mocha rubbed slow cooker shredded beef on baking dish

I was so nervous to write this post, but I’ve got to come clean: I quit Whole30 this week. Here’s the thing, friends: That program is HARD. And very restrictive.

And about four days into it, I found myself at a dinner party with no approved options except for dates and lettuce, and that was unacceptable when there was a delicious homemade gumbo sitting in front of me with cream in it that was wholesome and obviously more satisfying of a meal. So I ate it, and I vowed to be good for the rest of the month.

But then, a couple of days later, I found myself at an event where Chipotle was catered, and chicken was one of the protein options (the other was sofritas, a.k.a. tofu, which I knew was a no-go). So I ate the chicken, piled on a high heap of lettuce, salsa and guacamole, thinking I was being so good at this Whole30 thing. Then I find out later that day that, in fact, the chicken at Chipotle is not Whole30 compliant. Um, OK.

Add to that the fact that I was hungry all.the.time, I had this constant headache that wouldn’t quit, I knew there were more instances coming down the pipeline this month where I’d be faced with the possibility of needing to eat just lettuce for dinner to stay true to the plan, and it was all too much. The hangry-ness was the hardest part. I can’t handle that, you guys.

So by Tuesday night, two weeks into the program, my husband and I decided to quit. And I drank a glass of red wine to celebrate.

Mocha Rubbed Slow Cooker Shredded Beef -- Espresso and cocoa come together in this delicious, tender crockpot pot roast. @girlversusdough

mocha rub in a bowl

At first, I really felt like a failure with this experience — really, I can’t even handle 30 days of no dairy, no grains, no sugar, no legumes, no alcohol? Clearly the headaches and hunger were just my body adjusting to the new diet, right? But if I’m being completely honest with myself, the answers to both are no. No, I really can’t handle such a restrictive diet, done by choice. No, I really don’t think the hunger was part of the adjustment period. I think it was just my body telling me something is up, that maybe you need to just eat some carbs and cheese already.

Granted, there are so many positive aspects of the program that I am taking with me as I move on from this situation. I know I can survive without eating dessert every night after dinner. I know I can handle not eating toast every day. But at the same time, eating a slice of whole grain bread in the morning isn’t unhealthy. What’s unhealthy for me is obsessing over every. single. food item that lands on my plate. I think about food a lot already for obvious reasons, but this was overwhelming. And I didn’t like how it made me think or feel about myself.

So. We tried, and we failed, and we are moving on. And here’s the funny thing — a lot of our meals this week are still Whole30 compliant, just by default. I had this chicken sausage/tomato/yam/arugula bowl for dinner tonight that was super tasty, and we just recently polished off the leftovers of this incredible mocha rubbed slow cooker shredded beef. It just goes to show that all types of foods — with or without the restrictions — can be delicious.

fork in mocha rubbed slow cooker shredded beef

So, more about this mocha rubbed slow cooker shredded beef situation. You all know how much I love my slow cooker meals, and I know you do, too. And while pot roast is a common meal to make in the crockpot, what isn’t so common is rubbing it with an espresso-cocoa rub. But in this case, that’s what you do, and it couldn’t be easier. Just mix together a simple rub of pantry-staple ingredients, rub them all over the roast, place the roast in the slow cooker with a broth mix of espresso, onions and balsamic vinegar, and let it all cook together low and slow. In a few hours, you’ll have a tender, juicy, flavorful roast to serve on its own, on a sandwich, in a baked potato, even on a salad. It’s so good, you won’t even notice that it happens to be dairy/gluten/sugar/legume/grain/alcohol-free.

mocha rubbed slow cooker shredded beef on baking dish

Though let’s be honest, this does pair really well with a good bottle of red.

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mocha rubbed slow cooker shredded beef

Mocha Rubbed Slow Cooker Shredded Beef

  • Author: Adapted from Stupid Easy Paleo
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 4 hours 5 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hours 25 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x



For the mocha rub:

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 packet (.09 oz) espresso powder (or 2 tablespoons finely ground coffee beans)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the beef:

  • 1 packet (.09 oz) espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup hot water, or 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 dried figs or pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lb chuck tender roast
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for topping (optional)


  1. In small bowl, whisk mocha rub ingredients until well combined. Set aside.
  2. In food processor or blender, puree espresso-water mixture, beef broth, chopped onion, chopped figs and balsamic vinegar until mixture is mostly smooth. Pour into 6-quart slow cooker. Place roast in center of slow cooker. Rub mocha rub generously and evenly all over roast (you may have some rub left over).
  3. Cover and cook roast on low 4 to 6 hours until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 160. Transfer roast to cutting board. Use two forks to shred beef. Transfer to serving plate.
  4. Pour liquid left in slow cooker into medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly. Pour over shredded beef. Top with chopped parsley just before serving, if desired.

Keywords: Crockpot, Crock Pot