Crockpot Beef Stew

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The ultimate BEST EVER crockpot beef stew with gnocchi! Recipe via chelseasmessyapron.com | #beef #stew #crockpot #slowcooker #gnocchi #best #dinner #soup #easy #delicious #familyfriendly #carrots #celery

Crockpot Beef Stew combines fall-apart tender beef with sweet juicy carrots and a luxuriously rich gravy base. And the “secret” ingredient that takes this stew to the next level? We replace the typical potatoes found in beef stew with a package of gnocchi — light potato dumplings that are soft, delicate, and have a silky-smooth texture. You’ll never want to have beef stew any other way!

Pair this stew with some crusty bread or dinner rolls and a quick, light salad like this garden salad.

Overhead image of the Crockpot Beef Stew

Crockpot Beef Stew

Growing up, my dad make beef stew all the time — in fact, he was known for his beef stew — friends and neighbors always asked to stay for dinner if he had a batch going. I loved it so much that it was the birthday dinner I’d always request (despite the fact that my birthday is in the summer).

And while my dad never added gnocchi to his stew (potatoes always), the rest of this recipe is based on his “famous” stew. He never followed a recipe or wrote anything down — just added a bit of this and a touch of that, so it’s taken a few phone calls and some experimenting to get it just right to share here.

I can’t wait for you to try it and hope you love this recipe as much as my family has!

QUICK TIP

We use the term ‘crockpot’ here in the generic sense.  Crock-Pot® is a trademarked slow cooker appliance made by Sunbeam Products. For this recipe, any 6-quart slow cooker will work.

Process shots-- images of the chuck roast being cut into bite-sized pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper, and being seared.

What To Expect From This Recipe

Truly, this is the best beef stew I’ve ever had, but be aware that there is a good amount of effort involved to get it going.

The slow cooker ensures the actual cooking process is hands-off and delivers ridiculously tender meat and veggies, but before we can get to the cooking phase, there is some prep required. That prep includes searing the meat and then whipping together the gravy base, which is done in a separate pot. You’ll also need another pot to cook the gnocchi in.

QUICK TIP

Just so expectations are set at the start, this is not a dump-it-and-forget-it, one-pot kind of meal. If you’re looking for that type of stew, try this Sweet Potato Stew — it’s very easy, one-pot (slow cooker), and crazy popular with rave reviews!

Process shots-- images of the beef being seared and the onion, garlic, and butter being added and cooked together

How To Make Crockpot Beef Stew

We start by searing the beef and then using that same skillet to make the gravy base for the stew.

Why sear the beef? Searing does two things. First, it creates a more complex flavor in the browning process (the browning also leaves bits of flavor that will be included in the creamy base to this dish) and second, the final dish will have less grease (and as a result, a less greasy flavor).

After the beef is seared and the gravy has been created, add in all the other ingredients (except for the gnocchi) and let the slow cooker work its magic. We recommend cooking low and slow (on low heat) for the best flavor and ultimate beef tenderness, but you can cook this stew on high and save a couple of hours.

Right before serving, boil the gnocchi (it takes 2-3 minutes) and add those delicious bites of potato dumplings to each serving bowl. Cut up some crusty bread to serve alongside and you’re on your way to beef stew heaven!

Process shots of the Crockpot Beef Stew-- images of the flour being added and liquid being gradually mixed in to make the gravy base

The “Secret” Ingredients

A few ingredients make this stew especially flavorful.

  • Beef chuck roast: We want meat that’s juicy and tender. More about meat in stews here.
  • Red wine: My family doesn’t use wine, but plenty of people do, and red wine really adds a layer of complexity to this recipe. If you want to use red wine in this recipe, I recommend pinot noir, merlot, or Sangiovese. Stay away from the sweet reds and try one of the medium- or full-bodied dry red wines. Most of the alcohol cooks out, but there will be trace amounts left in any cooked food. Beef stock is a fine substitute for the wine.
  • Beef stock. A lot of recipes call for beef broth, so I consider the stock to be a secret ingredient. Stock is a richer liquid than broth. It’s made by simmering bones, vegetables, herbs, and spices in water for hours until the flavor can be extracted (broth uses water simmered with meat). Stock has a richer and deeper flavor than broth and it is a key to the flavor of this stew. Swanson® beef stock (regular, not low sodium) is our favorite in this recipe.
  • Worcestershire sauce: This sauce is tangy, savory, sweet, and salty. It adds a great umami (savory) flavor to Crockpot Beef Stew. 
  • Thyme/parsley: Herbs add so much flavor. If you don’t have access to the fresh herbs, use dried instead. To really take this stew to the next level, garnish individual bowls with fresh thyme!
  • Gnocchi. More on this ingredient below!

