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How To Thicken Beef Stew

Beef stew is savory and filled with chunks of beef, slow-cooked vegetables, and a decadent sauce.

These simple steps will show you how to thicken beef stew if there’s too much liquid in the pot so you can make the best possible dish.

If your stew tends to have too much liquid when you make it, or you need to know how to thicken it at the end of cooking, not to worry, there are options for each situation.

You can use starch, alter the cooking method, or add vegetables to make an excellent stew. 

Bowl of beef stew on a dark wooden background with two antique spoons and a light linen napkin.

How to thicken beef stew 3 Ways

There are many different ways to thicken beef stew depending on what you have on hand; this could be as easy as altering the cooking method or adding an ingredient.

Add starch 

Adding starch is the easiest way to thicken soups, stews, gravy, or chili. Different options within this category are helpful depending on what you’d like to use and where you are in the cooking process. 

A slurry of cold water and flour: Whisking cold water and flour together to add to beef stew is one of the most common ways to thicken it. The starch in the flour expands and makes the liquid thicker. Continue cooking for at least five minutes after adding the mixture so the stew doesn’t taste like flour. 

Cornstarch and cold water: You can use cornstarch to thicken your beef stew without using flour. Whisk the cornstarch and water together in a separate bowl before adding it to the stew pot.  

Roux of butter and flour: Making a roux is simple, but it needs to be done before you start cooking the stew. Cook equal parts flour and butter in the pot until it’s as dark as you’d like, and then you can begin making the stew. This method is perfect for preventing it from becoming too liquidy. 

Burre manié: This is similar to making a roux by combining butter and flour, but this mixture isn’t cooked, and it’s added after the liquid at the end of the cooking process. 

Other starches: Along with flour and cornstarch, you can use various other starches to thicken this stew. Some great options are chickpea powder, tapioca powder, or arrowroot powder.   

Here are some other great how-to’s, how to thicken chili and how to thicken soup

Alter the cooking method

Another option is to change the cooking method to reduce the liquid. This also works well with thickening pasta sauce.  

Cook out the liquid: One easy option is to simmer the stew until the extra liquid evaporates, concentrating the stew. If you have the time and the stew isn’t too salty, this is an option. Concentrating the liquid will also concentrate the flavors, including the salt. 

Cooling: Allowing the stew to cool will also make it thicker. If you have time and patience for this, it’s definitely an option.  

Add vegetables 

You can add vegetables or breadcrumbs to the stew to help soak up the extra liquid

Mashed potatoes: Mashed potatoes contain lots of starch and are mostly flavorless on their own, which won’t affect the flavor of your stew.

Pureed vegetables: Another option is to remove some of the vegetables from the stew, puree them in a food processor, and add them back to the stew. 

How to thicken stew in a slow cooker 

If you’re making stew in a crockpot, it will most likely thicken without added measures; however, there is one trick you can use if there’s too much liquid. 

Leave the lid slightly propped open on chopsticks or a wooden handle while cooking, so the liquid evaporates into the air. 

When should you thicken stew? 

The best time is when it is too runny. You want a thick beef stew like my dutch oven beef stew recipe.

You can easily add a roux to your stew at the beginning to ensure it becomes thick while cooking, which is a preventative measure. 

You can also add thickening agents to the stew toward the end if you notice it’s too liquidy for your preference. 

How to store beef stew

If you have leftover stew, you can store it in the refrigerator or the freezer. Either option works great depending on how long you want to keep it. 

  • Refrigerator: Allow the stew to cool and then put it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to five days. To reheat, spoon some stew into a bowl or pot, cover, and heat.     
  • Freezer: Once the stew is completely cool, put it in an airtight container in the freezer. You can keep it there for up to three months. Be sure to label and date the container to know what you’ve saved later. 

An excellent tip for freezing is to put two cups of stew in quart-size freezer bags, lay them flat in the freezer, and allow them to freeze. When the bags are frozen, you can leave them flat or stand them up. 

This allows you to thaw only as much as you need without defrosting the entire batch. Label and date the bags as well.  

FAQs

These are both common ways to thicken stew, and it’s really up to you. 

With both of these options, be sure to make a slurry first by whisking them with cold water before adding the powder to the stew pot to prevent lumps from forming.

Yes, as the starches in the stew take on liquid, it will thicken naturally. If you put the right amount of liquid in the stew to begin with, you won’t need to reduce it at the end.

Beef Stew should have a thick liquid that looks like gravy. If it’s watery, you can do many different things to thicken it up. 

If your stew is too thick after taking it out of the refrigerator, add some water to the pot before heating it back up. Continue to add water as necessary.

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