Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew made with Belgian Beer)

Living in Southern California, one of the things that we really don’t get is a “change in weather.”  With that said, however, it is still a bit chillier in the evenings and the temperature has dropped just a little bit (like really little) during the day.  The change in weather is very gradual, and eventually it will be chilly and we’ll want comforting stews for dinner, just like the rest of the Country… I can’t wait! So, after spending yesterday menu planning for an upcoming beer pairing dinner, I decided to look up some recipes for the Belgian Stew that I ate a few years back at another Belgian Beer Pairing Dinner.  

Truth be told, I had lunch with the Chef who originally made it for us years ago, and I could have asked him, but I didn’t think of it at the time.  I’ll shoot myself in the foot later.  But for now, this is the stew that I plan on making once that “weather change” finally occurs (probably around December/January).

So what is a carbonade à la flamande? A carbonade à la flamande is a traditional Belgian sweet-sour beef and onion stew made with beer, and seasoned with thyme, bay leaves and mustard. The beef is both marinated in, and cooked in dark Belgian Trappist Ale, like a Leffe or Chimay. You can also use a Oud bruin, Brune Abbey beer or a Flanders red. If you don’t have any of these, just make sure you use a dark, bitter-sour flavor beer. And then just before serving, you’ll can stir in just a dash of red wine vinegar and brown sugar (or red currant jelly) to give it the touch of sweet. Serve over french fries, or with boiled potatoes, or over mashed potatoes.

Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew made with Belgian Beer)
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Belgian
Serves: 8
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Onions, chopped thick
  • 4 Oz smoked lardons, or thick cut bacon
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 lbs beef flatiron or blade steaks or shin beef, cut into ⅓ inch-thick slices, 3 inches wide. (You can use regular stewing beef as well, but it may be as soft as the other cuts when cooked)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 36 oz dark Belgian Beer (bitter flavors)
  • 4 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  1. Season beef using generous amounts of salt and fresh ground pepper
  2. Separate beef into 3 equal portions
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed casserole (enameled cast-iron is best), melt 2 Tbsp of butter and add ⅓ of the beef, or 1 portion. Brown over moderate heat, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with the 2 remaining portions of meat.
  4. Cook the lardon, or bacon in the casserole.
  5. Add the chopped onions, stirring so that they mix well with the bacon. Turn down the heat, cover and cook until onions have browned and softened, about 6-8 minutes, stirring as needed.
  6. Stir in the flour until all of the onions appear well coated
  7. Stir in the mustard and brown sugar
  8. Slowly add the about ⅓ of the beer, scraping the bottom bits up from the casserole (that’s where A LOT of the flavor is)
  9. Add all of the meat back into the casserole
  10. Slowly add the remaining beer
  11. Stir in the allspice, thyme and bay leaves
  12. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring, until the beef is tender, about 2-3 hours


This stew is delicious when reheated, so feel free to make it ahead.  It will keep refrigerated up to 3 days, but something tells me that it won’t last that long!  Or, you can do what I do with most of my stews, freeze individual portions in air tight containers for quick meals.  Frozen, this stew should keep for about 3 months.  Just defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat the next day.

Beer Pairing:  The same beer you made it with should pair beautifully!

Wine Pairings:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, red Bordeaux, Barolo, or even a young vintage Port would be delicious!

If you make this, leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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