How to Make a Delicious All-Natural Corned Beef

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Homemade Corned Beef Recipe

A Homemade Corned Beef Recipe

Now that it’s March, the warmer weather has me thinking about traditional foods for the season. One of those that we always make in early spring is corned beef and cabbage. You can make your own delicious version to avoid chemicals and preservatives found in the store-bought corned beef.

What is Corned Beef?

There is no actual corn in corned beef. The name comes from Great Britain and means “small chunks,” referring to the salt pieces that were used in the curing process. You can certainly use rock salt, although I use Himalayan Pink Salt for the flavor and the nutritive value.

Delicious Homemade Corned Beef Recipe

My main secrets to good corned beef are 1) toasting the spices, and 2) using good cuts of meat. I get most all of my beef from a local farm that specializes in hormone free, pasture raised, organic beef.

Spice Mix



  • 1 beef brisket, about 5 pounds

Cooking Instructions

  1. Make the Spice Mix. Toast all the spices (except ginger) in a pan for just a few minutes. Be sure to have your fan on or windows open as the fumes can be quite harsh if over heated. Let cool while you do the next step.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the Brine. Bring to a boil, then simmer until all of the sugar and salt is dissolved. Cool, then refrigerate until very cold.
  3. Place the brisket in a large 9×13 pan, or larger if needed. Use enough brine to fully cover the brisket. This could be the entire gallon, but may be more or less depending on the cut of meat. The meat may want to float. If it does, fill a clean quart jar with water and place on top of the brisket. You may need more than one jar depending on the size of the brisket.
  4. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Turn it over every day to be sure the brine is getting to all sides.
  5. When the brisket is fully cured, no more than 7 days, it’s time to cook it. Rinse off well and place in a stock pot or another large pan. Cover with clear water and 1 tablespoon of the Spice Mix from the recipe. Either simmer OR bake on low (about 300°F) for 2-3 hours, or until cooked through. It should pull apart easily with a fork.

A Few Tips…

The curing salt is not totally necessary as a curing agent since you are cooking the meat, but it does help create that cool pink color. Without it, your meat will be a dull gray. However, you will notice that most pink curing salts contain red dye. If you’d like to skip the curing salt, you can use 1-2 tablespoons of beet root powder to turn the meat a light pink color.

You can use almost any type of sugar. You could also use stevia, since the sweetness is only for flavoring and not actual curing. Again, the meat will be cooked, not open-air cured.

Any type of salt will work. Just be sure to adjust your recipe if using a finely ground salt; use about half as much. You could also omit part of the salt and use soy sauce. Salt is essential to curing, and must be used in some form. If you don’t want as much of a salty taste later, you can change the water partway through the cooking process and eliminate some of the final salt.

Corned beef is really easy! Have you ever made it from scratch?


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon! Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

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  1. Marco says

    I have to make my own corned beef as I can’t eat the commercial ones due to allergies to the spices (black pepper, mustard, coriander, pepper flakes etc)

    So I make a herbed one with different dried herbs and salt etc. it comes out fantastically.

    There are so many variations to this recipe. The important part is the salt part which does the brining.

    I always weigh my salt and water as each type of salt has a different density. Also by weighing the water, I can boil half the water with the salt and herbs, then weigh in the remainder of the water as ice! Makes the whole solution cool down super fast and allows me to get the meat in the fridge brining asap.

  2. Redina Miller says

    As a cancer survivor I avoid nitrates religiously and was enticed by your initial email comment about DIY nitrate free corned beef. But in the recipe you advise us to use “pink curing salt” for a nice pink color. Are you not aware that nitrates are in the curing salt? If you are offering a nitrate free recipe, you should point out that nitrates are in the curing salt and not to use it of you truly want to avoid nitrates.

    • Nikkea says

      Just curious what you mean by nitrates in the curing salt? Pink Himalayan salt has nitrates??? Or in the process there is a chemical reaction that causes nitrates to be formed.

      • Nikkea says

        Sorry I just read the rest of the recipe and saw that it uses NOT only Himalayan but also a “curing salt”. Too bad.

        • Debra Maslowski says

          Hi Redina and Nikkea, I’m all about choices. You can use curing salt if you wish, but for those of you who don’t want to use it, you can add a bit of beetroot powder, as I described above. Curing salt, in this case, is only used to preserve the nice pink color and can be omitted since the meat will be cooked anyway. Hope this clears up any confusion!