I think everyone loves a hearty roast beef dinner, and this recipe for slow-cooker short ribs in monkey gland sauce is a winner! A slow-cooker is ideal for cooking this cut of meat as the long, slow cooking time allows the meat to tenderise to fall-off-the-bone succulence, while the tasty cooking sauce penetrates the meat adding a deliciously different flavour!
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What is monkey gland sauce?
Let me start off by saying that contrary to what the name implies, this sauce is definitely not made from monkeys. Instead, it is a tangy, slightly sweet, sauce with a hint of umami, made from simple pantry staples. The flavour is similar to that of a barbeque sauce, but in my opinion, tastes even better.
Monkey gland sauce is popular in South Africa, and if you have ever been there you will probably have either noticed bottles of the sauce on supermarket shelves, or seen a recipe for monkey gland steak on a restaurant menu.
The origins of the sauce are shrouded in the mists of time, but from what I have read, it seems to have originated about 100 years ago.
It appears that a French doctor with Russian origins, Dr Abrahamovitch Voronoff, was conducting medical experiments into male impotence. He mistakenly thought that transplanting monkey glands into humans would increase virility. His early experiments (which were not surprisingly later discredited), were well-received in the 1920s and he became rather famous. So famous in fact that the chefs at the Savoy hotel renamed his favourite steak to ‘monkey gland steak’ in his honour.
Another story is that the chefs at the upmarket Carlton Hotel in the centre of Johannesburg became upset with patrons covering their finely cooked steaks with tomato ketchup and various other condiments so they devised a sauce to serve with the steaks. They made the sauce with a concoction of tomato sauce, chutney, Worcestershire sauce, onions and spices and named it monkey gland sauce, presumably after the sauce made for Dr Voronoff.
You can buy authentic South African Steers monkey gland sauce on Amazon. However, it is very simple to make your own monkey gland sauce at home, by using just a few pantry staples.
You can use the sauce as a dipping sauce for various finger foods such as fried onion rings, french fries or chicken drumsticks. You can also pour it over steaks or grilled chicken. I like to use a less condensed version as a cooking sauce to make these slow-cooker short ribs.
Here’s how to make it.
What you will need
For blending the gravy you will need a stick blender. This is the one I have, and it’s great because you can use it for chopping vegetables too (especially onions that make your eyes water!)
This recipe will serve 2 people, but you can easily scale it up by adding extra meat.
The gravy makes too much for 2 people, but you can freeze any leftover gravy and use it to add to other stews and casseroles.
**You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making slow-cooker beef ribs in monkey gland sauce on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
Beef short ribs – this cut of meat has a large flat bone running through it so you will need quite a large portion per person (around 350 grams or 12 ounces). If you find you’ve bought too much, don’t worry. Cold leftover short rib makes delicious sandwiches.
Onions – these should be chopped into approximately 1 cm (or half an inch) pieces.
Garlic – you can use freshly minced garlic or for convenience, use ready-minced garlic from a jar.
Passata – this is tomatoes that have been blended and the skin and seeds removed. You can buy it in cartons (as pictured) or in bottles. Make sure you don’t get passata that has had herbs added to it – the flavour of the sauce will be wrong.
Tomato ketchup – yes, I know! But trust me, it works.
Chutney – if you are in South Africa, you will no doubt be using Mrs Balls Chutney (here’s a recipe to make your own). Anywhere else in the world, just use your own favourite fruity chutney. For the record, I used this recipe for homemade green tomato chutney, but you can obviously use store-bought chutney too.
Worcestershire sauce – this adds saltiness and an umami flavour.
Brown sugar – for a little sweetness.
Tabasco sauce – for heat.
Sunflower oil (not pictured) – for browning the meat and onions.
I haven’t included salt in the picture because this is to your own taste. I don’t add salt to the sauce ingredients, but I do like to rub half a teaspoon of salt onto the meat as it browns.
Cornflour or cornstarch (not pictured) – this is optional, but I’ve listed it in case you need to thicken your gravy.
You will also need a cup of water or you will find the flavour of the sauce is too strong.
What to do
In a nutshell, these are the steps:
- Brown the meat
- Soften the onions
- Tip everything into a slow-cooker and leave it alone for a few hours.
If you are using a Ninja multi-cooker you can brown the meat using the saute function. If you don’t have a saute function on your slow-cooker you can brown the meat and onions in a frying pan before adding them to the slow-cooker.
Let me show you.
Sprinkle the ribs with a little salt and brown them in sunflower oil on all sides. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
Add the onions and garlic to the same pan and fry them lightly until they just start to brown and turn translucent. You may need another spoonful of oil.
Place all the ingredients into the slow-cooker (except the meat) and stir to dissolve the sugar. Now add the meat.
Select the slow-cooker function on the Ninja. Set the temperature to ‘LO’ and set the time to 8 hours. Put the lid onto the Ninja and ensure the steam valve is set to the ‘VENT’ position. Press ‘Start’.
Once the meat is cooked, remove it to a plate and keep it warm. Use a stick blender to blend the gravy.
The gravy should thicken sufficiently. However, it if is too thin for your liking you can thicken it with a tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. Set the Ninja to the saute function and drizzle the cornflour, a little at a time, into the gravy, stirring continuously, until the desired consistency is reached. You may not need all the cornflour mixture.
How to serve short ribs with monkey gland sauce
I like to serve this dish on a bed of mashed potatoes or rice, with fresh vegetables, and pour the gravy over the top.
You could also serve the short ribs with some crusty bread to mop up the gravy.
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Here are some of my other beef recipes you may enjoy:
- Slow-cooker boeuf bourguignon joint – a joint of beef cooked bourguignon style, with mushrooms and onions in a red wine gravy.
- Slow-cooker Mongolian roast beef – an entire beef joint cooked in the slow-cooker with garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
- Slow-cooker beef topside with horseradish – succulent beef in a horseradish-flavoured mushroom and onion gravy.
- Slow-cooker beef silverside – perfectly cooked silverside with a tasty vegetable gravy.
Slow-cooker short ribs in monkey gland sauce
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 1½ pounds / 700 grams beef short rib on the bone
- 1 large onion peeled and chopped into 1cm pieces
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup / 240 ml passata
- 1 cup water
- 4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tablespoons fruit chutney
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1
- 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce or to your own taste
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- Set the Ninja to the saute function and add the sunflower oil to the inner pot OR heat the oil in a frying pan2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Season the meat lightly with salt and brown on all sides (either in the Ninja or in the frying pan), then remove the meat from the pan and set aside.1½ pounds / 700 grams beef short rib, ½ teaspoon salt
- Add the onions and garlic to the same pan (you may need another tablespoon of oil), and fry them lightly until they start to brown and turn translucent.1 large onion, 2 – 3 cloves garlic
- Add the remaining ingredients to the Ninja (or transfer the onions to a slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients). Stir to dissolve the sugar.1 cup / 240 ml passata, 1 cup water, 4 tablespoons tomato ketchup, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons fruit chutney, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
- Add the browned meat.
- Select the slow cooker function on the Ninja. Set the temperature to 'LO' and set the time to 8 hours. Put the lid onto the Ninja and ensure the steam valve is in the 'VENT' position. Press 'Start' OR cover the slow cooker with a lid and set the temperature to Low. Leave for 8 hours.
- Once the meat has cooked, remove it to a plate and keep it warm. Use a stick blender to blend the gravy.
- Serve the ribs on a bed of mashed potatoes or rice with your choice of fresh vegetables. Smother with the monkey gland gravy.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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