Is there anything more comforting on a chilly fall or winter evening than coming home to a warm, crusty bread bowl filled with rich, meaty beef stew? The contrast of the crispy outer bread bowl and the thick, savory stew inside makes this recipe the ultimate hearty comfort food. This dish takes a classic beef stew up a notch by using a hollowed-out loaf of bread as the vessel to hold all that mouthwatering deliciousness. It makes for both a fun way to serve the iconic stew as well as an incredibly satisfying meal that will stick to your ribs.
I first tried this recipe years ago when visiting a friend one weekend. We were looking for the perfect dinner to warm us up after spending the afternoon out tromping around her farm in the cold Vermont air. She disappeared into the kitchen and later reemerged with two picture-perfect bread bowl stews, the tops of the loaves hollowed out and filled nearly to the brim with aromatic beef stew. The first bite filled my mouth with an explosion of flavors and textures – the tangy tomatoes and onions, the fall-apart tender beef, the occasional soft carrot or potato. And surrounding it all, the chewy, crusty interior bread bowl soaking up all the rich juices. I was in love from that very first spoonful.
When I returned home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that bread bowl stew. I tried recreating it several times until I landed on a recipe as close as I could get to that original comforting dish from the farmhouse kitchen. This hearty meal has become a staple in our home during the cold weather months. Nothing brings warmth and happiness on a winter night quite like cutting into a fresh-from-the-oven bread loaf filled with our family’s special beef stew recipe.
I suggest using a crusty bread that can stand up to the thick stew without getting overly soggy. Sourdough and Italian loaves work very well. The best cuts of meat for stewing are chuck roast or stew meat, which become succulent and fork tender after a long braise. Be sure to properly brown the beef first to build lots of deep, rich flavor. The vegetables in this stew – onions, carrots, celery and potatoes – addvarying flavors and textures with each bite. And the sauce, made from a savorytomato base with red wine and Worcestershire sauce, perfectly brings all the elements together.
Give this comforting bread bowl stew a try next time you need a dish that warms you from the inside out. Keep reading for my tips and tricks on making this recipe properly as well as getting that wow factor presentation. I promise that sinking your spoon into the crispy bread filled with steaming hot stew will become your new favorite simple pleasure.
Why cook the beef stew in a bread bowl?
Using a hollowed-out bread bowl provides a fun, unique presentation while also allowing the bread to soak up all the delicious juices and flavors from the stew.
What type of bread works best?
A round loaf with a very thick, sturdy crust works well to hold the weight of the stew without getting too soggy. Sourdough, Italian, or a rustic peasant loaf are great options.
How do you hollow out the bread?
Carefully slice off the top of the loaf in a circle, around 1/3 of the way down. Tear out small pieces of the inside, leaving about 1-inch thick walls. Be sure not to break through the bottom crust. Save torn out bread for serving.
Is stew the only filling option?
No way! You can fill your bread bowl with chili, thick soup, baked mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and more. Get creative!
How do you prevent the bread bowl from getting mushy?
Let the stew slightly cool before pouring it in so the bread doesn’t soak up too much liquid right away. Waterproof the bowl by brushing melted butter on the interior walls before adding the hot stew.
What sides go well with this meal?
A simple green salad or roasted vegetables pair nicely. And serve additional bread pieces on the side to dip into the hearty stew.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- 1 (1 pound) loaf round crusty bread
- 2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1⁄2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
- 1 cup frozen peas
- For even more depth of flavor, consider marinating the beef cubes overnight in a mixture of red wine, Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt, and some crushed garlic cloves. This step will tenderize the beef and infuse it with rich flavors.
- Before adding the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot, you might want to roast them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 400°F. This process caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables, bringing out their sweetness and adding a complex layer of flavor to the stew.
- Along with the thyme, tie together some fresh rosemary, parsley, and a bay leaf into a small bundle using kitchen twine. Add this to the pot when you return the beef. The combination of these herbs will add a wonderful aroma and enhance the overall taste.
- After browning the beef and before adding the broth, deglaze the pot with a splash of good quality red wine. Allow it to simmer and reduce slightly. This step helps in lifting the browned bits off the bottom of the pot, adding a rich and complex flavor to the stew.
- If you prefer a thicker stew, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water to create a slurry. Stir this into the stew towards the end of cooking time. It will thicken the broth, giving it a more gravy-like consistency.
- When hollowing out the bread loaf, lightly brush the inside with olive oil and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Toast the hollowed bread in the oven for about 5 minutes until slightly crisp. This will prevent the bread from becoming too soggy when filled with the stew.
- To serve, carefully ladle the hot stew into the prepared bread bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with the reserved bread pieces for dipping.
- This hearty dish pairs wonderfully with a robust red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz, which complements the richness of the beef stew.
- By incorporating these additional steps, your beef stew in a bread bowl will not only be a delicious meal but also a delightful culinary experience. Enjoy your cooking!
- Choose a bread with a thick, sturdy crust that can stand up to the stew, like sourdough or Italian.
- Coat the beef in flour before browning for extra thickness and rich flavor.
- Brown the meat properly in batches to achieve nice fond without steaming.
- Cut the vegetables into uniformly sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- Add a splash of red wine or balsamic for a tangy layer of flavor.
- Garnish with parsley and grated Parmesan to complete this savory, satisfying meal.