Beef Cheeks Slow-Cooked With Port & Vanilla

In this recipe, I show you how to make the most amazing beef cheeks slow-cooked with onions, carrots, a little port for sweetness and depth, and vanilla, which gives it a unique flavour twist. This stew-like dish is very nourishing, gluten-free, paleo and low-carb friendly. I think you will love it! Let me know the comments what you think of this recipe or if you cook it.

Beef Cheeks Slow Cooked With Port & Vanilla
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This rich and warming beef cheek stew is perfect for a special night in, especially with a glass of Shiraz or another heavy red wine. The meat is slow-cooked till it falls apart allowing the flavours to develop and infuse the broth. The recipe is not difficult but is best prepared on the weekend when you have plenty of time to supervise the braising process.

What Are Beef Cheeks?

The name ‘beef cheek’ refers to the facial cheek muscle of a cow. It’s a rather tough and lean cut of meat which requires slow cooking. But, it’s also a bit magical, because, given enough cooking time, it transforms into the most gorgeous, gelatinous, velvety, tender meat full of depth and flavour.

For this recipe, I used beef cheeks from one of my faves in Australia, Cape Grim Beef. It’s advisable to pre-order beef cheeks from your butcher. Otherwise, if you can’t find any cheeks, something like beef brisket or stewing steak can also be used.

My Recipe Twists

I used port instead of regular red wine because the darker fortified wines add much more depth to the dish, plus I wanted some sweetness to go with the vanilla.

This dish is a little sweet, but still relatively low in carbohydrates and sugar (for those counting their macros!), For each serving, you’ll be coming in at around 5-6 grams of sugar per person. Not too bad for something this magical.

Slow-Cooked Beef Cheeks Recipe
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How To Cook Beef Cheeks

There are three stages to cooking beef cheeks:

  1. Brown the meat in a frying pan for a minute on each side.
  2. Deglaze the pan with port and bring the cooking broth to simmer.
  3. Combine the beef cheeks with the broth and slow cook in the oven, in a slow cooker/crockpot or in a pressure cooker, such as Instant Pot. The oven method will take 3-4 hours and requires some looking after. The slow cooker method takes longer but is pretty hands-free and you can set it and forget it. The same with the Instant Pot, however, the pressure cooking will speed up the process considerably!
  4. If you use a slow cooker or the Instant Pot, I recommend finishing the stew in a hot oven for 20 minutes to let the meat brown and caramelise slightly. That’s when you add the carrots as well, so they don’t overcook.

You will find more details instructions below, including the nutritional breakdown for this dish. 


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Beef Cheeks Slow Cooked
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Beef Cheeks Slow Cooked With Port & Vanilla

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Author: Irena Macri
Servings: 5
Course: Main
Cuisine: French
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4.67 from 3 votes
Calories: 568kcal
Slow-cooked to perfection, these beef cheeks are fall-apart tender and have a unique flavour with a hint of vanilla and sweetness of port. It's a delicious stew-like dish the whole family will love.


  • 4 beef cheeks about 1.2 kg, cut in half, sinew removed (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil for frying
  • 2/3 cup of port or fortified Sherry can also be used
  • 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves roughly diced
  • 4-5 pods cardamon or 1 star anise, optional
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar red wine vinegar can also be used
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves or 1/4 teaspoon of ground clove spice, cinnamon could also be used
  • 1-2 vanilla beans depending on size, split (or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock or bone broth, about 500 ml
  • 1 large carrot peeled and sliced


  • Preheat the oven to 175 C / 345 F.
  • Season the beef cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan with oil over high heat, brown the cheeks on each side for about a minute and place in a heavy-based casserole dish.
  • Deglaze the frying pan with port, then add the butter, onion, garlic, cardamon seeds or star anize, vinegar, bay leaves, cloves, vanilla beans, pepper, tomato paste, and beef stock. Mix through and bring to a simmer, then carefully pour over the beef cheeks in the casserole dish.
  • Assemble the beef cheeks so they don't overlap and the garlic and onion are distributed evenly. Cover with foil and place the casserole in the oven. Cook covered for around 2 hours 45 minutes, turning beef cheeks frequently, every 25 minutes.
  • Then remove the foil, add the carrots and cook uncovered for another 1 hour. Make sure to keep turning the beef cheeks as they will start to brown and dry up on the top. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed but there should be loads given the beef stock will reduce.
  • Serve with a side of greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic and some fresh green herbs on top.


