How to Make a Simple Irish Stew Using 4 Ingredients

This restorative, hearty one-pot Irish stew channels a simple past.

Contrary to pop culture and popular belief, Irish food isn't all soda bread and corned beef and cabbage. There's much more to the food of this storied green island, as its lush pastures and farmland suggest. One of the oldest and most widespread ways to eat in Ireland is to simmer a pot of stew.

The key to making a good Irish stew is to understand its simple nature. In its most basic form, you throw your chopped ingredients into a pot, cover them with water, turn on the heat, and wait for them to soften. Many recipes don't even call for you to brown the meat before adding water. Still not sure where to start? Here's how to make Irish stew that your family will love.

What You'll Need

Irish stew has tons of versions. Kind of like chili, recipes tend to vary from cook to cook, family to family, place to place. In your typical Irish stew, there might be meat, root vegetables, chopped herbs, and minimal spicing (salt and pepper). Flexibility is key. You don't have to fret about lacking a key ingredient. If you don't have lamb, beef works. If you have a bunch of carrots and want to chop some in, go for it.


Because an Irish stew is so forgiving (and there are no pungent spices for heavily editing flavors), quality ingredients shine. If you're using lamb, go grass-fed. This better replicates the lamb eaten in Ireland. You can get packages of grass-fed lamb stew meat, already cubed, for roughly $8 a pound. Lamb tinges stew with a more iron-like flavor than beef, helping its balance. But in a pinch, beef will do. Cuts of either will tenderize as they simmer.


For every one part of cubed meat, use one to two parts of vegetables. A basic Irish stew doesn't need more than one big-ticket vegetable, like potatoes. But you can add carrots, celery, cabbage, or whatever you like.

The potatoes can be any kind of potato. Russets work great and so do farmers' market potatoes or whatever you grow in your garden. Again, because the soup is simple, using fresh ingredients goes a long way. Slice potatoes into coins with some thickness, up to half an inch or so (that way they aren't so thin they turn to mush in the simmering).

If you have onions on hand, toss them in. Onions help coax flavor into balance. They provide a soft depth and a touch of aromatic warmth. Use about one part chopped onion for every two parts of meat.


If you're looking for the most minimal method:

  1. Put your cubed lamb, sliced potatoes, chopped onions, and a generous handful of chopped parsley into your pot.
  2. Add salt and pepper and cover the ingredients with water.
  3. Set your heat to medium or medium-low. Adjust the heat until the stew steadies to a simmer.
  4. Let simmer for an hour or two.
  5. Add more water when the liquid sinks below the solid ingredients.
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed—that's it.

Alternatively, if you're looking to build another layer, give the meat a quick sear. Browning it in some butter will give the whole stew more depth. Note, too, that this will allow your stew to be ready faster.

Irish stews are often thick. Meat and vegetables take up most of the space, almost so that what you're eating is less a stew and more a solid dish with a little broth. That broth has chicken soup vibes: the simple, homey goodness that makes homemade soups and stews great.

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