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Souvenir Recipe: Belgian Beer Carbonnade (Belgian Beef Stew)

Souvenir Recipe: Belgian Beer Carbonnade (Belgian Beef Stew)

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If You Can Resist Drinking your Belgian Beer, Use it to Make a Classic Belgian Recipe

In our last post about shopping for Belgian beer in Brussels, we covered where to buy and how to select your beer souvenir.  Now that you’ve brought your Belgian beer back home with you, what can you do with it? Drinking it immediately comes to mind. But for those who prefer to appreciate and savor the distinct flavors of Belgian beer in a different way, we recommend using your beer souvenir to cook a classic Belgian recipe.

Cooking with Belgian beer is actually a very Belgian thing to do– locals use beer to make traditional dishes like mussels, savory onion soup and Belgium’s most famous dish, Beef Carbonnade.

Beef Carbonnade is the Flemish version of a beef stew, typically made with dark beer, onions and herbs. Like most “classic” recipes, the exact ingredients for Belgian beef carbonnade vary according to region.  I made sure to sample some carbonnade Flamande while visiting Belgium, and immediately became addicted to its rich and hearty flavors. As soon as I came back home, I was determined to replicate this dish back home.

After sifting through endless recipes online, I settled on a highly rated recipe from Saveur Magazine as a base, adding in my own tweaks to approximate the flavors I remembered from my trip to Brussels.

Belgian Beer Carbonnade Recipe (Belgian Beef Stew)

as adapted from Charlie Palmer’s recipe in Saveur Magazine


Ingredients for Belgian Beer Carbonnade:

2 lb of beef chuck, cut into 2″ x ½″ cubes
¼ cup flour (we used Wondra)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium yellow onions
2 cups Belgian dark brown beer (plus extra for drinking)
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 sprigs tarragon
3 fresh bay leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bread, for serving
Applesauce, for serving

Instructions for Making Belgian Beer Carbonnade

1.  Slice the onions thinly, lengthwise, set aside with the chopped garlic.


2. Place the cubed beef in bowl, salt and pepper. Add the flour, then toss the beef to coat the cubes.


3. Brown the Beef.  Add 2 tbsp. butter to your Dutch oven, cook over medium-high heat. Brown the beef in batches (about 8 minutes per batch).  Set aside on plate for later.

4. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, about 8 minutes.

5. Add the chopped garlic, sliced onions and remaining butter.

6.  Cook until the onions are carmelized, about 30 minutes. Warning– when the onion start to brown, you may mistakenly think they are ready, but they aren’t. You really do need the entire 30 minutes to achieve the full carmelization.

7. Add half the beer; cook and reduce, scraping the bottom, about 4 minutes.

brown belgian beer for stew

If you accidentally drank all your Belgian beer souvenirs immediately, you can likely find a suitable substitute at your local liquor store.


8. Return the browned beef back to the pot along with the remaining beer, stock, sugar, vinegar, thyme, parsley, tarragon, bay leaves (note: if you prefer, you can tie the herbs into a bouquet garnis and remove after cooking), and salt and pepper.

9. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, until the beef is tender, about 1 ½ – 2 hours.

10. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top, serve with apple sauce and hearty bread.


After making this recipe to rave reviews, I can verify that this Belgian Flemish stew with beer is as tasty as it looks. The first time I made it, I regretted not doubling the recipe (leftovers freeze beautifully). Make sure to enjoy your Belgian beef stew with the same beer used in the stew.

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Have you made Belgian Beef Stew? Share your tips in the comments below!

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Monday 26th of December 2016

I made this for a Belgium themed "Christmas around the World" progressive dinner. I doubled the recipe and made minor tweaks- more pepper etc. It was excellent! I'm making it again today two weeks later. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

Kristin Francis

Thursday 16th of February 2017

Oh fantastic! Thanks for letting me know! I've made it several times and it always just works-- and yes agree tweak the seasonings each time to your palate-- more pepper is always good and probably what I end up doing.

Thomas Yobbagy

Sunday 2nd of October 2016

What a wonderful Flemish beef stew!! Cooked it just like the recipe says, everyone loved it!! We have a Belgium restruant down the street and it was just like what they serve for $20 a plate! my partner said I can make this anytime!!

Kristin Francis

Wednesday 9th of November 2016

So glad it worked! Yes this recipe is fullproof and my go to when I want a sure thing! So excited it's fall again and stew season :)

Kat Connors

Friday 13th of November 2015

Holy jeez, this was amazing! I had to use dried tarragon and bay leaves (our produce dept sucks), but threw in some extra thyme bc yum. The best I could do for beer was Beck's Dark and it worked a treat. I couldn't restrain myself from throwing a carrot in too. I'll probably skip it next time, or cut back on the sugar.

Can't emphasize enough the importance of taking your time with the onions. I cooked mine closer to 45-60 minutes and could have gone a little longer. You really can't cook them too low and slow. Makes alllll the difference!

Seriously though, this is one of the best stews i've ever made, and I have a culinary degree lol. Might adapt it for Irish lamb stew for Christmas. Thank you so much for sharing this!!

Kristin Francis

Saturday 14th of November 2015

Kat, so glad to hear it worked out! Yes I read so many recipes where they just casually mention oh brown the onions for 15 minutes or so...sounds like it would be amazing with lamb too. : )

Chanel | Cultural Xplorer

Sunday 1st of February 2015

Oh my yum..... This looks amazing Kristin and I will definitely have to try it! :D We should have a food cooking night soon too!

Sunday 1st of February 2015

That finished dish looks so delicious. The picture is gorgeous too - love the colors.