Belgium is known for making the best chocolates and waffles in the world. But, if you think there are only two Belgian desserts, think again.
If a country is most famous for their chocolate, it must know the game of making a perfect dessert. That’s why Belgian desserts are a must-try even if you are not a fan of sweet treats.
What’s Special About Belgian Desserts?
Belgian desserts stand out for their high-quality ingredients and artful preparations that delicately balance sweet and rich flavors. In addition to lots of chocolates and waffles, Belgian cuisine also features many traditional cakes, cookies and ice creams. Chefs incorporation French techniques yet let premium foods shine, from eggs and cream from local pastures to Belgium’s sea salt caramel.
Drawing from French and Dutch culinary influences while using top local products, Belgian pastry chefs have honed desserts that delicately indulge the senses. These thoughtfully crafted treats offer bliss for the sweet-toothed. Along with exceptional flavor, Belgian sweets and desserts are often pretty to look at too.
Most Famous Belgian Dessert
Gaufres de Bruxelles (Brussels Waffles)
Belgian waffles are undoubtedly the best waffles in the world. Among the variety of Belgian desserts, Brussels waffles are the most popular.
The ingredients are the same as any regular waffle. But, they have a wonderful light, airy texture, and at the same time, they are surprisingly crispy.
With a perfect rectangular shape, Brussels waffles are easily recognizable. They are extra deep too. This means they can hold more toppings and syrup than normal waffles, so you can add as many toppings as you like.
They are served plain or dusted with powdered sugar. You can traditionally eat Brussels waffles with your hands.
Gaufres de Liège (Liège Waffles)
Waffles are the most famous Belgian desserts. There are many varieties depending on which region of Belgium you’re in. After Brussels waffles, Liège waffles are the most popular.
The recipe uses thick brioche bread dough for a denser and chewier waffle. Pearl sugar is added to give it some sweet and crispy caramelization. It also makes the Liège waffles browner.
According to many natives, Liège waffles are way better than any other variety. Although there are many topping options, they are good enough to be eaten plain, even without syrup. The best thing about these waffles is that you can enjoy them even after they’ve gone cold.
Stroopwafel (Belgian Syrup Waffle)
A stroopwafel is not an actual waffle but a thin waffle cookie. These cookies consist of two layers of baked dough held together by sweet caramel filling.
The dough is a mixture of flour, brown sugar, butter, yeast, milk and eggs. Small round dough balls are pressed in a hot waffle iron until golden and crisp.
Bakers use a cookie cutter to cut the edges of stroopwafels, to separate the top and bottom wafers easily. The caramel filling, consisting of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, is evenly spread on the wafers before they are reassembled. As the caramel cools down, it acts as a glue for the wafers and adds a sweet, crunchy flavor.
Belgian Chocolate Desserts
Belgian chocolate is not an actual dessert, but without mentioning it, this list would be incomplete. Belgian chocolate is prepared with superior-quality cocoa beans, which are carefully grounded to produce an excellent and velvety texture.
Belgians are chocolate-loving people, so you will see a lot of chocolate food items here. Many natives have chocolate with their morning coffee.
It is an interesting Belgian fact that this little kingdom produces tons of chocolates every year and proudly boasts about 2,000 chocolatiers. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll have the time of your life exploring the delicious Belgium chocolate varieties. Furthermore, many traditional Belgian desserts count on chocolate as their main ingredient.
Belgian Hot Chocolate
After coffee, hot chocolate is the most demanded beverage of winter. When you’re in Belgium, there is no chance you can skip it. Hot chocolate is not any ordinary drink here because it contains the world’s best chocolate.
In Belgium, hot chocolate is treated as a sweet drink dessert and is also called “drinking chocolate.” It is a whole new experience for someone who hasn’t tried it before.
The authentic Belgian hot chocolate is made with milk, two different solid chocolates, cinnamon and some salt. It is thicker and less sweet than other hot chocolates. It is served hot with whipped cream and topped with chocolate curls.
Belgian Chocolate Cake
Belgium is known for producing the best chocolate, so it’s no surprise to find this ingredient in its cakes. Chocolate cakes are famous Belgian desserts, equally loved by natives and foreigners. You might have tried Belgian chocolate cake from somewhere else, but it can’t beat the taste of the authentic version.
These cakes are usually prepared with rich, dark chocolate and a moist buttery sponge. They are often layered with chocolate ganache filling, iced with fresh whipped cream and topped with berries. It is a perfect Belgian dessert for chocolate lovers.
