Guinness beef stew is a classic St. Patrick’s Day recipe with tender pieces of corned beef and root vegetables infused with beer and spices. This method uses the stovetop and slow cooker for maximum flavor.
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My family looks forward to celebrating our Irish heritage with a big feast each year! Corned beef is always on the menu. When I’m not making a baked honey mustard roast, I’ll chop up the meat and vegetables into chunks for a stew instead.
After a brief sear to develop surface flavors, I simmer the tough cut of meat for hours in the slow cooker for fork-tender pieces. To make the gravy incredibly delicious, add Guinness. The malty stout has deep roasted coffee notes that complement the beef.
Corned beef is a tough cut of meat with lots of intermuscular fat and gelatin. It benefits from prolonged, moist-heat cooking, so a slow cooker or dutch oven are ideal preparation methods. Corned beef gets its characteristic pink hue and taste from being cured in tinted brine.
If you prefer a less salty taste, use beef chuck or chuck roll, which I use in my classic beef stew.
Sear the beef first
Before placing the corned beef in the slow cooker, I sear the meat in a pan on the stovetop. This process develops a flavorful brown crust that a steamy slow cooker can not achieve. This step adds a little extra work to the recipe, but the results are worth it.
Since corned beef has a fatty layer on top, trim most of it off, so it doesn’t make the stew too greasy. Also, cut the brisket into large 1-inch pieces as it will shrink down as it cooks. Season the meat with salt and pepper before adding it to the hot pan.
Prepare the aromatics
Heat the chopped onions, sliced garlic, and tomato paste in the microwave to add depth to the stew. This technique quickly softens the onions and mimics cooking them in a pan. The dry heat helps to concentrate the flavor of the alliums and glutamates in the tomatoes.
Alternatively, you can saute the ingredients over medium heat in the same pan used to sear the beef if you prefer.
Using a variety of vegetables
To complement the chunks of beef, I like to use a variety of root vegetables and squash. The starches in red potatoes soak up the flavorful liquid and hold their shape well while simmering. You can use other types of potatoes like Yukon Gold for a buttery and creamy texture, but avoid Russets that break apart easily.
Butternut squash, when softened, still adds a nice contrast in texture. Corn kernels add little chewy bits to the stew. You can add other vegetables like parsnips, sweet potatoes, or other gourds. Cut them into similar sizes to cook evenly, about 1-inch pieces.
What beer is best for beef stew?
For this Irish-inspired recipe, flavoring the stew liquid with a stout like Guinness is preferred. It has a heavy body that’s dark in color. The sweetness of the malt balances the slight bitterness from the hops. The beer adds a chocolate and coffee note to the stew.
Be sure to use Draught beer and not the extra stout kind, which tends to be more bitter. I add some brown sugar which contains molasses, to offset some of the astringent alcohol taste.
To thicken the sauce
After a few hours in the Crock-Pot, the simmering stew liquid will still be a thin consistency. Make a flour slurry by whisking some of the hot stock with all-purpose flour to thicken the sauce. Pour that into the slow cooker, along with the starchy corn kernel. In about 30 minutes on high, the sauce will lightly thicken and should cling to the meat and vegetables.
Making Guinness beef stew in a dutch oven
Suppose you don’t have a slow cooker, no problem. Brown the beef and remove it from the pot. Saute the onion, garlic, and tomato paste until tender. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the liquid ingredients and seasonings, then add the vegetables and beef. Cover and bake at 350ºF (177ºC) until vegetables and meat are tender, about 75 to 90 minutes. Add corn and simmer on the stovetop until cooked through.
Serve this with
Frequently asked questions
I recommend using a beef chuck or beef chuck roll to substitute the corned beef. They are tough cuts that tenderize with low heat and a slow cooking process. However, the taste will be much less savory. Adjust with more salt at the end of cooking.
Yes! Cassava flour, arrowroot powder, or a cornstarch slurry can be used instead of all-purpose flour.
The beer ingredients like hops and barley contribute to a slightly bitter coffee flavor. The stout has a slightly sweet taste but to balance the flavor in the beef stew, add in a small amount of brown sugar, increasing if needed.
Benefits of browning the meat
You can add the beef straight to the slow cooker if you’re short on time. However, the meat will be less flavorful. Searing corned beef develops hundreds of new flavors on the surface, called Maillard browning. This step also helps render the fat, so the stew doesn’t become greasy.
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Slow Cooker Guinness Beef Stew
- 2 pounds corned beef brisket
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 2 cups yellow onion, ½” dice
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups baby red potatoes, quartered, 1” pieces
- 2 cups carrots, 1” pieces
- 2 cups butternut squash, 1” cubes
- 3 cups unsalted beef stock
- 1 ½ cups beer Guinness Draught
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 packet pickling spices, comes with corned beef, optional
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup corn kernels, fresh or canned
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- Prepare Corned Beef – Trim the excess fat off the surface of the beef, leaving a thin layer. Cut into 1-inch cubes, about 3 cups—season with salt and pepper.
- Sear the Meat – In a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, brown the meat for about 2 minutes on each side, 8 minutes total. If needed, work in batches, keeping the pieces in a single layer in the pan. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Microwave the Aromatics – In a microwave-safe dish, combine the onions, garlic, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, stopping and stirring every 2 minutes. The onions should be tender. Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Add the beer and vegetables – Add the potatoes, carrot, butternut squash, beef stock, Guinness beer, brown sugar, thyme, and pickling spices (if using) to the slow cooker. Stir to combine.
- Cook – Cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 7 hours on low. The potatoes should be fork-tender.
- Thicken the Sauce – In a medium bowl, combine flour with ¾ cup of the hot stew liquid and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture back into the slow cooker and stir. Add the corn kernels—cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.
- Serve – Pour the stew into bowls and garnish with parsley right before serving.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use equal amounts of cassava flour instead of the all-purpose flour. For cornstarch, mix 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 6 tablespoons of water. Use a gluten-free beer.
- Storing: Cool completely, then cover and store inside the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freezer for 1 month.
- Reheating: Cover and reheat individual portions in a microwave-safe bowl on high in 30-seconds increments until hot. Alternatively, simmer on the stovetop until hot.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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