There’s nothing like tucking into a cozy, old fashioned beef stew on a chilly weekend. Tender beef, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes in a rich, beefy gravy – a one-pot meal with everyday ingredients. The best.
Grab some crusty bread and dig into this delicious and satisfying comfort food. You can make this recipe on the stovetop, slow cooker, or instant pot.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
Here are several variations and substitutes you can use.
- Classic stew vegetables are potatoes, carrots, onions and celery.
- Other good options are mushrooms, green beans, turnips, parsnips, red bell peppers.
- You can also add frozen corn niblets or peas in the last few minutes.
Other cooking methods
See instructions in recipe notes for both alternatives.
- Slow Cooker: this will take 6-8 hours.
- Instant Pot: this will take about 1 hour.
- I would say a bay leaf and thyme are musts, but there are a few other things you can consider.
- A dash of Worcestershire.
- Bacon, fried before you add the stew meat.
- Lemon zest stirred in just before serving.
- A pinch of allspice.
- A splash of fish sauce for umami.
Step by step instructions
How do you get a deep rich flavorful stew?
You build the flavors.
- Browning the meat is important. It flavors the meat and leaves those great meaty browned bits at the bottom of the pan that get incorporated into the gravy.
- Red wine, although not essential, adds a deeper flavor to the stew. Almost all the alcohol evaporates if you’re worried about the kids.
- Onions and seasonings (bay leaves, thyme, a splash of Worcestershire sauce) and hearty vegetables also add great flavor. One reader suggested caramelized onions for even deeper flavors. Sounds good.
- Finally, a great beef stock or beef broth (or combination of beef and chicken broth) along with tomato paste are key for a rich sauce.
Tips for the best beef stew recipe
- Dust the beef stew meat with flour. This helps absorb moisture and brown the meat better for more flavor.
- Add the red wine for extra flavor if you can. The alcohol evaporates and is miniscule in the stew.
- Be patient. This is not a quick recipe. You need time to develop the flavors and tenderize the beef and vegetables.
- Use a cornstarch slurry to thicken the gravy to your liking.
Most grocery stores call it stew meat. The most common type is chunks of beef from a chuck roast. Regardless, the meat is a tougher cut that requires long braising time to become tender.
Yukon gold, baby potatoes or fingerling potatoes are best. There is no need to peel the potatoes unless you want to. They all have thin skins. Russets tend to fall apart.
No. Pearl onions are classic in a old-fashioned beef stew, but yellow or sweet onions are fine too. The nice thing about pearl onions if you can find them in the frozen section is that they are already peeled and small, so you can just drop them in, skipping the sauté part.
- Buy stew meat already cut into cubes
- Use frozen peeled onions (already peeled) and skip the onion sauté step.
- Cook the beef stew in an instant pot – see instructions in the recipe card.
- The stew is even better the next day or the next. Store it in an airtight container or ziploc bags in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
- To freeze: Cool the stew, then transfer it to airtight containers or sealable freezer bags in portions for up to 4 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and heat up on stove top or in microwave.
More old-fashioned comfort food recipes
- Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie
- Meatball Stew
- Healthy Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy
- Chicken Meatloaf Recipe with Vegetables
- Spinach Mac and Cheese
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Old Fashioned Beef Stew Recipe
- 2 pounds stew meat cubes or beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm cubes (or a bit bigger)
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided for pan frying 2 batches of meat and onions
- salt and pepper for sprinkling on meat
- 2 cups chopped onions Note 1 about 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
Liquids and seasonings
- 1 cup red wine omit if needed
- 4 cups beef stock or broth I use half chicken broth, half beef broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste I add a pinch of sugar too
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more if broth is low sodium)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce optional
Vegetables, Note 2
- 1 pound potatoes, Note 3
- 3 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces
- 2 large celery ribs, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces
To thicken sauce and finish dish
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water called a slurry
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped optional
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (garnish)
- PREPARE STEW MEAT: Sprinkle meat lightly with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on flour and toss to coat evenly.
- SAUTE BEEF THEN ONIONS: You will need to sauté meat in two batches as you don't want to overcrowd the pan or the meat won't brown properly. Using a large pot or large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium-high heat. Add half of beef. Let it pan fry for 3 minutes until first side is brown. Flip and brown the other side. Set aside in a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef. Add a bit more oil if needed. Add onions to pot, sauté for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in garlic for 30 seconds.
- ADD WINE, THEN SEASONINGS AND BROTH THEN SIMMER: Add wine and let it almost evaporate completely, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add meat, broth, tomato paste, seasonings. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low (e.g. 3/10). Cover and cook for 1 hour (or 90 minutes if beef chunks are larger).
- ADD VEGETABLES AND SIMMER: Skim of any grease from top of stew. Add potatoes, carrots, celery. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low heat again. Cover partially and cook at a slow simmer for another 1 hour.
- THICKEN GRAVY AND FINISH: When vegetables are tender, add the corn starch slurry to thicken gravy. You can add half to start, wait a couple of minutes, then add the rest if you like the gravy thicker. It will also thicken on standing or in the fridge. Add spinach (if using). Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle on parsley and serve with crusty bread, biscuits or a salad.
- Pearl onions – you can use frozen pearl onions (about 225 grams/half pound) instead of a chopped regular onion. These are NOT the same as cocktail onions in a jar which are brined or pickled. Just drop them in with the other veggies and skip the sauté step.
- Other vegetables to add or substitute: mushrooms, green beans, turnips, parsnips, red bell peppers. You can also add frozen corn niblets or peas in the last few minutes of cooking.
- Potatoes– Yukon gold, baby potatoes (yellow or red) or fingerlings are best for this recipe. 1 pound/450 grams = approximately 3 yellow potatoes, 12-14 baby potatoes or 7-8 fingerling potatoes. Cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces (2.5-3.7 cm)
- Variations for seasonings and flavor: Add:
- a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
- bacon – fry before you add stew meat (skip the oil).
- lemon zest stirred in just before serving.
- a pinch of allspice.
- a splash of fish sauce for umami.
- Instant Pot version: Turn on Sauté function. Add 1 tbsp oil. Brown half of meat then set aside. Add 1 tbsp oil, then brown rest of meat. Set aside. Sauté onions until translucent and garlic for 30 seconds. Add wine and let it evaporate. Turn OFF. Set PRESSURE on high for 30 minutes. Add all other ingredients except spinach, cornstarch and parsley. Place on lid and turn to SEALING. Instant pot will take 10-15 minutes to come to pressure then it will start the count down. When Instant pot beeps, it’s done. Do a natural release for 10 minutes, then turn to VENTING and do quick release. When button on lid drops, open lid. Turn on SAUTE function. Stir in cornstarch slurry to get desired thickness of sauce. Add spinach if using until it wilts (1 minute). Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle on parsley. Serve.
- Slow cooker version: Sauté beef cubes in a separate large skillet in two batches on medium-high heat. Set aside. Add a bit more oil and sauté onions until translucent, then garlic for 3O seconds. Add wine and let it evaporate, scraping up browned bit at bottom of the pan. Transfer meat and onions to slow cooker. Add all other ingredients except parsley, cornstarch and spinach. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add cornstarch slurry, spinach (if using) and cook for another 30 minutes to thicken sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle on parsley and serve.
- Make ahead:
- The stew makes delicious leftovers the next day or the next. Store it in an airtight container or ziploc bags in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
- To freeze: Cool the stew, then transfer to airtight containers or sealable freezer bags in portions for up to 4 months. Defrost in fridge overnight and heat up on stove top or in microwave.