The best Belgian foods – with recipes (2024)

Food & Drink

There’s more to Belgian cuisine than waffles. Just take a look at these top Belgian foods that help put the country on the foodie map.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (1)

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (2)

By Sophie Pettit

Updated 22-1-2024

Belgian food plays an important part in the country’s culture. And just as the nation is divided linguistically, it is also divided in terms of the types of food that people like to eat. For instance, while Flemish cuisine has a strong Dutch influence, Wallonian cooking is very similar to French cuisine and uses a lot of rich sauces.

Despite these differences, however, almost all Belgian foods – including desserts – are almost always washed down with a glass or two of wine or beer. So why not pour yourself a cold one and follow these simple recipes to create some hearty Belgian dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen.

  • 1. Carbonade flamande or stoofvlees
    • Make your own carbonade flamande
  • 2. Sole meunière
    • Make your own sole meunière
  • 3. Chicons au gratin
    • Make your own chicons au gratin
  • 4. Filet Americain
    • Make your own filet Americain
  • 5. Moules frites
    • Make your own moules frites
  • 6. Stoemp
    • Make your own stoemp
  • 7. Paling in ‘t groen
    • Make your own paling in ‘t groen
  • 8. Gentse waterzooi
    • Make your own Gentse waterzooi
  • 9. Boulets
    • Make your own boulets
  • 10. Crevette grise
    • Make your own crevette grise

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1. Carbonade flamande or stoofvlees

This sweet and sour steak and ale stew (stoofvlees or stoverij) has many variations, and many families hand down their own recipes from generation to generation. Most recipes include beef, rich dark beer, bread, onions, salt, pepper, herbs (such as bay and thyme), and spices. Other ingredients can include carrots, mushrooms, bacon, red wine, shallots – and even dark chocolate! A long marinade and slow cooking are crucial to the flavor and tenderness of the meat. Traditionally, people enjoy this dish with frites (French fries), boiled potatoes, noodles, salad or veggies – and of course, more beer.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (4)

Make your own carbonade flamande

2. Sole meunière

Sole meunière is Belgium’s classic fish dish. The latter part of its name translates as ‘miller’s wife’ which refers to the way she would dip the fish in seasoned flour before pan-frying it in a small amount of butter. Traditionally, you add lemon juice and chopped parsley to make a rich brown butter sauce. Most people enjoy the dish with a serving of potatoes; either frites, boiled or mashed. This popular Belgian food is also a firm favorite in France.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (5)

Make your own sole meunière

3. Chicons au gratin

While you might not find this dish on the menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant, chicons au gratin (or ham and endive gratin) is popular comfort food in Belgium. A Flemish specialty, endive (which the Belgians call wifloof, chicons, or ‘white gold’), has a distinctive tangy flavor and is a key ingredient in appetizers and starters, as well as soups, salads, and main courses. The dish combines leafy vegetables with regional cheese and prime boiled ham, and you traditionally serve it with mashed potato. Interestingly, all the endives sold in mainstream shops in the United States are imported from Belgium.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (6)

Make your own chicons au gratin

4. Filet Americain

Don’t order this and expect a juicy steak to arrive at your table. Filet Americain is seasoned raw minced beef which is served cold, rather like the French steak tartare. You can add various seasonings to the beef (which must be very lean) to give it flavor. These include raw or pickled onion, egg yolk, Worcestershire or Tabasco sauce, ketchup, mustard, parsley, capers, salt, pepper, and oil.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (7)

You can eat it in two ways: either spread it on bread or toast (toast kannibaal or cannibal toast) or enjoy it as a main meal with frites and pickles. If you order it as a main course in a restaurant, however, it might be prepared at your table so you can have it just how you like it.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (8)

