From Traditional to Trendy: 5 Ways to Savor Corned Beef

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
Savory Homemade Corned Beef Sandwich

Special meals make holidays extra fun. When St. Patrick’s Day comes every March, it’s time for corned beef and cabbage. The tender, juicy meat and the crunchy vegetable are one of those perfect combinations that have become a tradition.

While you’re planning your celebration, you might be wondering what exactly is corned beef and why is it associated with Irish heritage? More important, you want to know if you can join in the feast while you’re losing weight with Nutrisystem. We’ve got answers, along with five delicious corned beef recipes you can enjoy any time of year.

What is Corned Beef?

Slow Cooked Corned Beef

Corned beef is usually made from brisket, a cut of beef that has a rich, meaty flavor and a balance of muscle and fat. The meat is smoked to make Texas-style beef barbecue. For corned beef, brisket is cured in a solution of water, salt and flavorful herbs for 5 to 8 days.

The term “corned” refers to the large, coarse grains of salt, called “corns,” that are used in the curing process. Today, curing salt is pink, which gives the meat its familiar rosy color.

People in England and Ireland began curing beef to preserve it centuries ago. By the 1800s, Ireland had become the center of preserved meat production for shipment to the U.K. and U.S., according to the Smithsonian Institution. Beef was, however, too expensive for ordinary Irish people to eat except for special occasions. Pork and lamb were more affordable then and they are more common in their diets today.

Many Irish immigrants to the U.S. and their descendants lived in New York City, alongside Eastern European Jewish newcomers. Brisket is a kosher cut of meat, so corned beef had become a standard item in Jewish delis.

When St. Patrick’s Day, which honors the patron saint of Ireland, became a celebration of Irish-American heritage in the mid-1800s, corned beef became the traditional meal. Interestingly, the Jewish people from Russia, Poland and nearby countries cooked corned beef with cabbage and potatoes, just like the traditional Irish dish.

Choosing the Right Corned Beef

Homemade Corned Beef and Cabbage

Today you can find corned beef in supermarkets and specialty butcher shops. You may see two options: flat and point.

Flat cuts are rectangular, evenly thick and lightly marbled. Chefs and barbecue enthusiasts favor the point cut, which is thicker and has more fat. The higher fat content works well for braising, keeping the meat extra moist as it slowly cooks. Flat cuts are the best choice when you’re cooking the beef with vegetables, so they don’t soak in the extra fat.

For homemade corned beef, start with fresh brisket. Soak it in brine, a liquid with pickling spices, such as mustard seed, allspice, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns and garlic, along with salt and water. You can adjust the seasonings to taste, making it as spicy as you like it. The meat soaks in the mixture for 5 to 7 days before it’s ready to cook.

You can skip curing the meat yourself and just buy corned beef at the grocery store. It is often sold in vacuum-sealed bags, already seasoned and ready to heat.

Keep in mind that if you’re following a Nutrisystem weight loss plan, a serving of corned beef is 2 ounces.

Preparing and Cooking Corned Beef

corned beef with colcannon

Brisket needs to be cooked slowly and with moisture to become the fork-tender meat we love. You can do this process, called braising, in the oven, on the stove, or in a slow cooker or instant pot.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking corned beef in the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours for a 2.5 to 3-pound cut. If you’re simmering corned beef on the stovetop, plan for 1 hour of cooking per pound of meat. However you cook it, the interior temperature of the meat should be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit when you finish, according to the USDA.

  • Oven – Cook the meat with water in a lidded pot, such as a Dutch oven, or in an oven bag, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Stove – Place the brisket in a Dutch oven pot and cover it with water. After bringing the water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer. You can add vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, for the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking.
  • Slow cooker – This method lets you prepare a meal of corned beef and cabbage even when you’re out of the house all day. Put all the ingredients in the pot and cook on the high setting for an hour. Then switch to the low setting and let the food cook for 10 to 12 hours.
  • Instant pot or pressure cooker – If you have one of these handy devices, you can braise corned beef in about an hour and a half. Along with the beef and water, add a few cloves of garlic, thyme and pickling spices to give the meat even more flavor.

No matter how you cook your corned beef, let it rest in the pot or under a tent of aluminum foil for about 10 minutes after it’s done cooking. This gives the meat a chance to firm up and to reabsorb some of the juices that were released during cooking. When it’s firm, it will be easier to cut into even slices.

