Irish Lamb Stew is a hearty, cozy, nourishing meal to make when it’s cold outside, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! This version uses Guinness beer, or another dark Irish beer, along with beef broth as the base of the stew (but you can use all broth if you want to omit the beer). A non-traditional addition here is sweet potatoes, which add a subtle sweetness to the stew. And the thick, luxurious broth base? It’s thickened with a puree of the vegetables – no flour needed. As a bonus, you can use the stovetop, slow cooker, or pressure cooker for this Irish lamb stew recipe!
With surprisingly few ingredients for the depth of flavor achieved in this Irish Lamb Stew, you’ll want to keep your kitchen stocked to make this all winter long. It takes a bit of time to cook, as do all stews with a tougher cut of meat, but it’s incredibly hands-off and easy to make.
Irish lamb stew is the perfect thing to keep simmering on your stovetop in a Dutch oven if you’re home on a snow day or working from home on a cold, dreary day. But also? You can make it in your slow cooker or instant pot, too! The smell as this cooks in your house will instantly take you to a warm, happy place in your heart and soul. Even more so when you finally dive in and eat it!
And while this lamb stew wouldn’t *technically* be lamb stew without the lamb, you can easily swap out the lamb stew meat for beef stew meat, for a potentially cheaper and more readily available option.
Let’s get to it!
Ingredients and Substitutions for Irish Lamb Stew
- Lamb Stew Meat – this is typically the shoulder or leg of lamb. I ordered boneless lamb shoulder from my local butcher for this, and they cut it up for me. Whole foods usually has it, or well-stocked grocery stores or local farms. You can use beef stew meat for a cheaper and more readily available option if you have trouble finding lamb stew meat.
- Dark Irish Beer – typically, Guinness is used as the default Irish dark beer. I used an Irish stout from Dublin City Brewing Company that my local store just happened to have. And while it does add lovely flavor, the beer can be omitted – just use more broth in place of it.
- Beef Broth – or chicken broth is fine too. Store bought, homemade, or bouillon all work!
- Yellow Onions
- Potatoes – I used gold potatoes, which I find hold their shape well in stews, but russets or another potato can be used. I recommend peeling russets, but for gold or red you can keep the peels on after giving them a good scrub.
- Sweet potatoes – you can leave these out for a more traditional recipe but I loved the sweetness, nutrition, and color they added!
- Dried thyme – or fresh, this can be omitted if you want, or another earthy herb like rosemary used in place of it.
- Fresh parsley – this can be omitted if you like.
- LOTS of salt and pepper – more on this below!
How to make Irish Lamb Stew
First, trim the fat off and season the lamb, and brown in batches in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook the onions in the pot next, scraping all the browned bits up, and deglazing with a bit of broth or water if needed. Add the lamb back to the pot with the broth, beer, and thyme. Cover and simmer on low until the lamb is tender enough to fall apart, which can take anywhere from 1-2 hours (it took 90 minutes for me). Add the potatoes and carrots in and cook for 10-15 minutes. Then add the sweet potatoes, which take less time to cook, in and cook for 15-20 more minutes, or until all vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. Thicken the broth if you want (more on that below) and stir in parsley, and season to taste. Done!
How to thicken the stew without flour
Just transfer some of the veggies – about 1 cup or so – to a blender. I did a mix of the carrots, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes. Then ladle in 1-2 cups of the broth from the stew. Blend until very smooth, then pour back into the pot and stir! The color of the thickener will vary depending on how many sweet potatoes/carrots vs. white potatoes you use.
Can you freeze leftover lamb stew?
Those who are picky about textures may advise you not to freeze this stew, because the potatoes will change a bit in texture after freezing. Me? I’m not that picky. I say go for it. But do be prepared for a bit of a change in texture; the vegetables will get a bit mushier.
Another idea for leftovers – add it to the filling of a pot pie!
How much salt should I add?
Here’s the thing about lamb, or beef, stew: it needs a lot of salt. The meat needs salt, and the bland potatoes need salt, in order to really shine.
How much you need to add will vary based on how much salt is in your broth you are using, as well as your own personal preference. I used a low sodium store bought beef broth and, while I didn’t measure precisely, I probably added about a tablespoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of black pepper to the whole thing, including seasoning the lamb, when all was said and done.
I suggest erring on the side of less salt at first if you are unsure, and at the end, seasoning according to your preference. If you use something like Beef Better than Bouillon, which is high in salt to begin with, you may need to not add much at all. But if you find the stew is “lacking” a bit, chances are, you just need to add salt! You may want to read this guide to salt if you want to learn more about it.
Slow cooker instructions for Irish Lamb Stew
Brown the lamb (seasoned with salt and pepper) in batches in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Then, cook the onions in the same pot, as directed. Be sure to get the browned bits scraped off the bottom, using a little broth or water to help deglaze the pot if needed.
Then, add the cooked onions, browned lamb and its juices, carrots, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, beef broth, beer, and thyme to your crockpot. Add some more salt and pepper if you think you need it (see recipe note on salt). Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours or high for 3 – 4 hours, or until lamb is very tender and vegetables are soft. Proceed with thickening the broth as instructed, if needed*, and stir in fresh parsley and season to taste.
