Our Vegan Irish Corned 'beef' and Cabbage Stew is a meat-free adaption of a traditional Irish-American meal that was developed by 19th century Irish immigrants to North America. This recipe is a tasty, fun, homely meal that is perfect to enjoy as an easy mid-week meal or for a St Patrick's Day (17th March) dinner.
The veggies in this Irish no-beef stew are slow cooked within the savoury gravy which results in the cabbage becoming almost melt-in-your-mouth butter soft. The carrots and onions are deliciously sweet while the tempeh adds nutty earthiness. The rich home-made gravy is ideal for mopping up with a wedge of hearty Irish soda bread.
📜 History of Irish corned beef and cabbage stew
The traditional corned beef and cabbage stew that many associate with Ireland, particularly as a St. Patrick's Day staple in the United States, is actually an Irish-American dish that dates back to the 19th century when Irish immigrants were forced to move due to the Irish potato famine and many settled in North America.
The term "corned" comes from the Old English word for grain, or small pieces of hard things the size of grain, such as salt. "Corned beef" refers to the coarse grains of salt used to cure the beef. This method of preservation was essential before refrigeration, as it extended the meat's shelf life.
In Ireland beef was a very expensive ingredient and instead salt pork was used for a traditional meal called Irish bacon and cabbage stew. When the Irish immigrants settled in North America they discovered that salt pork was more expensive and difficult to source so they subbed this ingredient with the more readily available corned beef to re-create their familiar cabbage stew.
As with many traditional stew recipes the stew ingredients for the corned beef and cabbage was often served separately from the stew gravy or broth, and the broth was often drunk the next day or during the meal. Splitting the stew up in this way was a savvy way for frugal cooks to obtain two meals from one pot of stew.
Nowadays, corned beef and cabbage stew is popular in North America especially during St Patrick's Day, and over in Ireland they are more likely to have the classic bacon and cabbage stew.
🥬 Meat-free corned 'beef' and cabbage stew
Our family lived in Northern Ireland for many years, and two of our kids can claim Irish decent as well as Irish passports. So we love adapting Irish recipes as its just fun to learn the history behind the recipe and re-create plant-based versions.
We chose tempeh to replace the corned beef as tempeh has a dense and ridged texture, with a nuttier, creamier flavour, that can be either crumbled into small pieces or left as a larger steak shape. We also appreciate the fact that tempeh, originating in Indonesia, has been a traditional ingredient for other cultures for many centuries.
The gravy for this stew is flavoured with a little marmite [yeast extract] and soy sauce which works very well to achieve that savoury meaty taste. We say meaty as vegetable flavours are amazing and can be used to create any type of flavour so meaty shouldn't be exclusive to just meat!
The vegetables that are used for the stew are kept authentically rustic as they are roughly sliced into wedges and chunks - which does make this stew fun to prepare as well as delicious to eat as there are lots of texture.
Once cooked the tempeh can be removed from the gravy and sliced thinly or thickly, before added to the bowls of stew. Or if preferred chop the tempeh into smaller pieces and chuck back into the stew before serving. Our kids appreciate the tempeh better in smaller chunks as they find tempeh to be quite strong tasting.
However, if preferred the tempeh can be easily replaced with tofu - a smoked tofu would be extra tasty, or go with some flavoured seitan, large juicy mushrooms, creamy bean such as butter beans, rehydrated textured vegetable protein or soya chunks or soya curls. Cooked vegan sausages, steak slices, or meaty veggie burgers are other options and these can be pre-cooked and sliced, before adding to the stew near the end of cooking.
🔪 How to prepare
The beauty of this stew is that the vegetables can be sliced into thick chunks and wedges as its a rustic stew. The cabbage is sliced into thick cabbage steaks or wedges and the potatoes if small - medium sized can be left whole and unpeeled if the skins are unblemished.
Step 1: Slice the white cabbage into large wedges. Leave the inner stalk intact to prevent the cabbage steaks breaking up.
