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Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Use your slow cooker to make this incredible Beef Stew full of aromatic rosemary and garlic, fork-tender beef, and colorful vegetables.

The post Slow Cooker Beef Stew appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Whoa. Just, WHOA. I’ve never smelled anything as lovely and drool-inducing as the scent in my house while I cooked this Slow Cooker Beef Stew. The aroma had me checking the clock every 15 minutes to see if it was done yet. I couldn’t wait to lift the lid and take a quick taste. And when I finally did? INCREDIBLE. This is definitely a recipe you want to make before winter is over!

Overhead view of a beef stew in the slow cooker.

Ingredients for Beef Stew

Beef stew, in its most basic form, is really simple. It’s just chunky pieces of beef, vegetables, broth, and some herbs and spices, all cooked down until it forms a delicious cozy gravy. But I took this beef stew up a few notches with some extra special ingredients that add more umami and flavor to the stew gravy. The ingredient list may look long, but I promise it’s worth it. Here’s what you’ll need for the most incredible beef stew ever:

  • Beef Stew Meat – Stew meat, which is usually cubed chuck steak, tends to be a tougher cut, but it softens to an extremely tender texture when cooked low and slow (like in a slow cooker).
  • All-Purpose Flour – Lightly coating the stew meat in flour and then searing it before it goes into the slow cooker increases the Maillard reaction and deepens the flavor. The flour also helps thicken the stew’s gravy.
  • Vegetables – We use a hearty and flavorful mix of carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes to create a naturally flavorful gravy. The vegetables also help thicken the gravy as they break down into the broth.
  • Beef Broth – Broth acts as the base for the gravy and provides a nice moist environment for the meat to cook to tender perfection. Make sure to use a broth with great flavor. We like to use Better Than Bouillon to make our broth.
  • Seasonings – This is where we really take the flavor to the next level. For this recipe, we combined garlic, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, rosemary, and thyme to make an over-the-top good gravy that is full of layered flavor and umami goodness.

Tips for the Best Beef Stew

  • Sear the meat first. Browning the beef gives it an extra deep flavor that can’t be achieved in the moist environment of the slow cooker alone.
  • Add extra umami. Adding ingredients to the broth that contain a lot of umami, like Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, ramps up the flavor in the stew and makes the flavor extra “meaty”.
  • Don’t rush it. Stew meat needs to cook low and slow for a long time in order for the tough connective tissues to break down and become tender. If your stew meat is tough, reduce the heat and cook it a little longer.
  • Don’t skip the veggies. Including a variety of vegetables in your stew not only adds texture and color, but the vegetables add a ton of extra flavor to the gravy, so you’ll get a delicious, multi-dimensional flavor in the final stew.
Overhead view of a bowl of beef stew with a spoon.

How to Thicken Beef Stew

There are multiple ways to thicken a beef stew, but I prefer to allow the stew to thicken naturally as the vegetables cook and begin to break down into the broth. The stew may look a little watery when you first lift the lid, but once you begin to stir the vegetables (especially the potato) will begin to thicken the liquid in the slow cooker.

Alternately, if you prefer a firmer vegetable, you can add them in the last hour of cooking and then use a cornstarch slurry (3 Tbsp cornstarch + 3 Tbsp water) to thicken your stew. Once the cornstarch is mixed into the broth and brought to a boil, it will thicken into a gravy. This method will result in a less flavorful gravy and a glossy appearance.

What Else Can I add?

This slow cooker beef stew is pretty lush as is, but there are always options if you want to add more! Try adding 8 oz. mushrooms with the vegetables in the beginning (sliced in half) for more vegetable goodness. If you have some red wine on hand, deglaze the skillet used to brown the beef with the wine before proceeding with the gravy. Want it to look extra fancy? Sub 8 oz. pearl onions in place of the chopped onion in the recipe below.

What Do you Serve with Beef Stew?

Beef stew is a pretty well-rounded meal on its own, but you’ll want to sop up every drop of that deliciously thick brown gravy. I suggest serving your Slow Cooker Beef Stew with some bread on the side, like my Focaccia Rolls, or over a bowl warm rice or egg noodles.

