This simple slow cooker beef stew with potatoes and carrots is a perfect weeknight meal that can be made in the morning and cook all day. With a thick, flavorful sauce and tender meat, beef stew is a family favorite here in the UK, and always well received at my house.
I am a huge fan of using my slow cooker, and during autumn and winter it’s all about stews. I have previously posted my popular African chicken and peanut stew, and it’s definitely about time I shared with you our favorite beef stew. It’s so simple, yet incredibly flavorful. We use carrots and potatoes, which are usually accepted even by the most picky of eaters, and a basic sauce made from stock.
Ingredients for slow cooker beef stew
- Beef, diced
- Beef stock (or water+stock cube)
- Choice of herbs (I use oregano, basil and parsley)
How to make slow cooker beef stew
This stew almost makes itself. We start by dicing onion and garlic finely. Dice beef, carrots and potatoes in similar sized chunks. I always brown my meat and onion slightly first, so melt some butter or heat some oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a few minutes until it starts looking translucent, and add the diced beef. Turn while cooking until the meat is browned on the outside. You don’t want to completely cook the meat, just let the outside get some color. Dump the meat and onion into the slow cooker, and add the potatoes and carrots. Cover with beef stock and herbs or spices, cover with a lid and leave the stew to cook.
About 30 minutes before serving, we want to thicken the sauce. Add cornflour and water to a small container with a lid, and shake to combine. Stir into the stew, and put the lid back on. Within the next half hour, the stew will thicken. Taste the stew before serving, and add some more herbs, salt or pepper if needed.
Do you need to brown the meat for beef stew?
You can skip the step of browning the meat and onion if you’re pushed for time. If you simply add all the ingredients to the slow cooker raw, they will still cook and you will still have a meal. In my opinion, taking five minutes to brown the meat and saute the onions is what takes a beef stew from being okay to being amazing. The chemical process that happens when you brown the meat will essentially break down the sugars in the meat, and bring out that really nice beefy flavor. When browning, some of the liquid from the meat will also be extracted and be left in the pan. When we sautee the onions in this liquid, they will absorb some of that delicious flavor and round out the stew really nice.
It’s perfectly safe to throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker raw if you want to save on time and washing up, or you can go through the extra step of browning the meat if you want to bring it up a notch and produce a perfect stew.
Herbs with beef stew
For the sake of this recipe, I have chosen to use oregano, basil and parsley as my herbs of choice. Additionally we use fresh garlic and onion to add more flavor. You can definitely experiment with any other herbs you have at hand. Beef goes really well with rosemary, thyme, sage and celery. You can also add chili, harissa, curry powder or even a taco spice blend to completely change the taste of the dish.
How to thicken slow cooker beef stew
There are four options for thickening any stew. In this recipe I use a blend of cornflour and water. You can also add some gravy granulates or dry potato flakes if you have them available, both of which will instantly make the stew thicker. A third option is to make a roux; combine equal amounts of melted butter and flour in a small saucepan, and add liquid until a thick sauce forms. Add this sauce to the stew. Lastly, you can thicken the stew slightly by taking out some potatoes, mashing them up with a fork, then add them back to the stew.
Any of these methods will work similarly, but I find the cornflour/water mixture, or simply adding gravy granulates to be the easiest options.
How long to cook slow cooker beef stew
This beef stew cooks for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. I have successfully left it cooking for up to 12 hours on low, and it’s still fine, although the potatoes can become a bit mushy. I actually kind of prefer them like that! Keep in mind that the exact time to cook will vary depending on the size of your beef and vegetables. The beef cooks faster than the vegetables, and in this recipe the size of your potatoes will determine the time to cook. Cut the potatoes small to reduce the cook time.
Can beef stew with potatoes be frozen?
This stew can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat and serve. I always think stews taste even better the day after. The flavor is just even more intense after leaving all the ingredients to sit together for a while. A bonus tip if you’re into meal prepping: you can actually combine all the raw ingredients for this dish in a container to use as a freezer meal. Freeze it all raw, and when you want to make this recipe, thaw the ingredients and add straight to the slow cooker with stock and herbs. A quick and simple frozen meal, perfect if you’re expecting to be busy for a while and want to make sure you can still enjoy home cooked meals without doing much work.
Slow cooker beef stew
- Slow cooker
- 450 g beef, diced
- 2 large carrots
- 500 g potatoes
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 500 ml beef stock
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- Dice onion and garlic finely, and cut the beef, carrots and potatoes into similar sized chunks.
- Heat some oil or butter in a pan over medium heat, and add onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until translucent, then add the diced beef.
- Cook for a few minutes while turning, until the beef has browned on the outside. You do not want to completely cook the meat, just give it some color.
- Add the beef and onions to your slow cooker, along with potatoes and carrots and 500 ml beef stock (or 500ml boiled water with 2 stock cubes)
- Add parsley, basil, oregano bay leaves. Place the lid, and cook on low for at least 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours.
- About 30 minutes before serving, mix 2 tbsp cornflour with some water, and stir into the stew. This will thicken it up. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you prefer an even thicker stew, add more cornflour, and if you want to make more liquid, add more water or stock.
- Remove the bay leaves and serve.