Irish Lamb Stew with Bacon

Irish lamb stew recipe made with lamb shoulder chops, bacon, potatoes, turnip, carrots, onion and barley. Slow cooked until fork tender.

Irish Lamb Stew
Elise Bauer

Around St. Patrick's Day I notice many people coming to this site looking for an Irish lamb stew recipe.

After some experimentation and a lot of research into Irish stews, I've settled on a stew that has its roots in the traditional approach, but takes a few detours to add a bit more flavor.

Traditionally, Irish stew is made with mature lamb (year old) or mutton, potatoes, onions, and water, and is simply cooked low and slow.

Where we make embellishments with this recipe is that we work with lamb shoulder, the meat is browned first, in bacon fat, and carrots, bacon, and thyme are all added.

All of these steps are to bring a richer flavor to the stew! (If you want, you can skip any or all of these additions.)

Irish Lamb Stew with Bacon

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Servings 6 servings

Cook the lamb pieces bone-in for better flavor, especially if using water instead of lamb stock. If you want, remove the bones before serving.

Turnips are strongly flavored and add a good balance for the stew, so use them if you can.

A waxy potato like a Yukon gold will hold up better for long cooking, but you can also use a starchy potato like a Russet, it will likely fall apart a bit, but that just thickens the stew.

More barley will thicken the stew further.


  • 2 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder or shoulder blade chops, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat

  • 6 slices bacon, thickly cut

  • 2 pounds potatoes (Yukon gold preferred), peeled, quartered

  • 2 large onions, quartered

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch segments

  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 heaping tablespoons pearl barley (omit for gluten-free version)

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 quart water or lamb stock, warmed


  1. Cook the bacon:

    Heat a large (6-quart), thick-bottomed Dutch oven on medium heat. Layer the bacon on the bottom of the pan and cook the slices gently, a few minutes on each side, until much of the fat has been rendered out, and the slices have browned lightly.

    Place the cooked bacon strips on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb the excess fat. Chop the bacon and set aside.

  2. Brown the lamb in bacon fat:

    Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan (do not pour the removed fat down the drain or it will clog the drain pipes). Increase the heat to medium high.

    Working in batches as to not crowd the pan, brown the lamb pieces on all sides, taking care not to stir the lamb pieces so they can get sufficiently browned.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  3. Arrange the meat and vegetables in the pan in layers:

    Start first with a layer of lamb, then add a layer of potatoes, onions, turnips, carrots, and chopped bacon. Add another layer of lamb and then another of vegetables. Add the barley, thyme, black pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

    Elise Bauer
  4. Add the water or stock:

    Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and let simmer, covered, but with the lid slightly ajar, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bones.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  5. Skim any excess fat, remove the bones, season:

    Skim excess fat. Use tongs to pick out and remove the bones. Adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
542 Calories
16g Fat
47g Carbs
51g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 542
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 21%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 137mg 46%
Sodium 638mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 6g 20%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 51g
Vitamin C 23mg 113%
Calcium 85mg 7%
Iron 6mg 33%
Potassium 1778mg 38%
*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. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.