Can You Use Red Onion in Beef Stew?

Beef stew is a comforting, hearty dish that is made by slowly simmering chunks of beef and vegetables in a flavorful broth Onions are a staple ingredient in most beef stew recipes But can you use red onion specifically in beef stew?

The answer is yes red onion can absolutely be used in beef stew and adds wonderful flavor. Red onions have a mild, sweet taste that complements the other ingredients. They add color texture and oniony richness to the stew.

Below we’ll look at why red onion works so well in beef stew, tips for preparation and cooking, as well as some potential substitutions.

Why Use Red Onion in Beef Stew

Here are some of the best reasons to include red onion in your homemade beef stew recipe:

  • Red onions have a sweeter, milder flavor than other onion varieties that pairs nicely with beef.

  • They add moisture and bulk along with nutrients like quercetin, vitamin C and fiber.

  • Diced red onions maintain their shape and provide textural interest compared to slippery cooked yellow onions.

  • The vibrant purple color of red onions makes for an attractive, appetizing stew.

  • Red onions contain antioxidants that add health benefits and support the immune system.

  • When cooked low and slow, red onions develop rich sweetness that complements the other stew ingredients.

So if you’re looking to brighten up your beef stew and amplify the flavor, red onions are an excellent choice.

Preparing Red Onions for Beef Stew

Using red onions in beef stew couldn’t be easier. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Peel off the papery outer skin of the onion bulb. Try keeping the root end intact for easier handling.

  • Chop the onion into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Uniform dices ensure even cooking.

  • Add the diced onion when sautéing the beef to start the cooking process.

  • Allow the onions to cook down and become translucent as the stew simmers.

  • Stir the onions a few times during cooking to redistribute them in the stew broth.

And that’s all there is to it! The onions will soften but still retain some texture after hours of simmering.

Cooking Tips for Red Onion in Stew

Here are some top cooking tips when adding red onions to beef stew:

  • Cook onions just until softened, about 5 minutes. Too long and they lose structure and sweetness.

  • Brown onions before adding to the stew to bring out their natural sugars.

  • Add onions early in cooking so they fully incorporate into the stew.

  • Adjust onion quantity depending on taste preference. More adds punch, less provides subtle flavor.

  • Cook onions in broth, wine or spice bags to infuse stew with extra flavor.

  • Garnish stew with raw thinly sliced red onions for color and crunch.

With a bit of finesse, red onions add wonderful depth, sweetness and visual appeal to hearty beef stews.

Possible Substitutes for Red Onion in Stew

While red onion is ideal, if you don’t have any on hand here are some suitable replacements:

  • Yellow onion – The classic choice, adds sulfuric bite.

  • Shallots – Delicate, sweet onion flavor. Use multiple whole.

  • Sweet onions – Walla Walla, Vidalia or Maui impart mild sweetness.

  • Leeks – Similar onion cousin offers gentle flavor when sliced.

  • Spring onions – Fresh, crisp taste when added at the end.

  • Green onions – Bright yet mellow onion flavor. Garnish with tops.

  • Fennel – Licorice notes accent the stew. Use bulb and fronds.

Any allium relative will work well. Sauté first before adding to the stew to develop flavors.

Final Tips for the Best Beef Stew

To make insanely delicious beef stew that really lets the red onion flavor shine, keep these final tips in mind:

  • Choose a flavorful broth like beef stock, stout or red wine to complement the onions.

  • Season with bay leaves, thyme, parsley, red wine vinegar or Worcestershire sauce.

  • Sear the beef before stewing to create fond that enriches the broth.

  • Let stew simmer at least 1 1⁄2 hours for well-developed flavor.

  • Bake stew topped with cheddar biscuits or puff pastry for the last 30 minutes.

  • Garnish stew with chopped parsley or green onions.

With its mild sweetness and bright color, red onion is hard to beat in comforting beef stew. Now you can stew like a pro!

Beef Stew Recipe – How To Make The Perfect Stew Every Time


What type of onion for stew?

Yellow onions are perfect for stews, soups, barbecues, roasts and sauces. Avoid eating them raw as they have a strong flavour.

Are red onions good for soup?

By using red onions, you don’t need to spend hours perfecting the caramelization and my secret weapon is using balsamic to give the onions colour. This soup is delicious as it is, although adding a considerable amount of cheese takes it to another level!

When should I add onions to stew?

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. Cover and cook, skimming broth from time to time, until the beef is tender, about 1½ hours. Add the onions and carrots and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more.

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