Step 2: Slice the celery, carrot, and onions into large rustic pieces. Leave the garlic whole, halved, or if preferred finely dice.
Step 3: Add the vegetable chunks to your soup or stew pan, and nestle the whole block of tempeh in the middle.
Step 4: Next add the whole new potatoes or chunks of larger potatoes.
Step 5: Pour in the vegetable stock and seasonings - bay leaf, mixed dried herbs, marmite or yeast extract, soy sauce, and onion powder.
Step 6: Place the cabbage wedges on to the top of the stew.
Step 7: Bring the stew to the boil, turn the heat to medium, and pop a lid over the pot.
Gently boil for for 30 minutes.
Step 8: Remove the lid and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Serving suggestion: Serve the tempeh in slices, or chop into smaller pieces and mix back through the gravy before serving. Dish out the tempeh and veggies before ladling over the tasty gravy. A wedge of crusty bread is the ideal accompaniment for soaking up all the lovely veggie juices.
📖 Recipe Notes
Leftovers can be stored within the refrigerator for 3 days. Or frozen for 2-3 months.
Leftovers can be reheated by bringing to a gentle boil and simmering for 3-4 minutes or until piping hot. Add extra vegetable stock or broth if necessary.
This recipe can be easily prepared as gluten-free with a few changes such as using a gluten-free vegetable stock, and a gluten-free soy sauce such as Tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos which is a gluten-free soy sauce alternative.
Although ordinary marmite is not gluten-free, a gluten-free version is available but the marmite could be replaced with an extra few teaspoons of Tamari soy sauce.
Also, even though tempeh is naturally gluten-free as its prepared from fermented soya beans during the production process gluten ingredients such as barley may be used so do check the packaging ingredient list.
Yes, we have a few substitution ideas:
* Instead of tempeh use tofu, seitan, rehydrated TVP chunks (textured vegetable protein), or soya curls, large mushrooms, aubergine [eggplant] wedges, or a can or two of butter beans. Alternatively, pre-cooked vegan sausages, veggie burgers, or meat-free steaks can be sliced and added to the stew a few minutes before serving.
* The celery can be omitted and replaced with wedges of green bell pepper or an extra carrot.
* Switch the onion out and replace with chunks of leek.
* Switch out the soy sauce with vegan Worcester sauce or liquid aminos.
* Instead of green cabbage you could use a red cabbage.
White cabbage is the best option for this stew, as it holds its shape and texture well during cooking. Outside the UK, white cabbage is often called green cabbage or cannonball cabbage, particularly in the United States. It's the common cabbage variety with pale green leaves that are tightly packed to the core. Red cabbage could also work, but it does have a different flavour and will colour the stew due to its pigment leaching into the cooking liquid.
New potatoes are great for stews because they hold their shape and have a creamy waxy texture. Other varieties that work well in stews include Yukon Gold, red potatoes, white potatoes, or any other waxy or all-purpose potato.
Tempeh is a plant-based protein source made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a compact cake. It has a nutty flavour and a firm texture that holds up well in stews. If you would like to replace tempeh, you could use tofu, smoked tofu, rehydrated TVP chunks (textured vegetable protein)/soya curls, or seitan. Large whole mushrooms, a can of butter beans, or pre-cooked sliced vegan sausages, burgers, or steaks added towards the end of cooking are also great alternatives.
The term "vegan corned 'beef'" is used in this context as its a meat-free adaptation to the traditional Irish-American dish it's inspired by, which typically uses corned beef.
In the vegan version, tempeh or another plant-based substitute takes the place of the beef, mimicking the texture and providing protein. Often quotation marks are added to the meaty words such as - 'beef' - to indicate that it's not actual beef but a plant-based alternative designed to replicate the experience of the original dish while aligning with vegan dietary choices.
It's a common practice in vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian cooking to use familiar terms to describe traditional meals as it helps people understand what to expect from the flavour and style of the dish - it also provides familiarity and helps people transition to veggie diets.
