Beef stew is such a tasty dish that has been around for ages. You can adjust the texture and flavor profile with a flick of the wrist and match it for any occasion and any season.
But because this dish is so hearty and full of flavor, sometimes your mouth needs a pallet cleanser.
So, what should you be serving with your beef stew? You can serve beef stew with a variety of herbs and garnishes, including rosemary, parsley, and gremolata. For side dishes, the best choices are starchy foods like roasted or mashed potatoes, toasted bread, and rice.
In today’s article, we will discuss the best garnishes to use for beef stew as well as the many side dishes it can go with. Throughout the article, we will also be looking at how to pair these flavors and textures.
Best Garnishes and Sides for Beef Stew
Beef stew has always been close to our hearts as a comforting taste of home. But not many of us have truly paid attention to the composition and flavor profile of this hearty stew.
When breaking down a beef stew, the flavor profile is determined by 3 main characteristics: the beef, vegetables, and spices. All these components add some form of flavor that can help be a guide when pairing side dishes with it.
When it comes to herbs and spices, you can easily make the dish flavorful, spicy, or sweet. Using different spices can help you create a stew that carries different flavors from cuisines found all over the world.
For example, you can even create a stew that boasts spicy tones reminiscent of Indian curry or Mexican chili.
This can also aid you when choosing side dishes. For instance, if you choose to make a Morrocan style beef stew, you can make a Moroccan couscous salad.
The vegetables also add a ton of flavor in their own way and can be used as a reference when choosing a garnish or side dish.
Pairing flavors is something that comes with time and experience. You didn’t learn how to ride a bike in a minute, did you?
The more you experiment with different flavors and combinations, the more comfortable you will become with choosing ingredients that make a wonderful match.
This article is not only about what side dishes should be served with beef stew, but also what it can be topped (or garnished) with.
Beef stew, no matter how delicious it is, can look a bit bland and boring. As we all know, you eat with your eyes as much as your mouth, so it is essential to have some form of garnish, no matter how basic.
The best garnish is always a fresh herb. Now before you go grabbing the rosemary sprig, answer this one question. Would you eat that whole rosemary sprig? The answer is probably no.
Whatever form of herb you add should be easily edible. So if you want to add rosemary, pick the leaves, fry them in flavored oil, and sprinkle them on top. This way, they are edible and add to the dish.
Thyme leaves go great with beef and so do coriander or parsley leaves. You can simply chop a handful and sprinkle them over before serving.
One of my favorite ways to serve herbs as a garnish is to make a gremolata. This is a fresh green sauce made from herbs, oil, and other flavoring ingredients like garlic and lemon or lime.
You can also make a chimichurri, which is very similar but contains chili.
My last garnish suggestion is a quick vegetable pickle. This is a simple vinegar and sugar mixture with carrot, radish, zucchini, or cucumber ribbons that have been pickled for only an hour or two.
The pickled vegetables have a bunch of flavor and retain their crunch. This will pair nicely with your beef stew and compliment the texture as well.
Starch is a classic side to virtually any dish. This is because starchy ingredients or side dishes are usually neutrally flavored and serve as the perfect vessel to carry the flavors of the main dish.
As we mentioned, these side dishes are usually neutrally flavored, but that doesn’t mean bland. You can turn many traditional items (such as mashed potatoes) into not-so-boring and flavor-packed dishes.
It is important to keep in mind that your side dish can be as flavorful as your main dish, as long as the flavors pair well.
Here are some great examples of starchy foods that pair well with beef stew.
Of course, we are starting with classic mashed potatoes. This side dish has been around for what feels like forever. And let us tell you, it isn’t going anywhere if we have any say about it!
Mashed potatoes can be made in two ways: very smooth or lumpy. Whichever you end up choosing is up to you, but both can be beautifully flavored.
Here are a few ways you can spice up your mashed potatoes:
- Camembert, cheddar, and mozzarella
- Bacon and chives
- Rosemary and garlic
- Sour cream and nutmeg
Making cheesy mashed potatoes is always a good idea when you are pairing it with a red meat dish because the flavors and textures are fantastic compliments to one another. In fact, beef is one of the best meats to serve with fondue.
The reason mashed potatoes have and always will be one of the best pairings for beef stew is because of their neutral flavor profile. The starch within potatoes will also serve to elevate the flavors in your stew.
We have a very love-hate relationship with rice. Although we do love some rice dishes, others are just plain boring.
That being said, as with mashed potatoes, today there are thousands of possibilities to make your rice more interesting. As another starch, rice also pairs great with beef stew, as it elevates without taking away.
Many different types of rice can be used. Our recommendations include any long-grain rice like jasmine or basmati. This is just because they have a nice complementary texture to that of chunky beef stew.
Other than making flavored rice, there are also several rice dishes that you can serve as an accompaniment.
When choosing which rice dish to make, have a look at ingredients that are in the stew. You can then choose a side dish with similar ingredients.
Here are a few examples of ways to pair rice dishes with beef stews:
|Beef Stew Contains||Rice Dish With Similar Ingredients|
|Asparagus||Roasted asparagus and creamy basmati rice|
|Chickpeas||Brown rice salad with chickpeas, cranberries, and feta|
|Meat only||Wild rice with mixed roasted vegetables|
If your beef stew has a lot of different ingredients or a lot of complex flavors, it is best to serve it with basic, plain rice.
