How to Cook Delicious Corned Beef Without the Spice Packet

Corned beef and cabbage is a beloved St. Patrick’s Day tradition for many families. The salty, tender beef paired with sweet, tangy cabbage is the perfect hearty meal to celebrate the Irish holiday But what if you don’t have the spice packet that typically comes with store-bought corned beef? Don’t worry, you can absolutely make amazing corned beef without it!

As a long-time food blogger and corned beef enthusiast, I’ve cooked many corned beef briskets without a spice packet Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks to get the best flavor and texture when cooking corned beef from scratch. Keep reading for my complete guide to preparing mouthwatering corned beef without the pre-made seasoning packet

Do You Really Need the Spice Packet?

First things first – let’s talk about whether the spice packet is 100% necessary. The short answer is no. Many recipes call for adding the spice packet simply because it comes with the corned beef. However, you can easily recreate the flavor on your own.

The spice packet contains seasonings like mustard seed, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and coriander. But you likely have most or all of those spices in your pantry already! By making your own blend, you control the flavor and can adjust the seasonings to your taste.

So don’t let the missing spice packet deter you. With a few simple ingredients, you can make deliciously seasoned corned beef. Keep reading to learn how!

Making Your Own Corned Beef Seasoning

The secret to flavorful corned beef without the packet is making your own robust seasoning blend. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 3 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional for heat)

Simply combine all those spices and you have a phenomenal corned beef seasoning! For even more flavor, try adding any of these optional ingredients:

  • Minced garlic
  • Chopped onion
  • Pickle spice blend
  • Brown sugar
  • Juniper berries
  • Allspice
  • Ginger

You can prepare the seasoning blend ahead of time and store it in an airtight container until ready to use. Now let’s talk about how to cook the corned beef with your homemade mix.

Cooking Corned Beef in a Slow Cooker

One of my favorite ways to make tender, fall-apart corned beef is in the slow cooker. Here’s a simple recipe:


  • 3-5 lb corned beef brisket
  • 1 cup beef broth or water
  • 1 cup Guinness beer (or other dark beer)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Homemade seasoning blend (recipe above)


  1. Place the onions and garlic in the slow cooker. Set the corned beef on top.

  2. Pour in the broth and beer. Sprinkle on the brown sugar, salt, bay leaves and seasoning blend.

  3. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, until beef is fork tender.

  4. Remove beef from cooker and slice across the grain.

The slow, even heat of the slow cooker tenderizes the meat perfectly. The beer and seasonings add great flavor to the broth too.

Pro Tip: For deliciously caramelized onions, sauté them before adding to the slow cooker.

Simmering on the Stove

For a more traditional corned beef dinner, simmering it on the stovetop is ideal.


  • 3-5 lb corned beef brisket
  • Water to cover
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Homemade seasoning blend


  1. Place corned beef in large pot and cover with water. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, brown sugar and seasoning blend.

  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

  3. Remove beef from pot and slice across the grain.

The key is keeping the temp low to prevent the meat from getting tough. For extra flavor, try adding a bottle of beer, one cup at a time, while simmering.

##Picking the Right Cut

No matter which cooking method you use, picking the right corned beef is key. Opt for a well-marbled brisket flat cut if you can find it. The fat content helps keep the meat tender and moist.

Avoid cuts that are too lean or have a thick, tougher point end. For uniformly tender slices, choose a uniform brisket flat.

Spice It Up! More Flavorful Add-Ins

Part of the fun of making corned beef from scratch is experimenting with different seasonings. So feel free to get creative with additional ingredients! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Minced garlic and ginger: For warming flavor
  • Chili powder or cayenne: For a touch of heat
  • Cinnamon and allspice: Warming spices
  • Orange or lemon zest: Bright, fresh flavor
  • Fresh thyme and rosemary: Earthy herbs
  • Beer, wine, cider: For depth of flavor
  • Honey: For sweetness to balance saltiness

##Cooking Times for Perfectly Tender Beef

To ensure your homemade corned beef turns out juicy and tender, follow these cooking times:

  • Slow cooker on LOW: 8-10 hours
  • On the stovetop:
    • Brisket flat under 3 lbs: Simmer 2 – 2 1/2 hours
    • Brisket flat 3-5 lbs: Simmer 2 1/2 – 3 hours
  • In the oven: About 1 hour per pound at 300°F

The meat is ready when it’s easily pierced with a fork. Resist the urge to peek and lift the lid frequently, which can increase cook times.

Let It Rest

Once your corned beef is cooked through, resist slicing into it right away. Let it rest for 15-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to reabsorb back into the meat. Cut into it too soon, and the beef will be dry.

For easy slicing, cut across the grain of the meat in thin slices. I love serving homemade corned beef warm, piled high on rye bread for delicious sandwiches. Leftovers also make excellent hash!

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re new to making corned beef without the spice packet, chances are you have a few questions. Here are some common ones:

Is it safe to eat corned beef without the seasoning packet?

Yes, absolutely! The spices don’t impact food safety at all. They simply add flavor. As long as the beef is fully cooked, it’s safe to eat.

What’s the best beer for corned beef?

For the most flavor, go for a dark beer like stout, porter, or Guinness. The malty, slightly bitter notes pair deliciously. But any darker brew will work well.

Do I need to rinse corned beef before cooking?

It’s a good idea to give it a quick rinse to remove any excess salt from the curing process. You can also soak it for 30 minutes if it’s very salty.

How long does cooked corned beef last in the fridge?

Leftover corned beef will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. Reheat gently before serving.

Can I freeze cooked corned beef?

You sure can! Let it cool completely then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil. It will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge before using.

##Satisfy Your Corned Beef Cravings

Can you make corned beef without spice packet?

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