Irish Beef Stew – I’ve been making beef stews for many long years and they’re always mighty delicious and filling. One thing led to another and I ended up all over the internet looking for the answer to a suddenly burning question: What makes an Irish stew Irish? Keep reading to find out a little of its culinary history and give my Crock Pot Irish Beef Stew recipe a try. 😊
Irish Beef Stew History
What’s so different about it? It seems there’s a plethora of recipes, just as there are for American stews. There are a few historic common denominators in traditional Irish stews – mutton, potatoes, onions, and parsley. Optional ingredients such as leeks, carrots, turnips, streaky bacon, thyme, barley, and/or stout are considered un-authentic, but I say make what you and your family likes best.
Additionally, you can find more of the history and debate here.
The aim is to please the palate, not spit out the stew! 😋
My family isn’t fond of lamb or mutton (or goat as might have been the original meat of choice for Celtic stews). So I use a nice London broil, arm, or chuck roast and use a slow cooker for this version of Irish Beef Stew. I hope you try it and like it as much as my guys and I do!
You’ll see a lovely slice of bread accompanying the dishes of stew in the pictures. I started making this Irish Soda Bread a few years ago because it looked like the perfect vehicle for mopping up glorious stew broths and gravies. And it is! It’s really easy to make and also incredible simply drenched in real butter and drizzled with honey. 😊 If you want to go full-on Irish, splurge for some Kerrygold butter. It’s divine!
Slow Cooker + Gravy Tips
This recipe is for a large 7 or 8 qt. slow cooker. Reduce the ingredient portions if your cooker is smaller. This batch turned out very thick, but oh so delicious! Simply add 1 cup to a cup and a half of salted beef broth for a more gravy-like consistency. If you prefer it brothy, add a little more liquid. If it’s too brothy, mix a little water into a couple of heaping tablespoons of cornstarch to make a slurry. Stir it in to the boiling hot stew until the gravy has thickened.
Dutch Oven in the Oven
You can make this recipe in a Dutch oven and bake it at 350F for 3-4 hours. Preheat oven to 350°F. Follow all the directions above, but instead, layer ingredients in a lidded roaster or Dutch oven. Bake for 4 hours. Remove and add the barley and optional leeks. Add more liquid if necessary. Return to oven for 1 hour. Remove and stir before serving.
Crock Pot Irish Beef Stew
- 2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 lb. slab mostly lean bacon, cut into 2″-3″ chunks, optional
- 2-3 lbs. cheap roasting meat such as London broil or chuck, cut into 2″-3″ chunks
- 3 onions, peeled & quartered, or 3 leeks washed and cut into chunks
- 3 lbs. carrots, peeled & cut into 2″-3″ chunks
- 2-3 lbs. potatoes, cut into 2″-3″ chunks
- 8-16 oz. fresh whole mushrooms, optional
- 2-3 cups beef broth or stock
- 1/2 cup quick cooking barley, optional
- Optional: Reheated leftover mashed potatoes (1 cup) to thicken the stew or boil and mash 2 medium potatoes if you want a thick stew without any juices.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. If using, brown the bacon chunks first. Place in the bottom of the crock pot. Brown the chunks of salted and peppered beef in small batches to avoid overcrowding. Transfer to the slow-cooker crock. Layer on the onions, carrots, potatoes, broth or stock, in that order, salting and peppering each layer. Top with chopped fresh parsley. Cover and cook on low for 7 hrs or high for 4 hours.
Stir in the barley and leek (if using), and cook on high for 1 hr more until the barley is tender.
Stir in the optional mashed potatoes. Serve with Irish Soda Bread, if desired.
*Oven directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Follow all the directions above, but instead, layer ingredients in a lidded roaster or Dutch oven. Bake for 4 hours. Check halfway and add more water or beef broth if too dry. Remove and add the barley and optional leeks. Return to oven for 1 hour. Remove and stir before serving.
Quicker version: brown the meats, peel and chop the vegetables the night before, and store in the fridge for faster prep in the morning if cooking all day. Secondly, skip the barley and put the leeks in in the morning if you’re heading off to work. No need to mess with the mashed potatoes. Buy a loaf of crusty bread to go with the stew and call it supper!
Above all, adding and deleting ingredients and seasonings that best please your palate is certainly the most important aspect in developing any recipe. Just because it tastes divine to me doesn’t mean it will to you. For example, my kids and a gajillion other people love cilantro. Jimmie and I aren’t fond of it. A little goes a very long way with us. Too much and it ruins whatever it’s on or mixed with. Take this recipe, or any other, and make it your own!