I totally understand why everyone lusts after the unadulterated flavor of steaks. But I’ll always be of the opinion that there are much more interesting things you could be doing with your beef, and they all involve giving it a nice, long simmer in something fragrant, spicy, or just plain homey and hearty. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned beef stew.
Sure, stews are nothing fancy, typically best suited for those off cuts of meat that only start to soften up after hours of gentle simmering. But the effects of slow cooking are precisely what make them great—no maneuvering with knives required, just a humble fork to pull apart those willingly tender morsels. In fact, beef might be the ultimate stew meat because it can hold its own against some seriously hardy flavors, going where other meats fear to tread.
For further proof of the universally appealing nature of a good beef stew, here are 12 globe-trotting variations that are guaranteed to bring the warmth on even the chilliest of winter days.
Header image and recipe of Chinese Brisket and Turnip Stew from CHOW
With a mélange of boneless chuck and vegetables in a hearty broth, a traditional beef stew is one of those essential, low-effort dishes that bring out the best of simple ingredients. Our recipe fine-tunes the method, ensuring that the meat is fall-apart tender, while preventing the vegetables from turning to mush.
Photo and recipe from CHOW
2. Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce
Ever since Julia Child showed America how to make boeuf bourguignon on her television show The French Chef, the dish has been synonymous with Gallic rusticity. This rendition from Jacques Pépin recalls that of the great restaurants of Lyon.
Photo and recipe from Food & Wine
3. Beef Carbonnade Flamande
Venture north from France into Belgium and you’ll find carbonnade flamande, which swaps out bourguignon’s red wine with a healthy glug of dark beer and a dash of vinegar. Its deep, malty flavor and tart overtones make for a dish that’s complex and a little bit funky.
Photo and recipe from Dinner with Julie
Stroganoff may have something of a fusty reputation, but anything that is rich with butter, sour cream, and wine is timeless in my book. Most beef stews rely on long, slow braises, but stroganoff achieves all of the same comforts within a relatively quick cooking time.
Photo and recipe from CHOW
5. Beef Barbacoa
One of the great things about stews is that they are equally at home in a bowl, over something starchy, or, in the case of beef barbacoa, on a freshly warmed tortilla. Laced with cumin, coriander, and smoky chipotles, it's a dish you can eat by the spoonful on one night, and fold the leftovers into tacos the next.
Photo and recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen
6. Galbi Jjim
Beef ribs have an ideal ratio of fat to muscle for creating unctuous, tender, and moist stew meat. In this Korean classic, they go for a braise in soy sauce tempered by the vegetal sweetness of Asian pear.
Photo and recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon
Hamin is a Jewish recipe that is slow-cooked out of necessity. Brought to a boil right before the Sabbath, it is then simmered overnight, eliminating the need to cook on the day of rest. Waking up to its hearty aroma in the morning is also reason enough to break out your Dutch oven and let time work its magic.
Photo and recipe from Joy of Kosher
8. African Beef and Peanut Stew
Peanut butter is good for so much more than sandwiches and sweets—it has a savory side, too. When teamed up with onions and spices, it provides the base for the luxuriantly creamy sauce in African beef and peanut stew.
Photo and recipe from The Kitchn
Not all stews are dominated by hefty chunks of meat. Japanese nikujaga uses paper-thin slices of sukiyaki-style beef. With a dashi broth accented by sake, mirin, and soy sauce, it has a savory-sweet quality that brings extra flavor and juiciness to each slurp.
Photo and recipe from No Recipes
10. Caribbean Oxtail Stew
Oxtails are packed with collagen, which creates an extra-velvety texture that melts on the tongue. But as lip-smackingly good as oxtails can be, they also demand robust flavors that can cut through that richness. Allspice and piquant habanero peppers do just the trick in this Caribbean-style stew.
Photo and recipe from Saveur
11. Kerala-Style Beef Stew
A specialty of the Muslim communities in the southern Indian state of Kerala, this curry-like dish features the aromatic flavors associated with the region, such as coconut, turmeric, and cilantro.
Photo and recipe from Bon Appétit
12. Ropa Vieja
A dish with a name that literally translates to “old clothes” may not sound instantly appetizing. But sometimes the best things in life are a little bit tattered, tried, and true.
Photo and recipe from Always Order Dessert
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.