Irish beef stew with Guinness Stout is an iconic Irish stew recipe. Save the potatoes and the carrots and the parsnips as side dishes. Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew focuses solely on lots of beef, lots of beer, and lots of onions.
This pot-o-comfort is easily made in your Dutch oven.
Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew begins by searing the meat which adds texture and appealing color and taste. Ultimately, the process of searing adds flavor to the sauce in which it will soon cook. The fond at the bottom of the pot, all of those “meaty browned bits,” become the initial layer used to build and develop the sauce. At the end of the braise, the meat tastes of the ingredients we built into the sauce, beer and onion, while the sauce has gradually acquired that distinctive beefy flavor and aroma we started with.
Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew or more commonly, Guinness Beef Stew, is traditional Irish pub fare. You’d probably be hard-pressed to visit a pub in Dublin and not find it on the menu.
Irish Guinness Stew Or Flemish Ommengang Stew; What’s The Difference?
Irish stew historically showcases lamb and mutton. The French stew beef in their best burgundy wine to create Beef Bourguignon. Russians add sour cream and dish up Stroganoff. And to create their Flemish Stew, the Belgians use the culinary product for which they are most famous, which is beer. Beyond the nuances, there isn’t much difference really. Except for the beer and the sourcing and type of the protein(s), they are entirely similar.
You will find many recipes which incorporate vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. Others do not. Flemish Stew is a rich and savory traditional meat and onion stew made with Belgian beer. Irish Stews historically incorporate lamb or mutton and are prepared with Irish stout. Carbonnade (Flemish Stew) and today’s recipe for Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew walk the same line in keeping the ingredient list to three key components; beef, beer, and onion. Unlike the Belgians, for the Irish, this was by circumstance, not by design.
Is This An Authentic Irish Stew?
Yes and no. It’s traditional in Ireland by todays standards, but not authentic in that it uses beef over lamb or mutton. This is an Americanized version of an old method. Beef is more readily available to US readers, so I specify beef, much like todays Irish pubs are offering beef in lieu of mutton or lamb to their diners.
Kitchen necessaries, click any of these images for pricing and availability.
A Brief History On Immigration And Its Influence On Food In America
The Royal Colony of South Carolina embraced Scots immigrants as early as 1707. An accelerated flow commenced during the 1720s and 1730s. Largely, this movement was comprised of three distinct groups. There were Lowland Scots, Highland Scots, and Ulster Scots, more commonly referred to as the Scots-Irish.
Nearly half of all Scots emigrants came from Ulster, in Northern Ireland. Their parents and grandparents had colonized this region during the 1690s. Make no mistake, regardless of settlement, these folks were Irish. Once arrived in the Americas, and after well known and heavily established settlements in Massachusetts and New York, they journeyed to the extended Colonies in mass, from the late 1730s to the 1760s.
Scots-Irish quickly filled up the Midlands and Backcountry of South Carolina. They also settled the Piedmont up to the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. And, like all distinct immigrant groups to America, they brought their customs, their traditions, their language, and their foods.
To be Irish in America is not necessarily a rare thing. About 34.5 million people in the United States claim Irish legacy. This is more than seven times the population of Ireland itself mind you. In spite of our sizeable Irish-American population, the dishes we Americans perceive as “traditional Irish food” are not entirely typical of authentic Irish food.
The known hardships of Northern Ireland dictated every facet of daily life. Selling everything a person had in order to procure passage to America would also dictate, albeit in different ways, the new facets of everyday life in the Colonies. Food was certainly a reflection of the times. Food was also a reflection of a person’s means. This was regardless as to if you were living in the Colonies or in Ireland. And a meat and beer stew was largely the same in both Colonial and 19th century America as it had been in Ireland and Scotland…void of extras.
In Ireland, labored crops such as the carrot, the cabbage and the parsnip were less common than they were abundant. This is due in large part to the widespread adoption of the potato. The potato is largely regarded as an ethnographical disaster of epic proportion. This is because the potato lead to an over-simplified existence for most Irish. It also influenced the end of crop diversity as older methods of food production were merely abandoned. Simply put, the potato became “too easy” and way too abundant. It seemed all farmers preferred to focus on was the easy and abundant potato. That is, until the Irish potato famine in 1845. The famine was caused by the water mold disease known as late blight, which resulted in crop failure three years in a row.
Across the sea in America, thousands of the newly arrived and destitute sold themselves into indentured servitude. Families of middling means collectively settled in places such as Boston and later Philadelphia. But they were bound in furthering their families by their lack of land and opportunity. Food and the history of traditional foods changed significantly during these decades and centuries based on means and availability.
A meat and beer stew was largely the same in both Colonial and 19th century America as it had been in Ireland and Scotland…void of extras.
Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew is one of those middle century dishes. It was influenced by the potato, both before and after the famine. Before the famine, potatoes would have been abundant and comprising the majority of a dish such as this. And we might not see beef as often as we would have seen lamb. As for other vegetables like carrots and parsnips, well, not so much. Nobody was growing anything aside from potatoes in Ireland for the most part. During and after the famine, not a potato nor a carrot or anything aside from the meat and the stout would have debuted in this stew.
Nothing speaks comfort like a hearty and thick beef stew.
Do You Have What You’ll Need For Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew? Check The List!
