How to make your own homemade Corned Beef with beef brisket, pickling spices, and celery juice- just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! Allow 5 days for curing time.

How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. 

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

This recipe for homemade Corned Beef comes just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.  I think we need to take advantage of any ritual and celebration these days and create our own when inspiration strikes.  Fin, my 11-year-old, said recently, “Mom ritual gives me certainty.”  It really struck me.

He named something for me that I definitely experience and want to foster, especially when things feel unknown and security is elusive.  I am often floored by the wisdom that flows from my kids.

I am inspired to create more rituals in our family rhythms.  These acknowledged occasions give us a place and time to come together and memories to share.  So, we will have a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with a nod to my husband’s Irish heritage!  We will be creating a meal that will include Nitrate-Free Corned Beef!

grass fed brisket

What is Corned Beef?

Corned Beef is made from beef brisket, which is cured in a salt and spice brine ( much like a pickle brine) for a week before being slow-cooked in a slow cooker, until tender and falling apart. Nitrate-free corned beef or “naturally cured” corned beef uses “natural” nitrates (in this case, celery juice) as a healthy alternative.

Why make Nitrate-Free Corned Beef?

Commercially processed corned beef most often contains nitrates. The main purpose of nitrates is to inhibit harmful bacterial growth, enhance flavor, and keep the meat from turning an unappetizing brownish-gray color.  However, there is a lot of controversy about the impact of nitrates on our health.  Some say it is really bad, some say it’s no big deal.

Delicious as they are, it seems clear that consuming a lot of processed meat is not great for our health and may increase the risk of cancer as well as a bunch of other scary-sounding risks.  The good news is that it is really easy and delicious to cure your own corned beef, keeping potential harmful additives at bay.

 Ingredients you’ll need!

Beef Brisket: Try to the best quality beef you can. Opt for pasture-raised, grass-feed beef brisket. A great source is at your local farmers market.

“Natural” Nitrates: A natural way to cure your own corned beef is to use celery juice, (which contains natural nitrates in addition to a whole other host of benefits), sauerkraut brine (full of active probiotics and natural preservatives), and mineral salt. (You can read more about celery’s nutrition and a detailed explanation of how to juice it here.) You can juice your own celery at home, or if you don’t have a juicer, use a blender and strain, or find celery juice at gourmet grocery stores or at a juice bar.

Pickling Spice Blend: Pink Himalayan Salt,  Black peppercorns, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, coriander seeds, cardamom, red pepper flakes, & bay leaves. Optional additions: allspice berries, juniper berries,

Optional: A slice of beet or beet juice ( for vibrant pink color)

Veggies: onion, carrots, celery and garlic cloves

How to make Homemade Corned Beef (instructions)

Corned Beef is basically salt-cured meat, usually beef brisket.  This process preserves and seasons the meat while enhancing tenderness and adding flavor with spices.

pickling spices in a bowl

Pickling spices are essential in creating the traditional flavor of corned beef. Here is our pickling spice blend! Today we’re using grass-fed, pasture-raised beef to make our corned beef brisket.

beef rubbed with pickling spices and salt

Massage both sides of the beef brisket with salt and pickling spices.

beef rolled up with twine

Roll up with spices inside and tie to make a nice little bundle keeping the spices right close to the meat for ensured flavor.

celery being chopped for the blender to make celery juice

Celery juice contains natural nitrates.  One bunch of celery makes about 2 cups.  I used a vita-mix and blended it up smooth and then strained through a cheesecloth.

I did the same for the beet juice ( which adds beautiful color!)  Beet powder is also an option if it is available to you.

place the rolled meat in a large jar with garlic cloves

Place the rolled meat and any remaining salt, spices, and whole garlic in a glass or ceramic vessel that has a lid, lodging it in the bottom where it will stay fully submerged under the brine. (You can also place a weight, a small plate or a small bowl directly on top of the meat if needed).

pour in the celery. juice, beet juice and kraut brine

Pour in the celery juice, sauerkraut brine, and beet juice (for color).  Now it is ready to cure.

Cover and place in the refrigerator for 5-10 days.

Both sauerkraut brine and whey are starter cultures, already active giving your curing a boost.  Either work in this recipe.

let the meat cure int he brine 5-10 days. Unwrap.

Rinse thoroughly after removing from brine.  Your beef is now officially corned!

Rinse the meat and cook in the slow cooker until tender

Cook the Corned beef

Place the Corned Beef in a slow cooker for a few hours, simmer until fork tender.

From here your corned beef is ready to use in a reuben sandwich, soups, stews, and other inspired creations!

It is easily shreddable, or feel free to slice!