LifestyleBelgian fries: they’re not French, you knowRead more

Make your own filet Americain

5. Moules frites

About 30 million tons of moules frites are eaten every year in Belgium – that’s 3kg per person! The most common way to cook them is in white wine with shallots, parsley, and butter (la marinere). However, other recipes replace the wine with Belgian beer, add cream (la crème), or use vegetable stock. The traditional accompaniment to mussels is frites which the Belgians are believed to have invented back in 1781. Frites are thicker than French fries and very crisp because, like traditional English chips, you fry them twice. You can pick up a cornet de frites (fries in a cone-shaped card container) from a mobile food stall known as a frietkot (or fry shack). A visit to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without trying this delicious dish.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (9)

Make your own moules frites

6. Stoemp

This popular Belgian food is made from mashed potatoes mixed with other mashed up vegetables. It traditionally includes endive, kale, onions, carrots, turnips, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and greens. Some people also add cream or milk to the mix. Stoemp is quite similar to the English bubble and squeak or American hash and you usually eat it with bacon, sausage, beef, boudinblanc (fried pork sausage without the blood), or noir (black sausage). Alternatively, for a softer flavor, you can make it with Flemish white sausage (witte pens or boudin blanc), which you make with milk.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (10)

Make your own stoemp

7. Paling in ‘t groen

This traditional Flemish dish translates as ‘eels in the green’ and that’s exactly what it is – eels in a very green sauce. Fishermen used to catch the eels in the Scheldt River, between Dendermonde and Antwerp, and prepare the dish with whatever fresh herbs they found along the riverbanks. Today, you can make the sauce from a mix of herbs such as chervil, sorrel, parsley, mint, watercress, basil, and thyme. However, you must only add these at the very last minute in order to preserve their vibrant color. This dish is best enjoyed with frites or bread.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (11)

Make your own paling in ‘t groen

8. Gentse waterzooi

Gentse waterzooi is a soup-like stew that is commonly found throughout Belgium. Waterzooi comes from the old Flemish word zooien, meaning ‘to boil’, while gentse shows that the soup originates from the city of Ghent. The dish is traditionally made using fish such as carp, pike, eel, and bass, however, these days it is more common to use chicken. It can also include vegetables such as carrots, leeks, and potatoes. The stew is then thickened with eggs, cream, and butter and usually served with toasted French bread to mop it all up.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (12)

Make your own Gentse waterzooi

9. Boulets

Boulets (or meatballs) are a great staple of Belgian home cooking and you will find a variety of different recipes throughout the country. However, they are nearly always served with frites or mashed potato. In Flanders, balletjes are typically found covered in tomato sauce, orFrikadellen-style ‘met krieken‘, where the meatballs are fried in butter with Belgian cherry sauce. In the French-speaking part ofBrussels,boulets à la Liégeoisis a very popular dish. Here, the meatballs are served with a rich mixture of beef stock, spices, and sirop de Liège; a fruit syrup made from apples and pears, which gives them a distinct sweet taste.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (13)

Make your own boulets

10. Crevette grise

You will find crevette grise (or gray shrimp) all over Belgium and some seafood restaurants will serve you a snack bowl of these crunchy crustaceans. Despite their name and appearance, these North Sea delicacies have a sweet and delicate flavor and are prepared in a number of ways. You can either eat them as tomate crevette (fresh tomatoes stuffed with a prawn salad), crevette croquettes (garnaalkroket in Dutch), or peeled as a snack with beer. Traditionally, fishermen on horseback would harvest the shrimp all along the Belgian coast. This is still practiced today in the coastal village of Oostduinkerke, where the event has gained UNESCO status.

The best Belgian foods – with recipes (14)

Make your own crevette grise

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The best Belgian foods – with recipes (2024)

FAQs

What is Belgium's most famous food? ›

Moules-frites/Mosselen met friet: mussels cooked or steamed with onions and celery served with Belgian fries. The recipe has often been referred to as the country's national dish but is also popular in the neighboring Nord region of France.

What is Belgium's main dish? ›

Moules frites is Belgium's national dish.

What is the national dish of Belgium? ›

Belgium's national dish – Moules-Frites – has frites as a side dish alongside it. Mussels are popular in Belgium because they are raised in the coastal areas and are cheap compared to clams and oysters. Mussels have a pleasant briny seafood flavor and are prepared in many ways.

