Classic Beef Stroganoff

by Emily Kemme

Julia Child’s teachings are wonderful, and in fact, her Mastering the Art of French Cooking is my go-to food Bible, when the urge hits for the basics, for when I need help creating a sauce. I know that Julia, and several pats of butter, will see me through.

Classic Beef Stroganoff

From the moment you begin sautéing the mushrooms, the atmosphere in your kitchen changes. Appreciative family will wander in, asking what’s cooking.

She’s hard to follow, though, and I spend a lot of time bouncing back and forth between recipes, which all interconnect to create the whole. One must go to page 325 for the Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne, (which turns out to be a beef preparation with mushrooms and cream sauce, essentially a stroganoff, French-style) and then jog over to page 513 if you’d like to know how to prepare the mushrooms. Since mushrooms and stroganoff go hand in hand, in my mind, I don’t understand her rationale for splitting them up.

I used to think that Julia was saving space, penny-pinching on the number of pages in her cookbook, but since it counts in at 684, not to mention thirty-two pages of Indexes, I’m guessing that a page count didn’t weigh heavily on her mind. More likely, she felt that having readers traipse through her cookbook was a great way to expose them to more of her goodies.

Except, I tend to be scatterbrained, and prefer a bit more linearity when I’m cooking. Without it, I’m sure to leave out some elemental ingredient. I use her fantastic recipes as a guide, my railroad tracks to French cookery, because Julia, very simply, is perfection. But then I derail, and play on my own. I think you’ll find the results are equally satisfying, if not plate-licking.

Classic Beef Stroganoff Recipe

Classic Beef Stroganoff

Julia Child’s recipe calls for beef tenderloin.  A much less pricey alternative, and I think equally tender for this purpose, is top sirloin. Just make sure you don’t overcook it.


1 lb white mushrooms, stem ends removed, sliced

6-8 T unsalted butter, divided

3 T olive oil, divided

3 T green onions, sliced

2 1/2 lbs top sirloin steak, fat removed and diced into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup Madeira

1 1/4 cup low-salt beef stock

2 T fresh thyme leaves

1 cup Crème Fraîche or sour cream

scant shake of nutmeg

1 T cornstarch

1 T cold water

Note:  combine cornstarch and water in small bowl, stirring until starch is dissolved.  Set aside until ready to use.

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb pasta

Note:  Prepare pasta while prepping the vegetables and meat.  Drain and toss with one tablespoon olive oil to prevent it from sticking, cover with lid, and set aside.

Classic Beef Stroganoff

A sauce basic, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients.

In large, heavy skillet, melt 2 T butter and 1 T oil over medium-high heat until froth from butter subsides. Sauté mushrooms and green onions, stirring gently, for approximately 5 minutes, until lightly browned and juices from mushrooms have reabsorbed. Remove to bowl and set aside.

In same skillet, melt 2 T butter and 1 T oil over medium-high heat. Again, when foam from butter subsides, sauté the beef until just browned, but interior is still pink, tossing meat to keep it from sticking, for about 5-6 minutes. Add butter if necessary to keep beef browning evenly. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving juices collected in skillet.

Add Madeira and stock into skillet and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from pan bottom. Lower heat to medium-high and add thyme and nutmeg, keeping on a medium boil until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Reduce heat to medium and add Crème Fraîche or sour cream, whisking to combine and removing clumps. Add cornstarch mixture. Stir continuously to prevent lumps, for one minute. The sauce should be smooth, and coat the back of a spoon lightly. If it’s too thick, add a bit of broth to correct consistency, stirring to combine. Add mushrooms, with heat on simmer, stirring to combine. Taste sauce to correct seasonings, adding salt and pepper if necessary.

Lightly salt and pepper beef in reserved bowl. Add it to skillet, stirring gently to coat with sauce. Add 2 T butter, stirring until melted. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, or less, if the beef appears cooked. Do not overcook.

Serve over noodles.  Serves 4-6.

Classic Beef Stroganoff

Julia Child’s classic beef stroganoff, with a simplified and easier to follow recipe. The result is wonderfully satisfying, quintessentially French, and a favorite. Bon appetit!

Want another beef recipe? Try this Classic Beef Bourguignon Recipe.

Duckhorn MerlotStephanie Davis, founder of Albarello products, wine educator and wine personality, thinks this creamy, meaty comfort food would be fabulous with your favorite Merlot. One of Stephanie’s all time favorites is Duckhorn Merlot. At $49/bottle, it’s a treat, but she recommends telling yourself it is a “self care day.” Go for it!

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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.






