Top 20 Most Popular Foods from Belgium
Belgium is known worldwide for its waffles, chocolate, and beer. Yet when people visit Belgium, they generally also fall in love with the local cuisine: from grey prawns and mussels plucked from the North Sea to Rabbit and Steak Tartare.
Belgian cuisine is flavored by all kinds of meat and delicious vegetables. Creamy rich sauces based on beer will have your mouth watering and while the French are more refined, Belgium cuisine certainly won’t leave you feeling like you missed out, plus there are delicious desserts too.
1. Flemish Beef Stew – Stoofvlees
You simply have to try this dish, not only because the sauce is a fabulous combination of boiled beer and spices, such as bay leaf, that is said to bring you good fortune should you find one on your plate, but also because it is a Belgian signature dish.
The meat is tasty and tender, the sauce is thickened with bread, traditional mustard, and syrup from Liège, and, as we already said, beer. And since you are enjoying this meal in Belgium, it is only fair to eat it with their signature fries.
The Belgians are known for their excellent beers, and there are so many to try, you’ll need a few trips to this tiny little country. Every region has its own famous beers, and many Belgians brew beer as a hobby. Not only that, almost 100 Belgian beers have won several beer awards.
There are very hoppy beers, dark beers that they call double beers, and triple beers, which are the blonde ones. Belgium also offers an entire range of beers based on fruits. The most famous one is called Kriek, and it certainly is a nice, sweet way to start discovering this Belgian specialty.
Oh my god, Belgian chocolate. It is famous worldwide and high-end brands are exported around the world. In Belgium, you can have chocolate with everything, on ice cream, as your breakfast, and you can even dip strawberries in the delectable stuff.
What is also impressive is that even their cheapest chocolate often tastes better than the best in other countries. Plus, of course, it is not limited to milk chocolate, but dark and white chocolate too.
4. Belgian Waffles
First, you need to know that there are two types of Belgian waffle. First, there is the Brussels waffle, the one that everybody knows. It is rectangular, has small but deep holes and is very light. The perfect Brussles waffle crackles when you bite into it, and you can have it topped with just about anything you can think of.
The second is the Liège waffle. The batter for this one contains big clumps of sugar. But, although the batter is already sweet, you can still have it with any topping you desire, because in Belgium, nothing is too sweet.
5. French Fries with Mayonnaise
These got named wrong during the war. The British wrongly mistook French-speaking Walloons for French soldiers, but it is Belgium that is the kingdom of fries. They have an entire brand of restaurants where they just sell fries and snacks.
These places are called “frituur”, which you can find in even the smallest town. Friday is fries day. The Belgian fries are delicious, made with the best potatoes the country has to offer.
And they are fried not once but twice, and if it is an old-school place, they will be fried in ox or horse fat. “Frieten” is a national dish, and they are proud of it. Add some mayonnaise, and please make sure to add eggs for the best experience.
6. North Sea Prawn Cocktail
Since Belgium lies on the North Sea, that is where they catch their prawns. And how they do it is pretty impressive. They take beautiful, big strong horses into shallow waters to pull giant nets that catch the tiny tasty prawns. It is a lovely sight in some coastal cities during the summer.
The cocktail itself is made with grey prawns, peeled of course, and a cocktail sauce, which is like a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup, but so much better. The cocktail is enjoyed as a starter, but the peeled prawns are often eaten on their own as a snack.
The finisher of the holy Belgian triple menu: first, your shrimp cocktail, then stoofvlees, finished off with a delicious chocolate mousse. Made, of course, from real chocolate, it is very light and airy and often comes in different flavors. It is not uncommon to find dark chocolate mousse but you can also get mousse based on white chocolate. It simply melts in your mouth, whatever color you go for.
A little chicken, some small meatballs, or mushrooms and a creamy sauce packed inside a beautiful light puff pastry— that is a vol-au-vent. This is another must-have dish when in Belgium. The French have it too, and, just like in Belgium, it is called ‘a bite for the queen’.
You can’t have vol-au-vent without the pastry, and it is the taste of the pastry that tells you how good a restaurant really is. Most of the time, it is accompanied with fries and, preferably, a good beer.
9. Brussels Sprouts
In Belgium, this is not just a vegetable: it is an entire meal, especially when you add cubes of bacon to it. It truly is a vegetable that divides the country: half of it adores the little green sprout while the other half can’t even stand the smell. In some countries it is served cold in salads, but for Belgians they are best served warm, especially in winter.