What does Belgium eat for breakfast? ›

Breakfast in Belgium – Le déjeuner or ontbijt

Most people tend to eat some form of delicious cake or pastry for breakfast. For example, this might be a croissant or pain au chocolate. They might also have some bread with cheese, jam, or honey.

What is Belgian original food? ›

Traditional Belgian dishes are hearty: rabbit cooked in Gueuze, Flemish beef stew, waterzooi with chicken or fish, stewed eel in a green herb sauce, a meat roulade dish called “headless birds”, chicons au gratin, “américain” with fries…

What is the signature dish of Brussels? ›

Brussels' most beloved dish

For moules-frites, the mussels are cooked in huge pots until their shells pop open. They're then coated in a delicate white wine sauce flavored with butter, garlic, shallots, and bay leaves. A popular variant in Brussels uses lemon-mustard sauce instead.

What is the most popular cheese in Belgium? ›

Herve. Herve is the best-known Belgian cheese and also the only one with an AOP-label, which guarantees its provenance.

What do they drink in Belgium? ›

What to drink in Belgium
  • Duvel. Duvel is one of Belgium's most popular pale ales produced by Duvel Moortgat Brewery. ...
  • Witbier. ...
  • Black Russian. ...
  • Kriek lambic. ...
  • Jenever. ...
  • Our Belgium tours.

What is the national dessert of Belgium? ›

Brussels Waffles

Brussels waffle is one of the two Belgian waffle varieties, a delicious cake enjoying the status of Belgium's national dessert.

What is the quintessential Belgium food? ›

Belgium is famous for waffles, fries, chocolates, and beer. You can have waffles at any time of the day; breakfast, lnch dinner. Enjoy the crispy fries to go along with Belgian beer.

What is Belgium national fruits? ›

List of national fruits
CountryCommon nameScientific name
BangladeshJackfruitArtocarpus heterophyllus
BrazilCupuaçuTheobroma grandiflorum
BelgiumAppleMalus domestica
BulgariaAppleMalus domestica
67 more rows

What was invented in Belgium? ›

Belgium is accredited to several well-known innovations and discoveries that many people don't know are Belgian, including oil painting, obstetrical forceps, and an encryption that makes wireless networks safe.

What is the number one food in Belgium? ›

Moules frites is Belgium's national dish. Traditionally cooked by steaming mussels in a rich sauce made from butter, garlic, shallots, white wine and parsley (and sometimes a splash of cream), a piping hot bowl of moules always goes down a treat.

What is stereotypical Belgian food? ›

What to eat in Belgium
  • Belgian chocolate. Did you even go to Belgium if you didn't consume copious amounts of chocolate? ...
  • Frites. ...
  • Moules frites. ...
  • Waffles. ...
  • Cuberdon. ...
  • Speculoos. ...
  • Pom koek. ...
  • Stoemp.

What is the dining etiquette in Belgium? ›

Dining etiquette

When dining with Belgian counterparts, remember these etiquette pointers: Wait until the host offers a toast before taking a sip of your drink. Keep your hands visible on the table, but not your elbows. Wait for the host to begin the meal before you start eating.

Is Belgium known for chocolate? ›

Belgium is famed for its chocolates, but where did it all start? It turns out, it's a tale of kings and innovative creations that turned Belgium into the 'Chocolate Capital of the World'.

What drink is Belgium known for? ›

Duvel is a famed Belgian pale ale with a high alcohol content (8.5%). Classic Duvel is made from Scottish yeast, and interestingly enough the second fermentation happens in the bottle. This smooth ale has a strong hop flavour, citrus, spice, and floral aromas.

What is a fun fact about Belgium food? ›

Here are three interesting facts about Belgian food:
  • More Than 4,000 Frites Vendors Line the Streets of Belgium. ...
  • There Are Over 450 Varieties of Belgian Beer. ...
  • Belgium Produces More Than 172,000 Tons of Chocolate Annually.

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