Hearty Bison Stew

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

US Wellness Meats recently sent me a package of their grass-fed bison stew meat, and I jumped on the opportunity to make a traditional hearty stew. Rather than settle on the all-too-common crockpot stew (nothing against those), I opted to make this stew the traditional way – browned meat, sautéed onions, simmering wine-and-stock broth, and incrementally-added ingredients – to make sure the final product was both decadent and perfectly-crafted. That might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t – this is a dish that can easily be completed in a few hours.

Although the American bison is often referred to as a buffalo, it is only a distant relative of the true buffalo (like the Asian water buffalo). Its closest relative is the European bison, also known as a wisent. Its meat is usually leaner than beef, high in iron, and sweeter-tasting. Because of its leanness, I find that it’s best served in slow-cooked meals like this stew, as hamburgers, or as a grilled meat (like shish-kabobs) served medium-rare.

If you don’t have bison meat on hand, never fear – this stew tastes just as great with beef or lamb stew meat!

You’ll Need:
1lb US Wellness Meats bison stew meat
2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup each beef and chicken stock/broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley for garnish

As with most of my red meat-based roasts/stews, I prefer a combination of chicken and beef stock as the braising liquid; it gives the dish its tastiness without an overbearing “beefiness”.

Remove the bison meat from its packaging, and gently rinse with cold water and allow to drain dry. I was amazed at how well the stew meat was cut, and how lean and colorful it was!

In a french/dutch oven, heat up the oil/ghee on medium/high heat for about five minutes. Season the meat with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, and brown the meat for a few minutes per side, in batches if needed. Altogether it took me eight minutes to brown the meat. Remove the browned meat and set it aside, leaving the oil inside the french/dutch oven.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Reduce the dutch oven’s heat to medium, and add the chopped onions and a dash of salt. Saute for about five minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the minced garlic and continue to saute for another 30 seconds. Add the red wine, beef and chicken broths, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring everything to a simmer.

Once the broth is simmering, add the browned bison meat, and place in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

While it’s cooking, prepare your potatoes, carrots, and parsnip.

After an hour and 15 minutes, add the potatoes, carrots, and parsnip and return it to the oven. Bake for another 40 minutes, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Remove the bay leaves.

Rather than deal with making a flour roux or working with potato/arrowroot starch to thicken the stew, we’re going to use the ingredients that are already in the stew. Pretty resourceful, huh?

With a ladle, remove about 1 cup of the cooked potatoes, carrots, and parsnip (be sure to pick out the bison meat), and about 1/2 cup of the remaining broth. Blend your cup of veggies and 1/2 cup of broth together, making a sort of “potato/veggie” paste. Pour this paste back into the dutch oven, and stir everything together, while also stirring in the frozen peas.

Cover and simmer on the stovetop on med/low heat for five minutes. Check for taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

(featured on Easy Natural Food’s Sunday Night Soup Night)

28 thoughts on “Hearty Bison Stew

  1. I love the pictures! I’ll have to try this sometime. I’m always scared to try soups and stews because they seem so ambiguous and I don’t want to mess them up – although I love them. This might help me to actually give it a shot!


  2. Delicious looking stew, and great idea on how to thicken it – looks like a nice, rich, tasty gravy! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with Sunday Night Soup Night! I’ll be hosting every week so I’d LOVE to see you again with more of your soup/stock/chowder recipes.


  3. I see the bison was from “Wild Idea Buffalo Company”. If you want to read an interesting book about the plains and bison, the non-fiction book “Buffalo for the Broken Heart” was written by one of the company’s founders.


  4. this is making me so hungry!

    any thoughts on how i can modify the recipe to work with an electric slow cooker?


    1. You could definitely give this a try in a slow cooker; you’d still want to brown the meat beforehand to get that roasted taste, but after that you could simmer the stew in the slow cooker for a few hours on low, adding the veggies about halfway through. Hope that helps and let me know how it turns out!


  5. This was excellent, but mine needed about an extra hour for the meat and rutabagas (subbed for parsnip) to be really tender!


  6. Sounds delicious, and I am going to make this, but “a few hours” makes this a once-a-month-and-freeze-it recipe for this busy woman. Potatoes don’t freeze particularly well, so I cook them fresh and add them whenever I thaw soup or stew in which I want potatoes.


  7. This was delicious! I modified the recipe by transferring the content to a crock pot after sautéing ad cooked on high. Trying to use the gas oven the least possible in our home. To finish, I added a teaspoon of Emeril’s Essence because we like food spicy in our home. This was easy, delicious and full of flavor!


  8. Hi There,
    I’m ready to try this recipe, it looks delicious. One question: do you think sweet potatoes would work as a substitute for russet potatoes? I’m concerned about it coming out tasting too sweet. Cook time should be about the same though, I would think.


  9. I made this stew as a treat for my teenage son and it was a real hit! Tender bison meat, tasty veggies and potatoes in a rich sauce without overwhelming the meat.


  10. I am cooking for a priests deer camp we raise buffalo and they are grass feed, so I am going to try your recipe tomorrow hope it turns out good I like the thickening idea. N
    Lil different then my recipe. Thank you


  11. Fabulous recipe! I used bison and I was short on carrots and parsnip so added celery. I love the potato stock roux. I’ve made a great Jacques Pepin lamb stew recipe using the same technique, and I’d forgotten about it until now. So much better than using flour. I think Julia Child used white rice that way too. Thank you!


  12. Oh, and I’d also like to give a shout out to my local Bison rancher, Calibison, for raising organic, all-grass fed old stock bison near Mt. Shasta, CA. The owners produce incredible meat, personally bring it to my local farmers market, and I’m so happy to have recently discovered them. So interesting that the Omega 3 is higher, but the fat is lower, than grass fed beef. I used 2 lb of their bison stew meat for this recipe.


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