With a little planning, you can enjoy these Korean-inspired spicy, flavorful Slow Cooker Korean Street Tacos! Ginger, garlic, sriracha, beef, and tomatoes simmer in the slow cooker until they're falling apart tender... Finish the tacos with a simple napa cabbage slaw and kimchi (homemade or store-bought).
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
FYI: This recipe was originally published in 2015. I did a complete overhaul and re-published it in 2021 with new text, updated text, and better instructions!
Street tacos, with the explosion of food carts and trucks, have become quite the food trend. Slow Cooker Korean Street Tacos are bursting with complex flavors - sriracha, ginger, garlic, tender beef, bright acidity...
A young entrepreneur contacted me about their new small-batch craft Korean sauces. I was so excited to try their Barrel Aged Sriracha and Srirachup. They offered to send me some. In return, I agreed to develop a recipe that featured their sauces in a unique and creative way. Thus the planning began.
I enthusiastically used their sriracha in my Buffalo Chicken Panini, and later in my Spicy Sesame Green Beans. You are probably familiar with mass-produced sriracha that tastes like vinegar and hot chiles (similar to Tabasco). It's a good condiment, but simple and non-distinct. There are far better ones out there!
The Sosu Sauces sriracha is so complex, taking on the flavor of the oak barrels and the natural fermentation process. The ingredients are few, and include only chile peppers, brown sugar, garlic, salt, and no preservatives. 🙂 This is NOT a sponsored post... I love to support small artisan producers, and I am very enthusiastic about this sauce.
Update: Unfortunately, I discovered Sosu Sauces went out of business! This Fix sriracha is a brand I've tried, and it's quite similar.
About the Kimchi
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley... (often go awry)~~ Robert Burns, To A Mouse.
You may have heard the more common English paraphrase of this Scottish poem - The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry? I'd better get back to my recipe. 😉
I love beef and green onions in most any preparation. So as I ran with the idea of doing street tacos, I thought it would be fun to experiment with making my own kimchi - something I had not done at the time. I love freshly made kimchi; it is nothing like its processed-in-a-jar counterpart. However, it is not a quick process, and this is where my "best laid plans" went "awry."
I purchased a large quantity of beautiful green onions at a Korean market in El Paso, so the "clock was ticking." I knew the kimchi would need at least a week. I was keeping an eye on my green onions, and they looked fine. I was finally able to get the kimchi made on April 26th. I let it ferment on the counter for 2 days, and then popped it into the refrigerator to finish.
I purchased the other ingredients for the street tacos, and planned them for the following Sunday, not realizing it was my birthday. :-(My sons called my husband Friday to plan the menu for my birthday, and I suddenly realized I would be cooking my birthday dinner! Oh well, it's not as though I don't enjoy cooking...
So, my green onion kimchi was ready and waiting. Given that it was my first attempt at making kimchi, I left nothing to chance, and went with Aeri Lee's recipe for Green Onion Kimchi as this just happens to be her favorite kimchi.
I substituted a generous ¼ cup of sriracha for the ½ cup hot pepper powder, but other than that, followed the recipe. I didn't have a large enough glass jar, and put the kimchi into a rubbermaid container. On day 2, the container lid was ready to pop! I will buy a nice-sized glass jar for next time. I will make it again!
So, you've made the kimchi... What's next? I brought out my slow-cooker. You really can do wonderful things with slow cookers, even in the warmer months. As soon as we returned from church, I went to work preparing the beef.
I seared lean, cubed stew beef in a bit of canola and sesame oil. Added the fresh garlic and ginger, a chopped sweet onion, and cooked until the onion was translucent. That went into the slow cooker, followed by tiny tomatoes, sriracha, and the ketchup.
It simmered on high for about 6 hours, and smelled heavenly! I added tamari and rice vinegar, shredded the beef, and threw together a very lightly dressed napa cabbage slaw. The tacos were garnished with chopped cilantro, and additional sriracha sauce.
I've enjoyed a lot of amazing meals on Sunday funday with my "kids," but the consensus was that the Slow Cooker Korean Beef Street Tacos ranked right up at the the top!
I don't have time to make kimchi!
Making green onion kimchi is optional, and it requires about 2 weeks from start to finish. Don't despair! You will still love these Korean street tacos! There are many great options for store-bought kimchi, including some takeout from Korean restaurants. Don't overlook getting your kimchi online.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- oil - You'll need both canola or vegetable oil, and sesame oil.
- boneless lean beef - Choose lean cuts like bottom round, London broil, or flank steak.
- ginger - No powdered ginger please! I keep a large piece of ginger root in my freezer. When I need it, I use a sharp paring knife to scrape away the skin, and then grate a sufficient amount with a microplane. I am also known to keep a jar of minced ginger in my refrigerator. It's a great time saver!
