Hearty Beef Stew {Slow Cooker}

Let me start by asking a really important, earth-shattering question. Is there anyone out there who has the same addiction and love for carrots that have been cooked with a succulent roast dinner? A Sunday roast dinner, as it was with my family growing up? Anyone? Anyone? In my great Book of Opinions, carrots cooked in the flavorful juices of a delicious roast are incomparable. I could eat 83 of them and still go back for more.

Well, I’m happy to announce that this slow cooker beef stew has renewed my love of stew (it simply has really never been a favorite dinner of mine) for many reasons. The first is that the cooked carrots in this stew are reminiscent of the divine vegetables in my mom’s Sunday roast dinners. They nearly melt in your mouth with tenderness while still having a bit of bite and they are infused with flavor. I chalk this up to the unusual cooking method and hereby vow to use foil packets in any and every slow cooker dinner from here on out. The carrot phenomenon alone would allow me to rationalize making this weekly from here on out, but in addition, this hearty, rich stew is also packed with juicy, tender chunks of meat, delicious peas and potatoes, and the sauce is thick, velvety and so very tasty.

New favorite stew with my beloved old favorite carrots. That’s a win-win in my book.

What To ServeA really, great dinner roll (for homemade, I’d suggest French Bread Rolls or Buttery Cornmeal Crescents)
Fresh fruit 
Sliced cheddar cheese

One Year Ago: Balsamic Chicken Noodle Bowl
Two Years Ago: Quick and Delicious Clam Chowder
Three Years Ago: No-Knead Bread Revolution

Hearty Beef Stew {Slow Cooker}

Yield: Serves 6-8

Hearty Beef Stew {Slow Cooker}

Note: this stew recipe has a few steps that I am going to strongly encourage following – even if it makes you roll your eyes to have to go to the work/mess of browning meat before adding it to the slow cooker. I get it, I do! But let me emphasize that there is a reason this stew has more flavor and deliciousness than any other slow cooker stew I’ve had – and I believe it is because of the few minutes you have to spend at the beginning browning up the meat, onions and quickly bringing the sauce to a simmer. Browing = flavor. Now, if you absolutely refuse to do it…don’t worry, I’ll still like you. Go ahead – throw it all in – but don’t tell me before you do or else I’ll spend the day cringing. Also, unless you can find prepackaged stew meat in large pieces, it pays to buy a whole chuck roast and cut it up yourself, plus if you look for chuck roast on sale, it will probably save you a penny or two!


  • 5 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound red potatoes, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Minute tapioca
  • 2 cups frozen peas


  1. After the meat has been cut into chunks, pat it dry with a paper towel and season all the pieces with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until the oil is rippling and hot. Cook half of the beef until it is well browned on each side, about 4 minutes. No need to cook it all the way through – just get some great brown color all around. Toss the meat in the slow cooker and follow the same process with the second half of the meat (you may need to add another tablespoon of oil to the pan if it looks a little dry). Remove the meat to the slow cooker, trying to keep as much oil in the pan as possible.
  2. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the onions are translucent and golden, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the broth, soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon thyme and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil and transfer it to the slow cooker, pouring it over the meat.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. On the counter, lay out a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil (use two sheets of regular foil on top of each other if you don’t have heavy-duty). Place the tossed vegetables on one side of the foil. Fold the foil over the vegetables and crimp the edges really well to form a little foil packet that will fit in the top of your slow cooker. Stir the tapioca into the slow cooker. Place the foil packet of vegetables on top of the stew, cover the slow cooker, and cook on high for 6-7 hours or low for 10-11 hours.
  4. When the stew is finished cooking, carefully remove the foil packet from the top of the stew. Discard the bay leaves from the stew. Carefully open the foil packet (be careful of steam that may escape as you open it!). Return the vegetables and any juices to the slow cooker and gently mix them into the stew. Stir in the frozen peas and let them rest in the stew for 5-10 minutes, until they are heated through. Serve.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Country Dec/Jan 2011

175 Responses to Hearty Beef Stew {Slow Cooker}

  1. DollyG says:

    I like to shake the meat cubes in seasoned flour before I brown it. This thickens the sauce and the brown bits you scrape up after you put the broth and all in makes it all so tasty. I can’t wait to make this.

  2. […] Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew-http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2011/01/hearty-beef-stew-slow-cooker.html […]

  3. Phillip Schwartz says:

    And I thought I was a carrot lover. I attack the carrots in their beef stew at Chuck a Rama restaurants in Provo and Orem Utah. Might try this today.

  4. diane says:

    diane mead
    I have been cooking for more years than I care to mention, and I must say this is …by far…the absolute “BEST” stew I have ever eaten. If you follow the instructions to the T you will not be disappointed!! I learned something new with the veggies and the foil (you can teach a old dog new tricks) LOL thanks

  5. Maureen says:

    This recipe sounds fabulously easy and delicious, problem is it calls for SOY SAUCE and I can not have soy products. Is there a substitute?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Maureen – I’m not sure of soy sauce substitutes but you might try googling.