Easy Corned Beef Recipes

Now here comes the delicious part! You can enjoy the tastes of the season and stay on track with your weight loss plan. These five easy corned beef dishes are all flavorful, filling and approved by the expert dietitians at Nutrisystem.

1. Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup with potatoes and carrots

With this soup, you get all the delights of the classic St. Patrick’s Day meal but in a healthier way. It has chunks of corned beef, fluffy potatoes, sweet carrots, zesty leeks and chopped cabbage. The seasoned broth is so savory, you will want to spoon up every drop.

Get the Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup recipe.

2. Corned Beef Sliders

Corned Beef Sliders

Sliders are mini sandwiches that are perfect for serving at a party or as the foundation of a healthy lunch. We make these sliders with tender corned beef, white cheddar cheese (you can use any cheese you like) and pickle chips. It’s all a stacked in whole wheat buns and topped with zingy sriracha mayonnaise.

Get the Corned Beef Sliders recipe.

3. Corned Beef and Cabbage Quesadillas

Corned Beef and Cabbage Quesadillas

To make this inventive meal, we blend the cheesy satisfaction of quesadillas with the savory flavors of corned beef and cabbage. It has layers of thinly sliced meat, sauerkraut or cole slaw for the cabbage crunch, and Swiss cheese on top of whole-wheat tortillas. Spread on a thin layer of Dijon mustard or light thousand island salad dressing, then heat it all until the flavors blend together and the cheese melts.

Get the Corned Beef and Cabbage Quesadillas recipe.

4. Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

4 corned beef and cabbage eggs rolls in a small plate on a green surface

Here’s a fun appetizer that’s sure to be a hit at any party. The crunchy egg roll wrappers enclose a rich filling of hearty corned beef, melted Swiss cheese and shredded cabbage. Instead of using the deep fryer to cook them, we put these egg rolls in the oven where they turn crisp, brown and delicious.

Get the Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls recipe.

5. Corned Beef Sandwich with Roasted Onions and Mushrooms

Corned Beef Sandwich with Roasted Onions and Mushrooms

You can enjoy a hearty corned beef sandwich while you’re eating for weight loss. Start with multigrain sourdough bread for a firm foundation and a nicely chewy texture. Pile on corned beef, reduced fat Swiss cheese, and savory sauteed mushrooms and onions. A spread of horseradish mixed with mayonnaise adds a little bite, while light toasting crisps the bread crisp and melts the cheese.

Get the Roasted Onion and Mushroom Corned Beef Sandwich recipe.

Sides and Pairings

Corned Beef Dinner with vegetables

Cabbage and Other Vegetables

Corned beef recipes are traditionally served with cabbage and potatoes, which have long been popular in Ireland because they are plentiful and inexpensive. They also can cook along with the meat, so you get a whole meal from one pot. Sauerkraut and coleslaw are common partners for corned beef, too.

Carrots, parsnips and turnips are hearty root vegetables that also benefit from slow cooking with the meat. Brussels sprouts and broccoli are cabbage relatives that are abundant in late winter and nourish you with powerful vitamins and minerals.

Mashed Potatoes

If you and your family love mashed potatoes, whip up our easy recipe for extra-flavorful Herb Mashed Potatoes. Or try one of our three healthy mashed potato alternatives, such as Mashed Cauliflower.

For more nutrition, you can substitute sweet potatoes for plain white potatoes. We love Skinny Mashed Sweet Potatoes and they are sure to be a hit with your gang, too.


Colcannon is a beloved dish in Ireland made by mashing potatoes with cabbage. Our version, Irish Cauliflower Colcannon with Kale, is lower in carbs and even more nutritious than the classic.

Mustard or Horseradish

Serve corned beef with a dollop of whole grain mustard or prepared horseradish for dipping. Both condiments are categorized as Free Foods by Nutrisystem, so you can enjoy as much of them as you want.

Beer and Wine

Guinness stout ale is a thick, dark brew that’s a standard in Irish pubs in the U.S. and Ireland. Its flavor is strong and the beer can be too filling to eat along with a big meal. Red ales, such as Smithwicks or Killians, are lighter tasting and pair well with meaty dinners.

Red wines with light, fruity flavor, such as Beaujolais, enhance the salty, savory taste of corned beef, according to the Wine Spectator. White wine drinkers may prefer the crisp, fruity taste of Riesling with corned beef recipes.

At Nutrisystem, we know that these fun holidays can be especially challenging when you’re trying to lose weight. We’re here to help by showing that you can enjoy holiday meals with just a few easy adjustments. If you stick to them, you won’t need to follow a rainbow for your dream to come true.