A Small Batch Short Rib Recipe for Two People
I had so much fun testing this recipe over and over. 🙂 This recipe makes just enough for two people to share, and they are the most decadent, melt-in-your-mouth, comforting date night short ribs ever.
Every time I tested this recipe, the results have been absolutely delicious. However, I find that these particular ingredients and measurements yield the *best* results, at least for our taste! We also tested a couple of different wine pairings with the short ribs, and you can read more about those towards the end of the post!
A Couple of Quick Notes about Short Ribs:
- Short ribs are a fattier cut of beef, which results in a lot of flavor and tenderness. Fat = flavor. In this recipe, we start by searing the short ribs in a pan, which caramelizes some of that fat and quickly transforms it into flavor. But slow cooking the short ribs lets the rest of the fat melt into the meat and the sauce, which in turn creates tons of flavor!
- They may seem tough if they haven’t cooked for long enough. If you’ve cooked your short ribs in the crockpot for 7-8 hours, but they seem tough, do not worry. Before you start to think that you may have overcooked them, just take a deep breath, and continue cooking them on low for another 30 minutes to an hour, and eventually they will nearly fall apart from being so tender. If you really want to get into it, the short ribs need to cook at a high temperature for long enough to break down the connective tissues in the beef, resulting in the meat becoming super tender. There isn’t a short cut to this, and if you stop cooking too early, they will definitely be tough. Seriously, just keep letting them cook and they will become tender!
- Short ribs are a little expensive, but worth the splurge for date night. You’ll notice that short ribs cost more than spare ribs, and more than most other cuts of beef. You don’t have to make these every weekend, but they are worth the splurge for special occasions!
Ingredients for this Beef Short Ribs for Two Recipe:
- 4 bone-in Short Ribs
- Kosher Salt (I use the Diamond brand)
- Lots of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ Yellow Onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- ½ cup grated Carrots (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 tsp. Celery Salt
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced (about 1-2 tablespoons)
- 2 tsp. Brown Sugar
- 2 tsp. White Miso Paste
- ½ tsp. Ancho Chili Powder
- ½ cup dry Red Wine
- 2 cups really good Beef Stock (or 2 tsp. Better Than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base + 2 cups water)
- 2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 sprigs fresh Thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
- 1 Bay Leaf
Cooking the ingredients together in a pan first allows the flavors to blend before they are added to the slow cooker. The pictures below will help you visualize each step!
After eight hours in the slow cooker, the short ribs should be super juicy and tender. If yours seem a little tough, just let them cook longer! I go into more detail about why short ribs are tough right before they get super tender in the notes above and below!
I love making recipes for two in a crockpot, and especially using my two quart crockpot! This smaller size is perfect for these short ribs, and surrounds them with juicy flavor as they cook.
How to make the Best Short Ribs for Two:
- Use bone-in short ribs. I find that short ribs with the bone produce more flavor as they cook, so I recommend them over boneless short ribs. Look for pre-packaged, bone-in short ribs (you should find a package of four pieces pretty easily), or ask your butcher to cut them to order!
- Let the salted short ribs sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before browning. There are two reasons for this, actually. First, the salt permeates the meat which helps tenderize it. Secondly, letting the meat come to room temperature helps with the texture while it’s browning, which also helps it be more tender. Plus, salting food from the start will result in a more flavorful dish at the end!
- Use Better than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base. (Or really, really good beef broth). I love the depth of flavor that Better Than Bouillon has (it comes in a small glass jar, and is mixed with hot water to create a type of ‘broth’.) But if you have a local butcher that makes really good beef broth from scratch, that is an incredible option, too! The broth (or Better than Bouillon mixture) is a foundation of the flavor in the short ribs, so the better it tastes, the better the short ribs will taste!
- Use dry wine, such as Côtes du Rhône. And have a glass of it, too. 🙂 I love using Côtes du Rhône wine for cooking. It’s delicious, pretty full-bodied, and inexpensive (about $9-12 for a good bottle to cook with and drink!) You don’t have to use that wine specifically, but if you go another route, I would recommend avoiding anything with too much fruit or anything that’s too light. Rioja, Grenache, and Sangiovese are also great wines to use, too! And because this recipe only uses 1/2 of a cup, get a bottle that you’ll enjoy drinking later. 🙂
- Cook the short ribs in a two quart crockpot. A smaller crockpot lets the liquids completely surround the short ribs, which packs in more flavor, and ensures even cooking!
- Be patient with the short ribs! Let them cook until they completely fall off the bone, or nearly fall apart. I’ve been tweaking this recipe for years now, and when I first started cooking it, I was way too impatient with the short ribs. I would try to eat them after only six or seven hours of cooking, and while they were tasty, they weren’t very tender. Let them cook for the full eight hours, and you’ll be rewarded. I promise. And again, a great indicator is if the bone slides right out of the meat, and if the meat pulls apart with just a fork!
