Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.
This old-fashioned Dutch oven beef stew is full of tender chunks of meat, fresh vegetables, and diced potatoes in a thick, rich gravy. The flavorful, satisfying, and traditional one-pot meal is the best beef stew recipe that you will ever taste!
Table of Contents
How to Make Beef Stew | 1-Minute Video
On a chilly day, nothing beats a cozy pot of Dutch oven beef stew. It’s total comfort food! The aroma that wafts through your home as it cooks all afternoon is like a warm hug from your grandmother!
This melt-in-your-mouth easy dinner recipe gives you succulent beef and flavorful vegetables that have soaked up all of the juices from the meat. It’s truly the perfect supper to serve on a quiet Sunday evening. Just add some biscuits, cornbread, or crusty bread on the side to soak up all of that extra broth!
What is Dutch Oven Beef Stew?
A classic beef stew is a simple combination of chunks of beef, vegetables and often potatoes that are braised in liquid and served in their thick, rich gravy. There are endless combinations of meat and vegetables, some of which are slow-cooked in the oven, others that are made in a Crock Pot, and old-fashioned recipes like this that simmer on the stovetop in a big cast iron Dutch oven.
Why use a Dutch Oven for Beef Stew?
Many folks prefer the convenience of a Crock Pot slow cooker or even an Instant Pot, but I find that the Dutch oven yields the best tasting beef stew every time. Dutch ovens are made from cast iron, so they retain and evenly distribute the heat. Plus, the tight-fitting lid traps the moisture inside the pot — resulting in the juiciest stew and meat that you will ever taste.
Instead of dried-out beef, mushy vegetables, and gummy potatoes that have been cooked to death in a slow cooker, you can easily control the cooking time of all of the individual ingredients when using a Dutch oven. Plus, you get all of those great browned bits at the bottom of the pot after browning the meat and bacon, which add tons of flavor to the stew.
The Best Dutch Oven to Use for Beef Stew
We rounded up the best Dutch ovens you can buy, including 3 (yes, 3!) that I personally own and love! It was difficult to choose my favorite, but the Staub Cast Iron Dutch Oven (5.5 quarts) earned the top spot. You can buy it on Amazon for $311.50 or at Walmart for $359.95. That said, the Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven (shown here) was a close second. I love that it’s a little bit larger (7.5 quarts), and is available on Amazon for $459.95.
The Secret to Good Stew
The secret to good stew lies in the layering of flavors and high-quality ingredients. You build these layers of flavor in the Dutch oven as you saute the bacon, sear the beef, deglaze the pot, and simmer the dish low and slow. Cooking the stew long enough is also an important tip, since this process breaks down the tough connective tissue and fiber in the meat, yielding a flavorful, tender, and juicy beef stew.
What to Add to Beef Stew to Make it Taste Better
We’ve tried plenty of mediocre stew recipes over the years, but there are a few ingredients in this dish that set it apart from the rest.
- First, the bacon. This provides a rich, smoky flavor in the background, and creates drippings that help to flavor and brown the beef.
- Next, the red wine. Again, it adds depth of flavor to the broth that pairs beautifully with the red meat.
- Finally, the vinegar. All of the best recipes include a bit of acid to really brighten up the dish, and this stew is no exception!
How to Make Beef Stew Tender
Patience! The key to tender beef in your stew is just cooking it long enough. You can’t rush a pot of beef stew, which does best when given the opportunity to simmer low-and-slow on your stovetop. This low, slow cooking process gradually breaks down the tough connective tissues and fibers in the meat, yielding a perfectly tender pot of stew!
Do you boil beef before making stew?
No, you will sear the meat to create a crust on the outside, to add flavor to the pot, and to lock in the juices. You do not boil the beef before preparing the meal.
This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a traditional beef stew recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Butter: to brown and flavor the bacon and beef.
- Bacon: gives the stew a smoky flavor and creates drippings for browning the beef.
- All-purpose flour: to coat the beef, which helps it develop a brown crust on the outside and thickens the stew slightly.
- Beef stew meat: or substitute with diced beef chuck roast.
- Dry red wine: adds bold depth of flavor to the stew and helps to deglaze the pot. You can substitute with additional beef broth, but it won’t be quite the same.
- Red wine vinegar: a touch acidity brightens up the dish.
- Tomato paste: adds flavor and thickens the stew.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper: enhance the other flavors.
- Garlic, thyme, bay leaf, paprika: add savory flavor. You’ll need about 3 garlic cloves to equal 1 tablespoon minced.
- Beef broth or stock: the liquid base of the stew.
- Onions, carrots, russet potatoes, and mushrooms: additional veggies that add flavor and texture to the meal.
The Best Meat for Beef Stew
I purchase “stew beef” or “stew meat” that has already been cut into cubes for a shortcut. Stew meat is made from cuts of beef with lots of tough connective tissue, typically chuck (which comes from the front shoulder) or round (the rear muscle).
When you slowly braise these tough cuts in a liquid, the connective tissue breaks down and becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender. That’s why it’s traditionally simmered in stock and turned into beef stew or pot roast. If you can’t find this prepared stew beef, you can purchase a whole chuck and dice it into 1-2 inch cubes at home.
How to Make Beef Stew in a Dutch Oven
This simple beef stew develops so much flavor as you layer ingredients and slowly simmer the pot on the stove. It’s not difficult, but it does require more than 2 hours from start to finish — making it ideal for a quiet Sunday supper. The detailed instructions are included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post, but here’s the quick version:
- Sauté bacon in butter.
- Toss the chunks of beef with seasoned flour to coat.
- Sear beef in the butter and bacon fat.
