When the leaves on the trees are starting to change colors and the temperature outside drops my hunger cravings point directly to comfort foods. In my mind, beef stew is the best comfort food to eat on a cold and gloomy day. Aggressively seasoned and seared chunks of beef and hearty root vegetables in rich and flavorful broth is sure to warm your heart and soul.
However, it can be kind of tricky to find the best side dish to go with beef stew. Considering the dish is already a complete meal in itself, it may seem that you wouldn’t need to serve anything with it at all. What you decide to serve as your side dish will depend completely on how you prepare your beef stew in the first place.
There are many different side dishes that go well with beef stew. Various types of breads and crusty loaves, starchy vegetables, wild rice, and porridge are some dishes that are going to be on the heavier and hearty side. If you want to take a lighter approach with your side dish then fresh salads, antipasto, crudité, and sauteed veggies will be perfect.
I have been a professional chef for 25 years and the thing to remember when choosing a side dish for your beef stew is to create balance within the meal. The way you decide to prepare the beef stew will determine what you should serve alongside it.
If you prepare your beef stew with potatoes or some other starch then you may want to steer clear of heavy sides like mashed potatoes, rice or roasted root vegetables. If you want to create balance in the meal, don’t double up the starches, instead serve the stew with a bright and vibrant salad or a light crudité platter. Just be aware of the ingredients you are using when planning the meal.
- Hearty Sides
- Lighter Sides
- What To Serve With Irish Beef Stew?
- What To Serve With A Guinness Beef Stew?
- What Is Best To Put In A Beef Stew?
- What Cut Of Beef To Use In A Beef Stew?
- How To Cook A Beef Stew?
- Final Verdict
1. Crusty Loaves Of Bread
When it comes to beef stew, the main go to is going to be a nice crust loaf of bread. The bread soaks up all that luscious broth the stew has to offer and brings a nice texture element to the dish.
Choosing the right type of bread is vital. You will want a hearty loaf of bread with a crispy exterior such as French baguette or rustic homemade artisan bread. The crunchy exterior of the bread acts as a vessel for the stew while still maintaining its integrity.
Other types of breads will work great too such as cornbread or biscuits. Even though they do not have a crunchy exterior, they still bring great flavor and texture to the beef stew.
Any cooking method you choose to cook your potato side dish is going to work well. Although there are some potato side dishes that go amazingly with beef stew.
Mashed potatoes are one of the best sides to pair with beef stew. I have seen some people like to add mashed potatoes to a bowl and just pour the beef stew over the mashed potatoes. Similar to the concept of pouring chili on top of mac n cheese.
You can also try roasting the potatoes with some garlic and herbs or serving a baked potato alongside the stew. Any method will be fine. Just remember that if you choose a potato side dish, you may want to omit the potatoes from the stew as well.
3. Wild Rice
Another great option is rice. One of the best types to choose from is wild rice to complement the beef stew. You can use any type of rice you would like though.
If you wanted something a little more plain then long-grain, jasmine, or basmati will do just fine. Wild rice is one of the healthier options but brown rice is an even better option for the healthy route.
4. Root Vegetables
When I say root vegetables, I literally mean anything that grows under the ground with the exception of potatoes as forementioned. As long as they are not included in the beef stew then they make a great side dish.
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and sunchokes are great. Large dice them, season with pepper and salt, some olive oil, chopped garlic cloves and fresh herbs. Toss everything together and roast them in the oven until they are soft and tender and have wonderful golden-brown color.
Other root vegetables such as beets and garlic bulbs are great sides as well but need to be roasted whole to gain the best possible outcome. Just drizzle some oil on the beet or garlic and wrap in aluminum foil.
Roast them in the oven until soft and tender and they are ready when cooled down. The natural sugars of the beets and garlic are vastly improved when roasted whole and are a gamechanger when done properly.
