Nikujaga: Japanese Beef Stew Recipe and a Staub giveaway

Steph has always had the slowest immune system of anyone I know, so she is still sick. To cheer her up a bit, I sent her this great explanation of why she is currently a toxic piñata. I’m also trying to help her get better through food, starting with this nikujaga – which is a super fast, super delicious Japanese beef stew recipe. Beef stew doesn’t get enough love as a get well soon food, probably because it can be hard to chew, but if you do it right – like in this nikujaga recipe – it’s just as easy and comforting as chicken noodle soup.

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

You need energy to get well, and there is nothing like a nice hearty stew to get your energy up. It also happens one of my most favorite foods in the world, so I can’t see a downside. Is this like a cliche “guy gets his wife a gift he secretly wants” kind of deal? Yes, but we both love beef stew, so it’s like a win/win present for both of us. We’ve also partnered up with Staub to do a giveaway on this post of a 3.5qt heritage braiser, so it’s like a present for one lucky reader too. It’s super pretty, I loved using it, and you can probably ask for it in any color you want. It’s the last of our three giveaways for this year, so don’t forget to enter.

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

A while back, my favorite stew was daube – a provencal beef stew with oranges and wine. I was coming back from a work trip and Steph decided to surprise me with a house smelling of daube and my favorite dinner on the table as I came home from the airport and a 10 hour flight. She’s awesome like that. We were living in a weird part of town at the time with no normal grocery stores nearby – just fancy organic stores selling $5 oranges. She couldn’t drive, so she walked to the expensive grocery store and bought a $5 orange to put in the stew. I loved it – it was the perfect welcome home.

I love all beef stews though. Brown food doesn’t get much love in our Instagram world of today, but I think there’s something warming and comforting about tucking into a big bowl of stew that you won’t feel with a delicate matcha and gold-flaked unicorn bagel. Especially in winter. Even when you’re sick. My current favorite is Little Sister in LA – the downtown location if you’re being specific. It’s to die for, and no one talks about it. After Steph gets better, I might have to book a fake work trip so I can come home to her version of Little Sister’s Bo Kho.

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

takeout from Little Sister DTLA – bo kho, e-fu noodles, and fried rice

Nikujaga: the best 20 minute beef stew around

One of the most common and very valid criticisms of stew is that it just takes too long to make. Although personally I don’t know who wouldn’t want their house to smell of slow cooked stew all day long, sometimes you just want to eat when you get home. Lately we’ve been on the instant pot train, but if you don’t have an instant pot, a super fast beef stew that you don’t need special gadgets for is super useful, and that’s what we have here.

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

This stew works in 20 minutes because the beef is thinly sliced so it tenderizes in 20 minutes instead of 4 hours. I’ve made it different in the photos because I’m a terrible blogger and just used whatever we had in the fridge – which in our case was frozen wagyu stew cubes. Wagyu is soft enough that I wasn’t worried about it taking hours to get tender and left it in cube form, but it is correctly made with thinly sliced beef.

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

Your selection at any tiny Japanese grocery store

In Japan they sell beef precut into thin slices that works specifically for this recipe. If you’re feeling up to it, the best way to replicate this is to throw a steak in the freezer for a few minutes and then slice it to about a 1/8” thickness, but if you’re feeling lazy – and this is a 20 minute stew recipe after all – stir fry beef probably works just as well.

Don’t let the 20 minute cook time fool you, nikujaga has a lot of depth and layers of flavor – first from the classic Japanese trifecta of mirin/sake/soy, then from the dashi or broth, then finally from the meat and vegetables and konnyaku. Actually, if you’ve ever had a beef bowl from Yoshinoya (preferably the Japanese one, not the California one), you pretty much know what this tastes like, but with veggies and more depth of flavor.

What is konnyaku?

If you’ve never heard of konnyaku before, you’re not alone. I’ve never paid attention to it until the beginning of this year, and now I’m a total convert. It’s awesome – I’ve really come to love its unique texture and subtle flavor. It also comes as a noodle and a lot of people rave about how awesome the noodles are. You should be able to find konnyaku as either a loaf or noodle at any higher end grocery store or asian market, but it’s completely optional and you can replace it with tofu as well for an added health kick.

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

While writing this post I asked Steph what she thought of the nikujaga and (because she had lost her voice and couldn’t answer) she gave it two thumbs up! I’m really convinced that beef stew is the new chicken noodle soup, and more to the point, that this 20 minute beef stew is better than any slow simmered 4 hour recipe you’ll find. It’s the perfect thing for anyone who loves stew but doesn’t love the cook time, or is looking for a new twist on beef stew.

Giveaway rules: Let us know in the comments what your favorite post on iamafoodblog is and what kind of content you want to see more of in 2018: travel, easy, special diets (vegan, paleo, etc), noodles, something else? Follow us on instagram and leave your IG handle here as well for a bonus entry, and don’t miss our nikon giveaway either! Giveaway ends Dec 23rd, open to US residents.

CLOSED! Congrats KellyRenRen, keep your eyes on the lookout for an email from me!

Japanese Nikujaga Beef Stew Recipe |

win me! note: stew not included

Nikujaga Japanese Beef Stew Recipe

Serves 4

Total time: 20 minutes

  • 1lb thinly sliced beef
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup soy
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 4 cups dashi or beef/chicken broth
  • 1lb nugget potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 package konnyaku (noodles or cubed, optional)

In a large heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven over high heat, heat your oil and brown your beef. Remove and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions and cook until transparent.

Add sake and boil off until the alcohol is gone (about 1-2 minutes), then add your mirin, soy, sugar, and dashi. Reduce to a low simmer. 

Add potatoes, carrots, konnyaku, and previously cooked beef to the pan and simmer until potatoes and beef are tender (about 15 minutes).

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