When the weather gets cold, my body wants something hot to eat but sometimes soup just doesn’t feel like enough to warm my bones. That’s when I want something thick, hearty and satisfying; that’s when I want stew. Making stew is similar to making soup – it’s just a bunch of ingredients cooked in liquid for a while – but it’s thicker than soup. The liquid in stews transforms into a gravy or sauce that is filled with flavor from the extended cooking time. Every country and ethnicity has some version of stew, with many common ingredients, but also distinct because of their specific flavor profile. Let’s take a look at some of the ways stew is prepared throughout the world. I bet you will feel warmer just reading about them.
Italian food uses a lot of fresh, seasonal produce including bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini, artichokes, green beans, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, celery, carrots, peas, leafy greens and tomatoes. It’s no wonder that Giambotta, or Vegetable Stew, is an Italian favorite. To make my Italian Vegetable Stew: heat 2 or 3 Tbs. of olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 chopped onions and a fresh bay leaf. Saute the onions until they are softened but not browned. Add 2 peeled and chopped russet potatoes and 3 minced cloves of garlic. Next add 1 chopped eggplant, 1 chopped zucchini, and 1 chopped bell pepper. Season the veggies with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Add 4 cups diced tomatoes and 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer 10 minutes until the liquids thicken a bit and the potatoes are fork-tender. Taste for seasoning adjustments, turn off the heat and add 6 torn basil leaves. Serve hot with crusty bread. For more recipes and ideas, read How to Make Your Own Italian-Style Food at Home.
The cassoulet is a classic French dish that is made with beans and meat and is cooked for a long time. It’s named after the bowl it is traditionally cooked in, the cassole. Skipping the meat and upping the number of veggies results in a healthy, hearty Veggie Cassoulet. To make it: Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute 1 diced onion and 3 minced garlic cloves for 6 minutes until the onion is softened. Add 3 chopped celery stalks, 3 chopped carrots, and 2 chopped parsnips and let them cook for 8 minutes or until they start to soften. Mix in 1 Tbs. tomato paste and then add 1 ½ cups diced tomatoes and 3 cups cooked cannellini beans. Season with 2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley, 1 tsp. dried sage, 1 tsp. dried thyme, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 fresh bay leaf and kosher salt to taste. Pour 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth into the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add in 1 large bunch of chopped kale or greens of your choice, and let it simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the liquid has been reduced by half. It should be saucy like a stew but not so much liquid that it’s a soup. Transfer the stew to a deep baking dish with just enough liquid to keep it moist. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup bread crumbs, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Spread the bread crumb mixture over the top of the cassoulet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and crisp. Serve while hot. Check out this Seitan and Mushroom Bourguignon, my Ratatouille Stew and Paint Us like One of These Vegan French Recipes for more ooh-la-la dishes.
When you add beans to a meal, it transforms from a side dish to a meal and in this case, a stew. For an Ethiopian dish that is easy to make and filled with amazing flavors, try my Ethiopian Beans and Greens Stew: saute 4 minced garlic cloves and 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger in peanut oil until softened and browned. Add one small diced onion and saute until golden. Mix in a tablespoon or two of Berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend, and toss to coat the onions. Add 1 ½ cups of cooked chickpeas and 4 diced plum tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and break down, about 5 minutes. Wilt in one large bunch of chopped kale, collards, spinach, or greens of your choice, by the handful, stirring often. Serve the dish as is or over quinoa and top with a dollop of vegan sour cream. For other African stews, try this African Groundnut Stew and this Chachouka Chow Chow Spicy Hearty North African Tomato and Pepper Stew.
The Spanish eat plenty of stews, especially in central Spain and the colder regions. The stews, called cocidos, vary from region to region but all use local, fresh ingredients. In the winter, it is common to make stews with chorizo, sausages, vegetables and chickpeas. I like to make a simple but flavorful dish of Espinacas con Garbanzos or spinach and chickpeas that are cooked in an almond paste sauce.
Over medium-high heat, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large saucepan with a lid. Add 1 cup of day-old bread cubes and 12 raw almonds. Cook until they are browned and crispy. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Toss the bread and almonds with the spices and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Transfer the ingredients to a food processor and add 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar. Process until it becomes a thick paste. Return the paste to the pan and add in 2 cups cooked chickpeas and 1/3 cup tomato sauce. Mix everything so the chickpeas are coated in sauce. Add ¼ cup of water to make the sauce looser. Wilt in 3-4 cups of fresh spinach, adding it in batches and mixing it with the chickpeas. Season the dish with a pinch of nutmeg and kosher salt. Taste for any seasoning adjustments that may be necessary. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top and crusty bread to dunk in the sauce. For more recipes, read How to Make Your Own Spanish Food at Home.
The Indian word dal may mean lentils but it also refers to the thick stew made with them. This Simple Lentil Dal is easy and delicious. Green lentils are used in this Sophie Dal, while red lentils are the star of this Masoor Dal. Visit South India via your kitchen with these 3 amazing dishes: South Indian Lentil Stew, Indian Sambar, which has lentils and white pumpkin, and this Indian Tangy Lentils with Curry Leaves and Red Chiles which uses Tuvar dal or pigeon peas. Read How to Make Your Own Indian Food at Home for more ideas.