And then the Flemish influence. Just so you know, Flanders is the region in Belgium where they speak Dutch. The rest of Belgium is called Wallonia, where they speak French. Back to the food: Flemish asparagus is served with diced boiled eggs and often eaten as a starter.
The long thin white asparagus is covered in the eggs, warmed butter is poured over, and the whole thing is topped with parsley to give it some color. That is how you eat Belgian asparagus. When asparagus is in season, you will find it in just about every dish on the menu, even in the desserts.
Sitting on the North Sea, it is no wonder mussels are on the menu as a famous main course, eaten, obviously, with fries on the side. It is said you should only eat mussels when there is an R in the month, but these days you can find them year-round.
You will find them boiled in a range of sauces, white wine being the most famous one. But every major city also offers them boiled in their local beer. But don’t that stop you ordering a Belgian beer to enjoy with your meal. Mussels are often served in an all-you-can-eat format, so definitely a win.
12. Rabbit with Prunes
The meat of a rabbit is tender and soft, especially when it has been covered in sauce for many hours, which is how the Belgians get such delıcate rabbit. It is literally cooked in the boiling sauce after being quickly roasted in a pan and doused in fresh cold beer, a dark one or, possibly, an abbey beer. This warm stew is another typical winter dish, but you can of course enjoy it any time on a trip to Belgium.
13. Steak Tartare
Another Belgian classic. This one is definitely great to have on a hot day, fresh from the fridge, of course. It is more than just raw steak, it is an art.
Plus, you have it with French fries on the side. Mustard, mayonnaise, and capers play a significant role as ingredients and will make or break your dish, together with the quality of your steak. So don’t let raw meat scare you off, though be careful which restaurant you ask for it in.
Easy to make and so easy to love. Although not referred to in its name, this comes with a delicious cheese sauce on top, covering the entire dish. As an oven-based meal, it is often baked in winter when temperatures are dropping. It is a great way to make your kids eat their veggies and have some quality time with the family while preparing the dish.
Very often wrongly translated as gingerbread, speculaas biscuits are way more than that. It is for sure is a Belgian tradition and delicacy, no matter what the Dutchmen say. Traditionally, Belgians eat speculaas in December, just before St. Nicholas’ day.
It is a celebration for children and often comes accompanied by sweets. These days you can have speculaas any day of the year, and Lotus is the biggest brand, which is exported worldwide. They go especially well with a good coffee.
16. Blood sausage
Traditionally made during fall, this is now eaten whenever the Belgians get a taste for it. It can be found on menus as a starter or as an hor d’ouvres with a drink and little cubes of apple. It gets sliced, baked in a pan, put on a spoon, and decorated with baked apple cubes.
There is more in the sausage than blood, though it truly does contain pig’s blood (sometimes cow’s). But also some untreated fat, called “smout”, and herbs, plus stuffing and there you have your blood sausage. While it is not a favorite among the youth, for the older generation it is a reminder of the old days.
This is an amazingly delicious Flemish classic. It is also often linked with the city of Ghent, and so people often call it Gentse Waterzooi. It is a kind of stew, but a clear one. Depending on the region, it is made with chicken or fish, though in the bigger restaurants, you can usually choose between the two. Whichever you choose, it will be accompanied by vegetables, potatoes, and cream. Add freshly baked bread, and you can understand why the food in Belgium is always tasty.
People often confuse this with gin, since they both belong to the same family. But the main difference is that jenever is always made from grains. Though like gin, it is a strong alcoholic drink, and you wouldn’t drink it quite like you would a glass of wine; you drink it as a shot.
Jenever comes in every flavor: usual ones like chocolate, pistachio, vanilla, but also some unusual flavors like cactus and cuberdon. You can find these in old, underground small pubs found in every major city where you will find every jenever flavor you can think of. Just make sure you have something to eat before downing some shots.
19. Stoemp and meat
Stoemp is Belgian for mashed potatoes, but there is more to it. Vegetables are mashed with the potatoes, which is a great way to feed your kids their three a day. Very often you’ll find carrot, cabbage, peas, and more mashed with potatoes.
It is very popular to pair ‘stoemp’ with meatballs, or one giant meatball if you like. There is even a chain to be found in the bigger Belgian cities that have stoemp with meatballs their menu. It is not unusual to find it paired with a good traditional sausage either.
The original cuberdons are purple in color and made from natural Arabic gum with raspberry flavoring. In Belgium, people call them little noses since they do have a slight nose shape. They are very sweet, since they are mainly made from sugar, and they are the basis of wars between sellers who claims theirs is best.
They have a hard exterior with a gooey inside and originate from the city of Ghent. These days you can find them in all sorts of colors and even in the supermarkets.