How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. #cornbeef #stpatricksday #irishfood

I really love thinking about how back in the day this was just what one did to preserve food – not so much focus on ” good for you” or “bad for you”.  It was all about survival.  Food was pure and the methods simple.

Our ancestors were clever in creating both sustenance and flavor.  There is something very gratifying about learning these ancient ways that are wholesome, full of natural nutrients and delicious in their simplicity.

More Recipes you may like:

Hope you enjoy this naturally-cured homemade Corned Beef Recipe!


clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
How to make your own naturally-cured Corned Beef without nitrates.  It is easier and healthier than you may think! Allow one-week curing time. #cornbeef #stpatricksday #irishfood

Nitrate-Free Corned Beef

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Tonia Schemmel | Feasting at Home
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: preserved, beef recipe,
  • Method: cured
  • Cuisine: Irish
  • Diet: Gluten Free


How to make your own homemade Corned Beef with natural nitrates from celery juice.   It is easier and healthier than you may think!  Allow one-week curing time.


Units Scale

Curing the Beef (Allow 5 – 10 days) 

  • 23 pound thawed beef brisket (grass-fed preferred)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/21 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon whole cardamom pods
  • 2/3 cup sea or mineral salt
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 2 cups celery juice (1 bunch celery, see notes)
  • 2 cups sauerkraut brine or whey (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup beet juice or 1 tablespoon beetroot powder, optional (for color)
  • 5 cloves of garlic

Cook the Corned Beef

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 onion,
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 celery
  • 1 carrot


Brining the meat

  1. Rinse brisket and pat dry.
  2. Break up cinnamon stick and bay leaves, lightly smash cardamom.  Mix together with mustard seeds, coriander, cloves, red pepper flakes, salt, and sugar.
  3. Rinse and dry brisket.  Throughly massage spice/salt mixture into meat.  Roll up tying with string to secure. Place rolled up brisket in jar or glass container.
  4. Pour sauerkraut brine (or whey-see notes), celery juice, and beet juice (if using) over the meat.  Make sure meat is fully submerged.  Though in the garlic cloves.  Seal with lid.
  5. Place jar in the refrigerator for 5-10 days.
  6. Unwrap, rinse and cook.

Cooking the Corned Beef

  1. Prepare onion, celery, carrot and garlic cutting in large chunks.  Put in the bottom of a crockpot (or dutch oven)
  2. Place meat on top of the vegetables along with the water.
  3. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, until the meat, is tender and easily forks apart.


  1. You can use sauerkraut brine that you make from your own batch of cultured cabbage or strain store-bought sauerkraut.  1-quart yields about 1 1/2 cups.  This amount will vary depending on the brands.
  2. Celery juice can be made with a juicer, or blended in a blender with 2 cups water (then strained) or feel free to use store-bought celery juice.
  3. If you choose to use whey- you can strain full-fat yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl left out at room temperature for about an hour.  1 quart usually yields a bit more then 1 cup of whey.
  4. Adding vegetables to the crockpot when cooking the meat is totally optional, it just adds more savory flavor.  Alternatively cooking in just water will work just fine.


  • Serving Size: 4 ounces
  • Calories: 235
  • Sugar: 6.3 g
  • Sodium: 966.5 mg
  • Fat: 9.3 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.9 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 25.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 70.3 mg


Share this with the world!

to get recipes via email

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


  1. Is the sugar necessary? I can’t have sugar but maybe can I replace with another sweetener like date sugar? If not can I just take it out?

  2. Hi, your recipe looks delicious. However, my celery turned to puréed celery rather than celery juice. And my whey definitely had some milk solids coming through. So, I’m wondering, is this mixture really going to last 10 days? Should I replace it?

  3. We’re trying this recipe because of the difficulty in getting “curing salt” where we live. With some minor local taste variations in the ingredients, its been soaking for a week now. Cook it up tomorrow and we’ll see how it tastes! Thank you for making an alternative method available, i was begining to stress over the lack of traditional curing ingredients since i’d already purchased the meat. 😉

  4. Your post for corned beef incorrectly referred salt as sodium nitrate when in fact it is “sodium chloride” which are different compounds.
    To my understanding, some salts MAY have nitrates naturally. Curing salt has nitrate added. Where I live, I am able to buy natural sea salt imported from France, with NO additives. It’s a bit courser and has a tendency to clump but has a superior flavor over the “free-flowing” commercial boxed salts.
    Please don’t give good salt a bad name.

    1. Thanks for the clarification Marilyn! It is good to know where your salt comes from and the purity of it. I think some people are not aware of the additives in many salts and all the micro plastics now found in most sea salt.