5. Creamy Polenta
Polenta is a great option as a side dish to please the whole family. Made as a side dish or as the actual vessel for the stew are the most common options.
Place the creamy polenta in the middle of the bowl and just pour the stew over it. This is the same type of deal as the mashed potatoes.
There is another way that works well too though. If you make the polenta from scratch, spread it out on to a sheet pan and place in the fridge overnight.
Then cut out ½ inch thick by 3 inches long sticks from the solidified polenta. Place the in the air fryer or a hot oil bath and you will have some delicious polenta fries that will bring the dish to a whole new level.
6. Egg Noodles
Even though you could use just about any type of pasta to accompany the beef stew, it just seems weird. Pasta is usually going to be the vessel in which the stew is placed on top.
Egg noodles are the best choice. They are heartier noodle but are still delicate enough that it won’t make the dish overbearing.
7.Dumplings And Gnocchi
The same goes for dumplings and gnocchi as it does for the pasta. They are not normally chosen as a side dish but more as an accompaniment to the overall dish.
You could use any type of dumplings such as drop dumplings, dumpling noodles or premade frozen dumplings. Using gnocchi will offer the beef stew a level of sophistication and add a slightly different flavor and texture to the beef stew.
A much healthier option to go with is a crudité platter which is easier than it sounds. Cut plenty of fresh vegetables into small sticks and arrange them nicely on a serving tray with a side dip if needed.
You can use a wide variety of vegetables as options to your guests such as carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, and cauliflower. All of these veggies go great with a dip or sauce on the side or even a side dish of hummus. It’s an easy way to bring some freshness to the meal.
Just like the crudité platter, an antipasto platter is a great route to take. Sometimes this dish can be referred to as a charcuterie board but the word “antipasto” means to be served before the meal. Since beef stew is already a communal dish, it just makes sense to have a platter or two of various foods as well.
This type of platter has an arrangement of various cured meats, pickled vegetables, cheeses or preserved fish. Meats like pepperoni, salami and prosciutto are crowd pleasers. Artichoke hearts, olives and pepperoncini are great pickled items.
10. Steamed, Sauteed Or Grilled Vegetables
This is also a great option if you like to have a healthier side but don’t want to eat raw vegetables. There are hundreds of ways to cook vegetables but why not just make it easy on yourself and throw them on the grill or sauté pan.
If you plan on grilling your veggies, cover them in a light coat of olive oil before grilling them. If you sauté the veggies, you can use olive oil as well, but a small tablespoon of butter or two will wonders for vegetables.
However, if you still want to have a healthy side but do not want to eat raw veggies, then maybe just steam your vegetables. A quick hot water blanch is all a vegetable needs sometimes to release its natural flavors.
11. Fresh Salads
Last but certainly not least, you can never go wrong with a fresh salad. A salad with the right type of salad dressing can either complement or contrast the flavors of the beef stew.
Sweeter and creamier dressings are going to complement the stew with similar flavors and consistencies. Tart and tangy dressings will bring a nice bright and crisp element to the dish. Most of the time a more acidic dressing like balsamic vinaigrette or Italian dressing will help to cut through all the heaviness of the beef stew.
What To Serve With Irish Beef Stew?
If you want to stick to the Irish theme of the stew then try to go with some other traditional Irish sides. You can still follow the same guidelines we set for you as mentioned above such as crusty loaves of bread, potatoes and cooked vegetables.
If you are going with bread, try your hand at making a traditional Irish Soda Bread. It is a dense bread that only uses a few ingredients and is really easy to make.
If the stew doesn’t have potatoes already, go with a potato side like mashed potatoes or roasted fingerling potatoes. If you want to have a cooked vegetable, try braised cabbage or roasted Brussel sprouts.
What To Serve With A Guinness Beef Stew?
When you use Guinness beer to make a beef stew, the dish becomes much heartier and more filling. The deep and rich flavors of the beer complement the stew well but do make it that much heavier. If you want to figure out a side, we suggest you go with something lighter like a fresh salad or steamed vegetables.