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2 cairnterriers November 14, 2017 - 3:00 pm

i made this last night because i really wanted a beef stroganoff recipe with madeira in it–it was divine! however, i had the sauce *perfect* ( for my humble abilities), which then went to hell in a handbasket when i added the meat back b/c of the meat juices (i think?)…anyway, the sauce became pretty runny and i was bummed! it didn’t really “cling” to the pasta and did so-so to the meat & mushrooms. truly, the flavor was what i was after, but when the effort has been made, so sad to lose it all in the end! how could i have fixed it? more of a cornstarch slush? i was just too tired to try. let me know if you have suggestions! thx!

Emily Kemme November 14, 2017 - 9:35 pm

Hi Heidi,
That’s totally a bummer that the sauce didn’t turn out, but I’m glad you liked the flavor overall. I do have a few ideas for how to fix it for the next time:
1. After you add the meat and juices that have collected in the bowl to the saucepan, let it all simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens and you can swipe your finger across the back of a spoon and see a “trail” between the sauce — but only if your meat isn’t overcooked;
2. As you’ve suggested, you could make a cornstarch slurry to thicken it up. There’s already cornstarch in the recipe, but if your meat drippings are a lot (and that’s kind of nice because it’ll add to the flavor) you could create another slurry with a bit less cornstarch (try 1 tsp cornstarch to 1 tsp water and go up in 1 tsp increments from there if necessary) and stir that in, letting it simmer;
3. Butter is always the fix-all to bring the sauce ingredients together. And yeah, I know, more butter in a recipe with butter, but it’s not all that bad, health wise, if you limit it to sauces like this for a special dinner. For me, this IS one of the most special dinners, ever. I make it maybe twice a year and look forward to it so much!
4. Did you possibly leave out the sour cream/créme fraîche? That’s part of the sauce thickening process.
I hope you try again and let me know how it goes!

Chere October 22, 2015 - 9:25 am

Hello and thank you in advance for this recipe and considering my questions. What (if any) would be the
difference between sirloin and beef stew cubes? Also can you prepare this recipe in a slow cooker?

Thank you again, Chere

Emily Kemme October 22, 2015 - 5:38 pm

Hi Chere:

Thanks for asking these great questions. Sirloin is a more tender cut than beef stew cubes, which typically are chuck. Julia Child’s original recipe preparation was with beef tenderloin — pricey! That’s why I’ve substituted a relatively inexpensive cut like sirloin. The benefit of using it is that it doesn’t require much cooking time, and if you were to use a slow cooker, the beef would end up dried out. My recommendation is to stick with sirloin and stove top cooking for the beef stroganoff. You can have dinner on the table in an hour or so, and the meat will be tender and juicy. Use your slow cooker for beef stew, because you’ll need to take time to coax the flavors out of the cubes. The stroganoff uses much less liquid, and is packed with flavor from the herbs, mushrooms, and rich beef. I hope you enjoy it!


Joanne October 3, 2014 - 9:38 am

I saved it. Hope I try it! Keep them coming, Emily. Love, love, love your posts!

Tim October 2, 2014 - 5:21 pm

Yum! I am going to make that this weekend. Looks so good.

Lynda October 2, 2014 - 5:21 pm

I will try this weekend! Sounds great!

helen November 7, 2012 - 11:01 am

I’ve never made stroganoff before and this looks like a good recipe. The other choice for this dish is a rec. i found on all recipes which contains cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce and mustard as well as the ingredients you indicate. Have you ever tried making it with cream cheese as well as the sour cream?

Emily Kemme November 7, 2012 - 12:06 pm

You ask a great question, Helen. The purpose of using cream cheese in a sauce is to provide a lower-calorie substitute for butter, which is what thickens the sauce. The cream cheese would need to be used sparingly, and allow it to melt into the sauce, as you would do if cooking with butter. It will also provide the creamy texture. If using, you may also eliminate the cornstarch step in its place. Adding Worcestershire sauce and mustard to the beef stroganoff would have two effects, basically adding salt and a piquant (or sharp taste) to the flavor. I’ve never used any of these ingredients in beef stroganoff (and have referred to several other classic recipes which don’t, either) because I like the simple infusion of the herbs, scallions and mushrooms, which enrich the broth. I do use mustard and Worcestershire in other dishes, such as when marinating meats, because the vinegar in them is a tenderizer. Mustard also lends piquancy to a tarragon cream sauce I make with pan-sauteed chicken breasts. For the most part, though, I like to allow infused herbs to provide flavor to sauces, because they’re more intense.

Thanks for asking! Let me know what you think of the recipe once you try it!

Sandra September 12, 2012 - 1:01 pm

Hi, Can you please tell me what the ‘T’ means in the ingredients…
and is 3 ‘T’ butter?

thanks 🙂

Emily Kemme September 12, 2012 - 1:03 pm

“T” is an abbreviation for “tablespoon,” although “tbsp” could also be used. I prefer using “T” because it’s shorter, easier to read and adds less clutter to my recipes. If you were to see the notation “3 T butter,” that would mean to use 3 tablespoons butter in the recipe.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know if you’ve got other questions.


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