Belgian cuisine is renowned for its comfort food, rich flavors, and various dishes that reflect its complex history and cultural influences. Traditionally, Belgian food is hearty and satisfying, featuring meat, fish, potatoes, and vegetables. Some of the most popular dishes include moules-frites (mussels and fries), waterzooi (a creamy stew made with fish or chicken and vegetables), stoofvlees (beef stew), and carbonade flamande (Flemish beef stew). Belgian waffles and chocolates are also world-famous, and can figuratively be found in every corner of the country.
Belgium is often credited with inventing French fries. While the exact origin of this iconic dish is disputed, there is evidence to suggest that the Belgians were among the first to fry potatoes. It is believed that the practice of frying potatoes began in the 17th century in the Meuse Valley, which is now part of Belgium and France. The story goes that during the winter months, when the river froze over and fishing was impossible, people in the region would cut potatoes into small pieces and fry them in oil as a substitute for fish. The dish became popular across Belgium and France, eventually spreading worldwide, with variations of the recipe in different countries. Today, French fries are a beloved part of Belgian cuisine, often served as a side dish with meat or as a snack with various sauces.
From Frites to Fine Dining: A Comprehensive Look at the Belgian Food Scene
Belgium’s rich culinary tradition blends influences from its neighboring countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The country is famous for its chocolates, beers, and waffles, but there are many other traditional dishes that visitors should try when they visit.
In Bruges, one of the must-try dishes is the Flemish beef stew, also known as “stoofvlees” in Dutch. This hearty dish is made with tender beef slowly cooked in a rich beer sauce and served with fries. Another popular dish is “waterzooi,” a creamy stew made with fish or chicken, vegetables, and herbs.
Brussels is famous for its “moules-frites” or mussels and fries, a dish of fresh mussels steamed in white wine or beer, and served with crispy fries. Another must-try dish is “stoemp,” a mashed potato and vegetable dish that is often served with sausages or meatballs.
In Antwerp, visitors should try the “smoske,” a local sandwich made with fresh bread, sliced meat, cheese, vegetables, and a special sauce. Another popular dish is the “kroketten,” small deep-fried croquettes filled with cheese, shrimp, or meat.
In Ghent, a popular local dish is “Gentse waterzooi,” a creamy stew made with chicken or fish, vegetables, and herbs, similar to the waterzooi served in Bruges. Another must-try dish is “grauwe erwten,” a traditional pea soup made with pork, sausage, and bacon.
Belgium has three distinct regions that each have their own culinary specialties. In Flanders, the cuisine is often hearty and meat-based, focusing on stews, fries, and beer. On the other hand, Wallonia is known for its rich sauces, charcuterie, and game meats. In Brussels, a region of its own, the cuisine is a fusion of Flemish and Walloon influences, emphasizing seafood and fresh produce.
Top 15 Belgian dishes
From hearty stews and savory sauces to sweet treats and delicious beer, Belgium has a variety of iconic dishes that are worth trying. Whether you’re visiting one of the country’s charming cities or exploring its picturesque countryside, you’ll be able to indulge in a wide range of Belgian cuisine.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the top 15 Belgian dishes that visitors should try, including traditional specialties from different regions of the country. So get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the best of Belgium’s culinary delights.
Mussels is a classic Belgian dish that consists of mussels cooked in a flavorful broth and served with crispy French fries. This iconic dish is especially popular in coastal towns and the bigger cities such as Antwerp and Ghent, where it is traditionally served in a large pot with a side of fries, mayonnaise, and bread.
The mussels are typically cooked in white wine or beer, along with garlic, onions, celery, and sometimes cream. Mussels are a must-try dish for anyone visiting Belgium and are a great representation of the Belgian cuisine.
Carbonade Flamande is a hearty beef stew that is made with beer, onions, and spices. It is a typical dish in Flanders, including in cities like Ghent and Antwerp.
The dish is traditionally made by browning beef in a pot with onions, bacon, and mustard and then simmering it in beer for several hours until it is tender and flavorful. The result is a rich, flavorful stew that is often served with bread or fries. Carbonade Flamande is a perfect comfort food for a cold day and a great representation of Belgian cuisine.
Waterzooi is a creamy soup or stew that can be made with either chicken or fish, along with vegetables, cream, and sometimes eggs.
It is a specialty of Ghent, where it is often served with potatoes or bread. The soup has a rich, velvety texture and is flavored with herbs like thyme, bay leaves, and parsley. Waterzooi is a traditional dish dating back to the Middle Ages and has remained a popular dish in Ghent.
Belgian waffles are world-famous and come in two varieties: Brussels waffles, which are crispy and light, and Liege waffles, which are sweeter and denser. They are often served with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or fresh fruit.
