Belgian Meatballs (Boulets à la Liégeoise)

Boulets à la Liégeoise

Recipe by Justin Bunch | Image by Marianne Casamance (Wikipedia)Course: MainCuisine: Belgium – LiègeDifficulty: Tedious


Prep time


Cooking time



Boulets à la Liégeoise is one of the national dishes of Belgium and can be found in restaurants all over the country. Though the recipe is for meatballs, the heart of the recipe is the sweet-savory sauce made from fruit syrup, caramelized onions, vinegar and a variety of other flavors. The traditional recipe comes from the city of Liège on the Maas River near the border with both Germany and the Netherlands. In the 19th century, the region was known for its fruit orchards, which produced a syrup by boiling unsold apples and pears into a thick paste. Known as Sirop de Liège, it is essentially apple butter, but includes other fruit as well. Combining the sweet fruit syrup with onions and vinegar creates a fantastic sweet sauce with the slight acidity provided by the vinegar and broth. The challenge is preparing the sauce with minimal cooking time, as it will quickly loose its fruit flavor when boiling.


  • Meatballs
  • 500g Ground Beef

  • 500g Ground Pork

  • 100g Breadcrumbs

  • 10ml milk

  • 1 Onion Very Finely Chopped

  • 1 bunch of parsley

  • 2 large eggs

  • Flour

  • Salt & Pepper

  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg

  • Butter for Frying

  • French Herb Mix (Optional)

  • Sauce
  • 3 Onions Sliced Thickly

  • 2 tsp dried thyme

  • 3 tbs dark Muscovado Sugar

  • 1 tbs Red Wine Vinegar

  • 1L Liquid (333 ml Dark Beer & 666 ml Beef Stock)

  • 250ml Syrup de Liège (Similar to Apple Butter)

  • 4 Cloves (Optional)

  • 6 Juniper Berries (Optional)

  • 2 Bay Leaves

  • Salt & Pepper

  • Raisins


  • Sauce
  • Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter to the skillet.
  • Add the chopped onions and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until onions are caramelized.
  • Add the brown sugar and thyme, stir and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the flour, stir to combine.
  • Add the raisins, Syrup de Liège (apple butter) and vinegar and stir.
  • Set the sauce aside
  • Meatballs
  • Preheat your oven to 180 C and lightly grease a roasting tray with beef drippings.
  • Put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl and, using your hands, combine well.
  • Measure out 10-12 meatballs weighing approximately 120g (1/2 Cup) each and place onto the roasting tray.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes depending how big you make them
  • Meanwhile bring the broth to a boil with the beer, juniper berries, cloves and bay leaves.
  • When the Meatballs are done, add the meatballs to the broth and cook for 10 minutes and heat through.
  • Pour the sauce into the broth with the meatballs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and set aside.
  • Serve immediately with pomme frites {French fries} and Belgian beer or wine.


  • There are endless variations to the recipe. This is based on my own experiments to get the most out of the sauce, which otherwise looses much of its flavor through boiling. Traditionally though, the meatballs are seared rather than baked, and then finished by boiling them in the sauce. The issue though, is that these meatballs are traditionally quite large, so you have to boil them for a long time to cook through, which removes most of the flavor from the sauce.
  • I prefer the flavors added by the caramelized onions, but this part can be skipped without missing anything.

Learn more about the regional foods of the Region

Traditional Foods of the Mosan Valley

From Belgian cuisine, the many regional specialties of Wallonia are less well-known. The Maas Valley merges the well-known traditions of Belgium with the realities of the landscape and the traditions of its aristocratic court.

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