Chinese Beef Cheeks


Chinese Beef Cheeks

Chinese Beef Cheeks

Beef cheeks are one of my favourite cuts of meat. If you’re wondering they’re actually the cheeks of the cow from the face… Not the behind! I love them because they’re full of gelatinous goodness and cook down to be super moist and flavoursome. You might need to them from your butcher but they’re seriously worth the effort.

This recipe is my simplified version of Sarah Wilson’s beef cheeks in her fab book Simpilicious. It’s one of the few things I make in my slow cooker without browning the meat either before or after slow cooking. The soy sauce is the secret ingredient here which adds all the lovely complex ‘brown’ flavours… A little slow cooker magic!

enough for 4
takes 6-12 hours

1kg (2lb) beef cheeks
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
1 bunch green onions (scallions) chopped
1-4 large red chillies
cauliflower rice or steamed rice, to serve

1. Chop beef cheeks into 2-3 large chunks each. Place in your slow cooker (oven instructions below) with the soy sauce, 5-spice, most of the green onions, chillies and 1/2 cup water.

2. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or high for 5-6 hours. They’re done when the beef is super tender.

3. Taste and season with extra soy, if needed (it usually doesn’t). Serve on a bed of rice / cauli rice with with extra green onion on top.


additional flavours – a few cloves or garlic and some finely chopped ginger are lovely additions but not essential!

no slow cooker – just pop everything in a large casserole dish with an extra 1/4 cup water (so 1/2 cup in total). Cover with baking paper as above and seal the top with two layers of foil. Bake for 4-5 hours at 120C (250F) or until beef cheeks are super tender.

soy-free – use coconut aminos instead or 1/4 cup fish sauce and 1/4 cup beef stock.

no beef cheeks – use your favourite slow cooking cut of meat such as osso buco, beef short ribs, chuck steak, brisket, chicken drumsticks, pork ribs, pork shoulder, pork neck, lamb shanks. But beef cheeks really are worth tracking down!

vegetarian – replace beef cheeks with large flat mushrooms or sliced eggplant and use a good veg stock instead of the water – just roast in the oven covered (180C / 350F) for about an hour – you don’t get the benefits of slow cooking veggies that you see with meat. Serve with a generous handful of roasted cashews for extra protein and fat.

short on time – try this beef stir fry instead.

carb lovers / more substantial – serve with steamed rice.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

beef cheeks – freeze them.

soy sauce / Chinese 5 spice / rice – keep them in the pantry.

green onions – skip them or keep in the fridge in a plastic bag for weeks.

red chillies – will keep for months in the fridge. Can be frozen or left unwrapped in the fridge they will slowly turn into dried chillies and still be edible.

cauliflower – ungrated cauli will keep for weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge. Can be frozen but the texture isn’t as good when defrosted.

Prepare Ahead

Absolutely! Just cook as per the recipe but keep the extra green onion and rice / cauli rice separately. Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or can be frozen. To serve, bring back to a simmer and serve as per recipe.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Tackett December 8, 2016

This is super good! I used a regular beef roast, as I was unable to find cheeks. Which type of peppers do you mean by “red chili”? At the store I go to, the spicy chili-type peppers are all green. I picked something more on the mild side because my husband doesn’t like things too spicy – I think poblano? It was also definitely worth making a special trip to a different store to find the Chinese 5 spice – it adds so much to this dish! My husband is *completely* in love with this dish!


jules December 14, 2016

So glad you liked it Kelly… Any chilli would work. The poblano would b perfect for a milder version.

If you’re looking for a way to use your 5-spice… These two chicken recipes are great!



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