Belgian Pancakes And Pastries
Pannenkoeken (Belgian Pancakes)
Belgium might be famous for its waffles and chocolate, but Belgian pancakes are not any less for it. These killer pancakes are very different from American pancakes. They are much thinner, bigger and look more like crepes.
These Belgian pancakes are prepared with a buckwheat or flour batter, eggs, milk and salt. Although they are thin, their rich and buttery flavor makes them taste like pancakes. They have a light and airy texture and pair perfectly with berries and powdered sugar.
What’s great about this Belgium dessert is the fact that you can customize it. Make it sweet with raisins, apples or candied ginger or turn it into a savory dish with a topping of bacon, smoked salmon or cheese. The final touch is a sweet syrup to drizzle over it.
Mattentaart (Puff Pastry Pie)
Mattentaarts are small, round puff pastries or tarts, with a historical origin in Geraardsbergen. These pies are among the most incredible Belgian desserts and the pride of the people living in the area.
Genuine mattentaarts cannot be prepared with anything less than fresh dairy produce from local farms. Their production completely depends on the milk, butter and buttermilk produced by farmers in Geraardsbergen and neighboring Lierde. Therefore, they are the specialty of this city and can only be made in this specific region.
This Belgian dessert is tender and has a buttery flavor. It has a light and airy filling of cheese curd called mattenbrij. With each bite, the creamy cheese curd contrasts perfectly with the flaky puff pastry.
Chausson Aux Pommes Or Appelflappen (Apple Turnovers)
Chausson aux pommes or appelflappen is among the most famous Belgian desserts and a comfort food for many locals. They are one of the popular street food snacks and breakfasts in Belgium.
Like most traditional sweet dishes, appelflappen uses the finest quality butter. It features a succulent filling of apples, cinnamon, almond paste and raisins. The apples become sweet and gooey when the puff pastries are baked in the oven.
These warm and puffy Belgian pastries are further covered in a sweet glaze of vanilla and powdered sugar. Locals love to have coffee with this heavenly dessert.
Belgian Candies And Sweets
Cuberdon (Belgian Candy)
Cuberdons are one of the many Belgian desserts that depict the local’s strong love for sweet delights. These well-known cone-shaped candies feature a hard layer on the outside and a semi-liquid syrup inside. Originating in Ghent, cuberdons are sometimes called neusjes or neuzekes due to their resemblance to the human nose.
Raspberry is the most famous and classic flavor. It also gives the Belgian candy its signature and attractive violet color. More recent flavor variations include a wide range of tropical fruits.
The traditional way to eat cuberdon is by biting the tip off, sucking out the syrup and eating the remaining candy. You can also add them to your champagne, vodka or tea cup.
Sneeuwballen (Belgian Vanilla Sweets)
Sneeuwballen,which translates to snowball, is an apt name for this Belgian dessert. The original recipe is a secret closely guarded by the Larmuseau brand. The company’s founder, August Larmuseau, created the mouthwatering delight in the early 20th century as an affordable alternative to then-expensive chocolate.
The dessert combines a crispy dark Belgian chocolate shell and soft vanilla cloud filling for an enjoyable and tasty experience. A dusting of powdered sugar gives the dessert its snowball appearance and adds even more sweetness. It is believed that the perfect sneeuwballen should crack and melt into your mouth when you bite into it.
Like the seasonal winter snow, sneeuwballens also have limited availability. You can find them all over the country only from September to March.
Street Food-Style Belgian Desserts
La Dame Blanche (Belgian Sundae)
The literal meaning of la dame blanche is “the white lady.” It is similar to the American sundae. This Belgium dessert is a staple in every restaurant and a popular after-dinner treat in many local households.
It consists of sweet vanilla ice cream with warm molten chocolate. So, la dame blanche is not for someone who doesn’t like rich desserts.
This tantalizing Belgium dessert is always served in a glass. A special buttery and bittersweet warm chocolate sauce is drizzled onto the sundae. It is topped with fresh whipped cream and cherries, and may also be accompanied by a sweet-and-sour kriek lambic beer.
Oliebollen (Belgian Doughnuts)
Oliebollen’s literal translation “oil balls” is not an apt description of what the Belgian doughnut actually is. Also known as dutchies, these deep-fried dough balls are more similar to beignets.
These dreamy doughnuts are made from a batter of sugar, yeast and flour. Traditionally, they are eaten with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. Modern versions include apples, raisins or lemon zest in the batter for a natural fruity flavor or contain a delicious berry filling.
You can enjoy this Belgium dessert with a cup of coffee for a delicious breakfast. Oliebollens are also typically served to celebrate the New Year.
