Beer, bacon and caramelized onions all come together in this hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Beer. Known as Carbonnade Flamande in Belgium, this slow cooker beef stew is flavored with just the right amount of warming spices! Using a crockpot makes it weeknight easy, especially with my tips!
This past April, I explored the historic city of Bruges in Belgium – and had my first introduction to Carbonnade Flamande! After 10+ days in Paris I was ready for some comfort food, and this Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Beer – or Carbonnade Flamande absolutely hit the spot – and went on my list of dishes to research and make when I got home.
History of Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Beer
Carbonnade Flamande is an old peasant dish and can be found throughout Belgium as well as the northern portion of France that borders Belgium and Germany.
As you might expect their are a number of variations of this this Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Beer – from the type of beer used, to additional spices (in the Alsace region many recipes call for adding a slice of Pain d’epices -a spice bread- to the stew!) to other vegetables being added – Jacques Pepin adds carrots and potatoes to his version.
So, what is a cook to do??
How to Make this Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Beer
- The “keys” to this dish are caramelized onions and using a good beer – one that you enjoy the taste of – and if that means you have to sample one or two to get the right one… well, it’s a tough job and somebody has to do it, right?
- A Belgian ale works but other beers work as well – I used a Samuel Adams Winter Lager but their Fresh as Helles would work beautifully too!
- Cook the bacon in the slow cooker if your slow cooker has a saute function. If it doesn’t, no worries – you can cook the bacon, brown the meat and caramelize the onions in a skillet and then transfer them to the slow cooker.
- Spend the extra time to really caramelize the onions. Tip: you can caramelize the onions a few days before you make the stew or, better yet, make a large batch and freeze them and then just add them to this Slow Cooker Beef Stew.
That’s the color of caramelized onions you want!
Looking for more Stews? Check out these recipes for more winter warmers!
- Chasseur Style Beef Stew
- Chicken Stew with Lemon, potatoes, artichokes and olives
- Cider Vinegar braised chicken with carrots and noodles
- St. Patricks Beef and Guinness Stew
And if you want even more things to make with beer, check out these Helles Herb Parmesan Pretzels !
Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Caramelized Onions and Beer
- 4 slices bacon chopped
- 2 lbs beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup flour
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 3 yellow onions thinly sliced
- 1 12 oz. bottle belgian style ale
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
- Notes: if your crockpot does not have a saute function, use a skillet and transfer the ingredients to the crockpot. Add the bacon to the crockpot and set on the medium saute setting. Cook the bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes.Remove the bacon and set aside. Toss the beef with the flour and season with salt and pepper.Add the beef to the crockpot in batches and brown the beef, keeping the crockpot set to the medium saute setting. Remove the beef as it browns and set aside.After browning all the beef, add the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 - 20 minutes until the onions are soft and caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.Add 1/2 of the beer and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Let reduce for about 4 minutes.Add the remaining ingredients except the bacon. Cook on medium for approximately 3 hours or until the beef is tender when pierced with a fork. Add the bacon and taste, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Serve over noodles, rice or with a side of bread to sop up the sauce.
- The true "key" to this dish is to use a good beer - one that you enjoy the taste of. A nice belgian ale works nicely here, but others beers work as well - I used a Samuel Adams Winter Lager but their Fresh as Helles would work beautifully too!
- Secondly, spend the extra time to really caramelize the onions. Tip: you can caramelize the onions a few days before you make the stew or, better yet, make a large batch and freeze them and then just add them to the stew!