Megrelian Kharcho Recipe: Georgian Beef Stew with Walnuts

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by Maggie Turansky


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Kharcho (pronounced HAR-cho) is one of the most variable (albeit delicious) dishes you can find in Georgia, and therefore searching for the perfect recipe is going to be difficult, as the dish can vary so much from region to region and from cook to cook.

The term kharcho is really a catch-all phrase describing a whole host of spiced stews and soups and ordering this dish at a variety of restaurants in Georgia will likely result in a completely different meal every time.

Commonly kharcho is made as beef soup with rice in a spicy broth, however, this Megrelian version hails from the Samegrelo region in Western Georgia and is more of a beef stew in a luscious walnut-packed gravy.

Despite all of the variations, you will find that kharcho is one of the most flavourful and exciting dishes in the repository of Georgian cuisine!

Homemade Beef kharcho
Homemade Beef kharcho

How to Make Megrelian Kharcho

My Megrelian beef kharcho diverts slightly from the absolute traditional way to make it (much like my chakapuli recipe) — but I promise, it is only an improvement. Basically, I add the step of browning your meat before adding it to the stew and using chicken or beef stock as your liquid base.

The traditional Georgian way to do this (and the way I was taught, as well), is to boil your meat and cook it all the way through, with no browning, and use the poaching liquid as the base for your kharcho soup or stew. My technique of browning the beef adds a bit more depth of flavour and makes the meat taste better.

Though most common, kharcho also doesn’t have to be made with beef. There are countless other iterations where you will find chicken kharcho or veal kharcho instead.

If you wanted to make a vegetarian kharcho, you could hypothetically add roasted cauliflower to the sauce and use a flavourful vegetable stock as the base — it would still be incredibly delicious!

So, first things first, you need to trim and season your meat. By that, take the time to trim a lot of excess fat from your meat, season liberally with salt and pepper, and then heat about a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.

Browning the beef
Browning the beef

Working in batches (adding too much meat to the bottom of your pan will create steam and inhibit the browning we’re trying to achieve), arrange your beef in the bottom of the pan and sear until the side is well browned. Flip each cube over to get a good sear on the other side. This won’t take more than a few minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.

Using the same pan and adding a bit more oil, if necessary, add your diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape up any browned bits left over from the meat during this time as well.

Next, add in your tomato paste and stir until everything is well combined and the paste darkens in colour — this step essentially caramelises the tomato paste and, again, adds to the depth of flavour in the dish.

Once this step is finished, add the tomato and stir to combine. Cook until the tomato has released a lot of liquid and is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Next, mix your ground walnuts, spices and garlic in a small bowl and then add to the pot, stir to combine and cook for a minute or two, just to get the walnuts and spices really nice, toasted and fragrant.

Mixing in the walnuts and spices
Mixing in the walnuts and spices

Also, a word about your ground walnuts — Georgians will typically use an old-school hand-crank stainless steel meat grinder to grind walnuts, but if you don’t have this, you can zip them in a food processor until they reach the consistency of coarse sand.

If you don’t have either of these items, then you can do what I do and bash them in a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, you can even chop them about as fine as you can with a sharp chef’s knife, transfer them to a plastic bag, and then roll over them with a rolling pin until the desired consistency is met.

Once the walnuts are nice and toasted, add the beef back in along with any accumulated juices on the plate and pour in your chicken stock.

Stir to make sure everything is well combined, bring to a very gentle simmer, cover and let cook until the meat is very tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2.5 hours.

Once this stage is reached, uncover your pot and allow to simmer uncovered for a further 30 minutes, just so the sauce reduces and thickens even more.

Kharcho simmering away
Kharcho simmering away

Once the kharcho is done, serve hot in a bowl with plenty of crusty bread and maybe even a side of ajapsandali or a khachapuri! It is also common to serve this dish on top of some ghomi, which is a type of Georgian polenta.

Homemade Beef kharcho

Megrelian Kharcho: Georgian Beef Stew with Walnuts

The rich beef stew hails from the Samegrelo region of northwestern Georgia. Known for it's decadent, spiced sauce thickened with ground walnuts, kharcho is a favourite across Georgia and is sure to become one of yours, as well.
4.8 from 8 votes
Servings 4
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 1 kg (2 lb) boneless beef chuck trimmed and cut into 3cm/1in cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 medium tomato peeled and diced
  • 250 g (2 cups) walnuts ground
  • 8-10 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp blue fenugreek
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 tsp ground marigold
  • 1 tsp dried savory (see note 1)
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper or more or less to taste
  • 1 litre (4 cups) low-sodium chicken stock (see note 2)