Process shots-- images of all the ingredients being added to the crockpot

Let’s Chat Gnocchi

The gnocchi really changes up this stew and gives it something special. It’s a unique addition, but you won’t be missing out on the potato flavor, since gnocchi is made from potatoes. Gnocchi is just the ingredient to change things up while keeping the flavors you know and love. And it’s a fun twist on a classic beef stew. 

In case you aren’t familiar, gnocchi is a traditional Italian type of pasta. They’re soft, pillowy, thick, and fairly small. Gnocchi are usually made with semolina or white flour (or a mix of both), but the main ingredient remains consistent — they’re always made with potatoes! Gnocchi are tender, light, and taste like a mix between dumplings and pasta.

For this recipe, you’ll need one package of your favorite shelf-stable gnocchi. While no store-bought gnocchi can ever compare to homemade, gnocchi doesn’t have a very strong flavor. This makes them versatile and excellent for carrying other flavors in surrounding ingredients or sauces — perfect for the rich gravy in this Crockpot Beef Stew.

To decide what gnocchi to purchase, here is a list of the top sellers on Amazon and a list of taste tester’s favorites. My local grocery store doesn’t have a huge selection, but Gia Russa® Gnocchi is typically my go-to.

QUICK TIP

Instead of mixing all of the cooked gnocchi into the Crockpot Beef Stew, we prefer to keep them separate and add a handful of gnocchi to individual bowls. This is because gnocchi will continue to take on liquid and become bloated or disintegrate when stored in the liquid making leftovers less pleasant.

Process shots-- images of the gnocchi being added

STORAGE

Crockpot Beef Stew Storage

  • Storing: Stew is a great make-ahead dish. Let it fully cool and then cover tightly and store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days
  • Reheating: Reheat the stew gently on the stovetop (over low heat, stirring occasionally) until warmed through or warm in the microwave. Stew thickens as it stands, so you may want to add a splash more of beef stock to slightly thin the broth.
  • Freezing: Stew freezes well — you may want to make a double batch to freeze some for later! Let stew cool completely and then store in heavy plastic, airtight (freezer-safe) containers, leaving space for expansion. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge and then reheat on the stovetop. Stew thickens as it stands, so you may want to add a splash more of beef stock to slightly thin.

Overhead image of the Crockpot Beef Stew in a bowl, ready to be eaten

Crockpot Beef Stew Serving Suggestions

The great thing about beef stew is that it’s a full meal all in one bowl. It’s got meat, plenty of veggies, and a rich gravy. So, if you’re going to serve something with beef stew, keep it simple! Below are a few recommendations.

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Crockpot Beef Stew

5 from 2 votes
Crockpot Beef Stew combines fall-apart tender beef with sweet juicy carrots and a luxuriously rich gravy base. And the "secret" ingredient that takes this stew to the next level? We replace the typical potatoes found in beef stew with a package of gnocchi -- light potato dumplings that are soft, delicate, and have a silky-smooth texture. You'll never want to have beef stew any other way!
Print Recipe

Crockpot Beef Stew

5 from 2 votes
Crockpot Beef Stew combines fall-apart tender beef with sweet juicy carrots and a luxuriously rich gravy base. And the "secret" ingredient that takes this stew to the next level? We replace the typical potatoes found in beef stew with a package of gnocchi -- light potato dumplings that are soft, delicate, and have a silky-smooth texture. You'll never want to have beef stew any other way!
Course Dinner, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword beef stew, Crockpot Beef Stew
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 9 hours
Total Time 9 hours 40 minutes
Servings 10 -12 servings
Calories 420kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $17.56