  5. So… delighted to find this recipe, I brined my brisket today – it was possibly a bit under 2lb once trimmed and I’ve done it in a ziplock bag so it didn’t need 4 cups brining mix – I did 1 – 1.5 cups each of whey and celery blended with 2 baby pickled beets, so 2-3 cups total. I am worried now that i will have over salted the brine because i didn’t reduce the other ingreds and it’s a small brisket.
    Should i worry? Would soaking before cooking help (after rinsing off the rub)? Would a shorter brining period be better? ( I was gonna do a 10 day brine) I’m probably overthinking but would welcome advice.
    Thank you!

    1. So you used the full salt measurement but less liquid? It might be a little salty. The longer brine time will actually dissipate the salt as it ferments. I think 10 days is fine! Yes before cooking, soaking in clear water for an hour or so, changing the water after 30 minutes will help.

      1. Thank you for your reply Tonia – yes I made the rub and covered the meat with it before doing the brine and just hadn’t thought ahead properly. Hopefully I’ve not ruined it! I shall try the rinse/soak and cross my fingers! Thanks again.

          1. Hi again Tonya – Just wanted to give a quick update after your advice:- I soaked in 2 changes of water as suggested with an extra one for luck🍀and we ate with colcannon mash. It was really good! Not overly salty at all. Thank you again 😊

          2. Oh cool Julia! So happy to hear it all worked out! Thanks for circling back and letting us know.

  6. The best corn beef that I’ve ever had I used low sodium salt and I accidentally did 2 cups of beet juice and I let it marinate in the refrigerator for four days turned out excellent

  7. Just put in the fridge but we ended up needing a lot more liquid to fully cover the brisket. Do we need to add more salt to prevent botulism? Or is it okay the way it is. We probably added another 4-5 cups of water/celery water

    1. Hi Jennifer, Yes I think adding another tablespoon of mineral or pickling salt would be a good idea. Fermenting brine is generally 1 tablespoon to a quart of water. Let us know how it works out!

    1. Hi John, You should be able to do that just fine with the same instructions. Does that answer your question?

  8. Is the kraut brine just salt water? When I make sauerkraut I usually don’t have to add brine since the cabbage ends up making its own.

  9. FYI Whether nitrites are added from a pure salt or created in situ by bacteria acting on the natural nitrates in celery juice makes little difference. Nitrites are nitrites and they work by inhibiting dangerous disease-causing bacteria, but in high concentrations will react with amines (in meat) to produce reactive nitrosamines (and these are nasty chemicals you do not want to eat).

    The nitrates from celery juice don’t actually cure the meat–it’s the nitrites produced by the action of good bacteria (from the sauekraut brine) on the nitrates that supports meat curing and inhibiting Botulinum clostridium. The trick tho is that unlike when you specifically add nitrites (salt peter) from a pure source in a safe and pre-determined quantity, it is hard to quantitate what you produce through bacterial action on the nitrates in celery juice. So this is in fact less controlled and potentially riskier since the bacterial activity of the sauerkraut will vary from batch to batch depending on its age and composition. No judgement here, just a heads up.

    An informative and lay person friendly commentary on nitrites and their risks (from the office of science integrity at McGill University)

  10. Hi Sylvia,
    I have enjoyed making quite a few of your recipes, but this is the first time commenting. The flavor of the brisket was wonderful. Loved the spice
    mixture. Never liked corned beef that much until now. I had some Just Beet juice from Whole Foods that I used and it gave it a nice color and sweetness, too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes!

  11. Hi Sylvia
    I have so much whey from making yogurt. Do I have to use celery juice/water or can I rely on whey to do the curing.
    Thanks for the wonderful recipes.

    1. Hi Laura, I have always used celery, my understanding is that it is important for the natural nitrates it contains. But you can use the whey instead of sauerkraut brine.🙂

  12. Could this also be cooked in my instant pot after it’s brined? if so, how long? 1 hour? (3.5lb brisket)

  13. When cooking the beef is it still tied up, or untied?
    Is chicken stock ok to use with the water – perhaps half of each?

    1. Untie the meat and rinse really well with running water. I suggest cooking in water as it mellows the salt that the meat was cured in and the meat is so flavorful that it doesn’t need much more.

  14. I have a 7 pound brisket and I don’t have a large enough glass or ceramic container, would a stainless steel pot be okay to use?

    1. I’m pretty sure you need to stick with either a glass or a ceramic container, or perhaps a large freezer style zip-lock bag.

  15. Awesome, thanks! Nitrate is one of my Crohn’s triggers, well man-made nitrates that is. I tolerate celery nitrates fine 😋


Our Latest Recipes