Stifado (Greek Beef Stew)

This rich and sumptuous recipe comes from my good friend Deirdre Guthrie, owner of the Gardens of Irini in Bellapais, Cyprus. The secret to this dish is the long, slow cooking time, which makes the flavours extraordinarily intense and the meat meltingly tender.

When I think of comfort food, my mind often turns to Greek Beef Stifado. I first tried this dish in the mountains of Cyprus at the home and restaurant of the wonderful Deirdre Guthrie.

Made with chunks of meltingly tender beef in a richly spiced sauce, this delicious stew was devoured with plenty of red wine while we talked and laughed late into the night.

Stifado Greek Beef Stew in a casserole dish.

What is Stifado?

While it is less well known than other Greek favourites like moussaka, kleftiko, tiropita or avgolemono soup, stifado is a traditional Greek stew in a rich red wine sauce with plenty of pearl onions.

It’s a robust dish with big punchy flavours and is ALWAYS a big hit.

Chuck steak for braising.
Diced Chuck steak for braising.

Ingredients

Stifado is a flexible dish that can be made with different meats, such as beef, lamb, rabbit, or even octopus! You’ll need the following main ingredients to make Stifado at home:

  • Beef: Stewing beef or chuck steak is suitable for this meal. You want meat that is suitable for long, slow braising. Don’t be tempted by supermarket packages of ready-diced meat; get a bigger piece and slice it into chunky cubes yourself. It is SO much tastier.
  • Onions and Garlic: Traditionally, Stifado is made with small, whole pearl onions. They’re not always easy to find, so you can use shallots instead, or the smallest onions you can find, cut into quarters.
  • Red Wine: A rich stew like Stifado is a great excuse to use up that bottle of slightly too-sweet red you might have sitting around. A sweeter wine really complements this dish.
  • Herbs and Spices: This is a wonderfully fragrant dish with big, flavoursome spices. Cinnamon and allspice are dominant here, with bay leaves (fresh if you can get them!) and oregano rounding things out. PRO TIP: Using whole cinnamon sticks and allspice berries will improve the texture.
  • Tomatoes: My friend Deirdre leaves them out which is common in Cyprus, but I like to add some in. You can chop up a few fresh tomatoes or use a can of whole tomatoes.
  • Vinegar: Good red wine vinegar gives this dish a fabulous zing. Please don’t leave it out; it is part of the traditional flavour and tastes delicious.
  • Prunes and Dried Apricots: Deirdre added this to the recipe, and I think it makes it even more delicious. If you’re a stickler for tradition, leave them out.
Browning chuck steak for a stifado.

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Browning chuck steak for a stifado.

Instructions

The wonderful thing about a stew like a stifado is that you can do all the preparation and then leave the oven to do the work while you have a glass of wine and a chat with your dinner guests. After all, that’s much more fun than being stuck in the kitchen.

  1. First, peel your onions by plunging them into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then refreshing under cold water. The skins should slip right off. Next, toss the beef in well-seasoned flour (a ziplock bag is by far the easiest way to do this). Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas4. 
  2. Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-based, flameproof casserole dish. Brown the beef well in batches, ensuring the oil is hot. Remove the meat from the dish, then lightly brown the onions and garlic. 
  3. Add the wine, tomatoes, vinegar, herbs and spices, Worcester sauce, and beef stock to the casserole, followed by the prunes and dried apricots, if using. Bring to a simmer, add the beef pieces and any resting juices back to the casserole, and cover tightly.
  4. Cook for 2-3 hours until the meat is absolutely tender, checking halfway if it needs a little water to stop it from drying out.
  5. Serve with nice crusty bread or, as Deirdre always does, with broad beans, green beans, honey-glazed carrots, and baked potatoes. And plenty of wine!
Stifado Greek Beef Stew in a casserole dish.
Stifado Greek Beef Stew in a casserole dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make stifado in advance and reheat it?

Yes! Dishes like stifado actually improve on reheating the next day. Reheat to a gentle simmer as the sauce can catch. You’ll need to thin it out with a bit of water or wine.

Can I double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd?

Yes. If I am cooking for a larger group, I fry off the meat and onions in a frying pan, then tip everything into my largest oven dish and cover it with tinfoil/aluminium foil to cook it.

What can the pearl onions be replaced with? I can’t find any?

Shallots make a great replacement; otherwise, just cut smallish onions into wedges.

Stifado Greek Beef Stew in a bowl with red wine

Beef Stifado Recipe

Stifado Greek Beef Stew in a casserole dish.

Stifado (Greek Beef Stew)

Jay Wadams
This rich and sumptuous recipe for Stifado comes from my good friend Deirdre Guthrie, owner of the Gardens of Irini in Bellapais, Cyprus. The secret to this dish is the long, slow cooking time, which makes the flavours extraordinarily intense and the meat meltingly tender. It's perfect for a night in the mountains of Bellapais, sitting until late under the stars and listening to some of Deirdre's amazing stories.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Serves 4 people

Ingredients
 

  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • 1 kg stewing beef/chuck steak, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 pearl onions, baby onions or shallots, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 500 ml red wine
  • 400 g can chopped tomatoes
  • 75 ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcester sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste/tomato purée
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 10 dried apricots, optional
  • 10 prunes, optional
  • salt & pepper
  • sea salt and black pepper

Instructions
 

  • BROWN BEEF: Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°C / Gas 4. Put the flour in a bowl or ziplock bag, season well with salt and pepper, then toss the meat in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil over high heat in a flameproof casserole dish or wide Dutch oven and brown the meat all over, working in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • COMBINE INGREDIENTS: Over medium heat, cook the onions or shallots in the same dish until golden. Add garlic, red wine, tomatoes, vinegar, Worcester sauce, herbs and spices, stock cubes, apricots and prunes. Bring to the boil, stirring often, then return the meat to the dish with any resting juices.
  • BRAISE: Cook, tightly covered, for 2-3 hours until you have really tender chunks of beef- add water if necessary part way through cooking if the sauce is reducing too quickly.
  • SERVE: Serve with garlicky broad beans, honey-roasted carrots, baked jacket potatoes, or fresh, crusty bread.

Recommended Equipment

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Nutrition

Serving: 1bowl | Calories: 908kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 51g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 24g | Trans Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 170mg | Sodium: 864mg | Potassium: 1844mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 1111IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 164mg | Iron: 9mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Main Event
Cuisine | Greek
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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 337

2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Dynamite, What else can I say? Only cook for selected friends or they never stop bugging you for another invite for the same meal.

    • Hi Ashley! I am so happy you (and your friends!) enjoyed the stifado! It is one of my absolute favourite meals. Haha you are absolutely right, select friends only! J.

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