Skip to Content

Can I use beef broth instead of water for beef stew?

The Short Answer

Yes, you can substitute beef broth for water when making beef stew. Replacing all or some of the water with beef broth will enhance the flavor of the stew by infusing it with more beefy flavor. The liquid in a stew serves to moisten and cook the meat and vegetables, so beef broth makes an excellent substitute for plain water.

Explaining Beef Stew

Beef stew is a hearty, comforting dish made by braising beef and vegetables in liquid until tender. Traditional beef stew recipes call for water or a combination of water and wine or beer as the braising liquid. The liquid moistens the ingredients, and also takes on flavor from the beef and vegetables as it simmers for a long time, turning into a rich sauce or gravy.

Here are some key points about the role of liquid in beef stew:

  • Moistens the meat and vegetables during braising
  • Extracts flavor from the solids into the liquid
  • Provides a medium to cook the meat and vegetables
  • Reduces to a flavorful gravy or sauce

Water is typically used because it allows the pure beef and vegetable flavors to shine through. Other liquids like wine or tomatoes can also be used. Beef broth enhances the savory beefiness of the stew.

How Beef Broth Boosts Beef Stew Flavor

Beef broth is an umami-rich liquid that will intensify the beef flavor in your stew. Here’s how:

  • Beef broth is made by simmering bones, meat, and vegetables to extract flavor. This concentrated flavor will seep into the stew.
  • The broth provides a meaty, savory note to balance and enhance the flavors.
  • As the broth reduces, it further concentrates its beefy taste into the stew.
  • The broth adds extra protein from dissolved collagen for fuller mouthfeel.

Replacing all or some of the water with pre-made beef broth amplifies the rich, deep beef taste and improves the texture of the stew.

How Much Beef Broth to Use

Beef broth can replace all or just some of the water in beef stew recipes. Here are a few options:

  • Replace all the water with beef broth – This will give you the most intense beef flavor in your stew.
  • Use a 1:1 ratio of broth to water – Mixing equal parts broth and water allows some beefy flavor to come through while still retaining stew’s traditional profile.
  • Replace just 1/4 or 1/3 of the water with broth – Substitute a smaller amount of water to lightly enhance the savory taste.

The amount you use depends on your taste preferences. Keep in mind highly salted store-bought broth may need diluted with some water. Taste as you go and adjust seasonings once done.

Broth vs. Stock for Beef Stew

Both beef broth and beef stock can be used to enhance beef stew, but there are some differences:

Broth Stock
Made from meat + bones Made from just bones
More intense meaty flavor Milder flavor
Higher protein content Lower protein
Saltier Less salty

As you can see, beef broth will impart a more pronounced beef taste thanks to its meat content. Either broth or stock can work depending on your preference.

Tips for Using Beef Broth in Stew

Here are some tips for successfully using beef broth in your stew:

  • If using store-bought broth, choose low-sodium or dilute with water to control saltiness.
  • Add broth at the beginning with the water to allow full flavor integration.
  • Skim fat from broth before adding to prevent greasiness.
  • You may need to add extra thickening power from flour or cornstarch since broth lacks starch.
  • Adjust spices like black pepper, bay leaves, and thyme to balance broth flavors.
  • Simmer stew extra time if needed to reduce broth down to desired sauce consistency.

Sample Recipe: Beef Stew with Beef Broth

Here is a recipe for a beef stew that uses a ratio of 1 part beef broth to 1 part water as the braising liquid.


  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour


  1. Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat. Brown beef in batches. Set aside.
  2. Add carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms. Cook 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Whisk in beef broth, water, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, thyme and browned beef with juices. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until beef is very tender.
  5. Mix flour with 1/4 cup water. Slowly stir into stew to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaves. Adjust seasoning. Serve stew.

The beef broth boosts the savory beef flavor in this recipe while the water prevents over-salting. For even more flavor, the stew can be made using all beef broth. Enjoy this hearty beef stew on a cold day!

Frequently Asked Questions

What about using chicken, pork or vegetable broth?

It’s best to stick with beef broth when making beef stew to get the most cohesive, beefy flavor. Chicken, pork or vegetable broths will introduce off flavors and notes that detract from the pure beef taste.

Can I use broth instead of water for beef soup or chili too?

Yes, beef broth can be substituted in place of water in any beef soup, chili or braise. The broth will amplify the meaty flavors in dishes like beef barley soup, chili con carne, beef bourguignon, etc. Start by replacing 1/4 or 1/3 of the water with broth.

Is boxed or canned broth just as good as homemade?

Homemade broth will have the most robust flavor, but good quality canned or boxed broth can still enhance stew. Look for low-sodium options and add water as needed to dilute strong flavors.

Do I need to adjust the stew seasoning if I use broth?

Yes, taste and adjust seasonings once done, especially salt. The broth may provide enough salt on its own. Add more herbs, pepper, Worcestershire, etc to achieve the right flavor balance.

Can I freeze beef stew made with broth?

Yes, beef stew freezes very well. The broth may separate a bit but will redistribute once reheated. Let cool fully before freezing in airtight containers up to 3 months.


Beef broth is a simple substitution that can take your beef stew to the next level. The rich, meaty broth infuses potent beef flavor into the entire dish. Replace all or part of the water in stew recipes with beef broth for more body, savory flavor and complexity. With a few tweaks to seasoning and thickness, broth-enhanced beef stew is sure to be a new favorite.