Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (2024)

By Author Marie-Noël Ouimet

Posted on - Last updated:


Here’s the traditional recipe for pot-au-feu, also known as “bouilli” in French (boiled) made with beef, salted lard and a ton of fresh vegetables.

It’s the perfect comfort recipe for enjoying the bounty of vegetable harvests at the market or coming from your own garden.

This recipe of boiled beef and vegetables is a family recipe, one we’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember, as our grandmothers and mothers used to prepare it.

Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (1)

In this article

  • Tips for making this pot-au-feu recipe a success
    • Which cuts of beef to choose for a pot-au-feu?
    • What vegetables should you choose for a pot-au-feu?
    • To obtain a lighter broth
    • What to serve it with?
  • Recommended tools

Tips for making this pot-au-feu recipe a success

Which cuts of beef to choose for a pot-au-feu?

Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (2)

Bouilli recipes are brilliant for their simplicity: meat simmered for a long time with vegetables and little seasoning.

And yet, the choice of meat is crucial, as it is the meat that gives the broth its flavor.

Ideally, you should choose a variety of fatty or gelatinous cuts of beef.

If possible, add a bone-in piece of beef to give the broth and vegetables even more flavour.

Here are a few examples of the cuts of beef I like to use to make boiled beef:

  • a bone-in chuck roast;
  • beef chuck;
  • a beef shank.

And of course, don’t forget the salted lard.

What vegetables should you choose for a pot-au-feu?

Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (3)

A wide variety of vegetables can be added to a pot-au-feu, but here are the ones most often found in the classic version:

  • leek;
  • turnip;
  • carrots;
  • potatoes;
  • beans (green or yellow);
  • kale;
  • celery;
  • onions.

To obtain a lighter broth

Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (4)

For a healthier version, you can prepare the broth the day before.

To prepare the broth, sear the meat before covering with water, adding the salted lard and let it simmer for a few hours.

Then, simply reserve the meat from the broth in a separate container and refrigerate.

The next day, degrease the broth before reheating it and put the meat back in with the vegetables.

What to serve it with?

Marinated beet can be served with the pot-au-feu, accompanied by freshly baked bread.

Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (8)
Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (9)

Traditional beef and vegetable stew (pot-au-feu)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

The traditional beef and vegetable stew recipe also known as pot-au-feu or French stew


  • 4 or 5 pound pieces of beef (bone-in blade roast, chuck or shank) *
  • A little olive oil to sear the meat
  • 1 pound streaky salted lard
  • 1 cabbage, cut in pieces
  • The white of a leek, cut in pieces lengthwise
  • 1 turnip, cut into large pieces
  • 5 potatoes
  • Green beans (tied into small bundles with butcher's twine)
  • 2 large onions
  • A bay leaf
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 2 - 3 Tbsp beef broth concentrate (ex Bovril)
  • Salt pepper


  1. In a large casserole, heat a little olive oil.
  2. Season the beef cuts with salt and pepper.
  3. When the oil is hot, sear the pieces of meat (except the lard) on both sides.
  4. When the meat is nicely colored, set aside.
  5. Turn down the heat. Pour a little water in the casserole and scrape with a wooden utensil to remove the juices.
  6. Put back the pieces of meat, the salted lard and cover with water.
  7. Add 2 Tbsp of beef stock concentrate to the pot.
  8. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours (see note **). During this time, skim the broth a few times.
  9. Add the vegetables, thyme and bay leaf. Add salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for another 2 hours. After one hour, adjust the seasoning and add the remaining tablespoon of beef stock concentrate if needed.


* Choose a variety of beef cuts, some fatty and some gelatinous. A piece with a marrow bone will also add a lot of taste to the broth.

** For a healthier version, you can do this step the day before. Reserve the meat, strain the broth to remove impurities and refrigerate. The next day, degrease the broth before reheating it and putting the meat back in and continuing with step 9.

Serve with marinated beets and a loaf of bread to dip in the broth.

