Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks With Pork & Vanilla


This rich and warming stew is perfect for special night in with a glass of vintage Shiraz. It oozes decadency and you could totally bring it to one of Marie Antoinette’s dinner parties. The recipe is not difficult but is best prepared on the weekend when you have plenty of time to supervise the braising process. 

Let’s talk about 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 a slow cooking method. 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, 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 can also be used.

I used port instead of just red wine because the darker fortified wines add much more depth to the dish, plus I wanted some sweetness to go with vanilla. This dish is a little sweet, but don’t worry – once you add up the total sugars (glucose and fructose from the port, vegetables, and tomato paste), you’ll be coming in at around 5-6 grams per person. Not to bad for something this magical.



Slow Cooked Port & Vanilla Beef Cheeks

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 4 hours 30 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hours 50 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x



  • 4 beef cheeks (about 1.2 kg), cut in half, sinew removed (ask your butcher to do this)
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoon coconut oil for frying
  • 2/3 cup of port (Sherry can also be used)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, roughly diced
  • 45 cardamon pods (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)
  • 12 vanilla beans (depending on size), split
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 450 ml / about 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  2. Season the beef cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan with coconut oil over high heat, brown the cheeks on each side for about a minute and place in a heavy-based casserole dish.
  3. Deglaze the frying pan with port, then add the onion, garlic, butter, cardamon seeds, vinegar, bay leaves, cloves, vanilla beans, pepper, tomato paste, and beef stock. Mix through and bring to simmer, then carefully pour over the beef cheeks in the casserole dish.
  4. 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 3 hours 15 minutes, turning beef cheeks frequently, every 20-25 minutes.
  5. Then remove the foil, add the carrots and cook uncovered for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. 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 is reduced.
  6. Serve with a side of greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic and some fresh green herbs on top.

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About me: I share nutritious recipes focusing on vegetables, paleo and gluten-free diets. I create cookbooks and meal plans to help you get healthier and lose weight. I’m currently finishing an advanced diploma in Nutrition & Weight Management. More about me here.

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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. 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. 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.

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