Good Food

Secret Ingredient Pot Roast

secret ingredient pot roast

Secret Ingredient Pot Roast! That’s what the change back to colder weather this week called for. There is absolutely nothing like a closed-up house full of the smell of this dish cooking. This dish guarantees your man comes home for supper! And what makes it so special is the secret ingredient I’ve never seen used with pot roast in any other recipe. Let’s make it!

Begin with a 3 pound roast of your choice. Brown on both sides, in 50/50-butter/olive oil, in a 6 quart cast iron dutch oven. I like this enameled one for affordability and style (color options.)

secret ingredient pot roast

Now for the secret ingredient: Pickling Spice. While the roast is browning, prepare 2 teaspoons of pickling spice in a spice bag. I make my own spice bag instead of buying the ready to use – much cheaper. I take two 6″ squares of cheesecloth, layer them, place the spice on top and tie it up with twine. Looks like this:

secret ingredient pot roast

Here’s where you can really ramp up the aroma and flavor: add 5 or 6 whole cloves to the pickling spice. We have a family member who was apparently traumatized by whole cloves as a child and really doesn’t like the smell. (Really?! Cloves smell like Christmas, Scrooge.) So sometimes I leave them out. But not this time!

Now that the roast is browned, remove it and drain the pot of excess oil/butter/fat. Mix liquid ingredients and other spices into the pot and return roast. Submerge the spice ball in the liquid and bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 3 hours.  Remove and discard spice ball. (Farewell, dear friend!) Transfer roast to a platter and let set for 10 minutes. Thicken the cooking liquid with cornstarch and pour it over the roast.

I’ve been making secret ingredient pot roast for 20 years and it never disappoints. You won’t be disappointed either.


1, 3 lb pot roast                                                 2 t. pickling spice

1, 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes                         5-6 whole cloves

¼ cup apple cider vinegar                              ¼ cup water

2 cloves garlic                                                    1 T. cornstarch

1 T. cooking oil & 1 T. butter

In dutch oven, brown roast on both sides in oil & butter over med-high heat.  Drain oil from pot.

Combine undrained tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, and pepper in a bowl.  Pour over meat.

Tie pickling spice & cloves in a 6” square of cheesecloth and add to pot.  Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered 3 hours until meat is tender.

Transfer meat to a platter.  Discard spice bag.  In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch into ¼ c. water.  Gradually stir this into cooking liquid.  Cook & stir until bubbly.  Pour over meat.

spiced beef

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  • A ha – so it’s the spice that make the pot roast! 🙂

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Yup. Shhhhh. 😉

  • Yum! Mine always ends up tough and dry.

  • meganjohnson86

    This looks AMAZING! My family LOVES roast! So I am for sure going to have to try this out! Thanks!

  • I’ve never made pot roast before, but this will definitely be on my menu next week. 🙂

  • The spice ball really give the great flavors and brings everything together. Adding the vinegar helps break down the meat fibers to make it tender.

  • onelazychic

    I would definitely have to give this a try. Looks so yummy that I could almost taste it here.

  • I will have to try this! I’ve never heard of using that spice on a roast before so I’m excited to taste the change in the flavor.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      You’ll be amazed!

  • This looks and sounds so delicious! I would have never thought to use pickling spice!
    xo Jessica

  • This looks delicious! I love a good pot roast

  • Sounds super delicious!

  • Kimberly @ Berly’s Kitchen

    My husband loves pot roast, but he’s never used pickling spice. That would add a totally different flavor dynamic. Definitely going to tell him about this so he can try it. Thanks for sharing your secret. 🙂

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      You’re very welcome. Feel like it’s payback for some great recipes I’ve gotten from your blog. 😉

  • What a yummy idea! I always just use a packet on my roast but I love using fresh ingredients

  • This looks delicious! Although I don’t eat meat, I do enjoy cooking pot roast for the family. 🙂

  • I love making pot roast. I have never tried it with pickling spice. I love spice, I may try this.