Brussels waffles are rectangular in shape and have deep pockets, while Liege waffles are round and have a caramelized sugar coating. Waffles are a popular breakfast or dessert item in Belgium and are often sold by street vendors throughout the country.
Stoofvlees is a slow-cooked beef stew with onions, beer, and spices. It is a typical dish in the city of Antwerp and is often served with French fries or bread.
The dish is similar to Carbonade Flamande, but with a slightly different flavor profile due to the use of beer. The beef is cooked for several hours until it is tender and flavorful and is then served with fries and mayonnaise. Stoofvlees is a delicious and filling dish that is perfect for a cold winter day.
Belgian frites, also known as Belgian fries, are a national dish and essential to the Belgian cuisine. They are made from thickly-cut potatoes fried twice to achieve a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. The fries are typically served in a paper cone with mayonnaise, ketchup, or other sauces and are a popular snack or side dish in Belgium.
The city of Brussels is particularly famous for its frites. You can find numerous friteries (fry shops) throughout the city.
Chicons au gratin
Chicons au gratin, also known as Belgian endive gratin, is a traditional Belgian dish that consists of Belgian endives wrapped in ham and baked with a creamy béchamel sauce and cheese. The dish originated in Brussels and is a classic example of Belgian cuisine.
The endives are typically braised in butter until tender, then wrapped in ham and topped with a creamy sauce made from butter, flour, milk, and cheese. The dish is then baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Tomate aux crevettes
Tomate aux crevettes is a classic Belgian dish consisting of a tomato stuffed with small grey shrimp mixed with mayonnaise and other ingredients. The dish is traditionally served as a light lunch or snack and is popular along the Belgian coast. Belgian cuisine is known for its love of fresh seafood and the Tomate aux crevettes is a perfect example of this.
The shrimp are typically mixed with mayonnaise, onion, and parsley and then stuffed into a ripe tomato. The dish is often served cold and is a refreshing and tasty way to enjoy fresh seafood. If you are a fan of Belgian cuisine or seafood, the Tomate aux crevettes is a must-try dish.
Filet Américain, also known as American filet or steak tartare, is a raw beef dish that is seasoned with capers, onions, and spices. The dish is typically served with bread or fries and is a popular lunch item in Belgium. The beef is finely chopped and mixed with a variety of seasonings and can be served either alone or with other toppings like pickles, mayonnaise, and herbs.
Belgian cuisine is diverse, and the Filet Américain is a great example of the country’s love of meat dishes.
Grilled Seafood is another popular dish in Belgium, especially in coastal cities like Ostend and Knokke-Heist. Belgian cuisine has a rich tradition of seafood, and grilled fish and shellfish are a staple of many seaside restaurants. Grilled seafood is typically seasoned with herbs and lemon and can be served with various sides like salad, fries, or bread.
Speculoos, also known as Belgian spice cookies, are a popular treat in Belgium and are often enjoyed with coffee or tea. The cookies are made with a blend of spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and have a crunchy texture. They are often sold in small tins or packets and are a great souvenirs to take home from Belgium.
Belgian cuisine has a sweet side too, and Speculoos is a perfect example of this.
Croquettes are a popular snack or side dish in Belgium and come in various flavors, including cheese, shrimp, and beef. The croquettes are typically made by mixing a filling with mashed potatoes and then rolling the mixture into a cylindrical shape. The croquettes are then coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden brown. They are often served with a dipping sauce and are tasty and satisfying snacks.
Belgian chocolate is world-famous and is a must-try for anyone visiting Belgium.
The country is known for its high-quality chocolate, which is often made using traditional techniques and high-quality ingredients. Belgian chocolate is available in various forms, including bars, truffles, and pralines, and can be found in specialty chocolate shops throughout the country.
The cities of Brussels and Antwerp are particularly famous for their chocolate shops, and visitors can take guided chocolate tours to learn about the history and production of Belgian chocolate.
Paling in ‘t Groen
Paling in ‘t Groen is a traditional Flemish dish that consists of eel cooked in a green herb sauce.
The sauce is made from various herbs such as parsley, chervil, and watercress and is traditionally thickened with bread. The dish originated in the region of Flanders and can be found in many restaurants in the city of Antwerp.
Eel was once a common fish in the rivers and canals of Flanders, and this dish was created as a way to use up the abundant eel supply.
Konijn in Geuze
Konijn in Geuze is a traditional Belgian rabbit stew cooked in a sauce made from lambic beer, a type of beer brewed in the Brussels region. The rabbit is slow-cooked in the beer-based sauce along with onions, carrots, and herbs until it is tender and flavorful.
The dish is typically served with potatoes or bread and is a popular winter comfort food in the Brussels region.