Irish stew is a blend of tender meat and root vegetables simmered in a savory beer broth. This low carb version can be made with beef or lamb in the Instant Pot, slow cooker or oven. Not only is this rustic meal totally keto, but I’ve included low-FODMAP and AIP variations, as well!
Nothing says ‘cozy’ like a big pot of homemade stew with earthy vegetables and tender chunks of beef (or lamb) and a side of cheddar biscuits for sopping up the complex, rich broth. It’s perfect comfort food on a cold day. Pair it up with a glass of red wine (or a glass of Guiness if I’m indulging), a classic Irish side dish of Colcannon and a perfect green keto dessert of Matcha White Chocolate Cookies for a delicious Sunday supper or St. Patrick’s Day meal.
This keto Irish Stew is a rich, hearty bowl of goodness with succulent, tender meat, coated in a thick gravy. Even though a can of Guinness is used in the broth, the stew is still super low carb.
What is Irish stew?
It's not surprising that this is the national dish of Ireland. It’s typically made with meltingly tender lamb (or mutton), perfectly cooked vegetables and Guinness - a simple peasant dish made with traditional ingredients that have been Irish staples for eons.
It’s often referred to as Irish lamb stew, Guinness stew or simply Guinness Lamb Stew. But if you aren’t a fan of stewed lamb (like me), this recipe tastes amazing with beef.
What is the difference between beef stew and irish stew?
Traditionally, Irish stew contains only a few ingredients: mutton, onions, potatoes and carrots. It’s also thickened with mashed potatoes, which is what distinguishes it from other stews. Its simplicity reflects the history of Ireland, where agriculture mainly focused on raising sheep and farming root crops.
Today's stew is a bit different from its roots in the 1800s. A more modern version includes the addition of stout beer which gives it a unique flavor, setting it apart from other stews and soups.
Is Irish stew a traditional St. Patrick's Day meal?
Corned beef and cabbage has become associated with St. Patrick’s Day here, in America, but you won’t often find it served on an Irish table for this holiday.
Right around St. Patrick’s Day is when spring lamb comes into season. Stews, roasts and pies (like shepherd’s pie) seasoned with rosemary, and Colcannon are favorites to serve alongside a tasty pint of Guinness. True Irish soul food!
Historically, mutton was used and long stewing was the only way to break the tough meat down enough to make it edible. The traditional ingredients of mutton, onion and potatoes were the original ingredients used during the early 19th century, in a period of economic hardship. These ingredients were the most widely available and enabled many to survive on a few simple ingredients.
Selecting cuts of meat
The secret to any dish is choosing the right cut of meat. Meat for stew should come from a well-marbled cut that benefits from long, slow cooking, such as muscle from the leg or shoulder.
The best cut of lamb is the shoulder portion. As lamb is typically a fattier meat, I find the lamb shoulder cut has a nice protein to fat ratio. However, there does tend to be a little excess fat that should be trimmed off.
Alternatively, leg of lamb can be used for a meltingly tender and hearty winter stew. The leg is a bit leaner than the shoulder cut, but both have fantastic flavor.
Since lamb does tend to be a little more expensive than beef, many folks choose beef over lamb.
To make Irish beef stew, I’m a big fan of using beef chuck. It’s beautifully marbled with a high concentration of collagen-rich tissue. You can also use round, sirloin or brisket, which are some of the cheapest cuts of beef, but are perfect for stew.
Do I have to use beer?
Beer is actually not part of a traditional Irish stew recipe. You can certainly choose to make an alcohol-free stew by simply replacing the beer with more broth.
If you want to still keep the savoriness that beer would add, you can use red wine instead. Rather than using a can of Guinness, replace it with a cup or two of good red table wine.
Making stew without potatoes
There are many low-carb potato alternatives – you won’t even miss them! My personal favorite replacements for potatoes are:
- Daikon radish
You can’t overdo the vegetables! I love tons of them and this is the perfect recipe to load up.
- Lamb or beef – cut into cubes
- Root vegetables – about two pounds. A note about carrots: Don’t call the keto police. This entire recipe calls for two carrots, which adds a very minimal amount of carbs. The slightly sweet flavor and color they add to the stew is something you don’t want to leave out. You can, but I recommend leaving them in there.
- Beef broth (use my Homemade Bone Broth recipe to make a beef broth)
- A can of Guinness Stout beer
- Onion and garlic (see options for low-FODMAP)
- Spices - rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper
- Worchestershire sauce – optional but I love the flavor
- Olive oil (or bacon grease) – for browning the meat
- Xanthan gum – as a low carb thickening agent (read on for xanthan gum alternatives)
- Parsley - for garnish
Is Guinness keto friendly?
The kind of beer you add to your stew is totally up to you, but I love the taste of Guinness – on its own or in stew. One whole 14.9 ounce can has just over 9g of carbs (not bad!). Spread over 6 servings, that’s a tad bit over 1g net carb per serving, which is very little and still fits in to a keto lifestyle.