Rum omelet is a classic and unique Belgium dessert. It is a satisfying sweet and creamy egg dish perfect for warming up on a cold Belgian night.
These fluffy omelets are made by whisking eggs, milk or cream, a splash of Belgian rum and a pinch of sugar before frying up a into a thin crepe. As the omelet cooks, the rum adds hints of sweetness and complexity.
It is a beloved comfort food in Belgium, especially in the winter months. Locals may enjoy it after a day out in the frigid weather or during the holiday season for a dose of nostalgic flavor.
Crème Brûlée (Trinity Cream)
Crème brûlée is French for “burnt cream.” The name tells the whole story of this unusual sweet dish.
This Belgium dessert is a rich and creamy vanilla custard with a layer of sugar on the top. The preparation includes the careful burning of the top layer to caramelize it perfectly. This results in a smoky flavor without a burnt appearance or bitter taste.
Its preparation requires special skills, so natives prefer not to prepare it at home. As a result, you can see a lot of restaurants and supermarkets serving this popular dessert in Belgium.
Stofé (Cottage Cheese Pie)
Stofé is the cottage cheese pie from Wavre. It is among the few beloved Belgian desserts that don’t contain cream and chocolate.
This ultimately delicious pie is made using local Belgian cottage cheese. This is combined with meringue, butter and sweet almonds. The mixture is then poured over a bed of apples and baked into a delicious pie.
You can get a similar version of stofé from Jodoigne called blanke doréye. This version substitutes almonds with vanilla.
Tarte Tatin (Caramelized Apple Tart)
Tarte tatin is a famous French upside-down caramelized apple tart. The invention of this succulent dessert is a fascinating tale of culinary accidents.
Legend has it that two sisters ran a hotel and mistakenly served the upside-down apple pie to guests. The dish is named after Stephanie Tatin, who baked the apple tart for the first time. It was an instant hit and is now a popular Belgian dessert and street food.
As the apples are baked upside down, they stay soft, succulent and jammy. The puff pastry baked on the apples becomes crunchy and crispy. The baking dish is flipped over at the last minute to reveal the tempting golden brown baked apples.
Antwerpse Handjes (Hand-Shaped Cookies)
Antwerpse handjes are traditional Belgian cookies formed like a hand. Their unique shape refers to the hand of the giant Antigoon which the Roman soldier Brabo cut off. Now, these cookies are gifted as a symbol of friendship and gratitude.
These Belgian desserts are made with a combination of flour, eggs, butter, sugar and almonds. The dough is shaped into mini hands and then baked till golden. They are buttery and very crunchy to eat.
In Belgium, these biscuits are well-known treats in the city of Antwerp. They are commonly sold in bakeries across the city.
Couque de Dinant (Caramelized Belgian Cookies)
Couque de dinant are a specialty buttery caramelized Belgian cookies originating in the town of Dinant along the River Meuse. Their signature cracks and dark amber sugar crust comes from a precise baking method that has prevailed for centuries.
The local bakers shape dough made from wheat flour and honey into circular balls. Then they are individually shaped and imprinted with different designs like landscapes, flowers and animals. Finally, they are baked in a very hot oven until they are hard and glossy.
Parents give these cookies to teething children and locals serve them on special occasions. Don’t make the mistake of biting into them though. These hard-as-rock cookies are best broken into pieces and allowed to melt in the mouth or dunked into a beverage to soften them.
Speculoos (Ginger Shortbread Cookies)
Speculoos are Belgium’s favorite biscuits to pair with coffee. They were traditionally baked to celebrate St. Nicholas Day, but now Belgians eat them all year round.
The little brown Belgian cookies contain a few spices, namely cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Other ingredients include flour, candy syrup, fat and sugar. The most important ingredient of all is the brown sugar produced from sugar beet called vergeoise.Vergeoise gives a blonde to brown color to speculoos. Along with cinnamon, it also gives these crumbly Belgian cookies a spicy, caramelized and floral aroma. Belgians typically use a wooden mold to shape and imprint these biscuits with a flower, tree, animal or landscape design.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Belgian Desserts
Someone who loves simple and homemade desserts must visit Belgium for its wide range of desserts and sweets. Belgian desserts know no boundaries, as they include delicious snacks, breakfast items and brunch delights.This little country has the most bountiful selection of desserts you can imagine. The list extends from flaky and tender puff pastries to rum omelets, fruity tarts and Belgian chocolate cakes. Be sure to try as many as you can while you take in Belgian landmarks and culture.