This Beef Bourguignon Is Easier Than You Think

In 1963, on the premiere episode of her ground-breaking show, The French Chef, Julia Child introduced America to boeuf (or beef) bourguignon. This delectable beef stew is still one of the most-loved French recipes, even in France, where almost every bistro serves it. Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska has simplified beef bourguignon so that her easy recipe can be prepared any day of the week. 

Sampson and her husband live in Southcentral Alaska, where they teach artisan-maker courses in everything from cooking to blacksmithing. After convincing her teenage son to watch the film Julie and Julia it was no surprise to Sampson that he immediately requested that they cook up a pot of beef bourguignon. "It can feel intimidating," she told us, "but with a few shortcuts, beef bourguignon is actually not that hard to make." So add a few jaunty French-café tunes to your playlist, and allons cuisiner (let's get cooking)!

Gather together the ingredients for this easy beef bourguignon

If you've ever made stew before then you know that there are some basic vegetables and herbs that every recipe must have: like carrots, onion, and garlic. Child always used fresh pearl onions that she blanched, peeled, and cut before sautéing them in butter. Much too time-consuming, in our opinion, especially when you can find frozen pearl onions in any grocery's freezer section. 

Sampson's ingredient list includes two pounds of stewing beef. Avoid fancier cuts of beef because they'll turn into dried-out meat nuggets in a stew. We recommend chuck roast or round roast, which tenderize in a long, slow simmer, and as the beef's fat and collagen melt, the stew is imbued with rich flavor and a luscious, lip-smacking consistency. 

Sampson's recipe calls for 3 cups of burgundy (or other hearty red wine), but if you're worried that might be too much wine for your kids or family, Sampson told us "you can reduce it to 1 cup and use 2 more cups of beef broth instead."

Brown the bacon for the beef bourguignon

One of the ingredients that gives beef bourguignon its distinctive taste is bacon. It's usually prepared first by cutting a whole piece of bacon (or salt pork) into lardons, which are batons of bacon that are 2-inches in length and a quarter-inch thick. But Sampson simply chops pre-sliced bacon into strips. Thick-sliced bacon works very well as a stand-in for lardons, but regular sliced bacon is good too. 

Once you've sliced the bacon, you'll want to quickly brown it in a Dutch oven over medium heat to render the fat, which will be used in the next step. If you don't want your beef bourguignon to have a smoky flavor, you can blanch the bacon before frying it. Simply drop the sliced bacon into boiling water, lower the heat, and let it simmer for ten minutes. Drain and dry the bacon, and you're ready to chop and brown it.

Brown the beef for this easy beef bourguignon

When the bacon has lightly browned and most of its fat has been rendered, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot, and reserve the fat. Cut the beef into 2-inch pieces, trying to keep them uniform in size so they will cook evenly. As the beef simmers and the fat and gelatin melt, the beef will shrink to bite-sized pieces. Pat the beef with paper towels so it's completely dry, or it will steam instead of brown. Because of the Maillard reaction, browning the beef before stewing it will add an appealing color and heighten the flavor. 

Once you've patted the beef dry, you can salt and pepper it at this point, or wait until later and adjust the seasoning before serving. Divide the beef pieces into batches, and brown each batch in the bacon fat. Brown the beef for two to three minutes, so it no longer sticks to the bottom of the pot, then use tongs to flip the beef over and brown the other side. Remove each browned batch, and set the beef aside in a large bowl.

Sauté the carrots and onion for the beef bourguignon

Remove a tablespoon of the bacon-beef fat, and discard the rest by pouring it into a disposable container. When the fat has cooled, toss the container in the trash. Never dispose of any rendered fat or cooking oil by pouring it down your kitchen sink because it will eventually solidify and clog the drain. 

Put the reserved 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot, and add the chopped carrots and onion. Sauté them for three to four minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon so they're lightly caramelized. Stir in the chopped garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Any longer than that, and the garlic will burn and turn bitter. 

Return the browned beef to the pot with the rest of the ingredients

When the vegetables have lightly browned, it's time to return both the browned beef and bacon to the pot. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the top, and stir everything to combine. To avoid a pasty, floury taste in the gravy, keep stirring the beef, bacon, and vegetables so the flour cooks. Stir constantly for five minutes so the flour doesn't burn. 

Now pour 1-1/2 cups of water into the pot, stepping back a little because hot steam will burst up. Using your wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen up all those tasty brown bits that will add flavor to the gravy. Before the gravy thickens, quickly add the mushrooms, pearl onions (if they're frozen, no need to defrost, just dump them in), and the burgundy. Give the stew a few stirs, so everything is mixed together. Finally, add the remaining ingredients, making sure that the beef stock comes to the top of the beef and vegetables. 

Simmer this easy beef bourguignon and serve

Reduce the heat to low, cover the Dutch oven, and simmer the beef bourguignon for two to three hours until the beef is very tender. If you want a thicker gravy, remove the lid, and keep simmering until the sauce reduces. If you prefer a thinner gravy, just add a little more beef stock. Another little trick for thickening a sauce is mixing together equal parts flour and softened butter in a small bowl. Start with a tablespoon of each, and add a little bit at a time to the gravy, whisking until it's been absorbed. As the flour and butter cook, the flour expands and thickens the gravy. 

Once you've got the gravy to the consistency that you like, taste it, and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn off the heat, cover the stew, and prepare egg noodles or mashed potatoes to serve with the beef bourguignon. Or, as Sampson suggests, serve the stew with a hunk of fresh bread so you can sop up every drop of the delicious gravy. As with all stews, this beef bourguignon will taste even better the next day or two, and it freezes very well. So, as Julia would say: Bon appetit!

This Beef Bourguignon Is Easier Than You Think
5 from 23 ratings
This delectable beef stew is a staple in French cafes and is easier to make than you might think. Grab your Dutch oven and get ready to make beef bourguignon.
Prep Time
45
minutes
Cook Time
3
hours
Servings
6
servings
boeuf bourguignon recipe
Total time: 3.75 hours
Ingredients
  • ½ pound bacon, chopped
  • 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ cups water
  • 1 pound button mushrooms
  • ½ cup pearl onions, frozen or fresh
  • 3 cups burgundy
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
Directions
  1. Brown the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When done, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and set aside in a small bowl.
  2. Pat the beef dry with paper towels, then brown it in batches in the bacon fat. When fully browned, remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Remove 1 tablespoon of the fat, and discard the rest.
  4. Add the chopped onion and carrot, and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, and sauté 30 seconds.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously to keep it from burning. Pour in the water to deglaze the pan, taking care to step back from the steam. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the Dutch oven to loosen the browned bits.
  6. Before the sauce thickens, add the mushrooms, pearl onions, and burgundy. Stir to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  7. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the Dutch oven, and cook on the stovetop for 2-3 hours until the beef is tender.
  8. When the boeuf bourguignon is done, cook egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
  9. If you want a thicker sauce, remove the lid, and allow it to reduce to the consistency you like. For a thinner gravy, add a little more beef stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve the boeuf bourguignon over the egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 522
Total Fat 22.8 g
Saturated Fat 8.1 g
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 120.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 17.0 g
Dietary Fiber 2.2 g
Total Sugars 4.7 g
Sodium 826.0 mg
Protein 43.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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