Beery Belgian-Style Beef Stew

Carbonade is a Flemish beef and onion stew famous in Belgium and French Flanders. It is made with beer, thyme, and mustard. Just before serving, a small amount of cider or wine vinegar and brown sugar is added. It is sometimes called Flemish stew.

Unlike French beef stews made with wine, carbonnade relies on the deep, dark flavor of Belgian abbey-style beer. But what really gives carbonnade its distinctive character is the addition of brown sugar and cider vinegar. The sweet-sour combination contrasts nicely with the caramelized onions and rich beer.

The following is my take on the classic recipe.

Before We Begin

First, I advise you to use a beer that you are familiar with. If you do not use a Belgian-style beer. I used a dark IPA, and it wasn’t quite what  I had hoped for.

Second, follow the directions, especially step Number Four.

Ingredients

3 pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into approximately 2-inch pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

4 slices of bacon, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 large yellow onions sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)

12 ounces dark beer

1 ½ cup beef stock

2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp. parsley

1 tsp. tarragon

1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard

Buttered noodles for serving

Preparation

  1. Brown the beef: Pat beef dry with paper towels, season well with salt and pepper. On the stovetop, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot, almost smoking.

Working in batches, brown the meat, without stirring, for about 3 minutes on each side (do not stir, allow the meat to brown nicely).

Transfer the browned beef to a separate bowl.

2. add bacon; cook until its fat renders, about 8 minutes. Add the butter and onions; cook until caramelized, about 30 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and stir until softened. Then add the flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Stir in beer, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and tarragon with the browned beef and any accumulated juices, salt, and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, let cook for 2-3 hours until beef is fork-tender.

Stir occasionally, scraping up anything that is sticking to the bottom of the pan. (This step is important. I advise you to follow those instructions to the letter. I did not and left quite a crust on the Le Creuset. The next time I will use the oven.)

Alternatively, you can cook it in a 300°F oven for the same amount of time.

About half an hour before it finishes cooking, add the mustard, vinegar, and brown sugar. Adjust seasonings to taste.

5) Discard the bay leaf, and add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

6) Serve over noodles.

In Closing

Whatever ale you have used in the cooking makes for a great drink accompaniment to the stew.

Traditionally Belgian ale is used. But if you cannot find a Belgian ale or a Belgian-style ale, you can try Newcastle Brown Ale, Anchor Steam, or Ommegang Abbey Ale.

What also makes this stew unique is the sweet and sour flavors. You can use tomato paste or a cup of shredded carrots instead of sugar.

Keep in mind that this stew has humble roots in rural culture. Hence, improvisation is the rule rather than adhering to a strict recipe.

However, the essentials are the beef and onions and the sweet and sour flavors.

IN THE KITCHEN

WITH THE OLD GROWLER

This hearty beef stew flavored with beer is a favorite in the Flanders region of France and Belgium. It is a delicious, comforting dinner for cold winter nights.

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Krysten Quiles
1 year ago

YUM! I love beer AND beef strew, I am down for this!

anosa
1 year ago

I tried this Flemish dish a few years back whilst in Brussels, its a good dish but not thought about recreating it at home.

renee
renee
1 year ago

This reminds me of an old German meal my grandparents made. Love it!

Renata - byemyself
Renata - byemyself
1 year ago

This sounds great. I’ve tried a very similar recipe I found in a Czech cookbook – hence, another great beer nation 😉

Knycx Journeying
1 year ago

that looks yummy and very warming to dive into a bowl of this stew when the weather is cold. Thanks a lot for the recipe! – Knycx Journeying

Monidipa
Monidipa
1 year ago

I had never brewed earlier, but I’ll try it…

Sarah
1 year ago

This looks amazing! I know my husband and I would both love this. Adding it to our list to try!

sumit walia
1 year ago

shown the preparation in a lovely and simple way. I guess this is definitely a cold-weather dish

Merveille
1 year ago

Oh my goodness! This looks delicious. I have always wanted to make a meal with beer or wine but I haven’t gathered the courage to do so. This recipe seems pretty amazing though.

Lyosha
1 year ago

looks very delicious! I miss eating beef more often at some point

Kenneth
Kenneth
1 year ago

nice recipie,,,,,i use to make braised short ribs and in corporate it with parpadelle pasta….but this looks unique with the bacon on it….worth a try

siennylovesdrawing
1 year ago

ohh woow…so so delicious looking beer stew that am so craving to try. thanks for this recipe. cheers, siennylovesdrawing

aisasami
1 year ago

This lo0oks interesting as I never thought you could use beer in stew. I have to try this out!

Meera
1 year ago

I don’t drink beer but your beef looks delicious. We cook the beef stew Indian style!

Fransic verso
1 year ago

That’s a delicious recipe. We had beef but we want to make different recipes and this one seems amazing. Thank you for sharing!

Rochelle
1 year ago

This looks and sounds super interesting . I’ve never had a beer and beef stew. But thanks for sharing this recipe

Michele
1 year ago

I am gonna have to make this for my fiance. He loves beef stew! It looks absolutely delicious.

Alita Pacio
1 year ago

I would really like to make this my own. Something new to make when friends come over. Thank you for sharing

First, let me introduce myself. I am Peter LaFrance, author of Beer Basics and Cooking & Eating With Beer, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. – 1995). I have also been published in American Brewer, All About Beer, and Ale Street News.

I have been writing about the brewing industry since 1984. Credits include contributing editor for Restaurant Management and Top Shelf magazines. I have also written for Beverage Media, New Brewer, Beverage Dynamics, and All About Beer magazine.

Welcome to The Old Growler!

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