Side view of beef stew in the slow cooker.
Close up overhead view of beef stew in a bowl.
Print

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Use your slow cooker to make this incredible Beef Stew full of aromatic rosemary and garlic, fork-tender beef, and colorful vegetables.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Total Cost $16.20 recipe / $2.03 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 1.25 cups each
Calories 269kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes $2.40
  • 1 yellow onion $0.37
  • 3 carrots $0.44
  • 4 stalks celery $0.44
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.32
  • 1.5 lbs. beef stew meat $11.24
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour $0.03
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil $0.08
  • 2 cups beef broth $0.27
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard $0.13
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce $0.06
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce $0.06
  • 1.5 tsp brown sugar $0.02
  • 1.5 tsp dried rosemary $0.15
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme $0.15

Instructions

  • Dice the onion and red potatoes. Slice the carrots and celery. Mince the garlic. Place the prepared vegetables in a four or five quart slow cooker.
  • Place the stew meat in a bowl and sprinkle the flour, salt, and pepper over top. Toss the meat until it's evenly coated in flour.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Once very hot, add the cooking oil and swirl to coat the surface of the skillet. Add the stew meat and cook, without stirring, until browned on the bottom. Stir and then allow the beef to brown on a second side. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.
  • Turn the heat under the skillet down to medium-low. Add the broth, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, rosemary, and thyme to the skillet. Stir and cook over medium-low until all the browned bits have dissolved off the bottom of the skillet.
  • Pour the broth over the ingredients in the slow cooker and everything a good stir.
  • Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.
  • After cooking the meat and vegetables should both be tender. Stir the stew well to allow the potatoes to slightly break down and thicken the gravy. Taste the stew and adjust the salt or other seasonings to your liking. Serve hot!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.25cups | Calories: 269kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 8g | Sodium: 591mg | Fiber: 3g

Love Beef Stew? You’ve got to try my Chicken Stew next! 

How to Make Slow Cooker Beef Stew – Step by Step Photos

Vegetables for beef stew on a cutting board.

Prepare the vegetables for the stew first. You’ll need to dice 2 lbs. red potatoes and one yellow onion, slice 4 stalks of celery and 3 carrots, and mince 4 cloves of garlic.

Vegetables in a slow cooker.

Place all of your chopped vegetables in a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker. 

Stew meat in a bowl coated with flour, salt, and pepper.

Place 1.5 lbs. stew meat (beef chuck) in a bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper over the meat. Toss the beef until it’s evenly coated in flour, salt, and pepper.

Browned beef in a skillet.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high. When it’s very hot, add 2 Tbsp cooking oil and swirl to coat the surface of the skillet. Add the stew meat and let it cook until browned on the bottom, then stir and allow it to brown on the second side again. Do not stir often, or the beef will not have a chance to brown. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker.

Ingredients for the gravy added to the skillet.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium-low and add 2 cups beef broth, 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1.5 tsp brown sugar, 1.5 tsp dried rosemary, and 1.5 tsp thyme. Heat and stir the ingredients until all of the browned bits are dissolved off the bottom of the skillet.

Broth being poured over the ingredients in the slow cooker.

Pour the broth over the ingredients in the slow cooker. It’s okay if the broth does not fully cover the ingredients in the slow cooker at this point.

Slow cooker being covered with a lid.

Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Cooked beef stew in the slow cooker.

After four hours on high (or eight hours on low) the stew should look a little like this. The meat and vegetables should both be tender. The gravy may look a little thin at this point, but don’t worry…

Stirred beef stew in the slow cooker.

Give the stew a good stir and the potatoes will break down a bit and thicken the gravy into a nice rich consistency. Depending on the type of broth used, you may want to taste the stew and add salt to your liking (I did not add any).

Close up overhead view of beef stew in a bowl.

Serve the Slow Cooker Beef Stew as is or spooned over a bowl of hot rice or pasta. THIS will keep you warm and full on cold winter days!

The post Slow Cooker Beef Stew appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Slow Cooker Meatball Subs

These Slow Cooker Meatball Subs are extra tender and flavorful thanks to a low and slow simmer in marinara sauce.

