Traditional Welsh Cawl Stew

Traditional Welsh cawl stew in a Dutch oven

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 40 mins
Total: 2 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1119 Calories
64g Fat
58g Carbs
77g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 1119
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 64g 82%
Saturated Fat 23g 115%
Cholesterol 234mg 78%
Sodium 2168mg 94%
Total Carbohydrate 58g 21%
Dietary Fiber 9g 32%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 77g
Vitamin C 47mg 236%
Calcium 171mg 13%
Iron 8mg 42%
Potassium 2105mg 45%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The saying goes, "It is as good to drink the broth as to eat the meat," and in Wales, many people will agree with this statement when talking about their national dish, Welsh cawl. 

Cawl is a stew made from bacon, Welsh lamb or beef (although using cheaper cuts of meat is also traditional), and root vegetables. Welsh recipes for cawl vary from region to region, and even season to season, often including whatever vegetables are fresh and available.

Cawl can be eaten in one bowl, although often the broth will be served first followed by the meat and vegetables—hence the quote above. Like many stews and soups, Welsh cawl tastes better the next day and the day after that, so don't be afraid to make it in advance. It is traditionally served with crusty bread and a wedge of Caerphilly cheese, but this Welsh specialty may be difficult to find.


  • 1 tablespoon lard, or bacon fat

  • 2 large onions, thickly sliced

  • 1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 4 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

  • 4 leeks, cleaned and sliced

  • 1 pound (450 grams) beef brisket

  • 1 pound (450 grams) smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

  • 1 pound (450 grams) potatoes, peeled and quartered

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Traditional Welsh cawl stew ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Melt the lard in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over high heat, taking care not to burn the fat. Add the onions, rutabaga, carrots, and leeks to the hot fat and brown for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

    Lard in a Dutch oven with onions, rutabaga, carrots, and leeks

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add the beef to the pot and brown on all sides.

    Cook beef in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Return the browned vegetables to the pot with the bacon pieces, bay leaf, and thyme.

    Browned vegetables returned to the pot with beef, bacon pieces, bay leaf, and thyme

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Cover the meat and vegetables with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours, or until the beef is tender.

    Stew cooking in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Remove the beef from the pot and reserve.

    Remove beef from the stew

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Add the potatoes, bring the stew back to a boil, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

    Potatoes added to beef stew in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Once the beef is cool enough to handle, cut it into 2-inch cubes. Add back to the pot and cook for 10 minutes more.

    Beef pieces added back into the stew

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Season well with salt and pepper and serve while piping hot. 

    Traditional Welsh cawl stew, seasoned with salt and pepper

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Enjoy.


  • The beauty of this recipe is you have two dishes in one. The broth from the recipe can be served first as a soup or starter course, followed by the meat, potatoes, and vegetables as a main. 
  • If you want to thicken the cawl, toss the cubed beef in a couple of tablespoons of flour (just enough to coat) before adding to the stew.

Recipe Variations

  • The mix of root vegetables used in this recipe is a traditional assortment. But you can vary this to make it a little untraditional if you like. Celeriac would make a nice addition, as would parsnips.
  • This recipe can also be made using lamb shoulder or stew meat.

How to Store

Save leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four or five days. You can also freeze Welsh cawl in airtight containers for three months.