Secret Ingredient Beef Stew

By • February 1, 2010 • 80 Comments

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Author Notes: I created this recipe for a dinner party I was co-hosting with my sister. I took a lot of steps to make the stew as savory as humanly possible. These steps included: carefully browning the meat; adding great proportions of veggies, including mushrooms and leeks; and stirring in a surprise ingredient: anchovies. The result was delicious, and I served it over buttery, parslied orzo and accompanied by crusty bread. - SmallKitchCaraCara Eisenpress

Food52 Review: This savory, rich stew may be named after one secret ingredient, but it's because of a complex mix of components that it succeeds so well. Tomatoes and tomato paste give it a sunny sweetness, diced veggies lend texture, and red wine and vinegar brighten everything up. Anchovies, the "secret ingredient," are briny and buttery, giving the sauce a smooth, complex finish. We recommend using beef with generous marbling for the best results. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 8-10

  • 5-5.5 pounds beef stewing meat, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/3 cup mixed olive and canola oil
  • 2 leeks, washed well and cut thinly
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 4 ounces white mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup canned whole tomatoes with juices
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper on both sides. Brown the meat in batches in a 5-6 quart Dutch oven over high heat, adding more oil as needed. Remove to a plate.
  2. Lower the heat and add all the vegetables. Cook for 5-10 minutes until softened. Stir in the tomato paste and anchovies and cook to melt the anchovies and distribute.
  3. Add the beef back in, with its juices. Add the wine, vinegar, and tomatoes with juice (breaking them up against the side of the pot as you go) and bring to a boil. Add the stock to cover (you may need a bit more than 3 cups). Put in the salt, bay leaf, thyme, bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.
  4. When cool, skim off much of the fat from the top. Reheat over low heat, letting the stew simmer 30-45 minutes before serving.
  5. Mix in half of the parsley and garnish with the rest.
Jump to Comments (80)

Tags: can be made ahead, serves a crowd, winter

Comments (80) Questions (5)


7 days ago biocarolyn

Made this last night and it was delicious- the first beef stew I've ever loved. I halved the recipe and used home canned beef stock and tomatoes. I didn't have much fat, so I didn't bother to cool and skim, then reheat- just left it on for the extra half hour. I served over pearl barley and the consensus was that it was excellent. I'm betting the leftovers will be even better for lunch today.


about 1 month ago cpc

It makes the house smell amazing! This is definitely my favorite stew recipe now. It looks as beautiful as it tastes. We ate it as is without adding noodles or potatoes. This will be my go to stew recipe now on.


about 1 month ago Ann

Also meant to mention that although the recipe is absolutely fine as is, I, like several other reviewers, added lots more carrots and 3 russet potatoes. There is a LOT of meat here and we are vegetable lovers, too, so adding more vegetables worked for us. We also like a slightly "soupier" stew, so I added 1-1 1/2 cups extra stock. I don't think doing so sacrificed any of the flavor. Great for a crowd. And since I wasn't going to be home to watch it, I started it on the stove and then finished it in the crockpot.


about 1 month ago Ann

Delicious, with lots of depth of flavor. Don't be afraid to add the anchovies. You can't taste them at all when the stew is finished.


about 1 month ago Diana

I made this with short ribs rather than chuck which turned out fantastically! The sauce is rich, smooth and flavorful. This recipe is delicious and I will make it again, but next time I might add potatoes instead of mushrooms and reduce the vinegar significantly. This recipe is a KEEPER!


about 1 month ago Diana

The house smells amazing! My butcher was out of chuck so I used short ribs instead. I think the bones will really add a nice hearty flavor and richness to the stew.


about 1 month ago Vicki Capone

I made this with very little variation (I used water instead of beef broth. Still tons of savory flavor with less sodium.) and it was wonderful. I served it over smashed potatoes. Best beef stew ever! Thanks for the recipe!!


4 months ago marymary

Made this yesterday with anchovy paste and it was awesome! I had to use chicken broth (32 ounces) and added red potatoes and lentils. I will definitely make this again with beef broth.


5 months ago Joanette

Really liked it! Is is really like a soup stew.


11 months ago cookingintheheights

fun to see that my original comment on this thread was four (4!) years ago. has this site been around that long!?? just wanted to comment back now to say that i recently made this again (and have done so many times in intervening years) only this version used mushroom broth instead of beef broth works really well! thanks again for the great recipe.


11 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

I made this recipe sometime ago, but didn't leave feedback. The recipe is absolutely delicious. Not your typical beef stew in the sense that it has chunks of vegetables or a starch (potatoes) to make it typical. Succulent beef chunks in a tomato-based, tangy broth with aromatics. Nothing wrong with that. It lends itself perfectly to serve on top of buttered egg noodles, mashed potatoes, rice or orzo. It's a flavorful tender beef preparation. Highly recommend!


11 months ago Ronni Alvarez

Wow! This was the best beef stew recipe I've ever made.


11 months ago John Oakley

prepped and put in the slow cooker this morning...just had it for dinner and was simply delicious. served with an arugula salad with meyer lemon vinaigrette. happy.


12 months ago Debra

I have to say I didn't love this. The meat was tender and all... I just found the sauce to be too vinegary....


about 1 year ago SunBunny

Looks A-mazing! Thanks for the inspiration!


about 1 year ago Johnny Ringo

I loved this! The only change I made was to substitute some red miso paste for the anchovies, since I didnt' have any.


about 1 year ago Mike C.

Loved it! I added red cabbage....other wise I pretty much followed the recipe here.


about 1 year ago Teamarie

Amazing!! I used grass-fed chuck from my cousin's cow (tends toward tough), and after a long low simmer on the stove, it was like butter. Amazing flavor! It's bookmarked for the future, for sure! Used half the meat, added turnips, served it with a healthy portion of mashed potatoes...yum!!


about 1 year ago lisa

Oh, and I did it in a Le Creuset and after simmering it on the stove for a while, I put it in the oven at 300-degrees, for another hour or so. You'll know when it's done! The meat falls apart as it should and the broth is amazing.


about 1 year ago lisa

This is a great recipe. I happen to love a great beef stew, and have many favorite versions (including an excellent one from Judy Wicks' White Dog Cafe Cookbook). So I am particular about my beef stew recipes. But this is just wonderful. That zip of anchovy really does elevate the whole dish. My only suggestion is to use half the beef called for in the recipe, and also throw in some large-diced yukon gold potatoes, but follow the rest to a T. (But then, I like a lot of sauce.)