A fresh salad of your favorite greens and veggies will help to bring a much-needed lighter element to the dish. Maybe try using an acidic dressing to cut through all the heaviness of the stew as well.
If you go with a steamed vegetable, just make sure to not use one that is already in the stew. Try to mix it up a bit and add some variety to the dish.
What Is Best To Put In A Beef Stew?
Many different things can go into a beef stew so there really is no set recipe. Some people like to cook their beef stew just like the dish beef bourguignon except with the addition of water or a beef stock.
Ultimately, beef bourguignon is a beef stew that has had all the liquid cooked out of it. As long as your stew has a cut of beef, some vegetables and a starch of some kind, then you will be just fine.
Make sure to get vegetables that going to hold up in the stew while they are cooking. Beef stew needs some time to cook so choosing a vegetable that is softer won’t be the best of choices. Vegetables that work well in a beef stew will consist of carrots, celery, peas, root vegetables, onions, and garlic.
Make sure to add some fresh herbs to the pot while it is stewing. Rosemary, sage and thyme are all very fragrant herbs that will work very well in a beef stew.
When you season the stew, use salt and pepper. Any other additional seasonings or spices are up to you but a bay leaf, ground cumin and sweet paprika work nicely.
For the liquid, you should use beef stock or beef broth. You can use water but the stew will not be as flavorsome as it could be. Beef stew will also benefit from red wine.
After searing your beef and vegetables, deglaze the pan or pot with a cup of red wine. Allow the red wine to cook for a few minutes before adding any other liquid so it has time to cook off the unwanted alcohol leaving only the sweet red wine flavor.
What Cut Of Beef To Use In A Beef Stew?
You can use any cut of beef in your beef stew. Depending on the type of cut you go with will determine how long the stew will need to be cooked as well.
The most common types of cuts used in a beef stew are going to be tough cuts that need plenty of time to cook thoroughly. Softer and leaner cuts of meat won’t be a very good choice since they only need a short period of time to cook.
Tough cuts of meat are going to be the cheaper and large cuts of beef you find in the store. Beef chuck roast is one of the most common and has plenty of fat marbling. Other cuts like top round, the eye of round, beef short rib and chopped stew meat.
These types of meat will need to stew for a few hours on a low temperature to become moist and tender. If you rush the beef stew and don’t let it simmer, the beef will be tough and chewy. Make sure to cut your beef into 1-2-inch pieces and give them a nice hard initial sear in the pot before adding any other ingredients.
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How To Cook A Beef Stew?
It is incredibly easy to cook and you really don’t even need a recipe to do it. All you need is patience and attentiveness. The amount of time you let your stew simmer will determine the outcome. It can only get better as it cooks as long as you do it “low and slow”.
Any type of cooking vessel will work but just a regular pot on the stovetop will be the best choice. If you want to use a crockpot, make sure to sear the meat and veggies separately then add them, to the crockpot.
Start by searing the beef in cooking oil to gain some color and caramelization on the meat. Then add your hard vegetables and allow them to sear in the pan for a few minutes as well.
Deglaze the pan with some red wine and cook for a few minutes to release the alcohol content. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot, and lower the temperature to a slow and steady simmer.
The stew just needs time to cook from this point on so stick around and check it every once in a while, with a casual stir of the wooden spoon. You will know the beef stew is ready when the broth has thickened slightly and the meat is fall-apart tender!
There are so many different options to with as a side for your beef stew. Aside from the ones I have mentioned, there are dozens more that may work better for you as well! No matter what side you choose to accompany your beef stew, I’m sure it will be a fan favorite for years to come!
Kevin has spent 20 years as an Executive Chef, focused heavily on recipe construction and menu development. Today his focus is on writing, consulting to restaurants, and teaching culinary arts. In his spare time, Kevin loves to cook with his lovely wife and kids.