Flemish Beef Stew (Stoverij)

5 Jul

‘Stoverij’ or Flemish beef stew is Belgium’s response to chili cheese fries. It’s hearty, stick-on-your-ribs food that feels like a warm hug on a cold winter’s day. “…but it’s Summer?!”, you say, well nothing screams Summer more than fries & stoverij from ‘t frietkot!

Belgian towns are dotted with small food stalls (think: semi-permanent ‘food truck’) that sell French fries and all the accompaniments: curry wurst (frikandel), meatballs (boullette), fried spring rolls (loempia), shrimp or chicken croquettes (garnaal of kippekroket), and of course the traditional Flemish beef stew (stoverij or stoofvlees). You know you’re in for a treat at your local “frietkot”, the minute you smell the frietjes (fries) baking in bubbling hot oil, filling the air with giddy anticipation of that first bite of fried food heaven.

Next to “frietjes”, beer is king in Belgium. Belgians learn how to cook with beer the minute they’re old enough to hold a ladle. It’s a rite of passage. After all, with over 71 different types of beer brewed and 350+ house labels to choose from, it’s the national drink of choice. When I left Ghent in late 1999, the country that is roughly the size of Rhode Island boasted 18 actively operated ‘national’ breweries and a few dozen local artisanal breweries for good measure. As I recall, pretty much every village had at least one ‘Trappist’ or ‘Catholic Benedict’ abbey where one could purchase abbey-brewed beer directly from the monks themselves. They each created their own flavor pallet, using age old brewing methods passed on for decades. The trifecta of beer-cheese-bread has long been an abbey’s bread & butter, so to speak.

Flemish beef stew is traditionally served over hot & crispy French fries, but it’s equally as delectable with a few torn hunks of grainy bread. The meat is so tender and the sauce is so sweet, you’ll come back for seconds… and thirds. Just don’t forget to enjoy a nice full-bodied beer with it, it’s practically a mortal sin if you don’t.


(adapted from a recipe by Piet Huysentruyt)

– 2 to 2.5 lbs of stew meat (I prefer chuck shoulder meat)
– 2 large onions, cut in half and sliced into not-so-thin strips
– 16oz of dark beer, more or less
– 2 tbsp of dark brown sugar, heaping (or ¼ cup of molasses)
– 1 whole clove
– 1 small clove of garlic, minced
– 2 laurel leaves
– 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
– 2-3 sprigs of thyme
– 1-2 slices of brown bread, liberally spread with 2 tbsp of mustard
– a splash of balsamic vinegar
– a few tbsp of olive oil
– 1-2 tbsp of butter
– salt & pepper to taste

1. Take a small piece of cheese cloth and tie the rosemary, thyme & cloves in. You’ll want to be able to remove it from the stew easily later on.

2. Cut the meat in roughly 1-inch size cubes. Salt & pepper like you would a steak.

3. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the meat over medium heat. It’s best to do this in batches, as you don’t want to overcrowd the meat. Overcrowding means the meat won’t brown, it’ll rather steam and you don’t want this. You want a nice crispy brown edge on each piece of meat. Set each batch of meat aside. Don’t be alarmed by the brownish ‘crud’ that forms on the bottom of your pan, and definitely don’t try to get rid of it… This is where a lot of the flavor forms.

4. When all meat is browned, turn up the heat a bit and pour a splash or two of the beer in the pan. Scrape the bottom of your pan to loosen the browned bits the meat formed.

5. When most of the bits are loosened and starting to dissolve in the beer, add the butter and the sliced onions & minced garlic, and continue to cook until the onions are turning translucent.

6. Add the remainder of the beer, browned beef, cheese cloth with herbs and the sugar, and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours until the beef is fork tender. Place slices of mustard covered bread on top of the simmering stew. They’ll slowly dissolve and thicken the stew some.

7. Keep the lid off of your pot. Once you have reached the desired thickness of the sauce, only then place the lid on the pot.

8. when the stew is ready, remove the cheese cloth wrapped herbs and laurel leaves, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and stir.



37 Responses to “Flemish Beef Stew (Stoverij)”

  1. FrankBE May 28, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Yep , that’s the way !
    I add 2 fried pork kindneys (cut in cubes).
    Smelly when frying , but boost up the taste.
    Groeten uit Thailand,


    • thehungrybelgian May 29, 2014 at 6:26 am #

      Hey Frank! Leuk dat je mijn blog gevonden hebt. Ik heb ook nog effe gereisd in Thailand in 1997 of zo. Ik herinner me nog steeds de treinrit van Bangkok naar Chang Mai, erg mooi. Geniet ervan.

      Liked by 1 person

    • nikibird November 7, 2018 at 6:59 am #


      What type of mustard do you use? Yellow, whole grain, dijon, something else?



      • thehungrybelgian November 7, 2018 at 8:47 am #

        Hi Nikibird! I always use Dijon mustard, but any non-grainy smooth mustard will work. Enjoy!


  2. mthabie (@mthabie) August 13, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    1-2 slices of brown bread, liberally spread with 2 tbsp of mustard??? when did you use them :/


    • thehungrybelgian August 13, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      Hi mthabie! Thank you for catching this. I have updated the recipe. You place these slices of bread on top of the simmering stew. They’ll slowly dissolve and thicken the stew. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Monarch Butterfly Voyager January 21, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Any particular Belgian dark beer? Lovely recipe!


