Stews are comforting but they don't have to stay in the flavor comfort zone.
Stews are comforting but they don't have to stay in the flavor comfort zone. (Photo: Brooke Lark)

7 Recipes to Un-Boring Your Winter Stew Game

Time to dust off that soup pot. These recipes—from veggie-centric to downright meaty—will have you feeling warm, full, and happy in no time.

Stews are comforting but they don't have to stay in the flavor comfort zone.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Winding down a perfect snow day always brings a certain level of melancholy. Luckily, the best antidote is an easy one: knowing that a nourishing bowl of soup is waiting at home. But if your relationship with your Crock-Pot has grown stale and you’re tired of making the same beef with barley or chicken noodle recipe, it may be time to see other stews. We reached out to eight outdoor-loving chefs to get their favorite recipes that are good for refueling weary and icy muscles. As a bonus, we figured out how to make the more time-intensive recipes faster with the help of an Instant Pot.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

(Courtesy White Grass Café)

All my childhood skiing memories include warm midday bowls of soup served up at White Grass Café in West Virginia’s stunning Canaan Valley. Laurie Little, one of the chefs at the café and an author of several of its cookbooks, says she can always tell when it’s especially cold outside, because the soup sells like crazy. This recipe is featured in White Grass Flavor, which has become a favorite inspiration source in our home. It serves four, or two if you’re a hungry monster who goes back for seconds.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a soup pot, over medium high heat, sauté garlic, onion, and mushrooms in butter. Cook until the onion starts to brown—this helps make a flavorful broth.
  2. Add milk, cream, and chicken broth; reduce to medium-low heat.
  3. Add thyme, wild rice, chicken, and sherry. Slowly simmer until soup starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Stir often to prevent scorching.
  4. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Add broth if it you need to thin it. Serve with warm bread.

Instant Pot Hack

You can use your Instant Pot to quickly cook the rice and chicken from scratch—plus, if you use a whole chicken, you’ll have leftovers for other meals the rest of the week. Cook the rice using a 1:3 ratio of rice and water, then set aside. Rub a whole, defrosted bird (giblets and other innards removed) with salt and pepper. Heat a small amount of oil in the pot and sauté the chicken briefly on both sides. Turn off the sauté setting, place the cooking rack in the bottom of the pot, and pour in one cup of water. Place chicken on the rack and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes for a small chicken (three to four pounds) and 35 to 40 minutes for a large one (about seven pounds). Let the steam release naturally, then remove from the pot, allow to cool slightly, and shred.

Elk and Green Chile Stew

Avid bow hunter and Denver-based chef Logan Woodward pulls this recipe out on cold days. “It is extremely rewarding to see the whole process of woods-to-table,” he says, though feel free to use store-bought elk meat if you don’t hunt. Woodward’s restaurant, Range, focuses on “new American West” cuisine, and this stew certainly fits that description. The Hatch chiles and jalapeño peppers bring sweetness and heat, while the hominy, elk, and cotija cheese make the whole thing feel satisfying.


  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 cup masa
  • 1 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 pounds elk meat, cubed (Use stew meat, either from the neck, shoulders, or rump. In a pinch, you can use beef or lamb.)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 ounces Hatch diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila
  • 1 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 25 ounces white hominy
  • Cotija cheese


  1. Heat up an outdoor grill and roast Anaheim and jalapeño peppers until skin becomes charred. Remove from heat and place in a plastic or paper bag for 15 minutes to sweat. When cooled, remove skin and seeds and chop. (Note: Wear plastic gloves when removing skin and seeds.)
  2. Mix masa and garlic powder in a plastic bag. Add elk meat to bag; seal and shake, being sure to cover all pieces.
  3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of oil. Brown elk meat on all sides, remove, and place on paper towel. Make sure to cook in batches so as not to crowd the meat while cooking. Add more oil if needed during cooking.
  4. After browning meat, add remaining oil to the pot. Add onions, garlic, and Hatch chiles and cook until onions are soft and translucent. Add tequila and scrape the chunky bits off the bottom of the pot. Add meat, onions, chopped chiles, seasonings, chicken broth, and water to a Crock-Pot and cook on low for six hours. During the last hour of cooking, stir in the white hominy and continue to cook on low until meat is tender. Serve with crumbled cotija cheese and warm flour tortillas.