Feel free to add a smaller amount of beer or opt for a more keto-friendly, low carb beer. You can also replace the beer with a cup or two of red wine. I haven’t tried these substitutions – if you do, please let me know how you like it!
Guinness is considered to be a dry Irish stout. It’s slightly sweet, creamy and malty, but does finish with a hoppy-bitterness. I find the bitterness is balanced by the coffee and chocolate notes and dark roasted flavor. Served alone, I adore when it’s served on nitro, which makes it extra creamy.
Being a stout beer, it adds a unique richness and complexity to the broth without overpowering other flavors. It’s a dark beer and adds a deep, robust color to the stew, unlike steak and ale stew, which calls for ale and tends to be lighter in color and flavor.
Beer contains tannins and alpha acids that help to break down tough muscle fibers in meat. It’s most effective to soften meat when used as a marinade. The addition of beer for Irish stew is to add depth to the recipe, rather than as a tenderizer. Pressure cooking and slow cooking are the keys to creating tender, flavorful meat.
In a 14.9oz can of Guinness Draught, there’s a total of 11.6g of carbs. That’s lower than many other beers. While it’s not technically considered to be a keto option, you may be able to consume some on a keto or low-carb diet. It all depends on your macro count for the day. Perhaps share a can or a bottle with a friend and savor.
Making low-FODMAP Irish stew
You can still make the best Irish stew without onions or garlic. In fact, most of my recipes don’t contain either. I like to replace the onion with leek (the green part only).
Replacing garlic can be done by adding a pinch of asafoetida or sautéing the meat in garlic-infused olive oil. Using a flavorful culinary salt like kala namak black salt can add a whole new depth of flavor to your cooking – you’ll never miss those pesky fructans! You can read more about asafoetida, and learn about kala namak black salt in my Ingredient Spotlights.
When I leave these ingredients out, I tend to add a pinch more of the other seasonings, including Worcestershire sauce just to enhance the flavor.
Is this still low-FODMAP with beer?
Technically, yes. Monash University has determined that beer is low-FODMAP in servings of 375ml (about one can). The high-FODMAP fructans are broken down during the fermentation process, making it easier to digest. The addition of one can of Guinness still makes this a low-FODMAP recipe.
Is Worcestershire sauce low-FODMAP?
In servings of up to two teaspoons, it sure is! The ingredient list calls for 1 teaspoon for the entire recipe, so this should be safe for a low-FODMAP diet. You can check out a great article about Worcestershire sauce and a low-FODMAP diet here.
Xanthan gum substitute
The most popular 'keto-friendly' thickening agent seems to be xanthan gum. Unfortunately, it can cause some digestive upset in sensitive people. It also isn't AIP compliant. And, some people really don't like the texture it creates in stews and gravies. However, there are some good xanthan gum alternatives that will still make a keto friendly stew.
- Regular All-Purpose Flour - If you use 2 tablespoons of flour in the stew, you're adding a grand total of 6g net carbs to the entire pot. That adds only 1g of net carb per serving. Whisk the flour into about ¼ cup of liquid and stir into the stew. Or, create a beuree manie, which is similar to a roux. Work one tablespoon of flour into one tablespoon of butter, creating a small ball. Whisk this into the stew until it thickens.
- Arrowroot Powder (Starch) - If you're looking for a gluten-free replacement for xanthan gum, arrowroot powder is a great thickener. It's also AIP, Whole30, low-FODMAP and paleo-friendly. Since it's about 80% starch, you don't need much to thicken a stew. You may only need 2 teaspoons for this entire recipe, which would add a grand total of 5g of carbs to the entire pot of stew. That is less than 1g net carb per serving. Arrowroot is actually my favorite xanthan gum alternative. Simply whisk the powder into a few tablespoons of liquid, then whisk the slurry into the soup until it thickens.
- Add pureed vegetables - pureed veggies can thicken soups and stews and add an earthy flavor to the liquid. Puree 1 cup of broth with cooked or steamed vegetables of your choice to enhance the flavor. Turnips, rutabagas and carrots work well for this.
This is a perfect comfort food for those following an autoimmune protocol, with a couple of simple variations. Since this stew is gluten and nightshade free, it’s an easy recipe to switch up:
- Replace the beer with additional broth
- Omit the black pepper and Worcestershire sauce
- Thicken the broth with arrowroot powder or choose not to use a thickener at all. Whisk 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder with a couple tablespoons of water or broth to make a slurry and add it to the stew. Cook 5-10 minutes, until thickened.