    • thehungrybelgian January 21, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

      Just a stout-like beer will do. Probably stay away from an IPA, as they tend to be a bit bitter. If you can’t find Belgian beer, i would recommend Guiness or something similar. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Spike May 25, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    Always have this on my chips between airport and accommodation when in Belgium, I go a lot.


  5. Dejean July 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Ik doe wel geen look in mijn vlaamse carbonnades maar om de saus te dikken gebruik ik een boterham met mosterd


  6. Martin February 11, 2018 at 3:38 am #

    I have just spent three months working in Mechelen and have had Flemish Beef Stew in a number of places and its always gorgeous 🙂

    My favourite would be at the Brasserie in the Het Anker brewery – I’m guessing they use their own beer!!! lol
    Gouden Carolus is in my opinion the best Belgium beer I have tried – I am so going to miss that place


    • thehungrybelgian February 11, 2018 at 6:20 am #

      Martin, there is no shortage of excellent beers anywhere in Belgium. 😉 This recipe will recreate that “stoofvlees” you’re missing… enjoy!


  7. L. June 17, 2018 at 6:31 am #

    *SO* excited to find your website! My fiance and I are starting a new pursuit: Every fortnight, we are going to make a national dish of a country by working through the alphabet. We started with Afghanistan’s kabuli pulao and then found Belgium’s stoverij and fell in love. We’re making it this week but wanted to find a true Belgium recipe and that’s when we found your site. Thanks very much for sharing! We cannot wait to try it! xoxo


    • thehungrybelgian June 17, 2018 at 6:42 am #

      You’re very welcome! And what a neat idea to cook your way through the world, one country at a time!


  8. Sam Brown September 27, 2018 at 1:40 pm #

    This is my all time favourite Belgian dish. My grandmother taught me how to make it when I was a child, for her it was a taste of home as she was from Gent.


  9. Lauri December 2, 2018 at 9:10 am #

    Maybe it’s just me, but I am having a hard time interpreting this recipe. Am I simmering for 2-3 hours until fork tender and then putting the bread on top and simmering some more? And once the sauce is thick and I put the lid on, how much longer am I cooking it from that point on? How long in total should it be cooking? I want to make this for tonight’s dinner and suddenly find myself needing some guidance. Please help! I have to get simmering or it won’t be done in time.


    • thehungrybelgian December 2, 2018 at 1:12 pm #

      Hi Lauri, I’m sorry for the lateness of my reply. I only saw your comment now.
      You simmer with the bread on top from
      the moment you put the beef in the pot/pan. It’ll slowly disintegrate and thicken your sauce some. Your overall cooking time from the moment the beef is in the pot depends on the thickness of your pieces of chuck roast, but it’ll be about 2-3 hrs of simmering total. After the beef is fork tender, if you find the sauce is still too runny to your liking, simmer some more with the lid off to let some of the juices evaporate and thicken some more.


      • Lauri Herman December 2, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

        Thanks so much for getting back to me! But when do I put the lid on? That is still a mystery.




      • thehungrybelgian December 2, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

        You put the lid on as soon as the beef is in the pot. Then you simmer for 2-3 hours.


      • Lauri Herman December 2, 2018 at 4:59 pm #

        Thanks! I saw it was getting low on liquid so I added a little more ale and put the lid on so it wouldn’t dry out. What through me off about the lid was step 7 of the recipe about keeping the lid off the pot until the desired thickness of the sauce was reached. I think I have it down now. The house smells amazing and it was so delicious! So rich and flavorful. We had it in Ghent this past summer at restaurant called Passion. They served it with apple compote so I found a recipe and made some to go along with your stew. A fabulous pairing! I recommend it highly!

        Thanks for all your help! It’s a keeper!


        Sent from my iPhone



      • thehungrybelgian December 2, 2018 at 5:41 pm #

        Glad you liked, Lauri! Enjoy.


  10. Eurot November 14, 2020 at 9:03 am #

    Just to let you know this stew has become a family favourite. It’s a cold, dark evening here in the UK in the midst of a pandemic and on the verge of a miserable Brexit. My family asked me to cook something hearty to cheer them up, and so we are having your stew. Huge thanks for the recipe.


    • thehungrybelgian November 14, 2020 at 9:11 am #

      Hoorah! I’m so glad you’re pleased with it. Nothing beats cold dark evenings better. NOTHING! (Except for maybe dinner with Colin Firth by a fireplace?!)


  11. Eurot November 21, 2020 at 4:19 am #

    I have to give you one more thank you. I was cooking a venison stew yesterday, and it was a little thin. So I cut a slice of bread, slathered it in mustard as I thought the taste needed it, and dropped it into the pot. Thickened it, flavoured it, and the stew tasted amazing. It has now replaced cornflour in my thickening techniques. Wonderful.


  12. thehungrybelgian September 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    Thanks for the ping-back! Nothing beats “stoofvlees met frietjes”… and I do miss camping in alongside the Ourthe and Maas. 😉


  13. Chris April 4, 2019 at 12:35 pm #

    Hi. How many people do you think your Flemish Stew recipe serves?


  14. thehungrybelgian April 4, 2019 at 1:11 pm #

    It should serve approx. 6 people in normal adult size portions, but it all depends on how big you serve your portions.



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