Beef carbonnade is a flemish stew that gets its depth of flavor from searing and caramelizing, then slowly braising in a dark lager beer. This hearty, rich carbonnade flamande is easy to make in a dutch oven, but also works in a slow cooker or Instant Pot.
This article has been updated for recipe, content and photos since it’s original publication in 2016.
What is carbonnade flamande?
This Belgian beef stew goes by many names. Known in Dutch as stoofvlees or stoverij and in French as carbonade (more commonly spelled carbonnade in English). It’s a warm, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs recipe that will warm you from the inside out.
Considered the Belgian answer to France’s boeuf (beef) bourguignon, this Flanders stew is a wonder all its own.
Carbonnade flamande recipes fluctuate by region and individual families, but sweet caramelized onions and dark Belgian beer are the main flavor components of this braised beef recipe.
What you’ll love about this beef carbonnade:
- It can be made several days ahead of time.
- You can make carbonnade on the stovetop, oven, slow cooker, or Instant Pot.
- Leftovers keep well.
- Though it does contain alcohol, the beer cooks off and the flavor remains.
- At the end of the day, this carbonnade of beef is an enticing stew that’s a great meal for cooler weather.
Ingredients for carbonnade flamande
- Beef Chuck Roast
- Dark Belgian Ale or Lager
- Brown Sugar
- Malt Vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- Dried Thyme
- Low Sodium Beef Stock (or homemade beef bone broth)
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Unsalted Butter
- Olive Oil
My preferred method of making any slow cooking stew is to do it in a dutch oven, which can seamlessly float between your stovetop and oven for the best of both cooking worlds.
Of course, you can use your Instant Pot or pressure cooker as well as a slow cooker or Crock Pot and I’ve given instructions for those methods as well, below.
How to make beef carbonnade in a dutch oven:
- Preheat the oven to 325°.
- Trim the fat and sinew from the beef and cut it into 1/2″ x 2″ strips. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
- Heat butter and olive oil in the dutch oven and sear the beef in batches until browned on all sides. Transfer to a rimmed sheet pan and set aside.
- Brown the bacon in the same pot until crispy. Drain the bacon and transfer it to a dish lined with paper towels.
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat and add the onions to the pot and stir to combine. Cook slowly over medium-low heat with the lid askew on the dutch oven, until the onions cook down and caramelize, stirring occasionally.
- Deglaze the pot with about 1 cup of the Belgian beer and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring and scraping the pot with a wooden spoon to get the browned bits.
- Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, garlic thyme, bay leaves, and carrots, then add the remaining lager and beef broth.
- Transfer the beef back to the dutch oven and bring the pot to a boil. Cover tightly with a lid and transfer the beef carbonnade to the oven to braise for 1 1/2 hours.
- Mash butter and flour with a fork until a fine paste forms with no dry bits left.
- Remove the carbonnade a la flamande from the oven and transfer it to the stovetop over medium-high heat.
- Stir in the flour and butter mixture and bring the stew to a simmer. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the Beef carbonnade thickens slightly and the gravy is velvety with no lumps.
- Stir in the reserved bacon.
Pro-Tip: I know it’s a pain to brown the beef strips in batches, but trust me, you want to take your time. Working in smaller quantities will help the meat brown without releasing so many juices that would ultimately steam or boil the beef chunks, not sear them.
The biggest difference between the Dutch oven method and the Instant Pot method is how you caramelize the onions for the carbonnade. Otherwise, you’ll follow the same basic method of making Belgian beef stew in the Instant Pot.
Making carbonnade of beef in the Instant Pot
- Season the beef with salt and pepper. Use the sauté function on the pressure cooker and work in several batches to brown the beef in butter and olive oil, then transfer to a rimmed sheet pan.
- Crisp the bacon, drain and transfer to another plate.
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and add the onions. Stir to combine, then seal the Instant Pot with the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Use the quick release.
- Add the brown sugar, vinegar, Belgian beer, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, carrots, and beef along with any drippings. Stir to combine.
- Seal the multi-cooker and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes.
- Mash together the flour and butter until it forms a paste and add it to the braised beef recipe.
- Turn on the sauté function and stir constantly until the beurre manie (butter mixture) has melted into the gravy and the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened.
- Stir in the reserved bacon.
Using a slow cooker to make the Belgian beef stew requires another pan or skillet because you’ll sear the meat as well as caramelize the onions and that’s not what Crock Pots do best.
How to make beef beer stew in the slow cooker:
- Use a large heavy skillet and follow the instructions given for the Dutch oven up to the point of combining all of the ingredients in step 7.
- Transfer the beef and deglazed caramelized onions to the slow cooker with any collected juices.
- Add the brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, carrots, beef broth and remaining beer.
- Put the lid on the slow cooker or Crock Pot and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours or until the beef is fork tender.
- Stir in the reserved bacon.
Unlike some supreme court justices who really like beer, I admit, it’s generally not my first beverage of choice. Therefore, I defer to the experts on which style of beer works best in a carbonnade recipe, though it would make sense to use a dark Belgian ale since we’re talking about a Flemish stew.
