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!
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.
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.
Slow Cooker Beef Stew
- 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
- 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.
Love Beef Stew? You’ve got to try my Chicken Stew next!
How to Make Slow Cooker Beef Stew – Step by Step Photos
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.
Place all of your chopped vegetables in a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.
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…
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).
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!