Instructions
 

  • Season beef liberally with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (Georgians would use sunflower) over medium until shimmering. Add meat in a single layer, being careful to leave enough room in the pan to ensure browning, you may need to work in batches. Sear beef on one side until browned before flipping with tongs. Once beef is browned, remove from pan and transfer to a plate and set aside.
    Browning the beef
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and add onions, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5-10 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste and stir constantly until well incorporated with the onion and the paste has darkened in colour, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato and cook until softened and cohesive, another 5-10 minutes.
  • Mix walnuts, garlic, blue fenugreek, coriander, marigold and savory together in a small bowl. Add to pot and stir until all liquid is absorbed and sauce is very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef along with any accumulated juices and pour stock over the mixture, stirring to combine.
    Kharcho simmering away
  • Bring to a a gentle simmer and cover and allow to cook until the beef is very tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2.5 hours. Uncover and simmer for a further 30 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken slightly. Serve hot with crusty bread or, traditionally, on a bed of ghomi – a Georgian style of polenta
    Kharcho ready to serve

Video

Notes

1. If you can’t find dried savory, substitute with thyme.
2. Homemade chicken stock is preferred, but use storebought low-sodium stock if you don’t have it on hand.

Nutrition

Calories: 934kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 64g | Fat: 71g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 32g | Monounsaturated Fat: 21g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 173mg | Sodium: 346mg | Potassium: 1551mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 426IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 8mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

Tried this recipe or have questions?Click here to leave a comment!

All in all this recipe is simple to make and delightfully satisfying to eat. Combining all of the most interesting techniques of Georgian cuisine with some of its most iconic flavours, you can’t go wrong with a heaping serving of kharcho for dinner!

Are you looking for the perfect kharcho recipe? Have you had this delicious Georgian dish before? Let me know in the comments!

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Maggie is the creator behind No Frills Kitchen. She is a world traveller, home cook and recipe developer who loves to experiment with new cuisines and techniques at every chance she gets. No stranger to improvising and making do with the equipment and ingredients she has available, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. Read More

Comments

  1. Great recipe. Just made it and it tastes just like it does in the restaurants in Tbilisi.

    I added a little milk to thicken it and also added a pinch of garam masala (I know, I know, it’s not traditional any more but it does complement the other flavors in kharcho really well imo 🙂 – but it does have to be literally a pinch so it doesn’t cover up the original spices)

    Reply
    • Happy you liked the recipe, George! I can see how the flavours in garam masala would complement the more traditional Georgian spices (especially if you consider how broadly fenugreek is used in Indian cooking) 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Maggie,

    Is it possible to replace the following herbs with khmeli suneli?
    Blue fenugreek, Coriander seeds, dried marigold & Summer Savory

    I don’t have the herbs separately but if I’m correct they are included in the spice mix

    Christiaan

    Reply
    • Hi Christiaan! You can definitely use khmeli suneli – the only reason I don’t love using it is that the proportions in various mixes can differ from brand to brand. However, I’d recommend adding maybe a tablespoon of the khmeli suneli in lieu of the individual spices. No need to purchase them all separately 🙂 Hope the dish turns out well!

      Reply
  3. Just tried this recipe along with a few others of yours and it was amazing! Couldn’t find any marigold or summer savory, but it still worked out. Will definitely try track some down and make it again.

    Reply
    • Oh I’m so happy you enjoyed it! It can definitely be tough to track down some of the Georgian spices, but it’s surprising what is available online in many places 🙂

      Reply
  4. Thanks for posting this! It tasted just like I wanted it to, or, rather, it tasted like the Kharcho I ate almost every day at a particular little restaurant in Tbilisi, and have been unable to get at any other Georgian restaurant, either in other parts of Georgia or Georgian places in the states.

    I made a few changes: I cut my chuck roast into two large pieces which covered the entire bottom of my dutch oven, and seared those. After they had rested and cooled while I cooked the onion and tomato paste, I cut them down into smaller pieces and added those back to the pot. Also, instead of simmering on the stovetop the entire time, after adding the beef pieces and chicken stock to the pot and bringing it to a low simmer, I put the whole thing in a 300 degree oven with lid slightly ajar, and simmered it there for 2.5 hours, removing it to stir and scrape the sides of the dutch oven every 30-45 minutes. Finally, I added a small dash of soy sauce with the stock, and some MSG when I brought it out of the oven and simmered for a final 30 minutes on the stovetop. It turned out amazing.

    Reply
4.75 from 8 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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