Instant Pot Hack

Brown elk meat on the sauté setting. You’ll need to work in batches so you don’t overload the pot. Then, sauté the other veggies and add the tequila to deglaze the pan. Add meat, chiles, onions, broth, water, and seasonings and pressure-cook for 35 minutes. Allow the steam to release naturally before serving.

White Bean Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Kale

While stews are often meaty affairs, chef Nathan Lyon is trying to show that plant-based versions are also worthwhile endeavors. This recipe comes from his new Fiber14 initiative, which challenges diners to cook fiber-forward (and therefore plant-heavy) dishes for 14 days. With beans, kale, and sweet potatoes, this soup delivers 15 grams of fiber and lots of flavor. The whole pot will feed four hungry people.


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced small (2 cups)
  • 6 large celery stalks diced small (2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large sweet potato (1 pound), peeled and diced medium
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 pound dinosaur (lacinato) or curly kale leaves, stems discarded, chopped roughly (4 packed cups)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar


  1. Add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery to a small pot and set over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook for ten to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften and lightly caramelize.
  2. Add the cumin and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the thyme, sweet potato, tomatoes, stock, beans, and kale. Stir.
  4. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and kale is tender.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Discard the thyme sprigs. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Instant Pot Hack

Using your Instant Pot allows you to use dried beans (infinitely cheaper) instead of canned. If you’re cooking from dry, 1/4 to 1/3 pound of dried beans will yield about one 15.5-ounce can’s worth. Rinse the beans, then pop them into the Instant Pot with enough water to cover completely. Pressure-cook for 35 minutes, allowing the steam to release naturally. Cooking the yams and kale in the Instant Pot risks blowing them to smithereens, so finish the recipe on the stove.

Hunter’s Stew

The meat for this carnivorous stew can change depending on what the chef (or hunter) has on hand, says chef David Santos of New York’s Good Stock. If you can’t get wild game, beef, lamb, and pork will work just fine. This recipe yields six to ten servings, so it’s perfect for a party.


  • 6 tablespoons animal fat (pork, chicken, or beef will do)
  • 1 1/2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds wild boar stew meat, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
  • 4 cups 1/2-inch diced white onion
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch diced carrots
  • 2 cups 1/3-inch diced celery
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups marble potatoes, or larger potatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 8 cups brown chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 thyme sprigs


  1. In a medium pot over high heat, bring the fat to the point where it’s just about to start smoking. Add half the meat and sear well. Gently remove the meat from the pot, making sure to leave the oil behind, then add the second half of the meat and again sear well. Remove that portion of the meat and set aside.
  2. With the pan still over high heat, add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté for about five minutes. Season with salt. Drop the heat to medium-high and continue cooking for another five to ten minutes, getting some color on the veggies and creating nice browned bits on the bottom of the pan
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook for three minutes. Then add the meat back in the pan and sauté for three more minutes, evenly coating everything with the tomato paste. Add the wine and cook for two minutes to burn off some of the alcohol. Add the stock, bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Drop the heat to a gentle simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes, and then add potatoes. Cook for 15 more minutes; test to make sure the meat and the potatoes are tender. Serve with a hearty hunk of bread, cornbread, or a biscuit.

Instant Pot Hack

Sear meat on the sauté setting, working in small batches. Then follow the instructions for the aromatics and tomato paste. Add everything except the potatoes and cook for 30 minutes on high pressure, using the natural steam-release technique. Finish by turning the pot back to sauté, adding the potatoes, and cooking until tender.