    • Christine says:

      Yes, I know it’s been 2.5 years since you posted this question, but what the heck: a perfect sub is COCONUT AMINOS. Tastes exactly like soy. You’ll find it in health food stores (Whole Foods, EarthFare, etc). Looks & tastes like soy, but much healthier for you. I sub it always and nobody can tell the difference. 🙂

  6. Nicole says:

    We get weekly produce shares, and this week we received fresh red potatoes, peppers, carrots & onions. My husband wanted a pot roast, and this was the closest recipe I could find on your site. I kept my chuck roast whole and browned the entire roast before putting in crock pot. I halved all the gravy ingredients since I was going for less than stew consistency. I also added peppers to the veggie foil pack. FANTASTIC!!! My husband wants this to be our go to pot roast recipe! 😉 Maybe others have made these modifications (I didn’t have time to read all comments, sorry!), but I thought I’d pass along anyhow! I’m so tickled about the foil pack on top of the meat…I want to try your Slow Cooker Italian Beef next with a roasted potato pack on top. What do you think?! Thanks again for another great recipe, Mel! 🙂

  7. Tom says:

    Only substitute = One cup of wine for one of the cups of broth. All great stew deserves wine for depth 🙂 Awesome idea on the veggies packet too, thanks!

  8. Sharon says:

    So by Minute tapioca, do you mean tapioca starch? Does it have to be Minute brand? I couldn’t find it at my grocery store, but I know that Bobs Red Mill makes tapioca starch and I know where I can find that.

    • Mel says:

      Sharon – I’ve never bought tapioca starch but I actually think that the Minute tapioca has a totally different texture than the starch so you’ll have to experiment if using the starch (or look around for the Minute tapioca). Good luck!

  9. Kate says:

    I just put this together, and I must say that there is no way all of the ingredients would fit in my 4.5 qt slow cooker. I only used 4 lbs of meat and it still didn’t fit! good thing I have a 7qt slow cooker, or I’d be in trouble. Otherwise, this is easy to prepare in segments (did the chopping and made the veggie packet the night before). It also already smells amazing! You (and Cook’s Country) never steer me wrong!

  10. esther janeczko says:

    AWSOME>My family love it,THANKS

  11. Theresa says:

    The Crockpot Recipe Exchange posted a link to your recipe on Facebook today, so I decided to try it. This is what my family and I had to say: I thought it was awesome! My husband said it was the best stew he ever had. And during dinner my husband and 2 year old were chanting Man Food! and Fist bumping! (my 2 year old ate two bowls). My daughter loved it too. So, as you can tell, it will be in the family favorites list and making the rotation this winter. Thank you for posting the recipe!

  12. Davina says:

    I made this stew this past weekend and it was amazing! I added 1/2 c. of red wine for part of the broth and used one carrot and fresh green beans. That was the vegetable I had on hand. It was a rockstar dish and my family really enjoyed it. Thank you, Mel…this is now the only Beef Stew Crockpot recipe I’m going to use. The trick with the foiled vegetables was genius….truly!

  13. Allison says:

    I’m not a beef stew person, but I loved this recipe!

  14. Louise Nolan says:

    This was delicious! I followed the recipe to the letter and it got rave reviews from my family. The only part I didn’t enjoy was cutting up the 5 pound roast. I felt like I had taken part in a homicide! 🙂

    • Marsali says:

      Just wanted to comment that most grocery store butcher counters will cut roasts into any size cuts you want (thin strips, stew meat, etc.). Then they will slap the same price label back on the package, not charging for the cutting. It’s a big help, especially when I’m pregnant! It makes me sick to handle raw meat too much. Hope this helps!

    • Christine says:

      FYI: My food store has this cut roast already cubed for stew (SHWINGGG!!).

  15. Stacey says:

    SO GOOD. This was the best stew I’ve ever made. But don’t just take my word for it….I sent some with a friend; she reported back that her husband wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t planning to eat — until he saw it — and said it looked like it was from a restaurant! I used 3 lbs of meat and increased the potatoes and carrots a bit. Thanks for another home run, Mel!

  16. Salem says:

    So I just realize I am out of tin foil…as in my drawer is empty and so is my pantry. Can I just add them when there is about 4 hrs left? I’ve made this before, but with the foil packet method. I’m kinda nervous about just dumping them in, but I am not running to the store!

    • Mel says:

      Salem – Sorry for the delay in getting back with you. I’ve never tried it without foil but adding them in the last four hours or so would be a good compromise. I hope it worked out!

  17. ALICIA says:

    Hi Mel,

    I’d love to try this recipe for a dinner party I’m having this week, do you think this recipe would work with lamb shanks instead of chuck roast?

  18. Jennie P. says:

    Delicious! I already have my leftovers packed away and hidden in the back of the fridge for my lunches the next couple days. If I didn’t hide them my husband would take them since he loved this stew so much!

  19. Betsy says:

    do you think I can prep meat/sauce and foil packet ahead of time, then just add foil packet and turn on before work?