Beef Cheeks Slow Cooker Recipe: repeat the first couple of steps and once the beef cheeks and the braising broth are assembled in the slow cooker, set it to 4 hours on HIGH, 6 hours on MEDIUM, 8 hours on LOW. I suggest to transfer the stew to a baking dish, add the carrots and finish it in a hot oven for 20 minutes to caramelise slightly.
Beef Cheeks Instant Pot method: Brown the beef cheeks on Saute function inside the pot; remove to a plate, the deglaze the pot and simmer the braising broth. Return the beef cheeks, stir through and press the lid on top. Set to HIGH pressure, manual and adjust to 45 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally. Add the carrots and finish the stew in a hot oven for 20 minutes to brown slightly.


Calories: 568kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 172mg | Sodium: 919mg | Potassium: 1153mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2586IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 6mg
Keywords: Slow Cooker, Dinner Meals, Beef Cheeks
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Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share delicious recipes that I have cooked and loved. I am a published cookbook author, have been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition. You will find many healthy recipes as well as my favourite comfort food. More about me here | Subscribe to my newsletter and freebies

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  1. Hi irena….I love your website and can’t wait for your book! I’m cooking from your recipes over the next fortnight – now and then I pick a website or cookbook and decide to just com for that for awhile! Anyway, my question…could I do this with some skirt steak? I purchased a beautiful piece of beef skirt steak from a farmers market today for a long slow cook and love this recipe…

    1. Yes, absolutely. Beef cheeks have a bit more fat in them so they might end up a little richer in taste but beef skirt should work as well. I made a beautiful beef stroganoff-ish dish with beef this weekend, which was really yummy so I will post that on the site this coming week as well.

  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! That was amazing! So simple (even though took some time) and sooooo delicious! Thank you so much for all the wonderful recipes. My health kick has been easy to do without my partner noticing because if anything the food has got tastier! He loved it even more than I did. Can’t wait for your e-book to come out :o)

  3. WOW – this looks amazing. Do you think i can run the same recipe in a slow cooker…just set it for 8 hours and leave??? or – will the meat still need to be turned every 20-25 mins? thank you!

    1. Slow cooker should be fine, although if you want that nice browned finish, I would transfer the cooked meat to an oven tray when you get home and stick it in a hot over (about 200 C) for 15-20 minutes. In the meantime you can prepare your veggies.

  4. Hi Irena

    When you sat to cook “covered” is that just with the foil you mention or with the casserole lid as well?

  5. This came at the perfect time – I’ve just got some cheeks from the farmer I get my beef from, and had no idea what to do with them… but now I’m seriously looking forward to trying this! Thanks Irena!

  6. 5 stars
    This was amazing. I did it in slow cooker for 8 hours on low though. Beef cheeks cut like butter and flavors were gorgeous.

  7. Hi Irene can i use vanilla essence instead of beans ? And how much? The vanilla beans are alot more expensive? Sorry

  8. I ended up buying the vanilla beans but i couldnt split them because they were hard. So i broke them in half and also added a dash of vanilla essence. Cringing…
    Hope it will be ok?
    braised meat in pan, added ingredients to a simmer then threw everything in slow cooker for 4hrs on high. Hope it works.. x

  9. 4 stars
    This seems like a beautiful dish but alcohol isn’t paleo, so what can we use to substitute the port for us Paleo’s that dont drink?

    1. Hey Rach, you can leave it out completely. Pork adds a little depth and a tiny bit of sweetness, so you could always add a little teaspoon of honey or something similar.

  10. This is my go to dish if I want to spoil someone. It’s actually in the slow cooker right now as a snuggle dinner for my girlfriend who’s had a hard week. First time she’s had beef cheeks. One caveat – if you buy from a supermarket you might find the cheeks have stacks of excess fat and icky bits and it’s a Bastard to clean them up. Totally worth it though.

  11. 5 stars
    This was delicious. My faith in my ability to cook beef cheeks has been restored with this fabulous recipe. They were tender flavorsome and melted in iny mouth. Thank you for the tips and references.

  12. Irena your slow cooked beef cheeks with port and vanilla looks just gorgeous. Since I have found your recipe I plan to cook the same for my family next week.

    Thank you for putting your recipe on the net for interested home cooks can see as well as being tempted to achieve the same outcome.

    Kind Regards

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