Winter Stew

A Master Recipe for Beef, Pork, Chicken, Elk, Lamb or Venison
plus Your Favorite Winter Vegetables

For a memorable pot of stove-top or oven-baked stew, take a look at my signature recipe that I call "Winter Stew" because "almost any meat plus your choice of vegetables and a few other pantry ingredients" is a bit too long, don't you agree? :-) This recipe is my "go-to" stew recipe during cold weather for a one-pot supper, because it "just works", whatever the choices for meat and vegetables and whether cooked in the oven, on the stove or even in a tagine. More good news? Unlike most stews, it tastes good straight out of the pot (no time for flavor melding required) and cooks in an hour.

Fresh & Seasonal. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Easily Gluten Free. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.
Winter Stew ♥, a master recipe for a wintry meat and vegetable stew, a concept recipe that's been much-tested with many combinations of meats and vegetables, liquids and more. Shown here, elk meat, butternut squash, sherry and dried apricots.

Confession: I Was a Bad Cook

Once upon a time, I was a bad cook. With the arrogance of inexperience, I believed that instinct should guide my hands to add the right bits of this and the perfect spots of that.

But nothing turned out and for good reason, I lost all confidence.

A wise cook nudged gently. “Just at first,” she counseled, “follow a recipe. Then switch it around.”

Her advice worked and sure enough, slowly but surely, I learned to cook.

Still, even after all these years, there’s a special spot in my recipe box for "teaching" recipes that are more launching pad than destination, more guideline than prescription, ones where concept trumps inexperience.

Enter Winter Stew, a concept recipe of high confidence, beef stew one week, the tastiest venison stew the next, chicken and then lamb too.

Last winter I recruited recipe testers to experiment with Winter Stew's endless variations, playing with different combinations of meat, vegetables, herbs, cooking liquids and sweeteners.

Each reported excellent results, concluding, “Great stew recipe.” The last note read, “Writing about stew made me hungry! New batch simmering on the stove!” That, good cooks, is a recommendation.

What's In Winter Stew? Meat & Vegetables + Pantry Ingredients!

THE INGREDIENTS In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

THE VERY CONCEPT What makes this a winter stew, per se? Well ... for a seasonal cook like me (and you?), a meaty stew is cold-weather food. There's no reason why you can't make this during hot weather with summer vegetables, it just might not appeal as much as in winter.

  • AROMATICS The onion or shallot, the garlic, the herbs and also salt, gently sautéed until golden. These deepen Winter Stew's flavor.
  • MEAT So many different meats work here, cut up into bite-size pieces. In my kitchen, we usually turn to beef and venison, meats from our freezer. One meat doesn't work, sorry, it's our kitchen staple, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Chicken thighs work well though!
  • VEGGIES! My recipe testers and I tried cubes of butternut squash (my favorite), chunks of carrot, wedges of cabbage, hunks of new or russet potato, a bottle of pearl onions, a pound of sautéed mushrooms, frozen black-eyed peas, a can of diced tomatoes, slices of roasted pepper. Since publishing this recipe, I've used sweet potato, parsnips, celery, tomato and tomatillo, okra, even a bottle of salsa. Be creative, they're all good!
  • FLOUR A bit of flour thickens the gravy. For a gluten-free version, use yellow cornmeal or cornflour.
  • UMAMI Umami is that sixth tasting zone, an added sense of deliciousness that you can't quite put your finger – errr, make that tongue! – on! I throw in whatever sounds good but bits of dried apricot or raisins or currants or leftover cranberry sauce or fresh/dried cranberries that move the stew slightly sweet but also sun-dried tomatoes and re-constituted dried mushrooms too for something more savory.
  • SWEET LIQUID I veer toward Marsala and sherry and vermouth, they keep in the liquor cabinet for months, even years. But if you have a little leftover wine? Or fruit juice in the fridge? Or BBQ sauce watered down? Or hoisin sauce watered down? Go for it. This liquid adds a touch of underlying sweetness that contrasts with the savory meats and vegetables. But maybe you'd like to stay more savory, no problem, just use beef stock or chicken stock.
  • MORE LIQUID Just enough to cover the meat and vegetables. If your meat is chicken, you could use chicken stock.
  • OTHER ADD-INS Can you clean out the fridge, just a bit? Sure. I often will throw in some cooked quinoa (see How to Cook Quinoa for Meal Prep) or other odd bits.

