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What makes beef stew more flavorful?

Beef stew is a classic comfort food that warms you up on cold nights. This hearty dish featuring beef, vegetables, and a rich sauce is satisfying yet simple to make. But what really takes beef stew to the next level and makes it exceptionally delicious? There are several tips and tricks you can use to boost the flavor of your beef stew.

Choose the right cut of beef

The first key is starting with the right cut of beef. The best cuts for beef stew are those that come from the cow’s shoulder or round and have good marbling or fat content. These cuts will be more tender and flavorful. Some good options include:

  • Chuck roast or chuck steak
  • Bottom round or rump roast
  • Brisket
  • Short ribs

You’ll want to cut the beef into 1-2 inch chunks before adding it to the stew. Trimming off any excess fat will also help prevent the stew from being greasy.

Brown the beef properly

Browning the beef before making the stew adds a huge boost of flavor. The Maillard reaction occurs when the meat is seared at a high heat, creating a rich caramelization. This adds depth, savoriness, and aroma to the dish.

To properly brown beef stew meat:

  • Pat the meat dry so it browns instead of steams.
  • Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium-high heat.
  • Working in batches, add the beef chunks in a single layer and let them sit undisturbed for 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn and brown all sides until a nice crust forms.

Take the time to get a nice sear on each piece of meat before making the rest of the stew.

Sauté the aromatics

The trio of onions, carrots, and celery create a flavor base for beef stew. Sautéing them before adding the liquid builds even more depth.

Here’s how:

  • After removing the browned beef from the pot, add a bit more oil if needed.
  • Add chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.

As the vegetables caramelize, they’ll add a sweetness that balances the savory flavors of the stew.

Use umami-rich ingredients

Umami is considered the fifth taste, bringing a savory meatiness. Ingredients that are naturally high in umami can amplify the rich, mouth-watering flavor of beef stew.

Some good options to include are:

  • Tomato paste – Contains glutamates that boost umami.
  • Mushrooms – Dried porcini mushrooms or fresh mushrooms both add meaty flavor.
  • Wine or beer – For deglazing the pan and cooking the stew liquid.
  • Anchovies or Worcestershire sauce – Surprisingly good for umami in small amounts.
  • Dried or fresh herbs – Rosemary, thyme and bay leaves work well.

Mix and match a few of these umami-rich ingredients to make your beef stew even tastier.

Simmer and thicken

The liquid for beef stew can be beef or vegetable broth, water, wine or a combination. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Partially cover and let simmer for at least 1-2 hours until the beef is very tender. Flavors will concentrate and meld.

For a thicker, richer stew, make a flour and water slurry. Whisk together and slowly stir into the stew to thicken and add body. Cook for 10 more minutes.

Other tasty thickeners include mashed potatoes, pureed vegetables or instant tapioca.

Finish with fresh herbs and vegetables

For brightness, add some fresh herbs and veggies at the end when the stew is nearly done. Options include:

  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Chopped kale or spinach
  • Frozen peas
  • Green beans

Stir in right at the end so they retain color and crunch. Their fresh flavor provides balance.

The best beef stew vegetables

In addition to the classic onions, carrots and celery, consider adding any of these vegetables to your beef stew:

Vegetable Benefits
Potatoes Thicken stew and add hearty flavor
Mushrooms Meaty, umami flavor
Parsnips Earthy sweetness
Turnips Complement hearty flavors
Sweet potatoes Hint of sweetness

Aim for a mix of textures and flavors. Cut vegetables into similar sized pieces so they cook evenly.

Season well

Don’t be shy with seasoning your beef stew. Layers of flavor take it to the next level. Consider these seasoning boosters:

  • Salt – Essential for overall flavor, add in stages.
  • Pepper – Fresh cracked pepper adds spice and aroma.
  • Garlic – Raw garlic mellows into a subtly sweet flavor.
  • Red wine – For depth, use it to deglaze the pan.
  • Tomato paste – Adds savory umami flavor.
  • Flour – Thickens stew and helps season the sauce.
  • Worcestershire Sauce – Adds savory kick.
  • Herbs and spices – Bay leaves, paprika, thyme and more.

Taste as you go and adjust seasoning until the flavors really sing.

The perfect side dishes for beef stew

Pair your amazing beef stew with sides that complement it or provide contrast:

Side Dish Notes
Mashed potatoes Classic – can also thicken stew
Biscuits or bread For dipping in the gravy
Roasted vegetables Provide color and crunch
Green salad Fresh contrast to hearty stew
Buttered egg noodles Soak up the tasty sauce

A simple side salad or crusty bread may be all you need to complete the meal.


Beef stew is a humble dish but packed with amazing flavor potential. By selecting the right cut of beef, searing it well, simmering with umami ingredients, and seasoning thoughtfully, you can create a truly remarkable stew. Using fresh herbs and vegetables at the end keeps things lively. Serve your fork-tender beef stew with perfect accompaniments and enjoy this satisfying one-pot dinner.