How To Make Your Entire Family Happy With This Super Easy, Gluten Free Beef Stew

A delicious and flexible family dinner option, this gluten free beef stew can be made in a slow cooker, Instant Pot or in the oven.

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Gluten free beef stew
Rich, hearty and versatile – make this gluten-free beef stew in a slow cooker, Instant Pot or in the oven.

Who would believe one of our most enduring and loved family recipes came from our dental hygienist? But it did. I’ll never forget her words to me as she pressed a paper into my hand, “You need this recipe.” We did, and you do too.

You know there is a story here…

Back in the day when I had 6 six small children, taking them all to the dentist twice a year was an experience – a memorable, chaotic, crazy experience of endurance.

Our hectic lives didn’t make it easy to schedule random dentist appointments staggered out, so I found a dentist willing to book us all at one time – we blocked out a Saturday morning, popped into the van en mass, and headed out for “dentist-day” – woo-hoo.

The first time we showed up to our favorite dentist, back when we lived in Chicago, I was checking us in, filling out the volumes of paperwork times 7 (me plus 6 kids). That is when the hygienist, pointed her finger and said those proverbial words, “You need this recipe.”

OK, not what I expected, but I was always hungry for new recipes, especially those promising to be easy, flexible and tasty to all of us.

She went on to extol the virtues of this hearty dish she called Layered Beef Stew.; she also grew up in a large family and promised we would love this meal Well, she sold me and I made that stew within days – and it was a hit. More than 20 years later, it remains a family favorite.

I love my collection of handwritten recipes

I might be weird (ok, I am a little) but I love looking at my old handwritten recipes. It is one of the few places I can still see my grandmother’s and my mother’s handwriting. My recipes are also now stored online at Plan to Eat, but my kids are going to have to throw out the handwritten ones after I am gone – because I sure won’t.

Hand written gluten free beef stew recipe
The stained, rumpled look of a well-loved recipe. I love keeping hand written recipes. This is the “doubled” version for a large slow cooker.

I don’t know about you, but right now, I don’t want fancy complicated recipes. Instead, I want easy family meals we can prep fast with ingredients on hand. Recipes that are flexible and will work with available ingredients are especially nice right now, given all the shortages at the grocery stores.

Leftovers are a great bonus too, now that we all eat lunch at home. The least amount of time cooking, the faster we can get back to binging our favorite TV shows – or attending work teleconferences.

The bottom line

This beef stew is easy and flexible. I made it for years in a slow cooker but now use my Instant Pot. It calls for tapioca, but I now use grains such as oats or barley (not GF) and prefer it – any thickener or grain you have on hand will do.

I was very slow to the Instant Pot phenomenon but I am a total convert now. I use mine at least once per week AND got rid of my slow cooker and rice cooker so save cabinet space as well (for the uninitiated, Instant Pots work as a slow cooker, rice cooker, and pressure cooker – plus you can use them to saute meats and vegetables.

If I could only remember that dental hygienist’s name I would send her a huge thank you. Who knew going to the dentist could be so rewarding?

If you like this recipe please consider sharing it to your favorite social media platform. Many thanks.

Gluten free beef stew recipe

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Gluten Free Beef Stew

  • Total Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Your entire home will slowly fill with the most enticing aroma as this super easy and family-pleasing meal cooks.  This beef stew has been a family favorite for decades.  It is probably the easiest, heartiest meal I have in our family recipe book.


  • 1 pound beef stew meat
  • 1.5 Tbsp Minute tapioca
  • 4 medium potatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 8 oz carrots, sliced (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 12 oz bag frozen peas


  1. Slow cooker instructions
  2. Add all the ingredients (EXCEPT PEAS) to the slow cooker in layers starting with the beef. Salt and pepper between layers.
  3. Cook on hi for 6 hours.
  4. Add the frozen peas and stir until all the ingredients are blended.
  5. Serve


This recipe doubles well in a large slow cooker. It also is great for freezing, especially in individual portions.

Instant pot instructions:  Combine all of the ingredients except peas in the Instant Pot, stirring to combine.  Cook on manual for 30 minutes, using a natural release.  Uncover, stir in peas, and serve.

Oven directions: Prep in an ovenproof dish either in layers or stirred together – doesn’t matter.  Cover and bake at 375 F for 2 hours.

Substitutions: Any GF grain can be substituted for the tapioca. Try 1/3 cup oats, brown rice, or sorghum. If GF is not needed, 1/3 cup barley works great.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
  • Calories: 376.55 kcal
  • Sugar: 14.72 g
  • Sodium: 607.89 mg
  • Fat: 5.21 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.96 g
  • Trans Fat: 0.23 g
  • Carbohydrates: 56.74 g
  • Fiber: 10.08 g
  • Protein: 28.46 g
  • Cholesterol: 57.15 mg

Keywords: Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, Beef, Stew, Soup

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  1. I still have your handwritten recipes faxed over to me from your work after I had moved back to Idaho and started my own family. Your recipes and especially this one are near and dear to my family (they all know which ones originated from you). I have altered this one a bit. I never add the brown sugar and I have started to use traditional spaghetti sauce instead of tomato sauce and we love it! Thank you again for all your mentoring over the years.

    1. That means so much to me – I think I’ll try your adaptations. Maybe use tomato sauce with some berbere. That would be good.

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