Chicken Blanquette

(Courtesy Whiteface Lodge)

At Lake Placid’s Whiteface Lodge, chef Adam Bechard spends all winter feeding guests who have ferocious “I skied all day” appetites. This soup, with its heavy cream, whole milk, and white wine base, will satisfy your caloric needs, while its heady mix of herbs and aromatics will satisfy your palate. The recipe serves two and can be doubled to feed a family of four.


  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 8 peeled pearl onions
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3 fingerling potatoes
  • 2 thick slices of brioche, cut into 1x1x3-inch strips
  • 4 ounces of your favorite mushroom, roughly chopped
  • 2 ounces roasted leeks, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage and parsley mix


  1. In a medium sauce pot on medium heat, combine milk and cream. Add in chicken, onion, thyme, garlic and potatoes. Slowly poach until chicken and onions become tender. Remove the thyme sprigs.
  2. Meanwhile, bake or fry the brioche strips until crispy (crouton style).
  3. Remove the chicken and shred or dice it. In a sauté pan, sweat mushrooms and leeks. Deglaze the pan with wine and reduce. Add in chicken, onion, and potato, then sweat. Add poaching liquid to the pan and reduce. Finish with salt and pepper, chopped herbs, and brioche croutons.

Vegan Chili

Ironman triathlete power couple Nicole and Tim DeBoom make this vegan cherry chili on cold Colorado winter days. The dried cherries add a ton of antioxidants and just the right amount of sweetness. As written, the recipe is vegan, but Nicole says it works with venison or chicken if you’re carnivorous. This recipe is courtesy of former pro-triathlete Rip Esselsytn’s new Engine 2 Cookbook.


  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced, for topping


  1. Place the cherries in a dish of warm water and let soak for two to three minutes. Drain and try to rinse off the oil used in processing the dried cherries. Repeat soaking, draining, and rinsing the cherries. Set aside.
  2. Microwave or steam the sweet potato cubes until soft; set aside.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the onion and bell pepper in a little water until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for two to three minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Add the roasted pepper, chili powder, mustard, cumin, tomatoes, and broth. Cook for two to three minutes over medium heat as the flavors meld together. Increase to high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add the drained cherries, steamed sweet potatoes, black beans, kidney beans, corn, and half the cilantro. Continue cooking and stirring on medium-low heat for at least ten minutes, until well incorporated and the flavors mingle. Simmering longer does not hurt when it comes to chili, as long as you remember to stir occasionally.
  6. Serve with remaining cilantro and diced jalapeño to your liking. It’s also delicious over brown rice.

Root Vegetable Soup

(Courtesy Kevin Gillespie)

If you’ve hit your quota on majorly caloric stews or your boxy sweaters are suddenly a little less boxy, this lighter soup is for you. Omit the pancetta and swap the chicken stock for veggie stock for a vegan version. This recipe is courtesy of chef and avid outdoorsman Kevin Gillespie.


  • 8 ounces pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced into 1/8-inch dice
  • 2 1/2 cups onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/4 cups peeled rutabaga, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 cup celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2/3 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/4 cups Jerusalem artichokes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/4 cups turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 cup parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced on a mandolin. Don’t dice the garlic or it will cook faster than the other veggies.
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon Espelette pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced chives
  • 1/4 cup minced celery leaves


  1. Heat a large enamel-lined cast-iron pot or other soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta; stir and cook until the pancetta is golden brown, eight to ten minutes. Add the onions, rutabaga, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables start to soften and the onions become translucent, about six minutes, stirring now and then.
  2. Add the artichokes, turnips, and parsnips and cook for an additional eight minutes, stirring a few times. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the stock, Espelette pepper, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for five minutes. The vegetables should be tender.
  3. Remove the pot from heat. Stir in the turnip greens and one tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and season as needed with additional salt and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the parsley, chives, and celery leaves.
Lead Photo: Brooke Lark

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept money for editorial gear reviews. Read more about our policy.