The post Slow Cooker Meatball Subs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I think I just fell in love with my slow cooker again. These slow cooker meatball subs are so incredibly tender, flavorful, and just all-around decadent thanks to that low and slow simmer in marinara sauce. It’s magical! And the best part is that this recipe makes a pretty big batch, so you can freeze half for later (use them in subs or on pasta)! Cook once, eat twice. 🙌

Overhead view of slow cooker meatball subs lined up in a row.

Do I Have to Use a Slow Cooker?

You don’t have to use a slow cooker to make these amazing homemade meatball subs, but I’m telling you right now that you want to. That low and slow simmer in the sauce makes the most incredibly tender and flavorful meatballs you’ll ever eat. If you don’t have a slow cooker, follow the cooking instructions for my basic homemade meatballs, then pile them into your buns, top with cheese, and bake till the cheese is melted.

What Kind of Sauce to Use

I tested this recipe with the most basic, inexpensive, generic marinara sauce I could find at the grocery store to make sure they were still totally delicious even if you can’t spring for an expensive sauce. But feel free to use your favorite store-bought or homemade marinara sauce for these meatballs. You’ll need 3 cups of sauce, in total.

Freeze Half for Later!

This recipe makes about 24 hefty meatballs so if you use three meatballs per sub you’ll get 8 sandwiches. If that’s a little too much for your household to eat within a few days, go ahead and freeze half of the meatballs and sauce to use on pasta or more subs later! You can reheat the frozen sauce and meatballs in the microwave or in a saucepot over low heat.

P.S. We reheated the assembled meatball subs from the photos in the air fryer the next day and they were BOMB! We air fried at 350°F for about five minutes for the most delicious leftovers ever.

Side view of a meatball sub on a plate with the baking dish in the background.
Side view of a meatball sub on a plate with the baking dish in the background.

Slow Cooker Meatball Subs

These Slow Cooker Meatball Subs are extra tender and flavorful thanks to a low and slow simmer in marinara sauce.
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American
Total Cost $19.43 recipe / $2.43 each
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 subs
Calories 506kcal
Author Beth – Budget Bytes

Equipment

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs $0.32
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan $0.88
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp pepper $0.02
  • 2 large eggs $0.39
  • 1/4 cup milk $0.05
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage $4.99
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean or higher) $6.99

Subs

  • 8 buns or rolls $3.50
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella $0.62

Instructions

  • Lightly whisk two large eggs in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the Italian sausage and ground beef to a large bowl with the whisked egg, breadcrumb mixture, and milk Use your hands to mix the ingredients together. Avoid overmixing the meat.
  • Divide and shape the meat into 24 meatballs, about 3 Tbps each. The easiest way to do this is to first divide the meat mixture into four equal portions, then divide each of those in half to make eight equal portions. Finally, divide each of the 8 portions of meat into thirds and shape them into balls to make 24 meatballs.
  • Place half of the meatballs in the bottom of a slow cooker in a single layer and cover with half of the marinara sauce. Add the rest of the meatballs then top with the remaining sauce.
  • Cook the meatballs on high for three hours or low for six hours.
  • After cooking, use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meatballs has reached 165°F. Give the meatballs and sauce a good stir to remix the sauce (there will be some fat pooling on the surface).
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the buns on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, then pile three meatballs into each bun. Spoon some of the extra sauce over each one. Top each sub with a little shredded cheese.
  • Bake the meatball subs in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the buns are toasty. Enjoy hot!

Nutrition

Serving: 1sub | Calories: 506kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 31g | Sodium: 943mg | Fiber: 2g
Close up side view of slow cooker meatball subs lined up and garnished with parsley.

How to Make Slow Cooker Meatball Subs – Step by Step Photos

egg and breadcrumb mixture

Lightly whisk two large eggs in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine ½ cup breadcrumbs, ½ cup grated Parmesan, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp Italian seasoning, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Pre-mixing these ingredients helps them incorporate more evenly into the meat without having to overmix the meat.

