can be made with vegetables, seafood, beef, lamb, chicken. Almost anything really. It normally contains some kind of wine and cooks low and slow to create a thick stew. 

Crockpot beef ragu in a large pan with a bay leaf and spoon on the side.

What is the best cut of beef for ragu? 

You can make a pretty delicious beef ragu with pretty much any cut of beef since it cooks for so long. Usually, I reach for lean beef stewing meat, top round, or brisket. You can also make a ragu with ground beef if you are short on time.

What to serve with Slow Cooker Beef Ragu?

There are so many options for what to serve with crockpot beef ragu, but no matter what you choose, you want something that will soak up the sauce. 

  • For a classic Italian option, always reach for a nice bowl of creamy polenta. We love this healthier Spinach Polenta and super creamy Basil Parmesan Polenta.
  • Another classic Italian choice would be pasta. You can use traditional pasta, high fiber or whole wheat pasta, or go with some zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
  • For a low carb option, we like to use mashed cauliflower or mashed butternut squash.
  • To add some veggies, I almost always pair it with a big green salad or some roasted vegetables like this Baked Broccoli.

Tips for Making Crockpot Beef Ragu

  • For a more traditional ragu, you can saute some pancetta and add it to the slow cooker as well. You can also swap in some red wine for the beef broth.
  • You can use lots of different cuts of meat for this dish - brisket, beef stewing meat, top round, even chuck would work. To keep things lean, always trim off the fat before cooking.
  • For a more intense tomato flavor, add some tomato paste.
  • For a spicy beef ragu, add some red pepper flakes to the slow cooker as well.
  • If you don't have fresh herbs dried herbs will work as well. You could also use Italian seasoning instead of buying separate herbs.
  • This recipe makes a huge amount of sauce but it freezes well so don't worry about it being a big batch. You cna either freeze it in individual servings or larger family size servings.
The Recipe
Slow cooker beef rago with shredded beef, tomato sauce, and fresh basil.

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

COOK TIME: 8 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 8 Hours, 10 Min
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  • 2 1/2 lbs lean beef top round, trimmed of fat
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

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Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the bottom of the crock pot.


Season your beef liberally with salt and pepper and add it to the crock pot.


Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 6-8 hours until beef is fork tender. Serve with your favorite pasta, or polenta, or even in sandwiches for an Italian beef sandwich.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1/2 cup (251g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 224
Calories from Fat 86
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 78mg
Sodium 241mg
Total Carbohydrate 6g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 27g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
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Marie Radtke
July 13, 2020 - 06:35
Add a Rating:
Super yummy and easy! I served it over whole grain pasta, side dish was steamed fresh green beans. Super tasty! I especially love this website because I can adjust the servings to accommodate my small family. Cannot wait to try another recipe!
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Jeanne Harris
April 7, 2019 - 12:18
This recipe looks delicious and I have the exact cut of beef in my freezer. I have a couple questions: the directions say to add the onion, carrots, garlic and celery to the slow cooker. Celery isn't in the ingredients list so how much would I need?

Also, do you cook the meat whole and then shred it when it is done?

Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful recipes.

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April 7, 2019 - 13:28
Thank you so much!! It is one rib of celery - I will update the ingredients now :) And you can cook it as one large piece and then shred it once it is cooked.,
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May 27, 2019 - 11:54
I made this over the weekend and it is fabulous. I served over pasta and froze the remainder. Next week we will have sandwiches. Thank you for the great recipe!
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April 23, 2019 - 06:50
Hello Kristen,
Do you cook it on high or low setting?
Thanks so much.
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October 24, 2018 - 15:14
Can you use an instant pot for this recipe? It looks great!
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