Beef bourguignon may not be the quickest meal to make, but it's time very well spent. And with this easy recipe, you'll see exactly how to get perfectly tender, flavorful beef and a mushroom, bacon and red wine gravy to die for!
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I'll admit, classic stews and pot roasts are not generally my go-to, even in the winter. Don't get me wrong, I love a comforting dish. But my go-tos are more things like braised lamb shanks or moussaka.
I think the reason is I sometimes feel the flavors are not all that interesting and the long cook does more harm than good. But with the right recipe that's not true, of course. We love the Asian aromatic flavors in a Vietnamese beef stew, for example. Then this classic dish is another that is definitely anything but lacking in flavor.
What is beef bourguignon?
Beef bourguignon is a traditional beef stew from the Burgundy region of France. In French it's name is boeuf bourguignon, or also spelled bœuf bourguignon, and some translate it fully to beef burgundy.
It's essentially a hearty stew where the beef is braised low and slow in a red wine-based sauce, finished with mushrooms and onion. But there are so many great flavor additions and little steps that make it special.
The stew gets added flavor from carrots, herbs and bacon. All the flavors mingle together as it cooks at a low heat. Then the pearl onions become wonderfully sweet and tender as you cook them in beef broth. They add such a great flavor to the stew at the end.
The overall dish is rich and comforting, and definitely one you'll want to enjoy regularly.
This recipe is based on Julia Child's beef bourguignon recipe that brought this delicious dish to a wider audience in her classic book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".
It's a dish that takes a bit of time to make, but the steps all help to add layers of flavor to this wonderful beef stew.
Tips for cooking beef bourguignon
- Don't be tempted to skip searing the beef at the beginning as it really helps lock in the juices and adds flavor to the dish. Similarly, the short cook at high heat effectively adds a crust which adds more flavor.
- If you prefer, you can use just wine rather than a combination of wine and stock. However both add a certain level of flavor to the dish so if you have both, the blend works well.
- Use a good, full-bodied red wine for this dish, as the wine you choose does impact the flavor of the final dish.
- Cooking the pearl onions and mushrooms separately might seem like an unnecessary extra step, but it avoids them from being overcooked.
- If you have trouble finding whole pearl onions, check the prepared foods area as you may find them ready-peeled as I did.
- Sometimes, particularly if the mushrooms are a little crowded in the pan, they can release a lot of liquid after they absorb the butter and oil. If this is the case, increase the heat a little and stir regularly to help the moisture evaporate. After that, the mushrooms should start to brown.
What to serve with this French stew
Beef bourguignon is best served with a starchy side to absorb all the wonderful flavors of the sauce. So, for example, mashed potatoes, rice or orzo pasta would all be good choices. If you are looking for a lower-carb option, try cauliflower mash or rice instead.
The flavors in beef bourguignon are deeply rich and comforting. Yes, there are a few steps and a few ingredients, but believe me they all play their part in making this wonderful stew something special. And it's not difficult, either. Give it a try and you'll be sure to agree!
Try these other tasty beef recipes from around the world:
- Beef massaman curry
- Youvetsi (Greek beef or lamb and orzo stew)
- Sauerbraten (German pot roast)
- Bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew)
- Plus get more French recipes and main courses in the archives.
I use my Le Creuset Cast-Iron Oval French Oven to make this dish which works well (affiliate link).
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
For main stew
- 1 onion large
- 1 carrot large
- 6 slices smoked bacon
- 3 lb chuck beef 1.4kg, cut into roughly 2 inch dice
- 2 tbsp olive oil or a little more as needed
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour plain flour
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 3 cups red wine 720ml
- 2 cups beef stock 480ml, or a little more, as needed
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 stems thyme
- 2 bay leaves
For onions and mushrooms
- 20 pearl onions small (approx number)
- 1 lb white mushrooms 450g, ideally relatively small
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter 45g, divided
- ½ cup beef stock 120ml
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 stem thyme
- 2 stems parsley
- 1 tsp olive oil
Preparing the stew
- Peel and slice the onion and carrot into medium-thick slices and slice the bacon. Pat dry the chunks of beef with kitchen towel (this helps it brown better).
- Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.
- Warm a Dutch oven over a medium heat and cook the bacon for a couple minutes until it is just starting to brown. Add a little oil if needed, but there should be enough fat rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.
- Add the oil to the pan and brown the beef on all sides in batches until it has a good sear. Remove from pan and set aside with the bacon.
- Next add the onion and carrot and cook until the onions are just soft, stirring regularly. If there is excess fat, remove it, or if they appear to be browning too quickly, add a little more oil.
- Add the beef and bacon back to the pan, add the salt and pepper and sprinkle over the flour. Stir to coat the beef then place pan in the oven, uncovered, for 4 minutes. Remove pot from oven, stir everything then put back in for another 4 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and reduce the heat to 325F/160C. Crush the garlic and add to the pan, stir to cook a little in the pan's heat.
- Add the red wine, beef stock and tomato paste and stir gently. The liquid should be just about over the meat and vegetables. Add the bay leaves and thyme, cover the pan and put in the oven for 3-4 hours.
For onions and mushrooms
- During the final hour of cooking, prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms. Peel the onions and cut the mushrooms into quarters, trimming the stems as needed.
- Melt 1 ½ tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add the onions. Brown them for a few minutes then remove from heat to add the beef stock. Put back on heat, add the parsley, thyme and bay (you can tie them together, or not, as you prefer).
- Cook for around 30-40 minutes until the stock has been absorbed by the onions and they are tender. Remove the herbs and discard. Spoon the onions from the skillet and set aside.
- Clean out the skillet, or use a separate one, and add the remaining butter and the oil for the mushrooms. Once the butter has melted and is starting to bubble, add the mushrooms. Toss to coat in the butter and oil and cook a few minutes until the mushrooms start to brown. If they release a lot of liquid, increase the heat and stir to help it evaporate then let the mushrooms cook a little longer to brown slightly. Set aside.
To finish stew
- Once the beef is fork tender, remove the pan from the oven. If there looks to be a lot of liquid, carefully strain it from the pot and simmer for a few minutes to reduce it.
- Add the liquid back to the pot, along with the pearl onions and mushrooms. Mix everything through, warm through a couple minutes on the stove and serve.