The flavors in this Cranberry Beef Stew remind me of a rich beef bourguignon with tender meat and potatoes. The dried cranberries add a very subtle sweetness to the broth that’s different and special, and the broth becomes complex and homemade-delicious. Slow cooked and left unattended for several hours while you’re off doing fun and important stuff, this is the perfect weeknight winter recipe.
In addition to tender stew meat, the recipe calls for potatoes, red onions, garlic and rosemary. You can kick up the veggies by adding carrots, parsnips, and green beans. The base to this recipe would also work with a pork tenderloin or chicken breasts. I’d still use beef broth with the pork or chicken for a rich finish.
I have to admit that in the past I’ve been unsure of slow cooker dishes with basically no prep work before dumping everything into the crock to wait for the flavors to do their thing, but that’s all you do with this one and it couldn’t be more delicious. The original recipe comes from Stephanie O’Dea’s 5 Ingredients or LesS Slow Cooker Cookbook. I added rosemary, garlic and a healthy brown gravy mix in my version (Simply Organic is a good brand), so it’s a bit more than five ingredients, but still super simple. And super amazing.
The meat is fork tender and juicy and the potatoes soak up the hearty juices from the broth, rosemary and cranberries for a buttery bite.
The broth in this stew is soul-warming perfect, bringing together every single ingredient during the slow cooking magic. I think it’s the perfect consistancy but if you want your broth thicker, remove a few of the potatoes and mash them into a paste before stirring back into the stew. Serve with some chunky bread for soaking up even more of the broth. To complete the meal, this Apple Salad with Apple Cinnamon Vinaigrette is a family favorite and adds to the winter fruit compliment for this meal.
Put everything together in about ten minutes in the morning and it’s ready at dinner time, weeknights or for a special gathering with friends. This is a great recipe to make ahead and freeze too. Potatoes break down a bit when frozen but all that does is help to thicken the broth even more.
I have to offer an option for my vegan and vegetarian friends because there really is a tasty option for you, too. Leave out the meat and gravy mix, substitute vegetable broth and add two pounds of cremini mushrooms. The mushrooms require a bit more prep before cooking and I list those instructions in the printable recipe. This is a good one, friends. Let me know what you think!
Cranberry Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker
- 2 pounds beef stew meat
- 4 medium red potatoes, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces (don't need to peel)
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and rough chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 package of your favorite brown gravy mix
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, use less if adding regular table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 6 cups beef broth
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- In a 6-quart slow cooker, place the meat in the insert and add the potatoes, red onion, garlic, and cranberries. Sprinkle the gravy mix over ingredients, plus the salt and pepper. Add the beef broth and gently stir to combine. Place the rosemary in the broth.
- Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 5 or 6 hours.
- Remove the rosemary, gently stir again before serving.
- Optional: For a thicker broth, remove a few of the potatoes and mash them with a fork into a paste. Add back in the stew and stir again.
- Cook's Note: For more veggies in the stew, feel free to add 2 diced carrots or parsnips at the beginning of cooking. If you add a lot of vegetables, increase the broth to 7 cups.
- Vegan option: Sub out the meat, gravy mix (there actually are vegan brown gravy mixes available) and beef broth for the following:
- pounds cremini mushrooms (baby bellas), trimmed and sliced
- Add 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Add 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Add 6 cups vegetable broth
- Before placing everything in the slow cooker, put the mushrooms, salt and dried time in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 5 minutes so the mushrooms will release a lot of their moisture. Discard the moisture from the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the insert and proceed with the stew ingredients as written.
Recipe adapted from 5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook.