Belgium is known throughout the world for its national food. From its tasty treats like waffles, chocolate, and sweets, to its globally famous breweries, to its shellfish and seafood. You might ask yourself why this small nation has such a strong culinary identity!
The country has lots of regional dishes that are specific to certain areas or cities. It also has borders and links with many other European countries, so you’ll find variants of certain meals here that are found in different forms throughout Europe.
There are so many dishes that are still cooked and eaten today in Belgium that date back centuries, often with very little change to their core ingredients. With most of the recipes below, opinions will vary from household to household on how to best make the Belgian dishes, so you should feel free to add your own twist!
- 1. Steak tartare
- 2. Waterzooi
- 3. Dame Blanche
- 4. Chicken vol au vent
- 5. Flemish stew
- 6. Salade liegeoise
- 7. Asparagus
- 8. Belgian endive in the oven
- What are the most common recipe ingredients in Belgian cuisine?
- What is the best local food to eat in Belgium?
- Who are the most famous Belgian chefs?
1. Steak tartare
If you’re looking to make an authentic Belgian dinner that’ll really impress, steak tartare needs to be on the list. It’s one of those traditional Belgian food recipes that looks a lot harder than it really is.
This steak tartare recipe is super simple and a great crowd-pleaser. It’s made up of good quality raw beef chopped finely, mixed together with shallots, pickles, capers, and more.
The main thing to bear in mind is the hygiene element. But as long as you buy your beef from a source you trust, keep it cold, and don’t leave it hanging about before eating it, there’s nothing to stop you from making this dish at home.
It also has some pretty crazy history. Rumor has it that the first steak tartare was made around 800 years ago, by the fearsome “Tatars” from Mongolia, who used to tenderize the meat under their saddles as they rode out on attacks. Amazing to think that this is now considered haute cuisine in many places around the world!
Check this steak tartare recipe.
Waterzooi is a heart-warming stew or soup that is a favorite Belgian recipe throughout the country but originated in medieval Ghent. The star ingredient of the stew is chicken or fish, cooked with vegetables and potatoes, and thickened with egg and cream.
The most popular Waterzooi recipe nowadays is made with chicken, but originally it would have been based around freshwater or saltwater fish. Back in the time of the 16th century when it was first popular, fish was incorporated into most Flemish recipes in Ghent, because of the importance of the river Scheldt in the city.
The basic recipe includes veggies like celery and carrots, but it’s one of those recipes from Belgium where you can add pretty much any green you have in the fridge on the day.
Check this waterzooi recipe.
3. Dame Blanche
For an easy dessert that is an instant hit, you have to try out a Dame Blanche recipe. In essence, it’s a bit like an ice cream sundae. It’s constructed with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with a delicious syrupy sauce, made from melted chocolate, sugar, butter, and water. Oh, and whipped cream, to finish it off.
The name stems from mythology, translating from the French as “white lady”. White ladies were magical healing wise women. There are a couple of variations on this pudding, such as making it with chocolate ice cream (known as “Dark Lady”) or pistachio ice cream (called “Green Lady”).
You’ll find this dish on practically every restaurant menu in Belgium – but they’re always different wherever you go. Most Belgian households also have their own variant. You can serve it with a cherry on top, or with flaked almonds, or just with a heap of cream. Whatever you go with, this dish has always got the wow factor.
Check this dame blanche recipe.
4. Chicken vol au vent
Vol au vents are the kind of food you expect at fancy dinner parties or nice restaurants – but they’re actually incredibly simple to make at home. They’re puff pastry shells filled with a yummy mix of ingredients such as chicken, veal, mushrooms, and garlic, served with a little puff pastry lid.
This chicken vol au vent recipe is delicious. If you don’t have time to make the puff pastry cases yourself, you can buy them ready-made from any bakery or supermarket in Belgium. When it comes to easy Belgian recipes, this one is definitely one to try.
Check this chicken vol-au-vent recipe.
5. Flemish stew
One of the most famous Belgian recipes is Flemish Stew. It’s absolute comfort food, perfect for warming you up on a cold wintry day.
It’s a bit like Belgium’s version of France’s boeuf bourguignon. The main difference is that instead of cooking with wine, you make it with Belgian beer of course! As you’ll no doubt know, beer culture is massively important in Belgium and has been for hundreds of years. Ideally, for this Flemish stew recipe, you want a nice dark ale.
The beer provides a really rich flavor. The characteristic taste of the Flemish stew recipe, however, is the clash of sweet and sour flavors created by the vinegar and mustard, and the caramelized onion and Liège syrup. The beef is braised at the start to trap in the flavors, then cooked really slowly to make it tender and succulent.
This Belgian dish has a couple of different names – “carbonnade flamande” in French or “Vlaamse stoverij” in Dutch.
Check this Flemish stew recipe.
6. Salade liegeoise
Potato salad is found all over the world in different formats and traditional Belgian recipes for this popular meal call it salade liegeoise. This is essentially a fresh potato salad with bacon and egg – a winning combo.
This recipe comes from the city of Liège originally. It’s simple but tasty Belgian cuisine that takes next to no time to prepare. It’s normally served as a main dinner course. To make it, you just need to cook some potatoes, add green beans and bacon, and toss in a vinaigrette dressing. The finishing touch is a boiled egg, cut up decoratively, and displayed on top.
As you can imagine, there are loads of variants of this dish throughout Belgium. Even within Liège itself, people disagree as to how to prepare the dressing! It just shows you can make this recipe your own by adding whatever you like.
Check this salade liegeoise recipe.
You’ve probably eaten green asparagus before. But have you tried its white counterpart? This is really popular in Belgian cuisine – it’s in season during the months of May and June. White asparagus is slightly sweeter than green and needs peeling as its skin is a little tougher.
It’s a pretty expensive food to buy because it is grown really carefully, covered in soil to prevent photosynthesis from turning it green. It’s sometimes nicknamed “white gold” because it’s so special.
Asparagus Flemish-style is also known as ‘asperges op Vlaamse wijze’ (Dutch) and ‘asperges à la Flamande’ (French). This is the most common way of preparing the vegetable in Belgium – boiled asparagus topped with a yummy egg salad.
The egg salad is kind of similar to a hollandaise sauce, but made from crumbled egg yolks and whites, chopped parsley, melted butter and a squeeze of lemon. It’s a light topping that goes makes this classy dish one of the best Belgian recipes.
8. Belgian endive in the oven
Belgian endive is included in most lists of authentic Belgian recipes, and for good reason. It’s rustic, heartening, comforting, and it’s an absolute classic. Endives are known in Dutch as “witloof” and in French as “chicon”. You might also have heard them called “chicory”. It’s a leafy salad vegetable with a white core, that has a bitter taste.
This recipe is pretty unusual in that you don’t find many dishes that involve putting salad leaves in the oven – but whoever discovered it has made many people very happy! Belgian endive is created by roasting endives with copious amounts of cheese and ham. The end result is rustic home-cooked food that will warm you through and through.
It’s not the kind of food you’ll really find in restaurants, as it’s a bit of a home classic. Mashed potato is normally served up with it, making it the ultimate comfort food.
If you fancy cooking up some easy Belgian food recipes, any of the dishes on this list would be a great place to start. Whether you’re cooking for friends or just for yourself, Belgium has created some amazing dishes. The best thing is that you don’t have to be an experienced chef to make them!
What are the most common recipe ingredients in Belgian cuisine?
The most common ingredients in Belgian cuisine include potatoes, leeks, endive, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, Belgian beers, cream, eggs, regional meats and fresh seafood. Spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and pepper are used in baked goods and sweets. Recipes focus on seasonal and local ingredients for the best flavor. Comfort foods like stews, gratins and meatballs simmered in sauce are oftenly used as well. Everything is best accompanied by frites, waffles, chocolate or Belgian beers!
What is the best local food to eat in Belgium?
Listed below are the best local food to eat in Belgium.
- Mussels. Moules-frites is a classic Belgian dish of mussels and fries, is commonly steamed in white wine with ingredients like shallots and parsley.
- Belgian Fries. Belgian fries, a point of national pride, are uniquely double-fried for a soft inside and crispy exterior, with the best found at genuine “friteries” or “frietkots”.
- Belgian Meatballs. Belgian meatballs, varying by region, are either beef-pork mixtures served in tomato sauce in Flanders or boulets Liégeois with beef stock and fruit syrup in the south, but invariably paired with crispy Belgian fries.
- Carbonnade à la flamande. Carbonnade à la flamande or Stoofvlees or as know as Flemish Stew, a beef stew slow-cooked in Belgian beer and thickened with mustard-slathered bread, often paired with fries or mashed potatoes, offering rich comfort especially on cold days.
- Belgian waffles. Waffles food is synonymous with the country's sweet treats alongside chocolate, come in two main types: the rectangular Brussels waffle, often adorned with various toppings, and the sweeter, denser Liège waffle with crystallized sugar, popularly sold throughout Brussels.
- Mattentaarten. Mattentaarten a round kind of cake made with different kinds of milk, almonds and puff dough. Mattentaarten, together with belgian waffles, are two most popular desert foods of Belgium.
What is the most famous Belgian food among locals?
The most famous Belgian food for locals is the frites, or Belgian fries. Belgians love frites, and you will find fry shacks called frituurs all over the country serving up this delicious snack. Belgian fries are made from soft potatoes that are fried twice, resulting in a crispy outer layer and fluffy interior. They are thicker cut than regular French fries, around 1 cm thick. Belgians traditionally enjoy them with a variety of sauces and dips, especially mayonnaise. There are regional variations in sauces, with curry ketchup popular in Flanders and andalouse sauce (mayo, tomato paste and peppers) prevalent in Brussels. Other Belgian fry toppings include tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, samurai sauce (mayo and chili) and brazil sauce. The frites can also be stuffed into a mitraillette sandwich along with meat, salad and sauce for a hearty fast food meal.
Other specialty foods in Belgium include the Liege and Brussels waffles, speculoos spiced cookies, and shrimp croquettes made from North Sea grey shrimp. Charcuterie and pates are also beloved, like Brussels pate made from pork liver. Unique stews and meat dishes include carbonade flamande (beef, beer and mustard stew), rabbit stew with prunes, and filet americain (a Belgian take on steak tartare).
What food you should not miss when visiting Belgium as a tourist?
Here are some of the top foods you shouldn't miss when visiting Belgium as a tourist:
- Belgian waffles. Light and crispy Brussels waffles or dense, sweet Liege waffles are a must-try. Get them plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or topped with whipped cream, fruit, ice cream, or chocolate sauce.
- Frites (fries). Belgian fries are made from soft potatoes double-fried for maximum crispiness outside and fluffiness inside. Try them with an array of sauces like mayo, andalouse, or curry ketchup. Get fries from friteries and street vendors.
- Moules-frites. Steamed mussels served with Belgian fries is a classic national dish. Try moules cooked in white wine, garlic, shallots, and butter. Dip the fries in the flavorful broth.
- Belgian chocolate. Sample artisanal chocolates from the world-famous chocolatiers like Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas. Don't miss trying pralines (filled chocolates) and decadent truffles.
- Belgian beer. Order some of the famous Trappist beers, lambics, blonde ales, and Flemish reds with regional specialties. Served in its own unique glassware.
Which are the best restaurants in Brussels?
Listed below are the best places to eat in Brussels.
- Restaurant Le Rabassier: Restaurant Le Rabassier in Brussels is a famous dining establishment specializing in exquisite French cuisine. It is ideal for special occasions, with a menu featuring classic French dishes like foie gras and escargots. It is known for truffle-based delicacies, where guests can savor truffle risotto and truffle-topped steaks.
- Comme Chez Soi: Comme Chez Soi is an acclaimed restaurant with a rich history dating back to 1926. It offers a blend of traditional and innovative dishes using high-quality ingredients. It has a changing menu that incorporates seasonal products, guests can expect a memorable dining experience. The restaurant is closed on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and from December 24 to January 09.
- Fin de Siecle: Fin de Siècle Restaurant in Brussels is a popular dining spot known for its authentic Belgian cuisine, just 1 kilometer from the Grand Place. The menu showcases classic dishes like moules frites, carbonnade flamande and waterzooi. Guests can also enjoy a variety of Belgian beers.