Please note: for the slow cooker option, the sweet potatoes may get a bit more mushy. That’s fine, *and will serve to thicken the stew even without the vegetable puree, if you want to skip that step. And if you want to make you life really easy, you can skip the browning of the meat and pre-cooking the onions. The flavor won’t be quite as good. However, it might just be worth the sacrifice for an easier slow cooker assembly.
Instant pot / pressure cooker instructions for Irish Lamb Stew
Brown the meat in batches in the oil in the pressure cooker on the “sauté” function. Remove meat to a shallow bowl or plate. Cook the onions in the same way. Turn off the sauté function. Add the lamb and its juices back to the pot. Then add the broth, beer, thyme, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots. Cover your instant pot and set to “manual, high” for 30 minutes. When it’s done, allow the pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes. Then quick release the pressure and remove the lid. Proceed with thickening the broth if desired as written in the original recipe instructions. Stir in the parsley and season to taste. Please note: as with the slow cooker instructions, the sweet potatoes may be a bit mushier than they would if adding later on.
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Irish Lamb and Potato Stew
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven
- 2 – 2½ pounds lamb stew meat cut into approximately 1½ – inch pieces (boneless shoulder or leg meat)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral tasting oil
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 yellow onions halved and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
- 4 cups beef broth or chicken broth
- 1 can/bottle dark Irish beer such as Guinness (approximately 2 cups, give or take)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 4 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces diagonally
- 1 pound potatoes cut into 1" pieces. I used gold potatoes, see notes.
- 1 pound sweet potatoes peeled, halved, and cut into 1" pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley optional, plus more for garnish
- Trim the lamb pieces of any large pieces of fat. Season the lamb liberally with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil (2 tablespoons) in a large, heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven) and brown lamb for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it develops nice color. Make sure the pieces aren’t touching each other – you will likely need to do this in 2-3 batches. Remove lamb to a plate or shallow bowl.
- After all the lamb has browned, add the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pot (there should be enough oil/fat in the pot still, but if there isn't, just add a little more). Cook on medium heat until the onions have softened and browned, stirring occasionally, about 5-10 minutes. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you cook. If browned bits are not easily removed, add a little bit of the beef broth to the pot to help deglaze it.
- Add the beef broth (4 cups), and dark beer (1 can/ ~2 cups) to the pot. Add the lamb and any juices back into the pot, along with the dried thyme (1 teaspoon). Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 90 minutes, or until lamb is starting to easily break apart when prodded with a wooden spoon (this may take more or less time depending on the size of the pieces or how tough the meat is to begin with).
- Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot and stir together. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft enough to pierce easily with a fork.
- Optional: To thicken the stew, remove about 1 – 1½ cups worth of the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots to a blender. Ladle a cup or two of the broth into the blender. Blend until smooth, then stir back into the pot.
- Season the stew to taste. This stew needs a lot of salt and pepper, so if it seems to be lacking in something, it's likely lacking in salt (see notes). Stir in the fresh parsley (2 tablespoons), if using. Serve, garnishing each bowl with more parsley, if desired.
- Slow Cooker instructions: Follow steps 1-3 of the recipe for trimming and seasoning the lamb, browning it in a large pot, and cooking the onions while scraping up the browned parts by deglazing.* Then, add the cooked onions, browned lamb and its juices, carrots, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, beef broth, beer, and thyme to your crockpot, and some more salt and pepper if you think you need it (see recipe note on salt). Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours or high for 3 – 4 hours, or until lamb is very tender and vegetables are soft. Proceed with thickening the broth as instructed, and stir in fresh parsley and season to taste. *If you want to make you life really easy, you can skip the browning of the meat and pre-cooking the onions – the flavor won’t be quite as good, but it might just be worth the sacrifice for an easier slow cooker assembly.
- Instant Pot Instructions: Brown the meat in batches in the oil in the pressure cooker on the “sauté” function. Remove meat to a shallow bowl or plate. Cook the onions in the same way. Turn off the sauté function. Add the lamb and its juices back to the pot, along with the broth, beer, thyme, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots. Cover your instant pot and set to “manual, high” for 30 minutes. When it’s done, allow the pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes. Then quick release the pressure and remove the lid. Proceed with thickening the broth if desired as written in the original recipe instructions. Stir in the parsley and season to taste.
- For both the pressure cooker and slow cooker instructions, the vegetables, especially the sweet potatoes, may be a bit mushier than they would if adding later on in the stovetop method. It may be worthwhile to omit the sweet potatoes in favor of more white potatoes if you think this will bother you. It may, however, help thicken the broth without needing to do a separate puree!
- The amount of salt you need to add will depend on how salty your broth is, which can vary quite a bit depending on the brand. I prefer to use low sodium broth, so I can add salt myself.
- Beef stew meat may be used instead of lamb. It’s often cheaper and more readily available than lamb.
- Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 3 days. You can freeze the leftovers if you want, but the texture of the potatoes may change (that’s never stopped me before!). If the leftover stew turns too thick, you can just add some water to thin it out when reheating.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools:
This post originally appeared on Bowl of Delicious on November 11, 2017. It has been republished with new photos, improved recipe instructions, and more pertinent information.