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A simple lamb stew is one of the hallmark dishes of Irish cooking and a hearty centerpiece for a St. Patrick’s Day meal. Rich and brothy, with only a handful of ingredients, this is a lamb stew at its most elemental and fresh, though different cooks will embellish it in different ways.

A traditional Irish lamb stew includes meat, potatoes, onions, and water, and not much else. Parsley is a very typical finishing touch, and sometimes another root vegetable or two is added in for more flavor and possibly color. Turnips, parsnips, and carrots are typical examples.

This stew is called Ballymaloe or Stobhach Gaelach in Ireland. Serve this classic recipe with Irish Soda bread for dipping.

Woman serving Irish lamb stew in bowl.

Irish Lamb Stew recipe: Substantial, simple, soothing, this traditional lamb stew is just the ticket on a cold night, and perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

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Irish Stew Ingredients  

Lamb, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beer, and other Irish stew ingredients.
  • Lamb – I like to buy a 4-pound lamb shoulder, trim off the excess fat, and cut it into 1 1/2-inch cubes, resulting in about 3 pounds after trimming.
  • Waxy potatoes – Look for red potatoes or fingerling potatoes. Be sure to scrub or peel them, then cut them into halves or quarters (1 1/2-to 2-inch pieces).
  • Onions – Quartered and sliced.
  • Carrots – You can peel them, or if the skin is thin and fresh, just scrub them. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Parsnips – Also either scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Beer – I used a simple all-American lager, but you can use an Irish beer as well. Guinness is an unsurprisingly popular and traditional choice for some versions of this stew.
  • Water – Add more as needed if the stew is too thick or starting to stick on the bottom.
  • Fresh parsley – Some gets added to the stew, and some is used as a garnish. 

How to Make Irish Stew  

  1. Prepare the lamb and veggies: Dry the lamb and season generously with salt and pepper. Cut up the vegetables.
Woman cutting potatoes, carrots, and onions for stew.
  1. Start the stew: Add the lamb, half the potatoes, and onions to a very large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot. Pour in the beer and add enough water to just cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and keep the stew at a gentle simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add more water if the liquid seems to be evaporating too quickly. Skim off any foam that accumulates on top of the stew.
  2. Finish the stew: Smush up some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the stew a bit. Add the rest of the potatoes, the parsnips, and the carrots. Return to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 more minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally. Uncover the pot and continue to cook until the meat and all of the vegetables are tender, about 15 to 30 minutes more. Add more water if needed.
  3. Serve: Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Stir in the cup of parsley. Serve hot in bowls garnished with additional chopped parsley.
Table with pot and bowls of Irish Lamb Stew.

Best Cut of Lamb for Stew  

I much prefer buying a whole lamb shoulder and cutting the meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes or pieces. If you buy precut stew meat, it will likely not be as fresh as if you buy the whole shoulder and cube it yourself. Also, cutting it yourself means you have better control over the size of the pieces. Precut stew meat might be cut into pieces too large or too small or a mix of different sizes, which makes it hard to cook it all evenly.

The cubes of meat will and should have some fat in them. Remove larger pockets of excess fat from the shoulder and discard those.

Should You Brown the Lamb Before Making the Stew?

In most cases, when making Irish stew (unlike other stews), the meat is not browned before it’s added to the pot. That eliminates a step many people aren’t excited about. If you wish to brown the meat first, you will have more texture variety and a deeper flavor. But, the archetypical Irish lamb stew simply calls for the meat to cook slowly with the other ingredients.

How to Thicken Irish Stew  

Sometimes flour or cornstarch is added as a thickener, sometimes not. This recipe has no added thickener, but part of the potatoes are added at the beginning of the cooking process, and those become fall-apart tender and help thicken the stew.

Use the back of your spoon to crush some of the potatoes against the side of the pot at the end and stir them into the rest of the stew. The rest of the potatoes and the other root vegetables will have had enough time in the pot to become very tender but still hold their shape.

Scooping Irish lamb stew into serving bowl with spoon.

FAQs  

Is Irish lamb stew made with mutton?

Mutton is the type of lamb that most stews were made of in past centuries. Mutton is lamb that is older than two years and usually between two and three years of age. It can be tough, and only low-and-slow simmering makes it tender enough to enjoy. These days, especially in the U.S., this kind of lamb stew is more often made with younger lamb, usually under a year old.

What makes Irish stew different?

In the U.S., when the word “stew” is used, it more often than not refers to a beef stew. Irish stew (the national dish of Ireland, by the way!), however, is almost always made with lamb.

When should you add potatoes to Irish stew?

I like to add the potatoes in two batches at different times. The first batch will start to fall apart and naturally thicken the stew. You can help this by crushing some of them against the side of the pot. The second batch of potato chunks will hold their shape, cooking just until tender throughout.

What liquid is added to Irish stew?

Often, beer is added to the stew in place of some or all of the water. I used a mix here, but you can use all water or all beer if you prefer. As everything cooks, you may need to add more liquid if it is evaporating too quickly or like a soupier stew.

What to Serve With Irish Lamb Stew

Irish Soda Bread

Roasted Cabbage Wedges

Beer Bread

More St. Patrick’s Day Recipes

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Irish Lamb Stew

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8 People
Substantial, simple, soothing, this traditional lamb stew is just the ticket on a cold night, and perfect for St. Patrick's Day.

Ingredients 

  • 4 pounds lamb shoulder (trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes; about 3 pounds after trimming)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 pounds small waxy potatoes (scrubbed or peeled and cut into halves or quarters; 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces; divided)
  • 2 onions (quartered and sliced)
  • ½ pound carrots (scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • ½ pound parsnips (scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 (12-ounce bottles or cans) beer (see Note)
  • 2 cups water (or more as needed)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley (plus more to garnish)

Instructions 

  • Dry the lamb and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the lamb, half the potatoes, and onions to a very large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot. Pour in the beer and add enough water to just cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and keep the stew at a gentle simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Keep the pot partially covered. Add more water if the liquid seems to be evaporating too quickly; you want the stew to be saucy. Skim off any foam that accumulates on top of the stew.
  • After an hour, smush up some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the stew a bit. Add the rest of the potatoes, the parsnips, and the carrots. Return to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 more minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally. Uncover the pot and continue to cook until the meat and all of the vegetables are tender, about 15 to 30 minutes more. Add more water if needed.  If desired, to thicken the stew further, use the back of a spoon to crush some additional cooked potatoes against the side of the pot and stir to blend them back into the stew. 
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Stir in the cup of parsley. Serve hot in bowls garnished with additional chopped parsley.

Video

Notes

  • Guinness beer is a traditional choice for Irish Lamb Stew, but you can use any beer you like. Steer clear of beers that are very hoppy or sweet.
  • Use the back of your spoon to crush some of the potatoes against the side of the pot at the end and stir them into the rest of the stew. The rest of the potatoes and the other root vegetables will have had enough time in the pot to become very tender but still hold their shape.

Nutrition

Calories: 339kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 32g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 91mg, Sodium: 226mg, Potassium: 1223mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 5376IU, Vitamin C: 28mg, Calcium: 70mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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