- Turn the Instant Pot to sauté and add the olive oil or bacon grease
- Add the beef or lamb chunks and brown on all sides
- Add the onions (if using) and sauté for 5 minutes
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook on the ‘Stew’ setting for 30 minutes
- Use the quick release method and remove the lid
- Turn back to sauté mode and add the xanthan gum (or substitute for xanthan gum) until the stew has thickened
Slow cooker method
- In a large skillet, add the olive oil or bacon grease and lamb or beef
- Season with salt and pepper
- Brown the meat (and onions, if using) in olive oil and add to your slow cooker
- Deglaze the skillet with a cup of the beef broth and add to the slow cooker
- Add the beer, vegetables, seasonings, xanthan gum (or xanthan gum substitute) and broth in the pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours
- Pre-heat the oven to 325F
- In a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil or bacon grease, meat and season with salt and pepper
- Brown the meat on the stove top
- Add the Guinness and deglaze the pot
- Add the veggies, seasonings and broth
- Place in pre-heated oven and cook for 3 hours, until the meat and veggies are tender
- Return pot to the stove and add xanthan gum (or xanthan gum alternative) and simmer until thickened
- Add bacon!
- Add other veggies: celeriac, peas, beets, leek, leafy greens like kale, chard or collards, bell pepper
- Use chicken or another meat – I think a hearty stew like this one lends itself well to red meat, but you can try it using chicken or turkey. You could try using novel proteins such as bison, venison or elk.
- Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
How to store
Let the stew cool to luke-warm temperature and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
It’s best to freeze stew in airtight containers. I like using mason jars.
Allow the stew to completely cool first. When filling the jars, make sure to leave about a ½ inch of space to allow for expansion in the freezer.
Your stew can be kept frozen for about 6 months.
I’m a big advocate of mopping up brothy liquid with Cheddar Almond Flour Drop Biscuits.
Oh - and wine! I’m thinking of a nice juicy Syrah, Zinfandel or Cabernet.
Finish it all off with a low carb dessert of lovely green Matcha White Chocolate Cookies and your meal is complete.
Top your steaming bowl with some parsley and enjoy!
Other recipes you might like
- Cheddar Almond Flour Drop Biscuits
- Homemade Bone Broth (Keto and Low-FODMAP)
- Easy Keto Fish Stew with Turnip and Fennel
- Matcha White Chocolate Cookies with Almond Flour
- Keto Colcannon - With Rutabaga
- Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Rosemary
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Keto Irish Stew (without potatoes)
- 2 pounds beef (or lamb cut into 1 inch cubes)
- 2 carrots (large, chopped)
- 2 celery stalks (chopped)
- 2 pounds root vegetables peeled and chopped (see Notes for my list of potato alternatives)
- 1 onion (medium, chopped. Eliminate for low-FODMAP)
- 2 cloves garlic (finely sliced. Eliminate for low-FODMAP)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (plus more to taste)
- 14.9 ounces Guinness Stout (1 can)
- 2 cups broth (beef is best. You can use my Homemade Bone Broth recipe to make a beef broth.)
- 1 teaspoon rosemary (crushed, fresh or dried)
- 1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste. I like kala namak black salt - read more about Kala Namak.)
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (see post for a substitute for xanthan gum. Learn more in my Xanthan Gum Ingredient Spotlight.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or bacon grease for browning the meat)
- parsley (chopped for garnish)
Instant Pot method
- Turn the Instant Pot to sauté and add the olive oil or bacon grease.
- Add the beef or lamb chunks and brown on all sides.
- Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook on the ‘Stew’ setting for 30 minutes.
- Use the quick release method and remove the lid.
- Turn back to sauté mode and add the xanthan gum (or xanthan gum substitute for AIP), and sauté until the stew has thickened.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve with a garnish of parsley.
Slow cooker method
- Set the slow cooker to low.
- In a large skillet, add the olive oil or bacon grease and lamb or beef.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Brown the meat and add to your slow cooker.
- Deglaze the skillet with a cup of the beef broth and add to the slow cooker.
- Add the beer, vegetables, seasonings, xanthan gum (or substitute for xanthan gum for AIP) and broth to the pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a garnish of parsley.
- Preheat oven to 325 °F.
- In a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil, meat, salt and pepper.
- On medium heat, brown the meat on all sides.
- Add the Guinness and deglaze the pot. Then add the stock, vegetables and seasonings.
- Cover and place in oven for 3 hours or until meat and veggies are tender.
- Return to stove top, add xanthan gum (or xanthan gum alternative for AIP) and simmer until thickened.
- Serve and garnish with parsley.
Root vegetables that are a low-carb substitute for potatoesTurnips, rutabagas, celeriac, radishes, daikon radish
Xanthan gumWhen adding the xanthan gum, either sprinkle it thinly across the surface of the stew or add it to a cup with about a half cup of broth and whisk until dissolved, then add to the pot. If it's added in one 'heap', it will gel together and not thicken the soup. For xanthan gum replacement, see post for suggestions for a xanthan gum substitute. Never used xanthan gum? Learn more about it in my Xanthan Gum Ingredient Spotlight.
- Replace beer with additional broth
- Omit black pepper and Worcestershire sauce
- Omit thickener, or whisk 2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder with a couple tablespoons of water or broth to make a slurry before adding to the stew.
*Net carbs = carbohydrates - fiber
Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools and does not include optional ingredients unless otherwise indicated.