- Fanny Thai: Restaurant Fanny Thai in Brussels specializes in authentic Thai cuisine. The menu offers a variety of flavorful dishes prepared with fresh ingredients and aromatic spices. Guests can enjoy classic favorites like Pad Thai, Green Curry and Tom Yum Soup and vegetarian and vegan options.
- Le Plattesteen: Le Plattesteen in Brussels specializes in Belgian cuisine, offering a menu filled with traditional and flavorful dishes. Guests can enjoy Belgian classics like Moules Frites, Carbonade Flamande and Waterzooi. The restaurant caters to different dietary preferences with vegetarian and seafood options.
Who are the most famous Belgian chefs?
Listed below are the most famous Belgian chefs:
- Alain Coumont. Alain Coumont is a 61 (as of 2023) year old Belgian chef and restaurateur. He comes from Belgium and specializes in contemporary Belgian cuisine. He is the founder of Le Pain Quotidien, a chain of organic bakery restaurants that started in Brussels and now has over 200 locations worldwide. Coumont opened the first Le Pain Quotidien in 1990 after being unable to find good quality bread for his restaurant in Brussels. He is known for using organic ingredients and artisanal preparation methods. His signature dishes at Le Pain Quotidien include tartines, soups, salads, and pastries made with authentic Belgian recipes. Coumont continues to oversee Le Pain Quotidien as its chief creative officer.
- Peter Goossens. Peter Goossens is a 58 (as of 2023) year old Belgian chef from Zottegem, Belgium. He specializes in French cuisine with Asian influences. Goossens has been awarded three Michelin stars since 2005 for his restaurant Hof van Cleve, making him the only Belgian chef to hold the highest Michelin ranking for over 15 years. He is also rated 19.5 out of 20 by the Gault & Millau guide. Goossens is considered the “Godfather of Belgian Gastronomy” and a pioneer in incorporating local ingredients into haute cuisine. His signature dishes include Young pigeon ‘Anjou' with crispy bacon and potato mousseline. Goossens remains actively involved in running Hof van Cleve, which he opened in 1992.
- Sergio Herman. Sergio Herman is a 50 (as of 2023) year old Belgian chef from the Netherlands. He specializes in French cuisine with modern influences. Herman rose to fame in 2000 when he earned his first Michelin star at Oud Sluis, a restaurant he took over from his parents. He went on to earn two Michelin stars in 2005 and retain them until 2013. Herman is considered a star of New Flemish cuisine and known for his perfectionism. His signature dishes include Scallops with sea urchin and caviar and Langoustine with lacteous chicken sauce. After closing Oud Sluis in 2013, Herman opened the highly acclaimed The Jane in Antwerp in 2014 and Le Pristine in New York City in 2022.
- Gert De Mangeleer. Gert De Mangeleer is a 44 (as of 2023) year old chef from Torhout, Belgium. He specializes in French cuisine with modern touches. De Mangeleer ran the three Michelin starred restaurant Hertog Jan from 2005 until it closed in 2018. He also authored several cookbooks and hosted the Flemish TV show Mijn Pop-uprestaurant. De Mangeleer's signature dishes at Hertog Jan included Carrots with ras el hanout and smoked herring with beetroot. Since closing Hertog Jan, he opened BOUCHERIE Timbaud in Gent in 2020 and co-founded the FOODMAKER Gent cooking school. Gert De Mangeleer is considered one of the best young chefs in Belgium.
- Christophe Hardiquest. Christophe Hardiquest is a 47 (as of 2023) year old chef from Wallonia, Belgium. He specializes in contemporary Belgian cuisine. Hardiquest earned his first Michelin star in 2004 for Bon Bon, his restaurant in Brussels. He earned a second star in 2013 and is considered a top contender for Belgium's next three Michelin starred restaurant. Hardiquest is known for reinventing Belgian classics using the best local ingredients. His signature dishes include blood sausage with egg cream and langoustine with Belgian endives. Hardiquest continues to run Bon Bon, which he moved to its current location in Brussels in 2011.
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