What Makes This Recipe Special

  • It's good, no matter the combination of ingredients. No two pots the same!
  • After the prep work, it takes only an hour in the oven. Weeknight friendly? Pretty!
  • It's fun to experiment with unusual combinations. A recent favorite? Cauliflower and cranberries!
  • It makes a small batch of stew, perfect for small households.

Winter Stew ♥, a master recipe for a wintry meat and vegetable stew, a concept recipe that's been much-tested with many combinations of meats and vegetables, liquids and more. Shown here, elk meat, butternut squash, sherry and dried apricots.

Best Recipes!

Just updated! First published way back in 2009.


Cook with confidence, no recipe required
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes 4 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion or large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dry)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dry)
  • 1 pound meat, beef, pork, lamb, chicken thighs (not breasts, too dry), elk or venison, cut in bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons flour or yellow cornmeal (for gluten free)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup wine or fruit juice (Marsala, dry sherry, red or white wine; apple juice or cider)
  • 1 pound vegetables (see TIPS)
  • 1/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes or dried apricots or golden raisins
  • 1 – 2 cups broth or water (just enough to partially cover)

START OFF ON THE STOVE Heat oil on medium in a Dutch oven. Add onion, garlic and herbs; cook until onions begin to brown. Add meat and let brown, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes; midway, sprinkle with flour and salt, stir in and continue cooking. Add the remaining ingredients. Complete cooking on the stovetop, in the oven or in a tagine.

STOVETOP Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cover and cook for an hour or until meat and vegetables are cooked.

OVEN Cover and cook in a 350F/175C oven for an hour. A thick gravy will form.

TAGINE Cover and cook in a 350F/175C oven for an hour. The cooking liquid will remain quite liquid but once out of the oven, may be thickened on the stove if desired.

Serve over noodles, Oven-Baked Brown Rice, wild rice, Lighter Mashed "Potatoes" or hominy.

ALANNA's TIPS For vegetables, aim for two or three of different textures, colors and shapes.
BEST-ESTIMATE NUTRITION INFORMATION (nutrition will vary based on your choices, this is a guide only, assumes beef sirloin) Per Cup: 346 Calories; 16g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 53mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium; 17g Carb; 3g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 25g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 8 & PointsPlus 8 & SmartPoints 10 & Freestyle 9 & myWW green 9 & blue 9 & purple 9

More Hearty Stew Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Slow Cooker Chicken, Chickpea & Kale Stew Slow Cooker Curried Vegetable Stew Spanish Stew with Roasted Pepper (Chilindron)
~ more stew recipes ~

More Concept and Teaching Recipes

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My Everyday Creamy Herb Salad Dressing Never-the-Same-Twice Vegetable Frittata Master Recipe: Rustic Fruit Ice Cream
Chicken Sybil Stir-Fried Shrimp with Asparagus How to Make Homemade Vegetable Soup
~ more concept recipes ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2009, 2015 (repub), 2020 & 2021 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I am a new cook and so I love the idea of a concept recipe. This stew looks so warm and hearty...the perfect meal for a cold evening.

  2. Joanne, Lovely! Thanks for taking the time to let me know. So many 'teaching' recipes seem to be so simplified that experienced cooks are disinterested. This one, I think, is simple but nuanced at the same time.

  3. Nothing better than a warming stew at this time of year. I've not cooked many yet, myself, but will probably find time to do so soon. Perhaps a tagine, to make use of my Christmas present!

  4. I love concept recipes. One of my favorite cookbooks is How to Cook Without a Book by Pamela Anderson and I really enjoy the "Cooking without Recipes" feature in Fine Cooking magazine. And your concept recipes, of course! This one sounds like a winner.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna