When you need some hearty comfort food, it doesn’t get better than this Guinness lamb stew! Tender chunks of lamb shoulder simmer in a rich, flavorful stout broth with potatoes, carrots, onions and barley to make one satisfying meal. You will love every cozy bite.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day dinner: In addition to my beloved Guinness corned beef, this Irish stew adds a festive touch to any St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Leaves you satisfied: This is one loaded soup. With that thick broth, plenty of lamb, barley and vegetables, you won’t feel hungry after devouring a big bowl.
Easily serves a crowd: You can get about eight servings out of one batch, and if you need even more, doubling the recipe works perfectly.
Bonus: If you love this Irish lamb stew, make sure you also try my slow cooker Guinness corned beef!
Lamb: For the lamb, we use the shoulder cut. After slowly simmering, the meat breaks down and becomes perfectly tender. If you find pre-cut lamb stew meat, you can also use that.
Guinness: This is an Irish stout. If you’d like, you’re more than welcome to substitute another dry stout, but I like to use Guinness to keep with the Irish theme. A porter also works.
If you’d like an Irish lamb stew without the beer, that’s also an option. For a nonalcoholic Irish stew, simply replace the Guinness with beef broth or stock. You could even do half beef broth and half coffee to add those deep, rich notes that come from the stout’s roasted barley.
Barley: Make sure you pick up pearl barley — not hulled barley.
Step 1: Now let's show you how to make Guinness lamb stew. We sprinkle the lamb shoulder with salt and black pepper and cook over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or stockpot until brown. Then we flip the lamb to brown on the other side and set aside on a plate (photo 1).
Step 2: For our next step, we turn the stove to medium heat and cook the bacon to render the fat and brown the meat (photo 2). Once browned, we remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and leave in the bacon fat. While I love using bacon here, you can also substitute it for pancetta.
Step 3: From here, we whisk in some flour with our bacon fat to make the roux (photo 3). This is what will give us that thick stew broth. To give it a nice depth of flavor, we whisk the roux until it turns a light brown color (photo 4).
Step 4: Now we add onions, carrots and tomato paste to the pot and stir the vegetables until the onions soften (photo 5). After a few minutes, we also stir in some fresh garlic cloves.
Step 5: With our vegetables ready, we pour in the beer (photo 6), scraping the brown bits on the bottom of the pot to loosen. This is called deglazing and helps develop the flavor of our Irish stew.
Step 6: We also pour in some beef broth or stock and add the reserved lamb shoulder, bacon, herbs and salt (photo 7). For the herbs, I like to use thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaves. Now we bring the mixture to a boil, cover and bring down the heat to simmer the stew, stirring every so often.
Step 7: After simmering for an hour, we add the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes (photo 8). We then add the barley and cook for another 30 minutes.
Once the potatoes and barley are soft to our liking, we remove the herbs, top with fresh parsley and dig in to one cozy, comforting Irish meal. Don't forget the Irish soda bread!
Don't worry -- it will not taste like you're drinking hot Guinness! No one wants that. The beer simply adds a depth of flavor, thanks to that wonderful roasted barley. Even non-beer lovers will gobble up this stew.
Not at all. Just like this dish doesn't taste like beer, it also doesn't have the bitterness some associate with a stout. It's just full of rich, complex flavors.
Absolutely, this lamb stew is perfect for make-ahead of cooking for simple entertaining. Keep in mind, the vegetables and barley may absorb some broth while refrigerating, so you might have to add more beef stock if you want more liquid.
Store your leftover lamb stew in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three days. You can also freeze it for three to six months, though I find the vegetables are at their best prior to freezing.
Make prep extra simple: Ask your butcher to cut the meat for you. We want 1- to 2-inch chunks with the excess fat removed.
Substitute beef if you’d like: While I love the flavor of lamb, it can be harder to find, and some people don’t love the gamey flavor. Instead cut beef chuck into cubes and cook as you would the lamb.
Instant barley also works: If your store is out of traditional pearl barley, you can substitute the instant variety instead. Just make sure you adjust the cooking time according to the package’s directions.
For carrots with more of a tender-crisp bite: I prefer my carrots soft, so I add them earlier. However, if you’d like your carrots to have more of a bite, add them with the potatoes.
Our beer pairing is obvious here, right? Put that Guinness to work and enjoy a pint on the side! The flavors are clearly tailor made for each other.
Prefer a wine pairing? This rich stew calls for a pinot noir. The fresh herbs and gamey flavor of the lamb matches the earthy quality of a pinot noir perfectly. If you prefer a bolder wine, a cabernet sauvignon also makes a great choice.
For a hearty Irish meal, I hope you make this Guinness lamb stew. You'll just love that flavorful, herby beer-spiked broth full of tender bites of lamb.
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Guinness Lamb Stew
- Large Dutch oven or stock pot
- Cutting board
- Kitchen twine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus ¼ cup more if needed
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper
- ½ pound bacon chopped into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 4 large carrots peeled and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves grated or minced
- 1 (12-ounce) Guinness bottle
- 5 cups beef stock
- 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 10 fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 fresh sage sprigs
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound baby white potatoes quartered
- ¾ cup pearl barley not hulled barley
- Fresh chopped parlsey for garnish, optional
- Heat oil on medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add half the lamb and cook just until browned on one side. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove the lamb and reserve on a plate. Repeat with the second half of the lamb.
- Turn the heat down to medium. Add bacon and cook until the fat renders and the bacon browns. Remove the browned bacon. Measure the bacon fat that rendered. If you don't have ¼ cup, add enough oil to make ¼ cup and add back to the pot.
- Whisk in the flour. This is our roux. Continuously whisk the roux until it turns a light brown color, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the onions, carrots and tomato paste. Cook until the onions soften, about four to five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Pour in the Guinness, scraping at the brown bits on the bottom of the pot to loosen. Now pour in the beef stock. Add the lamb and bacon back to the pot. Tie the fresh herbs with kitchen twine and add those, the bay leaves and salt as well.
- Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. Continue to simmer for an hour. Stir occasionally.
- Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Now add the barley. Bring to a boil again and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes and barley are soft, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the herbs and bay leaves. If desired, garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy!
- You can make ahead and store in an airtight container for up to three days. As it sits, the mix-ins will absorb some broth, so you might need to add a little more liquid if you want it to be soupier.
- Ask your butcher to cut the meat for you. We want 1- to 2-inch chunks with the excess fat removed.
- While I love the flavor of lamb, it can be harder to find, and some people don’t love the gamey flavor. Instead cut beef chuck into cubes and cook as you would the lamb.
- If your store is out of traditional pearl barley, you can substitute that instead. Just make sure you adjust the cooking time according to the package’s directions.
- I prefer my carrots soft, so I add them earlier. However, if you’d like your carrots to have more of a bite, add them with the potatoes.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.