Creamed dried beef (a.k.a. creamed chipped beef), a creamy white sauce with celery, parsley, and cured beef, is more than just vintage comfort food. It's also a healthy-ish weeknight meal that can be made in 20 minutes or less.
Yes, this is the same military dish referred to as S.O.S. ("shit on a shingle" or the kinder "same old stuff") — but a much more delicious, healthier version than the one my grandfather, a WWII-era Air Force pilot, used to joke about.
When I was young, my mom would keep pouches of chipped beef in the pantry so she could mix up a breakfast batch of creamed dried beef whenever we had overnight guests. And on what my sister and I thought of as special occasions, she'd serve the thick, meat-studded cream sauce over baked potatoes for dinner. (Now, as a busy mom myself, I realize those "special occasions" were actually desperation meals, since creamed dried beef was one of those quick, wholesome meals Mom could make with her eyes closed. Thankfully, she wrote down the recipe anyway.)
I was in my early twenties when my mom suddenly died, and it wasn't until a decade later that I realized I'd never made her creamed dried beef myself. On my first attempt, standing at the stove in the kitchen of my then-boyfriend, now-husband's house, I could feel Mom's hand guiding mine, stirring the milk until it thickened around my wooden spoon.
This may not be the prettiest dish. But, like the blanket I not-so-expertly crocheted in the first years without my mom (which my husband and I lovingly call "Ugly Blanket"), it reminds me that comfort doesn't need to be Instagram-perfect. In terms of dinner, it just needs to taste good, nourish our bodies, and conjure warm feelings.
Check, check, and check.
What is Dried (a.k.a. Chipped) Beef?
Once an American staple, dried beef, also called chipped beef, is salted and air-dried beef that has been sliced wafer-thin. It is commonly sold in jars or pouches in the canned meat section of big-name grocery stores. However, always check the deli section first. I was able to find delicious sliced dried beef at an Amish deli in Philly's Reading Terminal Market.
Probably not! Dried (chipped) beef is super salty, so it will give the cream sauce (a.k.a. roux) more than enough seasoning. I never add salt to my creamed dried beef. Instead, I let people salt theirs to taste at the table.
Check for pouches or jars of it in the canned meat section of your grocery store. Or better yet, ask at the deli section. I found the most delicious wafer-thin dried beef at an Amish deli near me in Philadelphia.
I like whole milk, but you can use any regular or plant-based milk you have in the fridge. However, if you use plant-based milk, make sure it's unflavored and unsweetened.
Looking for more super-quick weeknight meal ideas? Check out the Every Night Meals archive.
Creamed Dried Beef
- Cutting board and knife
- Large skillet
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow or cippolini onion, very finely chopped (3 to 4 tablespoons)
- 1 large rib celery, very finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk (I like to use whole milk, but any milk will work just fine)
- 6 to 8 ounces dried chipped beef, sliced or cut into bite-size pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Cooked egg noodles, Tater Tots, or hash browns; baked potatoes; or toast (for serving)
- Melt the butter in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for 1 minute, then slowly add the milk, stirring constantly to prevent clumps from forming in the sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in the chipped beef and a tablespoon or so of chopped parsley, and season with a few grinds of black pepper.
- Serve immediately over cooked noodles, Tater Tots, hash browns, baked potatoes, or toast.