Y’all. I am SO ready for sweater weather and cozy slow cooker stews! To kick the season off, I made this super simple Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew (also known as Poor Man’s Stew) this week. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just simple, good, comforting food! I love the simplicity of this dish and the flexibility. This ground beef stew is the perfect thing to have simmering away on the weekend as you do your chores or relax and enjoy watching the changing of the seasons. :)
What’s in Hamburger Stew?
Hamburger stew is very similar to traditional beef stew, but it’s made with ground beef instead of stew meat. Using ground beef is a little bit less expensive than using stew meat, and I like how you get a little bit of beef in every bite!
In addition to the beef we have a medley of fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, peas), beef broth, herbs and spices, plus a little Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to zhuzh it up a bit. It’s incredibly simple, but creates that beautifully subtle slow stewed flavor.
Why Brown The Hamburger First?
For this Hamburger Stew recipe, I browned the ground beef in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker. I did this for two reasons. The first reason was to render off some of the fat. I used 15% fat ground beef and there was quite a bit that needed to be drained away (I actually tested this recipe once without draining the fat and it just ended up far too oily). The second reason is that you get a nice browning (maillard reaction) on the beef in the dry environment of a skillet that you do not get in the wet environment of a slow cooker. So you’ll get just a little bit more flavor with this extra step!
Can I Use Different Vegetables?
Yes! Stews are very flexible. If you don’t like one of the vegetables listed, go ahead and skip it. Just keep in mind that the potatoes do help thicken the stew, so if you skip the potatoes you’ll have more of a soup texture. Other great vegetables to use in beef stew include:
- pearl onions
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin)
What Are Stewed Tomatoes?
This recipe calls for stewed tomatoes, which are a variety of canned tomatoes that are popular in the U.S. (example: Hunts stewed tomatoes). These tomatoes are cooked with seasonings and a little bit of sugar to give them the slightest sweetness. Stewed tomatoes add a little extra special unique flavor to the broth of this stew. While you can use diced tomatoes if stewed tomatoes are not available, this substitution will slightly change the flavor of the stew.
How Long Is Hamburger Stew Good?
After cooking this recipe for hamburger stew, I suggest dividing it into single portions (so that it cools faster) and refrigerating it right away. It will stay good in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, or it can be transferred to the freezer for longer storage (about 3 months). This stew is a great item to have stashed in your freezer for busy nights! It can be reheated quickly in the microwave, or slowly over medium-low heat in a pot on the stove.
Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew
- 2 lbs. russet potatoes ($1.20)
- 1/2 lb. carrots (about 4 carrots) ($0.45)
- 1 yellow onion (0.32)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- ½ tsp dried rosemary ($0.05)
- ½ tsp dried thyme ($0.05)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
- 1 lb. ground beef ($5.69)
- 1 15oz. can stewed tomatoes ($1.00)
- 2 cups beef broth ($0.26)
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce ($0.02)
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce ($0.06)
- 1 cup frozen peas ($0.60)
- Peel and dice the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Peel and slice the carrots. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and pepper to a slow cooker (4 quarts or larger).
- Brown the ground beef in a skillet, then drain off the excess fat. Add the browned and drained beef to the slow cooker along with the can of stewed tomatoes (with juices). Finally, add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce to the slow cooker.
- Give the contents of the slow cooker a brief stir to make sure everything is evenly combined (the broth may not fully cover the other ingredients). Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight hours.
- After cooking on high for four hours or low for eight hours, remove the lid and stir the stew. Use the back of a spoon to slightly mash some of the potatoes, which will help thicken the stew.
- Add the frozen peas (no need to thaw) and stir to combine into the stew. Taste the stew and add extra salt if needed (I did not add any, this will depend on the salt content of your beef broth). Serve hot with bread for dipping!
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
Try These Other Stew Recipes:
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew
- Vegan Winter Lentil Stew
- Instant Pot Beef Stew
- Vegan Peanut Stew
- Smoky Potato Chickpea Stew
How to Make Hamburger Stew – Step by Step Photos
Peel and dice 2 lbs. of potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Peel and slice ½ lb. carrots (about 4 carrots). Dice one onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic to a slow cooker along with ½ tsp dried rosemary, ½ tsp dried tyme, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper.