What’s the best beer for Carbonnade a la Flamande?
In the middle ages, Benedictine monks were required to be self-sufficient and thus, made and sold goods to sustain themselves with any profits going to charity. One of their best-selling products was/is a variety of ales.
Trappist and Abbey ales are known for both blond and dark ales, I’d recommend using the darker versions for the Belgian beef stew.
Beers to try:
- Dubbels such as, Westmalle Dubbel Trappist Ale, St Bernardus Prior 8, Chimay Premiere Red
- Quadrupels such as St Bernardus Abt 12, Rochefort 10 Trappist Ale, or Gulden Draak 9000 Quadrupel
Also look for Flanders sour ales:
- Liefmans Goudenband – brown ale
- Vander Ghinste Oud Bruin – brown ale
- Rodenbach – red ale
- Duchesse De Bourgogne – red ale
Any of these will give your Flemish stew an air of authenticity, but if you’re more concerned with making dinner than sourcing D.O.P. ingredients, just look for a dark beer to add malty, caramel notes.
According for Forbes, small breweries have had a resurgence in the last dozen years and cities big and small often have one or two locally owned breweries.
I’m all for supporting our communities, so if you have a local brewer, ask them for their recommendation on this stew.
If all you have is the grocery store or 7-Eleven nearby:
Ultimately, it’s your kitchen and I’m not the food police, so if your options are limited, I understand. Just do your best, with what’s available.
Using a pale lager (like Stella Artois) will produce a good version of this beef and beer stew, just not as dark or malty as the traditional ales.
Confession: I’ve even made this braised beef recipe in the past using Guinness Stout in a nod to St. Patrick on his special day.
- Traditionally, beef carbonnade doesn’t have carrots added to the stew, but I like them, so I did. You can certainly leave it out.
- Add cut-up potatoes or mini Dutch potatoes to the stew to braise with the beef, instead of serving them on the side. It’s not customary, but it will save you another pot to clean.
- Again, not traditional, but you can add other vegetables to this Belgian beef stew. Parsnips and turnips would be good accompaniments and you can also add some frozen peas just before serving (they’ll thaw quickly in the hot carbonnade).
What goes with beef carbonnade?
Traditionally, you would serve boiled potatoes, french fries or stoemp (pronounced stoomp), a traditional Belgian dish of potatoes, cabbage and/or brussels sprouts and carrots, similar to an Irish colcannon.
I think this would be very good with mashed potatoes or simply served over buttered noodles, which is what I did here.
Frequently asked questions:
Place in a storage container with a tight fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Yes. It will keep for up to two months in the freezer. Defrost before reheating.
How does it taste?
My husband had a really tough time with this Flemish stew. First, because there was a good Abbey ale in the refrigerator with strict warnings not to touch it. Second, because after I made the carbonnade, the natural light in my kitchen had shifted and I had to wait until the next day to get these final pictures…
That meant that he came home expecting the braised beef recipe for dinner and instead was shuffled out to the grill to cook a pork tenderloin. Darn and shucks.
However, the next night, he was very excited about the meal.
The carbonnade of beef was fork tender, the sauce rich and malty with a slight tanginess. He went back two, then three times, and ultimately claimed the leftovers for his lunch the next day.
I think you’re going to enjoy this one! Bon appetit!
Beef Carbonnade (Carbonnade à la Flamande)
- Dutch Oven can use slow cooker or instant pot.
FOR THE CARBONNADE:
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pounds chuck roast
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 slices bacon cut into 1/2" pieces.
- 3 medium onions peeled and sliced root to tip into 1/2″ slices
- 2 cups dark ale, preferably Belgian about 1 1/2 beers
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 medium carrots peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
- 1 cup low sodium beef broth
- 2 tablespoons flour
- boiled red potatoes or
- buttered egg noodles
TO MAKE CARBONNADE IN A DUTCH OVEN:
- Preheat the oven to 325°.
- Trim excess fat from the beef chuck roast and slice the meat across the grain into 1/2" x 2" long. Season the beef with the kosher salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the beef in 2-3 batches and brown, searing the strips of meat on all sides. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and continue to brown the meat.
- Add the bacon to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally until it's crisp. Transfer bacon to a dish lined with a paper towel to soak up excess grease.
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons of grease from the dutch oven and add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally with the lid slightly askew on the pot so steam can escape. Cook the onions for 25-30 minutes or until they're caramelized and golden.
- Deglaze the pot with 1 cup of the lager and cook for 4-5 minutes, scraping up the browned bits (fond) from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the brown sugar, malt vinegar, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and carrots. Stir to combine and add the remainder of the beef broth and lager.
- Add the reserved beef and any drippings and stir to combine. Bring the carbonnade to a boil, then cover tightly with a lid and put in the oven to braise for about 1 1/2 hours.
- With the back of a fork, mash together the remaining butter and flour to form a paste (this is called a beurre manie).
- When the beef is tender, remove the carbonnade from the oven and place it on the stovetop over medium high heat. Add the butter mixture to the carbonnade, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and becomes velvety.
- Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Serve with steamed potatoes or mashed potatoes or over buttered noodles.