Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew

Try this carbonnade beef and beer stew (carbonnade flamande) next time you make a beef stew recipe. Made with Belgian ale, beef, onions, bay leaf, and thyme, it’s a hearty recipe with wonderful flavor notes. Add your favorite vegetables or a classic side of mashed potatoes!

Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew
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?

What Is Carbonnade Beef Stew?

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
Elise Bauer

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).

Why Use Belgian Ale?

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 of 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.

beef carbonnade stew
Elise Bauer

Belgian Ale for Carbonnade Beef Stew

Belgium produces great ales, and for carbonnade, a Belgian dubbel — one that's dark with a malty sweetness — works really well. It's the style typically used in a carbonnade. Try one of these Belgian-style ales (or beers close to them) that you can usually find where you buy beer.

  • Ommegang Abbey Ale
  • Chimay Blue
  • Leffe Brune
  • New Castle Brown Ale
  • Sam Smith's Brown Ale
  • Anchor Steam

Or, support your local craft brewer, and ask them what they have that's close to a Belgian dubbel.

What To Pair With Carbonnade Flamande

Potatoes are the most traditional pairing with this beef stew. Try mashed potatoes or French fries. Buttered noodles pair well, too. If you want to add some vegetables to round out the meal, try one of these simple veggie sides.

Storing and Freezing

Like most stews, carbonnade is even better the second day as the flavors meld together as it sits in the fridge. Go ahead and make and refrigerate the entire stew a day ahead or refrigerate or freeze the leftovers with confidence.

  • Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat until heated through and the beef reaches 145°F.
  • Freeze in a freezer safe zipper bag or container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat until heated through and the beef reaches 145°F.

More Hearty and Filling Beef Stew Recipes To Try

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 45 mins
Servings 6 servings

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.

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

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 3 medium yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) Belgian beer

  • 4 tsp fresh thyme

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Method

  1. Brown the beef:

    Pat the beef dry with paper towels, then season well with salt and pepper. On the stovetop, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

    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).

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Transfer the browned beef to a separate bowl.

  2. Cook the onions:

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

  3. Add the flour:

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

    Elise Bauer
  4. Add the liquids, seasonings, and beef, then simmer:

    Stir in the broth and scrape the bottom of the Dutch oven to loosen any browned bits. Stir in the beer, thyme, bay leaf, 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 to 3 hours until beef is fork tender. (Alternatively, you can cook in the oven at 300°F.)

    Beef carbonnades stew simmering in a pot
    Elise Bauer

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

    About 30 minutes 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.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
776 Calories
49g Fat
13g Carbs
68g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 776
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 49g 63%
Saturated Fat 22g 109%
Cholesterol 241mg 80%
Sodium 401mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 68g
Vitamin C 3mg 17%
Calcium 70mg 5%
Iron 6mg 36%
Potassium 968mg 21%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.