Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew

Soup and StewFavorite WinterBelgianBeef

Carbonnade Belgian beef stew recipe, with beef, onions, and Belgian ale, and seasoned with bay and thyme.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

When the days are cold, dark, and damp, all we really want to do is to curl up with a nice big pot of stew, right?

Known as “Carbonnade a la Flamande”, this Belgian beef stew is made with hearty Belgian ale and plenty of onions.

The flavor is a little sweet and sour, the sweet from the onions and either a little added sugar or tomato paste, and the sour from a touch of mustard or vinegar.

Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew

Since I first posted this recipe I’ve made a few adjustments to the recipe itself, and we’ve received several recommendations for which ale to use (check the comments).

The general view is that you should try to use a Belgian ale for this stew. If you can’t find a Belgian ale, or a Belgian-style ale, you can try Newcastle Brown Ale or Anchor Steam (the last two recommended by Cooks Illustrated for their carbonnade).

We found a couple American ales made in the Belgian style at our local Whole Foods and for our most recent batch of stew used a bottle of Ommegang Abbey Ale.

Apparently it is also traditional to include some beef liver with the stew. We passed on this, but if a stew exists that could hold up to the strong flavors of liver, this one would be it. Wonderfully hearty, flavorful, and filling.

Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

You are trying to achieve a sweet and sour flavor with this stew. You can swap out the sugar for tomato paste and you can use cider vinegar instead of mustard if you want.

You can brown the meat in vegetable oil instead of butter, though it will be more flavorful with the butter. You can also use a couple slices of bread, instead of adding flour, to thicken the stew.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 lbs chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided 2 Tbsp and 2 Tbsp
  • 3 medium yellow onions sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) Belgian beer
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Method

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

Working in batches, brown the meat, without stirring, about 3 minutes on each side (do not stir, give the meat an opportunity to brown well).

Transfer browned beef to a separate bowl.

2 Cook the onions: Add 2 tablespoons butter to dutch oven; reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; cook until onions are browned, about 15 minutes.

3 Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

4 Stir in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits; stir in beer, thyme, bay, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and 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. (Alternatively can cook in the oven at 300°F.)

Stir occasionally, scraping up anything that is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

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

5 Serve: Discard thyme and bay leaf. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Can serve plain, with potatoes, over noodles, or over French fries.

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

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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68 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Dorothy

    I’ve made this twice now, easy to follow recipe and very tasty! Husband and I really like this stew!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Rob

    Really impressed. I made mine in a slow cooker (aka Crockpot) but altered the recipe so I coated the beef in the flour before browning. I also added a teaspoon of dried thyme (I didn’t have fresh thyme), but will double it to 2 tspns next time. I used 3 tbspns of dijon mustard instead of 1 tbspn of wholegrain and this really helped. I also added some dried porcini mushrooms which had been soaked for 10 mins, to give the stew a richer flavour and half a teaspoon of garlic granules (this wasn’t really enough but I was worried about overpowering the stew. Again, I’ll add more next time). I put everything in at the beginning and it worked very well. However, I had to add some cornflour slurry to thicken up the gravy (not uncommon with slow cookers) and may just use the beer to make the broth next time, rather than add the additional liquid used to make the broth separately. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Kelli

    Should be a Belgian sour ale. Also marinate the meat in the ale with garlic cloves overnight for a richer more authentic result. Then save the marinade for the stew.

  4. Kelli

    After visiting Belgium I looked for a good recipe for this wonderful stew . This recipe is on point. I’ve made it several times. I double it so all the cooking times are significantly longer. Don’t be impatient. Let this cook a long time.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Olga

    No garlic?!

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