Filled with rich sauces, succulent seafood and velvety textures, Belgian cuisine brings great depth and flavor to European cuisine.
Internationally known for its mouth-watering chocolates and rich beers, there’s more to this beloved food than meets the eye.
Belgian cuisine has an incredible range of influences, creating a cuisine that offers both luxurious, delicate flavors and wholesome, hearty dishes.
1 fry or frites fries
Fries (frites in French or freten in Flemish ) are essentially the unofficial national dish of Belgium.
The Belgian secret to perfect fries is a 2-step process that involves first finding the right potatoes and then double frying these freshly cut potatoes.
To achieve the perfect balance of crispness on the outside and softness on the inside, the soft potatoes are first fried at a low temperature to cook them to a soft consistency on the inside; and second, briefly at high temperatures to crisp the outside.
Locals usually dip their fries in mayonnaise instead of ketchup and believe me, they taste better.
It’s a must-try and can easily be found at any restaurant, cafe, bar or street food truck (freeterie) in Belgium.
But remember not to call them ‘French fries’, as there is much debate between the Belgians and the French over who invented fries!
2 – Musselen-friet – steamed mussels and fries
Mosselen-friet is a delicious dish consisting of fried mussels. This unique combination is an easily accessible Belgian classic.
Belgian mussels typically come from the North Sea, giving them a fresh and silky taste. They are cooked in many flavors including garlic cream, mustard sauce, traditional beer or classic vegetable broth.
For Belgians, the most popular and common way to cook mussels is ‘Moules marinière’, which is mussels with white wine, shallots, parsley and butter.
Dipping the fries in the leftover broth/sauce is the perfect way to eat this dish!
3 – Waterzooey – Chicken or fish stew
Originating from the city of Ghent, waterzoo is a savory stew of chicken or fish, carrots, onions, celeriac, leeks, potatoes and herbs.
The ingredients are stewed in cream and thick vegetable broth, and topped with an egg yolk.
Waterzoo was originally made from fish, but today is often made with chicken.
This warm, creamy water-based stew is the ideal solution for a cold winter’s day.
4 – Gray Shrimp Croquettes
A Belgian delicacy, this seafood dish is made from gray prawns called ‘purus’.
These tender prawns are native to the Flemish Sea and are known as the “caviar of the North Sea”.
These sweet gray shrimp are harvested by fishermen on horseback off the coast of Belgium.
The excellent taste of these prawns makes it a pleasure to try.
Coated in crunchy breadcrumbs, gray shrimp croquettes are a very popular snack option in Belgium.
5 – Tomat Grije meets Garnalen – Tomatoes stuffed with prawns
Another fresh and acidic seafood dish made with gray shrimp is Tomat mate grije Garnalen.
This Belgian staple combines tender shrimp with mayonnaise dressing and salad. The mixture is then stuffed into cold juicy tomatoes.
It can occasionally be served with a ripe, green salad on the side.
Although it’s made with just three ingredients, this dish is light, juicy, and makes a great appetizer for any meal!
6 – American Filet – Steak Tartare
Steak tartare is locally called Filet américain, which literally translates to American filet of beef.
Steak tartare or filet American consists of finely chopped, pounded or ground raw lean beef, mixed with onions and spices and topped with egg yolk.
In Belgium, steak tartare forms a large part of the beloved ‘martino’ sandwich. This hearty sandwich is made with martino sauce (which usually contains Tabasco, mustard, ketchup, and mayo), onion, pickles, and lettuce.
Like other dishes in Belgian cuisine, steak tartare is usually eaten with a side of fries and enjoyed with a pint of beer.
Originally a French dish, steak tartare was recreated in a unique way in 1926 by Joseph Niels, a family restaurant owner who passed the recipe down to his grandchildren before it became an iconic Belgian dish.
7 – Anguilles au vert – Eel in green sauce
Anguilles au Vert translates to ‘eel in the green’ in English. This hearty Belgian seafood dish is one of the country’s delicacies.
Eel is a very tasty fish, with a similar texture to chicken. The dish consists of stewed eel cooked in a thick green sauce.
The color of the sauce comes from green herbs such as parsley, watercress and basil, which are added throughout the cooking process. It is often served with fries.
The dish has a humble history when local fishermen in Antwerp used to catch eels in the river Scheldt, then prepare them in whatever herbs they had available.
However, today this unique food is a Belgian delicacy and can be found in some of the best restaurants in Belgium.
8 – Carbonades Flamonds – Flemish Beef Stew
Carbonnade à la flamande (in French) or Stoofvlees (in Flemish) means “stewed meat”. This rich meat stew is made by slowly simmering beef in Belgium beer in a thick sauce with bread, mustard, onion and various spices.
The stew may include vegetables such as mushrooms and is often garnished with garlic. While most beef stews are prepared with wine, this Belgian stew is thickened with beer. This is the secret ingredient and it is what makes this rich dish so rich and comforting.
Carbonade à la Flamande pairs well with fries, bread or rice.
9 – Poulet-Frites-Compote – Chicken with fries and apple sauce
Belgians enjoy mixing sweet and savory. This beloved Belgian staple is made with three simple yet tasty ingredients and is a dish you will surely love.
Poulet-frites-compote is, as the name suggests, a chicken, fries and apple dish. Beautifully simple, what’s not to love about one of Belgium’s de facto comfort foods?
The contrast between spicy chicken, salty fries and spicy, sweet cinnamon-flavored apples is a real treat.
10 – Stoemp – Creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables
A beloved dish from Flanders, northern Belgium, stomp is a dish consisting of creamy mashed potatoes mixed with earthy root vegetables such as carrots, sprouts, leeks, onions, shallots and celery cooked in cream or milk.
The mashed potato mixture also contains butter and eggs, giving it a thick, satisfying texture.
It is usually served with fried bacon, sausage, minced beef or a fried egg. It can also accompany a juicy steak or tenderloin cut.
11 – Kriken in Frikadelon Cherry Sauce – meets meatballs
Frikadellen met krieken is a very attractive dish of meatballs in cherry sauce. Originating in the region of Antwerp, this is a fantastic dish that is actually unknown to many Belgians outside of the region.
Frikadelen met kriken is a typical example of Belgian cuisine that often combines sweet and savory flavors. The saltiness of the meatballs pairs perfectly with the sour-sweetness of the sour cherries and syrup.
Commonly served at city fairs, festivals or family gatherings, this dish can be eaten as a main course or dessert.
12 – Konijn meets Prumen – Rabbit with Prunes
Konijn met Pruimen is a Flemish dish that dates back to the early 1900s, when rabbit meat was used as a source of protein by the poorer population of the region.
Traditionally, in addition to being affordable and easy to raise, rabbit meat was also seen as tasty, light and healthy meat.
Over time, this traditional dish has been refined into a special dish that is mainly cooked on special occasions.
The original style of this dish combines rabbit and prunes to add sweetness to this savory dish. It is often served alongside croquettes.
However, the most common style of this dish is wörtelstoemp, which is a simple version that uses only carrots in mashed potatoes.