Learning about the history of cultures, customs, and traditional foods shouldn't just be exclusive to those that eat meat and dairy. Everyone can learn about and appreciate where our traditional food comes from and re-create versions of those dishes in our kitchens- irrespective of dietary requirements.
Using both onion powder and fresh onions in a stew can help build up the onion flavour. Fresh onions bring a natural sweetness and tasty textures while onion powder adds more of a concentrated onion flavour that melds nicely with the rest of the herbs and flavourings into the cooking liquid, stock, or gravy.
👪 More vegan Irish recipes
Traditional Irish food is humble homely food as it uses everyday ingredients and as historically the Irish are used to adapting ingredients to whatever is available and making do, creating vegan versions are a fun and tasty activity.
For a sweet vintage Irish treat you can't go wrong with these Classic Fifteens which are an easy no-bake dessert that are still a very popular family favourite today especially in the North and South of Ireland.
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Vegan Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew
- Large soup or stew pot or stove-top Dutch oven with a lid
- 250 grams tempeh [left whole or sliced, your package of tempeh may be less or slightly more than 250g]
- 500 grams white cabbage [about half a large cabbage, sliced into large wedges, don't remove the inner stalk. Aim for 1-2 wedges per person depending on appetite, so you may require more of the other half of your cabbage.]
- 700 grams new potatoes [kept whole and skins on if blemished or use larger potatoes chopped into large chunks]
- 230 grams carrots [2 medium, sliced into large chunks]
- 150 grams celery [2-3 medium stalks]
- 380 grams onion [2 medium-large, sliced into thick wedges]
- 4 cloves garlic [left whole, halved, or diced]
- 2 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs [or replace with fresh herbs]
- 1 teaspoon marmite [vegetable extract/vege-mite]
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 litres vegetable stock [use a beef flavoured vegan stock if available.]
To garnish: optional
- 10 grams parsley [or chives, chopped]
- Add the carrot, celery, and onions to the soup or stew pot.230 grams carrots, 150 grams celery, 380 grams onion
- Nestle the tempeh block in the middle of the veggies.250 grams tempeh
- Add the garlic cloves and potatoes.700 grams new potatoes, 4 cloves garlic
- Mix through the herbs, bay leaf, soy sauce, onion powder, and marmite, and pour over the vegetable stock. Season with some salt and pepper.2 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs, 1 teaspoon marmite, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 litres vegetable stock
- Set the cabbage wedges in the pot on top of the potatoes. Don't worry if the tops of the cabbage are not submerged into the stock.500 grams white cabbage
- Bring the stew to the boil and lower the heat to low-medium and pop a lid over the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid, and flip over any cabbage wedges that were above the stock.
- Continue to gently boil, minus the lid, for 15 minutes or until the potatoes and cabbage is very tender.Taste the stock and add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Remove the tempeh and either slice thinly or thickly, or chop it up into small pieces, and stir back through the stew. Dish out the veggies and tempeh into soup or stew bowls and ladle over the stock.
- Optional: Sprinkle each bowl with chopped parsley or chives if liked.10 grams parsley
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not intended to be a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Tempeh can be switched out for tofu, smoked tofu, rehydrated TVP chunks (textured vegetable protein)/soya curls, seitan, large whole mushrooms, or a can of butterbeans. Or pre-cooked sliced vegan sausages, burgers, or steaks added to the stew towards the end of cooking.
- The cabbage inner stalk is left on as it holds the cabbage leaves together. Also the stalk is actually tasty especially when stewed and has a pleasant creamy turnip (swede/rutabaga) flavour!
- Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, in a covered container, for 3 days.
- Or frozen for up to 2-3months. Thaw before reheating.
- Reheat by bringing to the boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 3-4 minutes until piping hot. Add extra vegetable stock if necessary.
Prepared our Vegan Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew? We would love to know how you got on with the recipe so do pop back and drop us a comment and click the star ratings. It's very much appreciated! Love Jacq x