Low and slow isn’t just a barbecue mantra. This Whole30 Beef Stew relies on butternut squash to add just a touch of mellow, nutty sweetness to the deep, savory flavor you know and love. Hearty, tender vegetables and fall-apart, melt-in-your-mouth hunks of chuck roast are a match made in slow cooker heaven.
It’s hard to improve on a classic, but I’m always up for trying. I love stew for a million reasons – not the least of which is loving the smell of something slow cooking wafting through my house all day like an edible Yankee Candle. But the thing I love best is that no matter what goes in, something delicious comes out.
You have to try really hard to mess up a stew. Really hard. You’d have to purposefully choose the worst, most rotten ingredients (and even then I’m not convinced the little elves inside your Crockpot wouldn’t fix that mess). You may not be awarded a Michelin star for your stew, but your stew is always good.
And because of this, stew is the perfect venue to try new things. Again, what comes out may not win an award, but you’re still probably going to say “You know… I wouldn’t make beef stew with grape jelly again, but I’m definitely gonna finish this batch.”
Thankfully for us all, butternut squash was an inspired addition. It’s super tasty and the reduction in starch also gives you a slightly lighter fill so you can enjoy more than one bowl of this delicious Whole30 Beef Stew without the usual moaning and groaning after.
Tips for making beef stew perfectly
- Brown that beef. Trust when I say, no one is telling you to add a step with a whole separate method of cooking for their own benefit. There’s a specific chemical reaction that happens between sugars and amino acids (proteins) when heated that makes some food more delicious than others: the Maillard reaction. This is literal food science, and it’s named after a French guy, so you know it’s serious business.
- Deglazing isn’t just a fancy culinary term. I know in my heart of hearts that yes, using an intensely flavored liquid to release the intensely flavored particles of blackened food crusting the bottom of my pan will birth the beginnings of a beautiful sauce that will make my whole meal taste better… but if I’m being honest, the real reason I love when a recipe calls for deglazing is because it also makes my pans easier to clean. Two birds, one stone.
- Layer properly. Add the butternut squash last, and don’t stir into the stew before slow cooking. The squash will steam, not simmer, for tender chunks that won’t disintegrate.
Paleo and Whole30 beef stew
While white potatoes are classic for beef stew – and technically permitted on whole30 and paleo – many choose to avoid potatoes altogether on these diets. Butternut squash is a great substitute for a long, slow cook, with the benefits of lots of extra nutrition and color. (And honestly, it’s a great swap if you’re simply looking to change up a flavor profile.)
Frequently asked questions
The pre-cut beef labeled “stew meat” isn’t really the best choice for beef stew. Those pieces are typically cast-offs from various cuts, which makes the quality inconsistent. Some pieces will be super lean, while others are full of gristle. Variety might be the spice of life, but not so when making the very best beef stew possible.
The best choice is chuck roast. A well-marbled piece will have even ribbons of fat throughout. You should cut away some of the very large fat deposits and obvious gristle or sinew, but keep most of those ribbons of fat intact – they’ll render down to create a deeply flavorful and luxurious stew.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours. We thought it was best around 6.5 hours – super tender beef, without completely overcooking the butternut squash. Cooking on high for 4 hours yielded slightly firmer squash, but much tougher beef, so low and slow is the way to go.
More ways to love on stew
Slow Cooker Whole30 Beef StewPrint Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced to 1”
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into ½” coins
- 2 stalks celery, sliced into ½” coins
- 2 lb chuck roast, large fat deposits trimmed, cut into 2” cubes
- 2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c beef broth
- 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, fire roasted if available
- 1 tsp italian seasoning
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (2 cups)
- Layer the onion, carrot, and celery over the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Place the beef into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the cornstarch or arrowroot powder over the beef, then toss until lightly coated on all sides.
- Heat a 12” skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add half the beef in a single layer and cook until well browned and good crust has formed, 3-4 minutes. Flip then cook on the other side until browned. It’s not necessary to brown all sides, but be sure a good crust is established on at least 2 sides for best flavor. Remove the beef using a slotted spoon and transfer to the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining beef, and remove to the slow cooker.
- Add the garlic to the rendered fat in the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Pour in the beef broth to deglaze the skillet and dissolve any browned bits; mix until the bottom of the pan is clean, then pour the liquid over the beef into the slow cooker.
- Add the diced tomatoes, italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the slow cooker, then give everything a good stir. Top with the thyme and bay leaf, then layer the cubed butternut squash on top.
- Seal the slow cooker, then program to LOW 6-8 hours.
- Remove the lid and stir the stew. The squash should be tender and the beef should be falling apart and tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.