Beef Carbonnade

Beef Carbonnade is the heart-warming, deeply satisfying Belgian stew that hits just the right spot in winter. Instead of using wine as the braising liquid, which is so often the case with beef stews, it uses beer - a nice dark ale of some kind - Belgian if you have it.

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Other than the beef and the beer, the other main ingredients in this stew are caramelized onions, brown sugar and vinegar. The onions bring the depth of flavor, while the sugar and vinegar provide a sweet and sour combination to brighten things up a little and make it interesting. 

The first step in making this delicious stew is to get the right cut of meat. My picks for this dish are the chuck or shoulder roast, or a round roast. These cuts are full of flavor and relatively inexpensive, but tend to be tough. The pressure cooker is going to make them as tender as can be, so save money on the beef you buy and go for those typically tough cuts. Start by slicing the roast into slices that are about ½-inch thick.

This recipe suggests browning the beef on the stovetop in a large sauté pan and I highly recommend this step. While you could brown the beef in the pressure cooker using the brown setting, it will take you much longer because you’ll have to brown the beef in so many batches with the small surface area of the cooker. Plus you’re already cooking bacon in the cooker so make use of that time and start browning the beef elsewhere. If you don’t have that option, just relax, pour yourself a glass of wine and be prepared to do several batches in your cooker. (Don’t worry you can still pour yourself a glass of wine if you’re browning on the stovetop too!)

Once the beef is browned, you will have to spend some time caramelizing the onions as well. This is another important step with regards to flavor so try not to rush it. This is the last step that will take any time at all – once that is done, you just have to mix all the ingredients together and set the timer for a quick 15 minutes.

When it does come time to add the ingredients to the cooker, you don’t have to layer the beef and onions in the pot, but I think it helps spread the flavor around better and makes it much easier to spoon the dish out when it has finished cooking. Once the beer and stock have been poured into the cooker, the last step is an interesting one – lay mustard coated bread slices on top. This might perplex you a little, but what this serves to do is help to thicken the braising liquid and if you’re going to add bread to thicken, why not add a good dose of Dijon mustard along with it. The bread will break down in the cooker and help thicken the sauce as it cools after a natural pressure release.

One thing this stew doesn’t have the most other stews do is a whole lot of vegetables, so be prepared to serve this over some egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice to mop up the sauce, and perhaps a simple green salad with vinaigrette on the side. Oh.. and you can refill your wine glass too!


Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

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How to Caramelize Onions

Caramelizing onions is not hard but it does take some time. They are great to have on hand to add...View Technique

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Beef Carbonnade

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Cook Time: 15 m
  • Pressure Release: 10 m
  • Total Time: 45 m
  • Servings:


  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 3 pounds beef shoulder or round sliced into ½-inch slices
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 white onions sliced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 12 ounces Belgian dark brown ale
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme plus more for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 slices white bread crusts removed


  1. Pre-heat the pressure cooker using the BROWN setting and heat a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. While the bacon is cooking, sear the beef slices in the skillet on the stovetop, seasoning with salt and pepper. Brown the beef in batches and then remove to a side plate.
  4. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until they start to brown. Stir in the brown sugar and caramelize the onions a little longer. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar, scraping up any brown bits that form on the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.
  5. Layer the beef and onions in the pressure cooker. Pour in the beer and beef stock and add the thyme and bay leaf.
  6. Spread the Dijon mustard on the bread slices and lay the bread slices on top of the beef and onion mixture, mustard side down. Lock the lid in place.
  7. Pressure cook on HIGH for 15 minutes.
  8. Let the pressure drop NATURALLY and carefully remove the lid. Stir to break up the bread, which will help to thicken the braising liquid a little. Return the cooked bacon to the stew and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes, using a few thyme sprigs for garnish.
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Comments (21)Post a Reply

    1. Hi Darlene. You could use a Dutch oven on the stovetop for this recipe. You’ll need to increase the cooking time to about 1½ to 2 hours and watch your cooking liquid – you might need a little more.

  1. 5 stars
    Took the pressure cooker out, haven’t used it for over a year. Seared the meat and caramelized the onions combined as stated. The bread I used was the left over Soda bread from last week with the Dejon mustard. Wow, what great flavor. Put them over homemade noodles from my KAid. I need to more practice using the pasta press.

  2. 5 stars
    I was going to make Guinness Beef Stew but then I saw this recipe which intrigued me. Made it for my family this evening. They loved it. I used the stewing beef and boneless short ribs and chuck steak already purchased instead of beef shoulder or round, s exact it didn’t come out exactly like your photo, but it was wonderful just the same. I will make it again with the meat in the recipe. The flavor was there, so very good and meat was tender as could be. My sister, who loathes beef stew, or any beef dish actually, raved about this dish. Served it over lightly buttered and peppered wide noodles. I will take a picture and repost when I make this again with the exact recipe. Meredith, this is now the 4th recipe of yours I have tried, and I’m batting a thousand. In all my experience, your recipes are the only ones I haven’t had to “doctor up.” You are precise, and the recipes are easy to follow with inexpensive, simple, down-home ingredients. Thank you so much! Best regards!

    1. Hi Debra. In a pinch, any beer could be used. As long as you like the flavor, you’ll be good to go. Belgian dark brown ale does have a rich and distinct flavor, but it’s more important that YOU like the flavor. A red ale would be the first substitute, but go with your gut (or what you have in the fridge!).

    1. Hi Jo. My go-to store-bought beef and chicken stock is the Kitchen Basics® brand. They make a great product, in my opinion.

  3. I think I’m missing something. The stew looks like it’s cut up.. Do the slices of brown beef break down that much or do I need to cube then?

  4. What is an alternative thickening option? My husband is gluten-free so bread is not an option for him. I’m not even sure GF bread would work because it’s probably the gluten in the bread that does the thickening right?

    1. You can use cornstarch or arrowroot starch to thicken the stew. Combine 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water to make a slurry. Add it gradually at the end and bring to a boil to thicken to the desired consistency. You can stir the mustard right into the stew for flavor.

    1. If cooking in the pressure cooker, I’d go for bottom round. It is tougher, but more flavorful. Top round, conversely is leaner but less flavor.

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for this recipe. I don’t drink alcohol – but will get the dark ale for this recipe. Can’t wait to make it. I have a 10 quart XL Power Pressure cooker and use it all of the time. Thanks again.

  6. Made this as per your directions, even caramelized onion with parchment, and DAGGONE GOOD!! Yes the Dijon bread made me go what the heck, but added flavor & substance. Used only beef broth. Really good recipe Meredith, thanks for posting.

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