- garlic - Again, don't use powdered garlic. Fresh garlic cloves minced or pressed are my first choice, but I will use minced garlic when time is short.
- onion - I keep sweet onions and red onions in my pantry, so it's usually one of the two. Yellow and white onions are fine too.
- tiny tomatoes - Little Cherub or similarly sized tomatoes.
- sriracha sauce - As I mentioned above, sriracha can be kind of "one note" similar to tabasco sauce, or it can be very flavorful and complex. We like this Fix Sriracha Sauce.
- ketchup - We don't care for ketchup, and I don't keep it on hand. I like products like this sriracha ketchup.
- soy sauce - I keep Tamari soy sauce in my pantry, but regular soy sauce is fine as well.
- rice vinegar
Napa Cabbage Slaw
- napa cabbage - Regular cabbage or baby bok choy are good options too.
- rice vinegar
- sesame oil
- soy sauce - Tamari is my preference, but regular soy sauce or ponzu is fine. Avoid heavy dark soy sauce.
- tortillas - While I prefer the flavor and texture of corn tortillas, I feel flour tortillas are a better choice with this recipe.
- kimchi - Don't feel like you have to make my recommended green onion kimchi! As I mentioned above, there are many good options including restaurant takeout, store-bought varieties, and kimchi online. By all means, try Aeri Lee's recipe for Green Onion Kimchi if you have the time and the motivation. It's delicious!
- napa cabbage slaw - Recipe is included in the recipe card. It requires only 4 ingredients (cabbage, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce), and takes 5-10 minutes to make!
- garnishes - Cilantro, scallions, and additional sriracha are good options.
- Prepare the beef - In a large saute pan over high heat, add oils and beef. Sauté until a sear is achieved.
- Add the aromatics - Add ginger, garlic, and sweet onion. Cook until onion is translucent and edges of beef are browned.
- Get the slow cooker going - Add the beef mixture to the slow-cooker. Add the tiny tomatoes, sriracha and ketchup. Stir well to combine. Cover.
- Finish the beef - When beef is falling-apart tender (6 hours on high to 8 hours on low), use a fork or a potato masher to break it up a bit. Don't over do it! Add tamari (or soy sauce) and rice vinegar. Stir to combine. Serve the meat with tongs or a slotted spoon as there will be a substantial amount of liquid.
- Prepare the taco toppings - Whisk rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce together. Pour over the shredded napa cabbage, and toss thoroughly. The slaw requires only about 5-10 minutes to make, and is best made somewhat close to serving.
- Assemble the tacos - Heat flour tortillas on a dry pan or griddle (both sides lightly browned). Add a small amount of beef with tongs or a slotted spoon to remove most of the liquid. Garnish with kimchi, napa cabbage slaw, cilantro, and sriracha if additional heat is desired. Enjoy!
💭 Tips and FAQ
What kind of beef is best for this recipe? Any boneless lean cut will work well. Stew beef save prep time, and is my "go to," but I like bottom round too. London broil is another good option.
What's the best way to heat the tortillas? With flour tortillas, I like to heat them one at a time on a hot cast iron skillet, then put them in my tortilla warmer until ready to serve.
Can I make this recipe in advance? YES! Slow cooker recipes are perfect for making ahead. The Korean-style beef will store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It keeps well in your refrigerator-freezer for up to 2 months, and in a deep freeze, up to a year. Be sure to store it in airtight freezer quality zip bags or containers.
How long does it take to make these tacos? The slow-cooked beef needs 6 to 8 hours in the slow cooker, but the active time is only 15-30 minutes. The napa cabbage slaw should be made just before serving, but it requires only about 10 minutes. Unless you're making homemade kimchi, the active time is only 30-45 minutes!
What can I do with leftovers? I always make the full recipe even though I'm usually cooking for 2. The full 4 pounds will serves 12 to 14. This recipe is great for meal preps. Freeze in meal-sized portions. Make tacos again, or serve with rice and a Korean side dish like quick pickled cucumbers or Korean seasoned spinach.
Can I make this in my Instant Pot? YES! Select the meat/stew setting for about 1 hour. Do a 10 minute pressure release, and you should be good!
🍷 Pairing Suggestions
What can I pair with the street tacos? Wine pairing with spicy Asian food is always a bit tricky... We like an off-dry riesling, chenin blanc, or rosé with spicy Asian food. However, tacos are another matter. I prefer craft beer with tacos, and I recommend a saison (farmhouse ale) or a witbier. Avoid extreme flavors with spicy Asian food.
🌮 More Global Tacos
As I said, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry..." but in this instance, cooking for my own birthday turned out pretty well. 🙂 We all loved this!
I've heard from some of my friends that they've just not had good experiences with kimchi, and I'm wondering if that's because they had generic, commercially produced cabbage kimchi with lots of vinegar? I'd sure love to hear your thoughts and experiences...