Equipment

  • 6 quart slow cooker
  • Skillet or pot -- cast iron preferred

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 2 and 1/2 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-2 inch cubes (bite-sized pieces)
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (1-1/2 cups 210g)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (35g) white flour
  • 1/2 cup (119g) red wine, 100% grape juice, or extra beef stock (Note 1)
  • 2 cups (453g) beef stock Note 2
  • 2 cups (305g) baby carrots, halved lengthwise
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced (~1 and 3/4 cups (220g))
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.; 411g) fire-roasted diced tomatoes undrained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 package (16 oz.; 453g) gnocchi (miniature or regular-sized) Note 3
  • Optional, for serving: fresh thyme or flat-leaf Italian parsley, crusty warmed bread

Instructions

  • PREP: Cut the beef chuck roast into 1-2-inch cubes and set aside. Toss beef cubes with salt and pepper to taste; I add 2 teaspoons fine sea salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper.
  • SEAR BEEF: Heat a large cast iron pot or regular pot on high (cast iron is best!) Add in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the pot is hot, add a single, spaced-out layer of cubed beef pieces (don't overcrowd the beef, so we can get a nice sear. That char = flavor!). Sear beef for about 2 minutes per side (Don't stir the beef around, simply leave it in one spot and then, using tongs, flip it to the other side after about 2 minutes -- it should release and be very easy to flip). Sear beef in batches adding extra olive oil if needed. Once a batch is seared, remove it with tongs into a bowl and set aside for now.
  • GRAVY: Do not wash out the pot -- we've got loads of flavor here! Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in the diced onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 4-6 minutes, or until beginning to soften, scraping up the browned bits in the pot as you stir the onions. Then add in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add in the butter and allow to melt. While whisking constantly, add in the flour and, whisking constantly, cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine (or stock if using) while whisking constantly until you get a thick sludge and the liquid has reduced. Then add in the beef stock, gradually, while whisking constantly. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape every bit of this mixture into the slow cooker.
  • SLOW COOKER: While you're working on the beef or gravy, add the remaining ingredients to a 6-quart slow cooker: the halved baby carrots, sliced celery, fire-roasted diced tomatoes (don't drain), tomato paste, dried parsley, dried thyme, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Add in the set-aside beef and any accumulated juices. Give everything a good stir and submerge the beef pieces under the liquid.
  • COOK: Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6-7 hours. (I highly recommended cooking on low.)
  • GNOCCHI: About 20 minutes prior to serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the potato gnocchi according to package directions (~2-3 minutes). Drain and set aside. Don't rinse under cold water.
  • FINISHING: Give the stew a good stir and taste for additional seasonings if needed (salt, pepper -- I typically add another 1/4 teaspoon each) even an extra pinch of sugar goes a long way! Serve the stew in bowls and stir in a few spoonfuls of gnocchi into each bowl. Garnish with fresh thyme or parsley (if using) and serve with crusty warmed bread!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Red wine: Red wine really adds a layer of complexity to this recipe. If you want to use red wine in this recipe, I recommend pinot noir, merlot, or Sangiovese. Stay away from the sweet reds and try one of the medium- or full-bodied dry red wines. Most of the alcohol cooks out, but there will be trace amounts left in any cooked food. If you prefer not to cook with wine, beef stock is a good substitute. When making for my kiddos, I've also used 100% grape juice and love those results -- leave out the added sugar and it's not too sweet (grape juice balances the acidity of the tomatoes). If going this route, just be sure the grape juice has no added sugar!
Note 2: Beef stock: Stock is a richer liquid than broth. It's made by simmering bones, vegetables, herbs, and spices in water for hours until the flavor can be extracted (broth uses water simmered with meat). Stock has a richer and deeper flavor than broth and it is a key to the flavor of this stew. Swanson® beef stock (regular, not low sodium) is our favorite in this recipe!
Note 3: Gnocchi: To decide what gnocchi to purchase, here is a list of the top sellers on Amazon and a list of taste tester's favorites. My local grocery store doesn't have a huge selection, but Gia Russa® Gnocchi is typically my go-to brand. Instead of mixing all of the cooked gnocchi into the stew, we prefer to keep them separate and add a handful of gnocchi to individual bowls. This is because gnocchi will continue to take on liquid and become bloated or disintegrate when stored in the liquid making leftovers less pleasant.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 420kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 484mg | Potassium: 665mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 6864IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 5mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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