2 POUNDS BEEF CHUCK
THICK CUT BACON
YELLOW ONIONS, AT LEAST 5
GUINNESS EXTRA STOUT, AT LEAST 2 CUPS
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
BOUQUET GARNI (FRESH THYME, FRESH PARSLEY, FRESH TARRAGON, DRIED BAY LEAF)
KOSHER SALT AND BLACK PEPPER
So, how do I know all of this? Well, I too am one of the millions of Americans who are of Irish decent. I am able to legitimately follow at least two lines directly back to Ireland, both a century prior to the potato famine. Of course, I knew none of this before a DNA test. That, and a spin around a popular genetic genealogy company’s website. I knew full well of my Huguenot and Dutch heritage. The first of my ancestors arrived to New Netherland, todays lower Manhattan, in 1607.
I also knew of my Welsh heritage, a good many of my Waite/Wait/Waithe ancestors arriving to America from Wales pre-Revolution. But Irish? Scotch? English? No, not until the DNA test. It peaked my interest in those early days of the America’s. It also peaked my interest in that brief 50 to 80 year period BEFORE the America’s. Who were they? What were they living like? What did they do? Where did they pray? And for food geeks like me, what did they bake and cook and eat?
What Is The Best, Most Tender Beef For Beef Stew?
Given this recipe focuses solely on a dish made of beef, stout (I am using Guinness Extra Stout), and onions, beginning with the most logical cut of beef to get the job done is in order. In addition to the beef, you’ll want a rich chicken stock or homemade chicken broth on hand. Chicken? Not Beef stock or beef broth? NO. Chicken broth will provide far better flavor than beef broth, even for traditionally beef broth–based dishes like beef stew. This is because chicken broth contains around 60 parts liquid to 1 part protein, twice as much as in beef broth.
Going all Irish? I’ve got more where this came from, starting with
I also like a splash of red wine for deglazing my Dutch oven before I get going with a bunch of beer. The wine caramelizes and turns to sugar almost immediately. In some recipes, a small amount of brewed coffee is used in lieu of the wine. It’s a tiny but important element of acid to this layering of flavors that is Guinness stew. If you do not have any red wine on hand, opt for 1/4 cup of brewed coffee.
…eh hem, the beef!
Yes, yes, the BEEF! Beef chuck which is a shoulder cut is the smartest choice for this recipe. The proteins will break down to a beautifully tender stew meat and the roast will not break the bank. I buy it whole as a roast and I butcher it myself by cutting it up into big ‘stew-sized chunks’ that measure about 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. You definitely do not want anything any smaller in size because the meat is going to shrink as it cooks. Beginning with tiny bits will yield no meaty bites once the cook is finished. When butchering, I always try to keep some fat. That said, any big lumps of hard fat I do cut away and discard.
I pat the chunks dry very well with paper toweling and season it liberally in a mixture of flour, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. A single teaspoon of vegetable oil combined with some unsalted butter in my Dutch oven just at the point of smoking is all I need to start the meat. I will do the searing in 2 or 3 batches over medium heat for just a few minutes. I want LOTS of room in the pan and no crowding so I can manage a good and defined browning. Plus, I work up a fantastic fond in the bottom of the pan while I am searing.
What Are The Best Side Dishes To Serve With Irish Stew?
I prefer Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew severed over mashed potatoes, or as I have showed in my photos, over a wide egg noodle or dumplings. For my family, a side of homemade bread is quite enough. If however, you are feeding a crowd, you may want to offer additional starches such as boiled and buttered parsnips (very authentic), boiled and buttered new potatoes (if say serving over wide noodles), roasted carrots, or as I experienced in Europe, an individual oatmeal and cheddar soufflé.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew
- Dutch oven
- kitchen twine for tying a bouquet garni
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Ingredients for Robust Irish Beef and Stout Stew
- 2 pounds beef chuck cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup flour
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 slices bacon a quality smoked, thick cut; chopped
- 6 cloves garlic rough chopped
- 5 large yellow onions sliced lengthwise, some thin, some thick
- 1/4 cup red wine may substitute 1/4 cup brewed coffee
- 2 cups stout room temperature, I am using Guinness Extra Stout
- 3/4 cup chicken stock homemade if you have it on hand
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 5 sprigs thyme fresh
- 3 sprigs parsley fresh
- 3 sprigs tarragon fresh
- 1 bay leaf
- Prepare a bouquet garni by tying the sprigs of thyme, parsley, tarragon, and the bay leaf. Set aside.
- Pat the beef dry VERY WELL using paper toweling. Place into a large mixing bowl and liberally salt and pepper, turning to coat all sides. Add flour and toss to coat.
- Heat the vegetable oil along with 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef. Do not crowd the pot. Cook, turning, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining beef. Set aside.
- Reduce the heat and add bacon, cooking until its fat renders, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the plate with the beef.
- Add remaining butter to the pan. Add the garlic and onions and cook until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Mixture will be thick and without much liquid at the point it's sufficiently caramelized.
- Increase the heat to medium-high again. When the onion are just beginning to stick, add the red wine (or brewed coffee if substituting, see NOTES). Working quickly, use a wooden spoon to scrape the fond from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Reduce the heat when most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add half the beer and cook, again scraping bottom of pot, until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
- Return beef to pot with remaining beer, stock, sugar, vinegar, bouquet garni, and additional salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until beef is very tender, about 1 ½ hours. Serve over a bed of mashed potatoes, wide noodles, homemade dumplings, or mashed parsnips. Offer thick crusty bread tableside for mopping up the gravy.