  20. Lisa says:

    I made this last night and it was a total hit! So YUMMY!!! And it was my first time making stew, ever! Thank you so much! I’m going to keep on making this one 🙂

  21. Kim says:

    I do not have tapioca, can I sub flour or corn starch?

  22. Carrie says:

    This turned out great. Loved the flavor. I used ~2 lbs of stew meat and it seemed plenty to me.

  23. Kendra says:

    This looks so good. might be a no-brainer, but I’m kinda a beginner…. how could I make this as a freezer meal? Having a baby soon and I wanted some stew in my freezer stash!

  24. Cat says:

    Hi Kendra,
    Yeah, it’s a no brainer. But it’s also a wonderful recipe that your family will enjoy. After your stew is cooked, let it completely cool in the dish you plan to freeze it in. Make sure there is at least an inch of head space between the stew and the lid because frozen stuff expands. Cover the cooled stew with a piece of plastic to push out the air bubbles then put the lid on it, date it, and freeze!! The day you plan to use it, take it out and let it thaw before you heat it up so that you don’t over cook the vegetables.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kendra – I freeze this stew and it works great. I portion it into freezer-ziploc bags and then press out all the air and seal (so the bag is laying flat, like a big thick square). I thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat when we want to eat it. Looks like Cat also gave some good freezing advice, too. 🙂

  25. 99bonk says:

    someone posted about not being able to use soy sauce. Useful substitute to provide a bit of “umami” is anchovy paste.

    • Gyrlsmylee says:

      Anchovy paste!! That’s it! I said salt. Himalayan pink salt is a really good diversion from the regular table salt.

  26. Rachel says:

    Really wanting to try this recipe but I only have a 4.5qt slow cooker. Could I just cut all the ingredients in half for the same results?

  27. Cat says:

    I used a regular crock pot; mine is oblong, I used the regular recipe and it worked fine. I accidently used too much thyme, but wow it still turned out great! Go for it!

  28. Lachelle says:

    This is definitely a favorite of my family. I have made it many times (with less beef than called for and with some frozen corn added too)! Thanks for a great recipe!

  29. Carol ungaro says:

    do I need to put oil in crock pot before starting beef stew

    • Cat says:

      Hi Carol, if the recipe doesn’t call for adding oil to the crock, I wouldn’t add the extra fat. The recipe does say to brown the meat in oil. You want to cook it in two batches so you don’t crowd the meat and make it steam rather than brown. Then move it to the crock leaving as much oil in the fry pan as possible. You will like the recipe. Enjoy!

    • Mel says:

      No, you don’t need to add extra oil.

  30. Stacia McKee says:

    You are so funny. “In my great book of opinions…”. Thanks for all your service posting so many family friendly recipes.

  31. Cearrow Sillman says:

    Ok you’ve convinced me. I’m making this tonight. Glad I have it all on hand. Pot roast is one of my favorite meals, so I looked and noticed you didn’t have a roast recipe.. Unless I missed it. If you don’t, please get on that! I know you’d make a fabulous one! I made a life CHANGING roast once, it had broth and Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste.. All kinds of seasoning, mushrooms and grape tomatoes along with all the regular veggies in a roast. I made it two more times that month then lost the recipe. I looked online for a couple of hours for it before giving up. If you recreated something similar I’d forever be indebted! Until then- looks like slow cooker roast it is!!

  32. Lorna says:

    Wow! I was excited to try this recipes and it did not disappointment. Everyone I had over wanted the recipes. I love your site.

  33. Suzanne says:

    Curious if it has to be minute tapioca? I accidentally bought regular…

    • Mel says:

      I read somewhere that if you grind the regular tapioca into a finer powder, you can sub it for the minute tapioca but I’m not positive. Sorry I’m not more help, I’ve never made it with regular tapioca.

      • Suzanne says:

        I went ahead and threw it in before I read your response (I’m patient like that) and it turned out just fine. Absolutely delicious! Thanks for another great recipe. My family says “Mel never lets us down!”

  34. Shallan says:

    I tried this one a couple weeks ago. My husband and I both didn’t like the tomato flavor. I was really disappointed as I love beef stew. But the tomato in this just does not work for me. The beef was very tender though! If you like a more traditional
    Beef stew I suggest trying one without tomato paste in it. I love some of Mel’s other recipes though!

  35. JaLeen says:

    When you do this in your pressure cooker, do you still use the foil method for the vegetables, or do you do something different with them?

    • Mel says:

      No, I just put all the ingredients in the pressure cooker (after browning the meat) and cooked it at high pressure for 25 minutes (and ran it under cold water to release). I used my stovetop pressure cooker not the InstantPot (I think you’d need to add a few more minutes with the InstantPot). It was delicious. I think you could probably use the foil packet still but I opted not to.

  36. Jaimey says:

    Have you ever frozen this? How does it turn out? Thanks so much!

    • Mel says:

      it freezes pretty well. The potatoes are a bit softer after being defrosted but we still enjoy it as leftovers (the overall consistency is thicker, too).

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