Everyone knows about Belgian chocolates, Belgian waffles and Belgian beer. In addition to boasting some of Europe’s most beautiful historic cities, this little nation in Western Europe can also brag about its extraordinary food scene.
The nation is, for example, home to some of the most famous chocolatiers in the world—such as Godiva, Neuhaus, Côte d’Or and Leonidas—and it’s their pralines and chocolate truffles that have made Belgium the top chocolate producing country.
Another world-famous Belgian food is waffles. While “Belgian waffle” is a popular term in North America and other parts of the world, there is, in fact, no such thing. The waffles made and eaten in Belgium come in several varieties, from the Liège waffle and Brussels waffle (which is what is often regarded as a “Belgian waffle” in other countries) to the syrup waffle and Campine waffle.
Moreover, with more than 1,000 varieties of beer, Belgium can confidently claim to be among the world’s best beer destinations. Particularly the Trappist beers are exquisite—the Trappist brewed at the Westvleteren Abbey has repeatedly won the award for best beer in the world.
Unlike it is often thought, fries—known as frites in French and friet in Dutch—didn’t originate in France, but in Belgium. Every village, town and city in Belgium has one or more “fry shacks”, essentially fast food shops where you can buy a bag of fries and fried meat. The offer of sauces to go with it is usually overwhelming.
These four Belgian food products are definitely the most famous. There are, however, many more that are less-known, yet equally as delicious. Many of those are region or even city-specific and include waterzooi from Ghent, rice cakes from Verviers, couque biscuits from Dinant and jenever from Hasselt.
The two typical Belgian dishes—they might even be considered to be the national dishes—are steak with fries and mussels with fries.
Below, I have compiled a list of my eight favorite traditional Belgian dishes.
8 Delicious Belgian Dishes
Bacon and “Stoemp”
This is a classic dish in many rural regions in Western Europe. Pork is a much-used ingredient in many dishes. What makes this one so typically Belgian is the “stoemp” (pronounced “stoomp” in English). This is a rich variety of mashed potatoes in which other (root) vegetables are mixed. The “stoemp” is this picture is made with potatoes and broccoli.
Sausage and “Stoemp”
Very similar to the dish above, this is a Belgian dish that Belgian natives classify as “farmer’s fare.” It really is the simplest of food—a dish that’s known as bangers and mash in the English-speaking world. Again, this one is Belgian because of the “stoemp”. It’s not just plain mashed potatoes; the “stoemp” depicted here is made with potatoes and carrots.
This popular main dish is basically a rich stew served in a hollow puff pastry and topped with a tiny puff pastry disc. The stew always consists of mushrooms, chicken and small meatballs. Served with a side salad and mashed potatoes, croquettes or fries, vol-au-vent is found on the menu of the vast majority of restaurants in Belgium.
Although croquettes can be seen on menus all over the world, they are particularly popular in Belgium. Most often, it’s the mashed potatoes croquettes that you’ll see listed as a side dish. However, you may also come across the typically Belgian variety of gray shrimp croquettes, which are a popular appetizer. Another common type of croquette in Belgium is the cheese croquette, also offered as an appetizer in many restaurants.
Meatballs with Cherry Sauce
This popular family dish is often served during holidays or celebrations. It doesn’t really need an explanation—it’s actually what its name implies and the picture below shows.
“Pens” with Apple Sauce
Originated a delicacy that was only eaten once or twice a year during major events, fair or celebrations, “pensen” are now a dish that might be eaten all-year round. Not for everyone, this type of dark sausage is made with pork, pig blood and breadcrumbs. It is generally served with a side of apple sauce and a slice of bread. I love it—it’s one of my favorite Belgian dishes on this list.
Bird’s Nest with Tomato Sauce
While perhaps not sounding all too appetizing, a bird’s nest is actually quite a delicious dish. It consists of a hard-boiled egg inside a meatball, which is deep-fried and served with tomato sauce. A very simple, but mouthwatering Belgian dish.
Fries with Flemish Stew
The fries in this dish don’t need an introduction, nor an explanation, anymore, but the Flemish stew might. Flemish stew (carbonade flamande in French and stoofvlees in Dutch) is a traditional stew from Belgium, more specifically Flanders. This hearty stew is made with beef chuncks, onion, mustard, thyme and beer—of course!