Carbonnade – Belgian Beef & Beer Stew

Excuse me, but what happened to the month of October?

I’m a little slow on my promise of beer inspired recipes for Oktoberfest. Sorry about that, but this beef and beer stew should do more than enough to make up for my tardiness.

When I posted about beer recipes, my violinist friend Derry (who has an awesome black cat named Paco who looks just like Gus) suggested that I make Carbonnade.

Having never heard of this dish, I did a little digging and Google returned with the answer. Carbonnade = Beef and Beer Stew from Belgium.

If you didn’t already know this,  for hundreds of years Trappist Monks in Belgium have  brewed beer — the most famous being Chimay Ale. Think of the monestary as the original micro-brewery. They knew what they were doing when they decided to pour a bottle of ale into the stew pot.

Behold, Carbonnade – tender, tangy, and a serious contender in the comfort food category.

Here’s what you need:

Chuck Roast, Onions, Beef Broth, Chimay Ale, Whole Grain Mustard, Butter, Olive Oil, Flour, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Allspice, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Carbonnade Shopping List

If you’re going for Belgian Ale, I’m told there is none better than Chimay. It comes in a large bottle and is corked like Champagne. Compared to regular old swilling beer, it’s a little spendy but in the case of Carbonnade, we’re using it in place of wine so you want to go with something with great body and flavor.

If you can’t find Chimay, look for a full flavored brown ale.

Chuck Roast for the beef – 3 to 3 1/2 pounds. Wipe the outside of the roast dry with a paper towel and cut it into 1 inch cubes. I also like to trim off some of the more rigid fat.

Buying a large piece of meat like a chuck roast is always the better way to go than buying “stewing beef” already cubed at the store. You’ll get a better cut of meat and also a better price.

Grab 4 yellow onions, cut them in half, and cut them into large slices (about 1/4 inch). You want bigger slices than usual to keep the onion from completely dissolving while the stew cooks.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. We will start the stew on the stove and then move it to the oven to cook low and slow for the most tender meat. A bonus of cooking it in the oven is that you can just leave it alone for a couple of hours – no need to do anything to it at all – not even stir.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven.

Working in 2 or 3 small batches, quickly brown the meat over medium high heat. 2 -3 minutes per side should do the trick.

By the way, the best way to get meat to brown is to leave it alone. Once it’s in the pot of hot butter and oil, don’t be tempted to scoot it all around. Leave it alone to brown on one side then give a quick stir to brown the other side.

One of these days, I’d love a real vent fan in my kitchen. Once all of the batches of meat have browned, move them to a plate while you cook the onions.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the sliced onions to the pot. If your pot is completely dry, feel free to add another Tablespoon of butter or oil to get the onions going.

Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring often, until browned and caramelized – about 15 minutes.

Once you have nice, soft, syrupy onions, add 3 Tablespoons of flour and stir to make a thick paste or roux.

Cook the flour into the onions for 1 – 2 minutes then add 3/4 cup beef broth.

Note:  the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of broth, but I found that there was more than enough sauce for the stew meat. Since this cooks in the oven, not as much broth evaporates during cooking. If you are cooking this on the stove top (and you can cook it that way, just simmer the stew covered on low but stir it occasionally to keep it from sticking), you might need more broth.

Stir the beef broth into the onions and flour to create a nice thick sauce.

Now for the good stuff! Add 1 bottle of Chimay Ale. One large 750 ml bottle should be just slightly more than 1 1/2 cups. Dump it all right on in there. If you can find the Blue Label Reserve Chimay, you and your Carbonnade will both be very happy.

Season with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 bay leaves.

Return the browned beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon if you want to measure) of Allspice and salt & pepper to taste.

Put the lid on the pot and cook in a 300 degree oven for 2 -3 hours until the beef is fork tender.

I cooked my Carbonnade to this point just over 2 hours. The meat is tender and the sauce has concentrated into a dark brown delicious elixir.

Give the stew a good stir then add 1 Tablespoon brown sugar….

and 1 heaping Tablespoon Whole Grain Mustard. The mustard is the secret tangy ingredient. So good.

Adjust the salt & pepper – it will probably need a bit more of both – and return the pot, uncovered this time, to the oven for 30 more minutes.

This gives you time to whip up some mashed potatoes and a green veg.

Extra crusty bread would be good to sop up all that delicious sauce.

Carbonnade. Where have you been all my life?

Here’s the recipe: Adapted from

Carbonnade – Belgian Beef & Beer Stew

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5 Responses

  1. Claudia, this looks AMAZING! The BF has been crying out for beef recipes, and I think this handily fits the bill. Expect another FB picture in the next week!

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