- Save the flavor-packed liquid the short ribs were cooked in! The leftover liquid is concentrated and delicious, so don’t throw it out! Refrigerate it or freeze it for pastas, soups, more short ribs, or gravy! I like to add a few ladles to a small saucepan, and cook it over medium heat until it reduces down a bit. If you want to make it into a gravy, whisk in a slurry of cornstarch for a quick way to thicken it! (Whisk 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to create the slurry. Once there are no lumps remaining in the slurry, slowly whisk it into the liquids in the saucepan until thickened.)
Wine Pairings for these Crockpot Short Ribs for Two:
Easy Choice: Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile / USA / Italy) :: The grape everyone knows and (mostly) loves! Cabernet Sauvignon is grown worldwide, which makes it super accessible and easy to love. Different countries and regions treat the grape differently, so it can taste entirely different from one place to the next. I recommend a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, specifically from the Colchagua Valley or Malpo region. California and Italian Cabernet Sauvignon would also work with these short ribs, and you can easily get a decent bottle for $10-15!
If You’re Feeling Adventurous: Mencía (Portugal / Spain) :: Ok, so this may be a wine you haven’t heard of yet! Mencía is actually a grape, and it’s grown in Portugal and Spain. It is typically used to create a medium to full-bodied red wine, and has some really cool earthy notes in it. Mencía also has a good amount of acidity and tannin, which are both great qualities when it comes to pairing with food! This particular short rib recipe is rich, hearty, and packed with flavor. Short ribs are a fattier cut of meat – which makes them an ideal candidate for a wine with acidity and tannin. Look (or better yet, ask!) for a Mencía Joven (which means young Mencía) that doesn’t see much oak aging. A young, fresh Mencía can be a touch earthier, while still having this awesome freshness to it. I particularly love El Castro del Valtuille, which you can find for around $15!
A Fun Splurge Option: Syrah (Northern Rhône, France) :: Syrah is a seriously cool grape. It’s grown all over the world, and takes on different personalities depending upon it’s region and treatment. Northern Rhône Syrah has a reputation for being peppery, bold, and savory. This style of Syrah also has great tannins, which balance the richness of the short ribs. Look for Crozes-Hermitage, which you can find for around $20-25. Or if you’re really into it, look for a Côte Rôtie, which is closer to about $50-60.
Side Dishes to Pair with Crockpot Short Ribs:
- Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
- Creamy Parmesan Risotto
- Buttery Small Batch Mashed Potatoes
- Spicy, Creamy Chopped Brussels Sprouts
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts for Two
If you make these date night short ribs and love them, I would love for you to let me know in the comments below! Or feel free to tag me on Instagram so I can see your awesome creations! And as always, I am reachable via email if you have any specific questions!
Slow Cooker Short Ribs for Two
- 4 bone-in short ribs about 1.5 – 2 lbs.
- kosher salt preferably Diamond Kosher Salt
- cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 cup grated carrots
- 1/4 tsp. celery salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. light brown sugar
- 2 tsp. white miso paste
- 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups really good beef broth*
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- Set the short ribs out onto a platter. Season all sides with kosher salt, and let them rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, sprinkle the cracked black pepper onto all sides.
- Set the temperature of a two-quart slow cooker to "low". Cover with the lid.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned short ribs to the pan, and brown on all sides. Let a crunchy, brown crust form, about 2-3 minutes per side, per short rib. Remove the pan from the heat, and carefully transfer the short ribs to the slow cooker. Cover with the lid.
- Turn the heat on the stovetop down to medium, and allow the pan to cool (off the heat) for a few minutes.
- Return the pan to the stovetop, and add the finely chopped onion, grated carrot, and celery salt. Stir to coat in the remaining oil, and cook for about 4-5 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, and cook for about a minute until fragrant and softened.
- Stir in brown sugar, miso paste, and ancho chili powder. Cook for two minutes.
- Pour in the red wine into the pan, stirring it into the other ingredients. Allow it to come to a simmer, and continue simmering for about five minutes until slightly thickened.
- Stir in the beef broth, and allow it to cook with the other ingredients for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the apple cider vinegar.
- Turn off the heat from under the pan, and carefully pour the contents of the pan into the slow cooker. Add the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
- The short ribs should be covered in liquid inside the slow cooker. If a couple are barely poking out of the top, that's ok! Cover the slow cooker with a lid, and allow them to cook for eight hours.
- After eight hours, the bones should cleanly slide out of the short ribs, and the meat should be tender enough to fall apart with a fork.**
- Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, and shred the short ribs in the slow cooker, or in a separate bowl. Serve them over creamy parmesan risotto or garlic parmesan mashed potatoes (both recipes linked in the notes!)***
- To make a sauce from the remaining liquid, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add about 2 cups of the liquid from the slow cooker, and whisk with a cornstarch slurry**** until thickened. Pour over the short ribs, and enjoy!