Beef and Ale Stew with Buttermilk Scallion Dumplings

In other parts of the country, the hopeful are posting photos of crocuses and fledgling blossoms. In Midcoast Maine we’ve seen snow every day this week. Casual, sideways swirling, winter’s ending but not yet snow. It has not accumulated on the ground; the melt is on and frozen earth turns up with mud. The in-between season that doesn’t raise our frozen spirits with a false sense of warmth or desire. It’s going to be dreary, drizzly, mucky, slushy, sleeting, and chill for another month at least here. And while I very much am ready to emerge from our hibernation, I decided to revel in these last weeks. We’ll stay cozied up inside a little longer. We have books to read and games to play and plants to water and naps to take and baths to splash around in and new spaces to fill with our things and explore and imagine in. And tonight, we also have stew. I like the tactile/olfactory steps of making stew.

First I I sharpened my knife. I hefted an almost 4 pound roast on the wooden board and sliced it into thick steaks, then into cubes striated with muscle and fat.  I used clean hands to toss the meat in flour and spice and watched oil glisten in  my favorite large Dutch oven. Popping open a brown bottle of cool beer. I never drink beer anymore. I like beer. I used Smithwick’s. It is also good for sipping in the kitchen in the afternoon. Scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Then the onions – they cook slow and low, transforming. I prepare the other vegetables on the board, very rustic. Finally, everything goes into the pot, to become something better. It simmers. All afternoon it fills the house with goodness. Making dumplings is sticky work. I taste a little of the dough. It is sour and raw. The baby goes to bed, wine is poured, we sit down to the table and eat in quiet gratitude.

Beef and Ale Stew with Buttermilk Scallion Dumplings
Adapted from a recipe in The Sunset Cookbook


For the stew:

  •  4 lbs beef chuck, trimmed of fat and butchered into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 12 oz bottles ale
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped

For the dumplings:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


For the stew:

In a large bowl, coat beef cubes with flour, salt, and smoked paprika.

In a large Dutch oven or stew pot over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Brown beef in 3 batches. Transfer cooked beef to large bowl.

Pour 1 bottle of ale into the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Pour ale from the pot into the bowl of beef.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot. Add onions and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the onions cook down and become golden, 20 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high. Stir 3 tablespoons flour into the onions and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, beef and ale, the other bottle of ale, and carrots to the pot. Bring stew to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, approximately 3 hours.

For the dumplings:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and green onions. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture is like cornmeal.

In a small bowl combine buttermilk and egg. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and combine until a very shaggy dough comes together. Use a little more flour if necessary to form 24 walnut-sized dumplings.

30 minutes before the stew is finished drop the dumplings into the pot and cover. Remove from the heat and allow the stew to stand and thicken, 15 minutes, before serving.

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


  1. This sounds great, I love the addition of the dumplings to this and I am going to try and make it before warmer weather approaches.
    Also, I hear you on the snow! It seems like an every day event lately and I kind of forget what a full sunny day looks like. I currently live down a dirt road in the middle of the Maine woods so the mud has been insane to drive through and, yes, I know it will get worse! Soon we will be moving back to Portland in May/June…I am counting down the days!

  2. We may have had about 2 feet of snow here yesterday when we were plotting to make this, but it was 50 degrees out today. No matter, it was still a great day to try this recipe. It was delicious! The buttermilk dumplings were a great change from potatoes, and the ale (Sam Adam Boston Lager) made a delicious base for the meat and veggies. Very easy and satisfying to create. I will definitely save this recipe! Thanks!

  3. We made this for St. Patty’s Day yesterday and despite it being in the mid-80s where we’re currently living ( California High Desert ), it was absolutely delicious! Raves from the hubby, he couldn’t wait to take the leftovers for lunch today.

    I think you may have a typo, though– are you sure it’s supposed to be 4.5 teaspoons for the dumplings? I tried that measurement at first but it didn’t seem nearly enough so increased it to get the right consistency. If it is a typo, wanted to bring it to your attention.. if it’s not, then well, I made some really buttery dumplings! 😉

    1. It is a typo! It should read 4.5 tablespoons! I will make this change and thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  4. HI! Going on a camping trip and making a stew very much like this (maybe now a combo of the two!!) I really like the dumplings idea but not sure how to handle with my situation. Making stew at home, then reheating on a gas stove at campsite (or maybe the fire if I decide to get the cast iron dutch oven). How/when should add the dumplings??

  5. I made this stew last night, and I gotta say it turned out nothing like the glamor-shot photo above. There was nowhere near enough liquid in the soup to support 4 lbs of chuck. Is there supposed to be beef stock? I added some chicken broth that I happened to have on hand so that I didn’t wind up with sludgy gravy. The dumplings were another challenge altogether. They needn’t have included the butter, and they totally fell apart in the stew–looking quite, quite unappetizing.

    This soup sounds fabulous, but I don’t know how the blogger arrived at that image above using the recipe as it’s written. Sorry, but I wouldn’t recommend this stew.

    1. Hi Gwen,

      I reviewed my cooking notes and even referred to the original recipe and it’s done just as I have it written in the post above. I wonder if perhaps your beef wasn’t as fatty and therefore didn’t yield as much jus? There are many variables in making a stew that could change the outcome and I always like to have a little stock or broth on hand if extra liquid is necessary. (Though here I like it with just the beer). Cooking is not an exact science, but I assure you no trickery was unemployed in getting these photos. Just practice, luck and good lighting! Thanks for reading and commenting and I hope you come back!

  6. Hi! I’d love to make this tonight but don’t have a stew pot- is there any way to adjust the recipe for a slow cooker?

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