Meatball ingredients in a bowl

Add the whisked egg, breadcrumb mixture, ¼ cup milk, 1 lb. Italian sausage, and 1 lb. ground beef to a bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together.

Shaped meatballs one held in a hand.

Divide and shape the meat mixture into 24 meatballs. The easiest way to divide the mixture evenly is to first divide it into four equal portions. Divide each of those in half to make eight equal-sized pieces. Finally, dive each of the eight sections into three meatballs.

Sauce being poured over the meatballs in the slow cooker.

Add half of the meatballs to the slow cooker in a single layer, then cover with half of the marinara sauce. Add the rest of the meatballs in a second layer and pour the remaining sauce over top, making sure all the meatballs are covered in sauce.

Lid being placed on the slow cooker.

Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for three hours or low for six hours.

Slow cooked meatballs in the slow cooker.

After cooking, use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meatballs has reached 165°F. You’ll see some fat pooling on the surface, but don’t worry, that deliciousness will be stirred right back into the sauce.

Finished slow cooker meatballs in the slow cooker.

Stir the meatballs in the sauce to make sure everything is evenly combined. These meatballs can now be used in subs or even on a plate of pasta!

Meatballs in subs in a baking dish.

To make the meatball subs, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place your buns on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Fill each bun with three meatballs and spoon some of the sauce over top.

Shredded mozzarella on the meatball subs.

Top each sub with a little shredded mozzarella.

Baked meatball subs in the baking dish.

Bake the meatball subs in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the buns are toasty.

Overhead view of baked meatball subs garnished with parsley.

Enjoy the meatballs hot! I garnished with chopped parsley for some color, but the parsley isn’t needed for flavor. :)

Side view of a meatball sub on a plate with the baking dish in the back.

TRY THESE OTHER MEATBALL RECIPES:

The post Slow Cooker Meatball Subs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew

Y’all. I am SO ready for sweater weather and cozy slow cooker stews! To kick the season off, I made this super simple Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew this week. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just simple, good, comforting food! I love the simplicity of this dish and the flexibility. It’s the perfect thing to have simmering […]

The post Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Y’all. I am SO ready for sweater weather and cozy slow cooker stews! To kick the season off, I made this super simple Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew this week. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just simple, good, comforting food! I love the simplicity of this dish and the flexibility. It’s the perfect thing to have simmering away on the weekend as you do your chores or relax and enjoy watching the changing of the seasons. :)

Overhead view of a bowl of slow cooker hamburger stew with bread on the side

What’s in Hamburger Stew?

Hamburger stew is very similar to traditional beef stew, but it’s made with ground beef instead of stew meat. Using ground beef is a little bit less expensive than using stew meat, and I like how you get a little bit of beef in every bite! 

In addition to the beef we have a medley of fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, peas), beef broth, herbs and spices, plus a little Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to zhuzh it up a bit. It’s incredibly simple, but creates that beautifully subtle slow stewed flavor.

Why Brown The Hamburger First?

For this Hamburger Stew I browned the ground beef in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker. I did this for two reasons. One, to render off some of the fat. I used 15% fat ground beef and there was quite a bit that needed to be drained away (I actually tested this recipe once without draining the fat and it just ended up far too oily). The second reason is that you get a nice browning (maillard reaction) on the beef in the dry environment of a skillet that you do not get in the wet environment of a slow cooker. So you’ll get just a little bit more flavor with this extra step!

Can I Use Different Vegetables?

Yes! Stews are very flexible. If you don’t like one of the vegetables listed, go ahead and skip it. Just keep in mind that the potatoes do help thicken the stew, so if you skip the potatoes you’ll have more of a soup texture. Other great vegetables to use in beef stew include:

  • mushrooms
  • pearl onions
  • parsnips
  • turnips
  • rutabagas
  • sweet potatoes
  • winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin)

What Are Stewed Tomatoes?

This recipe calls for stewed tomatoes, which are a variety of canned tomatoes that are popular in the U.S. (example: Hunts stewed tomatoes). These tomatoes are cooked with seasonings and a little bit of sugar to give them the slightest sweetness. Stewed tomatoes add a little extra special unique flavor to the broth of this stew. While you can use diced tomatoes if stewed tomatoes are not available, this substitution will slightly change the flavor of the stew.