- Deglaze the pot with red wine and vinegar, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the bacon and beef back to the pot, along with the tomato paste, garlic, seasoning, and beef broth.
- Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender — about 1 ½ hours.
- Add the onions and carrots; simmer (covered) for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the potatoes and mushrooms, and simmer for about 30 more minutes (until the potatoes are fork-tender).
- Discard the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper (if necessary), then ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve!
What to Serve with Beef Stew
Since it’s full of meat, veggies, and potatoes, this is a great one-pot meal! That said, if you’d like to round out the supper with a couple of other options, here are a few easy sides to serve with your beef stew:
- House Salad with Candied Pecans, Green Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, a Classic Caesar Salad, Mixed Greens with Dijon Vinaigrette, or a Wedge Salad
- Dutch Oven Bread, No-Knead Cranberry Walnut Bread, French Baguette, Garlic Bread, Breadsticks, Homemade Crescent Rolls, or Soft Dinner Rolls
- Southern Cornbread, Pumpkin Cornbread, Broccoli Cornbread, Cake Mix Cornbread, Jiffy Cornbread with Creamed Corn, Skillet Cornbread, Sweet Cornbread, Blueberry Corn Muffins, Old-Fashioned Corn Sticks, Honey Cornbread or Bakery-Style Corn Muffins
- Buttermilk Biscuits, Cheddar Biscuits with Chives and Bacon, Drop Biscuits, Flaky Biscuits, Sour Cream Muffins, 7UP Biscuits, 4-Ingredient Butter Swim Biscuits, or Cheese Biscuits
- Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Muffins
- Cranberry Orange Bread or One-Bowl Cranberry Orange Muffins
- Cheddar Chive Beer Bread (No Yeast, No Knead) or Honey Beer Bread
Preparation and Storage
Stored properly in an airtight container, the leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. It’s delicious the next day!
The stew will also keep in the freezer in freezer safe containers or large Ziploc bags for up to 3 months. It’s important to note, however, that the texture of the potatoes and vegetables will likely be mushier when thawed.
How to Reheat
When chilled, the fat from the stew will rise to the top and harden. You can use a spoon to scrape off most of the fat, or you can simply leave it in the pot and stir it back into the dish when it heats up.
Place the cooked stew in a saucepan or Dutch oven on the stovetop. Cover and warm over low heat, just until the stew reaches the desired temperature. If it seems dry, you can add more beef broth to thin, as necessary. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
- The wine gives the dish so much rich flavor; however, if you want to prepare an alcohol-free recipe, simply replace the wine with an extra cup of beef broth.
- If you can’t find diced stew meat at your store, purchase 2 lbs. of chuck and dice it into cubes at home.
- Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce for savory, umami flavor that pairs really well with beef.
- Balsamic vinegar is a nice alternative to the red wine vinegar.
- I typically use sweet onion, but yellow onion or white onion will also work here.
- If using yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes instead of the russets, you do not need to peel them.
- The mushrooms are one of our favorite ingredients in this stew; however, if you don’t care for mushrooms, you can substitute with frozen peas. Celery is also a nice addition to stew. Add it at the same time that you add the carrots and onions.
- In lieu of butter, brown the bacon and beef in olive oil or vegetable oil.
Tips for the Best Dutch Oven Beef Stew Recipe
- Dredge the meat in the seasoned flour. This helps the beef caramelize and brown in the pan, while the flour also thickens the gravy in the stew.
- Brown the meat. This is an extra step, but it’s worth the effort. The caramelized surface gives the beef extra flavor, while the browned bits and drippings in the pot add even more flavor to the stew.
- To make the beef stew tender, it’s important to cook the beef long enough to break down the tough connective tissue and fibers. If your meat is still tough after about 90 minutes, simmer the stew a little bit longer before adding the vegetables and potatoes.
- Use a high-quality dry red wine. Good options include pinot noir, merlot, or cabernet.
- While the tomato paste isn’t a mandatory ingredient, it adds rich tomato flavor to the stew. I highly recommend including this extra layer of complexity to the dish!
- Keep the Dutch oven covered while simmering in order to trap moisture in the stew. You should end up with the perfect ratio of thick, rich gravy by the end. If you find that the stew is too thick at the end of cooking, just add an extra splash of broth until it reaches the desired consistency.
Dutch Oven Beef Stew
- Dutch oven
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 lbs. beef stewing meat, cut into cubes
- 1 cup dry red wine (such as pinot noir, or other red wine of choice)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or a 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 ½ cups beef broth, plus more as needed to thin the stew at the end
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped (or about 5-6 medium carrots)
- 3 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ¾-inch cubes
- 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
- Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley or thyme
- In a large Dutch oven, sauté bacon in butter over medium heat until crisp and browned (about 3-5 minutes). Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Pat beef dry with a paper towel.
- Place the flour in a bowl or large Ziploc bag and season with about ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Add the beef and toss to coat well. Remove coated beef from the bowl and discard any extra flour.
- Sear beef in the butter/bacon fat until browned on all sides (about 5 minutes). Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to work in batches so that the beef can brown without overcrowding.
- Remove the beef from the pot and add the wine and vinegar. Cook over medium-high heat, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits.
- Add bacon and beef back to the pot, along with the tomato paste, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, remaining ½ teaspoon of pepper, thyme, bay leaf, paprika and broth. Stir really well to completely combine. Bring to a boil; then reduce to a low simmer.
- Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours. Add the onions and carrots and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and mushrooms and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Add more broth at the end to thin the stew, if necessary.
- Discard bay leaf; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnish with chopped fresh herbs (if desired), and serve.
This recipe was originally published in January, 2021. The photos were updated in February, 2023.