Brown one pound of ground beef and drain off the excess fat. Add the browned ground beef to the slow cooker along with one 15oz. can of stewed tomatoes (with the juices).
Add 2 cups beef broth, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and 1 Tbsp soy sauce to the slow cooker.
Give the contents of the slow cooker a brief stir to combine. The broth will not fully cover the meat and vegetables, but that’s okay. The vegetables will release more moisture and increase the broth as they cook. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.
After cooking on high for four hours or low for eight hours, it will look like this. Give it a good stir and smash some of the potatoes against the side of the slow cooker. The smashed potatoes will help thicken the broth into a nice hearty stew.
Stir one cup of frozen peas into the slow cooker (they’ll thaw and heat within a minute or so).
Give the hamburger stew a final taste and adjust the salt to your liking. I didn’t need to add any because the broth I use (Better than Bouillon) has a decent amount, but if your broth has less sodium you may find that a pinch of salt at the end helps the flavors pop!
Serve the hamburger stew immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat (but I don’t know how you’ll resist having a bowl after smelling that cooking all day!).
This didn’t turn out for me in the instant pot. Rookie mistake, I trusted the commenter that said she did it at 9 minutes on high in the IP…then did 3 more…then did 30 more and the potatoes were STILL not tender enough to my liking. Real bummer. I won’t rate the recipe poorly though as it’s not the recipe’s fault!
I cook this in my instant pot! Saute beef and onions, add herbs, garlic and salt, add Worcestershire and tomato paste, then broth (I use vegetable better than bullion) and the veggies. I think I cook it for like 9 mins on high, I don’t remember. It makes a TON of food. I like to use gold potatoes and kind of smuch them up at the end so it gets a real thick consistency. I use a full pound of ground beef and add extra potatoes and carrots though.
Could this be made in the instant pot?
I’m sure it could, but we haven’t tested it so we don’t have any guidance. The best I can do is ask you to follow your favorite instant pot stew recipe. XOXO Monti
I really like the looks of this stew and the flexibility of its ingredients. Because of the current price of ground meat and that I am only cooking for two, I will have to cut the ground beef down to one-quarter of a pound. However, I can cut the recipe in half, but flesh it out with other ingredients. We are senior citizens on a fixed income, and have found that we eat far less than we did in our younger years.
I like the price information that you put next to each ingredient. It helps me a great deal with my grocery list. Even though I am cutting back on my groceries, I feel that I am maximizing our resources and that we eating very healthy. Thank you for your posts.
I cooked this all day (1/2 on low, then up to high), and the potatoes still didn’t cook through. I cut them small enough. I also didn’t enjoy the stewed tomatoes.
My family loved this! It was easy to make (hello slow cooker!), used a lot of our leftover grocery items, and had great flavor as is. Thanks for sharing this! This is a keeper for us :)
perfect soup after shoveling 10inches of snow. Thanks for making recipe that use pantry and freeze items!
Was a bit bland for my tastes, think I would prefer it without rosemary and maybe with tomato paste as others suggested.
I used low sodium beef broth, so the taste at 4 hours on high was pretty underwhelming. I added some salt and a cup of ketchup to give it a little bit flavor. It’s better now albeit sweet. The carrots are still crunchy, going to give it a couple more hours then add the frozen peas.
This recipe is delicious! Great flavor, easy (although there is lots of chopping), made the kitchen smell yummy all day. I added lightly sauteed mushrooms at the same time that I threw in the peas. Served with shredded parmesan. I went back for seconds! Will absolutely add this to the regular winter rotation. Thank you!
I really enojyed this recipe because it’s quick, easy and inexpensive. I’ve made it twice so far. The second time I added a couple heaping tablespoons of tomato paste, which really helps with the flavor. I added a bit more salt and less rosemary. I cooked this in the instant pot – sauteed the ground beef and onions for a few minutes and then cooked on high pressure for 8 minutes following by a quick release. It came out perfectly!