The last starch category we will be discussing is bread. As we have said many times before, we cannot and will not live without bread.
Bread works great as a side for two reasons. As with the other starches, it is neutral, even if it’s flavored, but the other amazing thing about bread as an accompaniment is that it can also be a serving vessel.
Many different types of bread work great with beef stew, and here’s the twist: the best types of bread to use are ones that are extremely flavorful and have a functional purpose – yes, that means no plain white bread.
The best breads to look for are ones with a sturdy structure, as they will not fall apart after one second in the stew. Although the bread should be able to absorb some juices, it shouldn’t break apart.
The best breads to use include:
- German beer bread
- Seed loaf
- Roti or tortillas
The list goes on and on, but as you can see, there is no shortage of options. Some types of bread (like tortillas and other flatbreads) allow you to create a whole different meal by making wraps.
Other Starchy Dishes
Did you think we would forget all the other types of starchy foods? Of course not!
Polenta is a great option that is very unique and can also be flavored to match the stew. You can even make a set polenta loaf that can be sliced.
Scones are another strange but very well-fitting pairing. They function exactly like bread would, only with a slight difference in flavor and texture. They’ll add a bit of sweetness to your meal.
There are of course other forms of potatoes, but we will discuss those in the vegetable section. The same goes for pasta, which we will discuss in the salad section.
However, we will say that there are many pasta side dishes (even plain macaroni and cheese) that can work as a side dish.
Moving on to a healthier side dish option, vegetables are as diverse as it comes.
They can be prepared and flavored in virtually any way. You can tailor them exactly how you like to pair with the beef stew.
If you have a stew with very soft (almost mushy) textures, simply add crunchy vegetables. For example, crispy sweet potato slices work and can also be used as a vessel.
The same goes for when you have a beef stew with a lot of texture. You can easily make a mashed vegetable like cauliflower mash or steam some veggies.
In terms of pairing flavors, like we have said many times before, it comes with experience and time. The more you experiment, the better you will become at it.
The good news is that vegetables are naturally neutral, so you can flavor them with any herbs or spices you wish.
Roasted vegetables are a great everyday option that is very easy to make. The texture is a mix between crispy and soft, making it a good choice for any type of stew.
The sweet flavors that are released during roasting also perfectly accompany the saltiness of the stew.
If your stew has potatoes in it, you can roast some sweet potatoes. If there is cauliflower in the stew, roast some cauliflower and broccoli.
You do not have to roast every vegetable that the stew contains, only one or two will suffice as a side dish.
If your stew doesn’t contain any vegetables, you can use a vegetable mix to roast. You can even incorporate them into rice, couscous, or quinoa.
Roasted potatoes are a classic side dish, just like their mashed form. There are many different shapes you can roast your potatoes in and many different spices you can use to make them interesting.
In any case, roasted potatoes work for the exact reason the other starches do: neutral flavor and pleasant texture.
Salads can come fresh or cooked. Fresh salads are made from mostly raw (fresh) ingredients and are a great option for spicy or complex stews.
Examples of fresh salad options include:
- Tossed apricot salad with a ginger dressing
- Classic Greek salad
- Sugar snap salad with a balsamic glaze
- Coleslaw with feta and pecans
- Cucumber salad with sour cream and chives
- Garden vegetable salad with asparagus, cauliflower, bell peppers, and olives
All these are examples of flavorful options that will provide texture and mildly sweet flavors. As with all the other side dishes, look at what the stew contains to best match the ingredients that should be used in the salad.
Just a note: no matter what your stew tastes like, choose sweeter or creamy ingredients. Adding a touch of sweetness will only enhance the salty stew flavor.
Cooked salads are usually consumed warm, but can be served cold depending on personal preference.
Cooked salads almost always contain a grain or starch base. This can include quinoa, barley, rice, couscous, or pasta. Many other ingredients can be used, but you get the idea.
Next are the cooked ingredients. These can include both fruits and vegetables, as long as they match the flavors of the stew.
Cooked salads also have complimentary textures and usually lean toward the sweet side of the taste spectrum, even if they have been salted. As we have previously mentioned, sweetness pairs well with salt.
A few interesting examples of cooked salads include:
- Grilled mixed vegetable salad with couscous and bocconcini
- Roasted broccolini and bell pepper risotto
- Roasted potato salad
You can also get salads that are a mix of fresh and cooked, including:
- Grilled peach salad with blueberries, feta, and arugula
- Grilled pineapple rings with roasted almond and a four-leaf salad mix
Salads can add a touch of light taste and freshness that can give your tastebuds a nice break from the warm, deep flavors of your stew.
We are a huge fan of innovation, and that is why we constantly experiment with different ways to serve basic dishes.
If you want to wow your guests, serve something basic, like cheesy mashed potatoes, in the form of deep-fried spring rolls or steamed dumplings. Something so simple can be made extremely unique with just a few extra steps.
Here are a few ideas of how you can transform a classic dish:
- Roasted cabbage and carrot spring rolls
- Cheesy mashed potato samosa
- Spinach samosa
- Sweet potato and pea dumplings
- Cauliflower and mushroom potstickers
- Roasted vegetable puff pastry mini pies
As a side note, you can make these any size you want to fit the meal. If youa re. a creative home chef, feel free to experiment and season to your heart’s content.
If you’d rather play it safe and follow the recipe so that you know without a doubt that your meal will turn out fantastic, sticking to the classics is just as encouraged.