Sailor's beef


Sailor's beef

This is one of the great classics of Swedish cuisine. It gets its name from the fact that it can be cooked in one pot on a ship’s galley, although it has become a popular dish now throughout Sweden.

Many Swedes own their own boat and like to cook this stew on a chilly day. Sailing is inevitably popular in Sweden as the coast is never far away. Also, of course, sailing round the coast of Sweden is so easy with no tides to worry about and the sea is generally very calm; to a Brit it often looks more like a lake than sea. Many parts of the coast are very scenic with thousands of islands dotted along the coastline. Each of these archipelagos has its own admirers, but for me the west coast in summer takes first place. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for sailor's beef


•  Sjömansbiff is normally served with smörgåsgurka (pickled cucumber) and/or inlagda rödbetor (pickled beetroot). It can seem strange to a Brit to serve cold cucumber with a stew but it works really well.

•  Sjömansbiff is also nice with some thickly sliced carrots added for the last 15 minutes.

•  Use any available beer: bitter, lager and stout all work well!


600 g (1¼ lb) stewing steak or topside of beef, thickly sliced
8-10   medium waxy potatoes, about 800 g (1¾ lb)
1-3   onions, about 300 g (¾ lb)
2 tbsp   butter, about 30 g (1¼ oz)
    salt and white pepper
300 ml (10 fl oz) bottle of beer (bitter, lager or stout)
240 ml (1 cup) beef stock, made with a bouillon cube
2   bay leaves
    parsley to garnish


1. Lightly bash the beef slices with your fist to flatten them a bit and then cut them into bite sized pieces.

2. Peel the potatoes and thickly slice them. Peel the onions and thinly slice them.

3. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, brown half the meat until sealed on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Repeat with the remaining meat.

4. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and fry the onions for about 10 minutes until golden brown.

5. Return the meat to the saucepan and add the potatoes, seasoning, beer, stock and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a low heat for 40—60 minutes until the meat and the potatoes are tender.

Swedish style sailor's beef on a plate

6. Serve garnished with parsley and pickled beetroot and/or pickled cucumber.


Sailor's beef freezes well and is easy to reheat.  Once thawed it can be reheated in a saucepan in 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The carrots are a little too soft after freezing, although their flavour is still good, so it is better to add fresh carrots when the stew is reheated.


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Editor and Founder