6. Puerto Rican
My mother used to make the most delicious stewed chicken and one day I had a craving for it. I learned that there is a Puerto Rican version of it called Pollo Guisado or Stewed Chicken. I swapped tofu for the chicken and discovered the most incredible dish. To make my Arroz con Tofu Guisado: Cut a block of extra-firm tofu (pressed and drained) into cubes. In a deep bowl, combine the juice of one lemon, ½ cup water, 2 tsp. each garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, dried oregano and kosher salt, 1 tsp. black pepper and 2 tsp. brown sugar for the marinade. There should be enough liquid to completely coat all the tofu. If there isn’t, add more water. Let the tofu sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes. Warning: you will reserve the marinade after removing the tofu. After the 30 minutes, heat 1 Tbs. oil in a Dutch oven or a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. brown sugar and stir it into the oil with a spatula. Before the oil can get too hot and burn, add some of the tofu cubes to the pot. Cook the tofu in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook until the tofu is browned, about 4-5 minutes, then turn the pieces and cook until the cubes are browned on all sides. Remove the browned tofu cubes to a plate and continue to cook the remaining tofu cubes, adding more oil as needed. When all the tofu is browned and crispy, set it aside.
Add 1 diced onion to the pot and toss to coat in the browned oil. Let the onion cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add 3 diced stalks of celery and 3 diced carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add 2 Tbs. green olives, 6 minced garlic cloves and 1 tsp. dried oregano and mix all the vegetables together. Add 8 oz. tomato sauce to the pot, followed by 2 Tbs. of fresh chopped parsley or cilantro and 2 bay leaves. Add in the reserved marinade. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the yummy, caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot. Stir everything together and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the liquid reduces a bit. Return the tofu to the pot and add the water or broth. The tofu should be covered with liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil, then partially cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce is to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning adjustments. Serve with rice and garnish with more parsley or cilantro.
Russian food is usually very hearty, and this stew is perfect for cold winter nights. Ragu iz Ovoshej is a root vegetable stew that is satisfying enough to be the main course. To make Russian Root Vegetable Stew: in a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Saute 1 chopped onion until softened and then add 2 chopped large red potatoes, 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped turnip, 1 chopped rutabaga, 1 chopped celeriac and 1 chopped parsnip. Stir and cook for 12 minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 cups diced tomatoes and 1 cup vegetable broth. Bring the stew to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 25 minutes until the veggies are all fork-tender. Add 3 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with bread. For another hearty Russian dish, make this Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff.
Ital food, the Rastafarian cuisine of Jamaican food, is known for its healthy, unprocessed recipes that bring vitality of life and make us one with the earth. Ital Stew is filled with vegetables and sometimes soy chunks. To make a simple Ital Stew: heat 1 Tbs. oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and 3 minced cloves garlic and saute 6 minutes until the onion is softened and translucent. Add 3 chopped carrots, 2 chopped sweet potatoes, 3 chopped scallions and 10 oz. sliced okra. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add 1 Tbs. Jamaican curry powder, 1 tsp. dried thyme, ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, ½ tsp. ground allspice and salt to taste. Stir in 2 cups of cooked red kidney beans and 2 cups diced tomatoes. Add 1 cup coconut milk and bring the liquids to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes until it thickens. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve over brown rice. For more recipes, read Jamaican Curried Tofu with Chickpeas and How to Make Your Own Jamaican (Ital) Food at Home.
Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew that is simmered overnight for 12 or more hours and eaten on the Sabbath. Since cooking is prohibited on the Sabbath, this dish evolved so that there would be a hot dish available to eat. My version is packed with protein in the form of lentils and chickpeas. To make my Vegan Cholent: heat 1 Tbs. oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Saute 1 diced onion for 5 minutes until softened. Mix in 4 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. kosher salt, ½ tsp. black pepper and 2 fresh bay leaves. Add 2 chopped carrots, 6 chopped red potatoes, 2 chopped celery stalks, ½ lb. chopped green beans, ½ cup brown lentils and 2 cups cooked chickpeas. Add in 2 cups tomato sauce and 2-3 cups vegetable broth. Bring the liquids to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 40 minutes until all the veggies are tender. Turn off the heat and mix in 3 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley.
10. Other Cuisines
Stews from other parts of the world you should definitely try include Vegan Irish “Lamb” Stew, Vegan Spetsofai Greek Stew with Sausage and Peppers, and Raw Moroccan Vegetable and Chickpea Stew with Spicy Orange Cauliflower Couscous. Don’t forget American versions of stew like this Traditional “Beef” Stew, Beef-Style Vegan Stew with Gremolata and this Eggplant, Onion and Tomato Stew.
This article has only scratched the surface of all the stews in the world. Pick your favorite country or cuisine and make a stew with that flavor profile. You could have a different stew every night and it would be like traveling around the world without needing a passport.
Image Source: Traditional “Beef” Stew