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Classic pot-au-feu recipe (Quebec's boiled beef & vegetable stew) (2024)


What is a traditional French pot-au-feu made of? ›

A traditional pot-au-feu is made with beef chuck roast, carrots, potatoes, onions, leeks, and herbs like bay leaves and thyme.

What does pot-au-feu mean? ›

The iconic French dish pot-au-feu, or "pot on the fire," is a stew composed of meat — typically an assortment of beef cuts — along with carrots, potatoes, and an array of other vegetables.

What does pot-au-feu taste like? ›

Pot-au-feu is to France what roast beef is to England. A hearty stew, flavoured with herbs and thickened with marrowbone and root vegetables, it seems to encapsulate all that is best about Gallic culture.

What is a French stew called? ›

Pot-au-feu is a slowly simmered meat and vegetable dish that appears on most home tables in France. Pot au Feu, which literally translates to 'pot in the fire', started its life in working-class homes as a way to make less expensive cuts of beef more tender and palatable.

What are some fun facts about pot-au-feu? ›

Pot au Feu, which literally translates to 'pot in the fire', started its life in working-class homes as a way to make less expensive cuts of beef more tender and palatable. Think of the original crockpot. The long slow cooking resulted in 2 dishes: a clear nourishing broth and a rich meal of beef and vegetables.

What do you drink with pot-au-feu? ›

This generous and extremely fragrant dish goes wonderfully with Rhône Valley tannic and expressive red wines so long as they are young but also with lighter red wines such as Beaujolais or Loire Valley wines that add a certain amount of freshness to the meat.

What is the difference between pot-au-feu and pho? ›

Vegetables like carrots and turnips are used to top pot au feu. In pho, these vegetables are replaced by bean sprouts and herbs, with a little lime juice added in for taste.

What does feu mean in French? ›

1. fire. prendre feu to catch fire. faire du feu to make a fire.

What is the oldest perpetual stew? ›

In Japan, the restaurant Otaf*cku in the Asakusa district of Tokyo serves a stew called oden, which has been replenished constantly since 1945. The only reason it doesn't date back until 1916, when the restaurant opened, is said to be because that soup was lost in a World War II air raid.

What is Canada's national dish? ›

What is Poutine? Poutine is Canada's national dish, which usually consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and hot gravy.

What is France's signature dish? ›

Considered a national dish of France, pot-au-feu has no definitive recipe, and many regions of France have their own versions.

What is France's national dish? ›

The national dish of France is Pot-au-Feu and is a classic comfort dish prepared using stewed meats and vegetables.

What's the difference between beef stew and beef bourguignon? ›

What is the difference between Beef Stew and Beef Bourguignon? Beef Bourguignon is a type of beef stew that contains wine “from Bourgogne,” or a Burgundy wine. Beef stew is similar but either contains no wine, or it doesn't contain the exact type of wine to make it “bourguignon.”

What cut of meat is best for beef bourguignon? ›

Braising steak is the classic cut of meat for bourguignon. Often sold as braising or stewing steak, it can come from many parts of the animal, but all the hard working muscles like shin, chuck, and blade that need a low and slow approach to break down the tough muscle fibres.

Why is beef bourguignon so good? ›

Red Wine. In cooking, Bourguignon means “cooked in red wine,” which is what we're doing in this recipe. It intensifies the flavor and helps tenderize the beef during cooking.

Why is pot-au-feu important in France? ›

The Oxford Companion to Food calls pot-au-feu "a dish symbolic of French cuisine and a meal in itself"; the chef Raymond Blanc has called it "the quintessence of French family cuisine ... the most celebrated dish in France, [which] honours the tables of the rich and poor alike"; and the American National Geographic ...

Is Pho based on pot-au-feu? ›

While most historians agree that pho was invented in the late 19th and early 20th Century in northern Vietnam during French colonial times, its origins are murky. Some believe pho was an adaptation of the French one-pot beef and vegetable stew pot-au-feu, which shares a phonetic similarity to "phở".

Can you freeze pot-au-feu? ›

Pot-au-feu will keep, well covered, refrigerated, up to three days (the broth is the most perishable part.) The broth will freeze well, as will any leftover meats; the vegetables will become mushy.


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