How Long Is Hamburger Stew Good?

After cooking the hamburger stew, I suggest dividing it into single portions (so that it cools faster) and refrigerating it right away. It will stay good in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, or it can be transferred to the freezer for longer storage (about 3 months). This stew is a great item to have stashed in your freezer for busy nights! It can be reheated quickly in the microwave, or slowly over medium-low heat in a pot on the stove.

Slow cooker hamburger stew in a ladle over the slow cooker

 
Overhead view of a bowl full of slow cooker hamburger stew with bread and a spoon on the side

Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew

This super easy Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew is simple, comforting food at its best. And the leftovers are even better the next day!
Total Cost $9.88 recipe / $1.65 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6 1.5 cups each
Calories 348.27kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes $1.20
  • 1/2 lb. carrots (about 4 carrots) $0.45
  • 1 yellow onion 0.32
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary $0.05
  • ½ tsp dried thyme $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 1 lb. ground beef $5.69
  • 1 15oz. can stewed tomatoes $1.00
  • 2 cups beef broth $0.26
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce $0.02
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce $0.06
  • 1 cup frozen peas $0.60

Instructions

  • Peel and dice the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Peel and slice the carrots. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and pepper to a slow cooker (4 quarts or larger).
  • Brown the ground beef in a skillet, then drain off the excess fat. Add the browned and drained beef to the slow cooker along with the can of stewed tomatoes (with juices). Finally, add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce to the slow cooker.
  • Give the contents of the slow cooker a brief stir to make sure everything is evenly combined (the broth may not fully cover the other ingredients). Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight hours.
  • After cooking on high for four hours or low for eight hours, remove the lid and stir the stew. Use the back of a spoon to slightly mash some of the potatoes, which will help thicken the stew.
  • Add the frozen peas (no need to thaw) and stir to combine into the stew. Taste the stew and add extra salt if needed (I did not add any, this will depend on the salt content of your beef broth). Serve hot with bread for dipping!

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 348.27kcal | Carbohydrates: 41.42g | Protein: 20.15g | Fat: 11.83g | Sodium: 751.72mg | Fiber: 5.07g

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Try These Other Stew Recipes:

Front view of Hamburger Stew in the slow cooker

How to Make Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew – Step by Step Photos

Vegetables herbs and spices in the slow cooker

Peel and dice 2 lbs. of potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Peel and slice ½ lb. carrots (about 4 carrots). Dice one onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic to a slow cooker along with ½ tsp dried rosemary, ½ tsp dried tyme, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper.

Browned ground beef and stewed tomatoes added to slow cooker

Brown one pound of ground beef and drain off the excess fat. Add the browned ground beef to the slow cooker along with one 15oz. can of stewed tomatoes (with the juices).

Beef broth Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce added to slow cooker

Add 2 cups beef broth, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and 1 Tbsp soy sauce to the slow cooker.

Slow cooker ready to be turned on

Give the contents of the slow cooker a brief stir to combine. The broth will not fully cover the meat and vegetables, but that’s okay. The vegetables will release more moisture and increase the broth as they cook. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Cooked hamburger stew in the slow cooker

After cooking on high for four hours or low for eight hours, it will look like this. Give it a good stir and smash some of the potatoes against the side of the slow cooker. The smashed potatoes will help thicken the broth into a nice hearty stew.

Frozen peas being added to the slow cooker

Stir one cup of frozen peas into the slow cooker (they’ll thaw and heat within a minute or so). 

Finished slow cooker hamburger stew in the slow cooker

Give the hamburger stew a final taste and adjust the salt to your liking. I didn’t need to add any because the broth I use (Better than Bouillon) has a decent amount, but if your broth has less sodium you may find that a pinch of salt at the end helps the flavors pop!

Slow Cooker Hamburger stew in a bowl with a spoon lifting a bite

Serve the hamburger stew immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat (but I don’t know how you’ll resist having a bowl after smelling that cooking all day!).

The post Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew appeared first on Budget Bytes.