Cooking with Beer— Add flavor to your favorite recipes with a splash of brew

Cooking with Beer— Add flavor to your favorite recipes with a splash of brew

If you’re a beer lover, chances are your favorite way to serve beer is straight up in a big, frosty mug. But don’t confine your preferred brew to the cup – many dishes, including stews, soups and yes, even sweets, can be flavored with beer.

The Basics

Why cook with beer? Beer adds a rich, earthy flavor to soups and stews that makes them taste like they’ve been simmering for hours. Beers with a sweet or nutty taste can add depth to desserts. And don’t worry about getting drunk – virtually all of the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process.

While some recipes call specifically for beer, many recipes that call for wine can be prepared with a brew – they’ll come out with a more malty, toasty flavor. Just like wine, you should never cook with a beer that you wouldn’t drink. If you don’t like the flavor in a cup, chances are it won’t appeal to you on a plate.

Different Beers, Different Flavors

Different beers pair well with different foods, so it’s important to learn the taste differences before you hit the kitchen. Beer can be divided into two main groups: ales and lagers. Ale, the original beer, is brewed in a way that results in fruity, earthy flavors. Lagers make use of more modern brewing systems to be lighter and drier. Each type of beer has a distinctly different flavor that pairs well with certain foods. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of several common types and some recipes that use each one.

Four Types of Ale: Wheat Beers, Pale Ale, Stouts and Porter

Wheat Beers

Wheat beers are pale, often unfiltered (thus cloudy), and have fruity, mellow, crisp-edged flavors, well-matched for salads and fish. Wheat beers with spicier flavors can also complement grilled red meats. Look out for “White,” “Wit,” “Weiss,” or “Weizen” on the label –that’ll tell you it’s a wheat beer.

Recipe to Try:
Drunken Cabbage
1/2 pound smoked bacon diced
1 onion thinly sliced
1 head red cabbage cored and sliced
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
3 tablespoons coarse mustard
12 ounces wheat beer
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper

Serving suggestions: serve this hot or cold, as a side for chicken or pork.
In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over low heat. Add the onions and sweat for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and season. Cook until cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Michael Symon

Pale Ale and Bitter

These are classic British ales. Bitter is always served on tap and turns into pale ale once bottled and filtered. Bitter has very little carbonation, and is traditionally served slightly colder than room temperature; its crispness cuts beautifully through rich, fatty meats like game. Pale ale is stronger, with more bracing carbonation, and goes well with everything from bread and cheese to fish and chips.

India Pale Ale (sometimes called IPA) is a stronger, more bitter version of pale ale, crafted in the end of the 18th century specifically to withstand the several-months-long boat journey from Britain to India. While excellent for drinking, IPAs can be too bitter for cooking.

Recipe to Try:
Cheese and Beer Soup with Spicy Popcorn Garnish

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped parsnip
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups rich chicken stock
2 cups amber or pale ale beer
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups grated Cheddar, best quality possible
1 1/2 cups crumbled Stilton cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley leaves, to garnish
Spicy Popcorn, for garnish, recipe follows
Spicy Popcorn:
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/3 cup white popping corn
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon Emeril’s Original Essence, recipe follows
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the popcorn:
Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Melt butter over low heat in a large pot, and then add the onions, celery, and parsnips. Cover and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock and the beer. Add the bay leaves and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil slowly – take caution as the liquid tends to bubble up as it comes to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until flavors come together and the soup has reached a nice consistency, about 1 hour.
Add the heavy cream and stir to combine. Add the cheeses, a little at a time, stirring until nearly melted after each addition. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, taste, adjust seasoning, if necessary. Garnish with the parsley and Spicy Popcorn.
For the popcorn:
In a large, partially covered saucepan heat olive oil with a pinch of cayenne pepper and 1 piece of popping corn until hot enough to make the corn pop. Add the remaining popping corn and cook partially covered, shaking, until all corn is popped. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients until evenly coated.
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup
Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup
Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse


This brew started out in the 1700s as a blend of beers, blended for each individual customer according to his preference. As blending caught on in popularity in both Britain and America, breweries started to create their own proprietary porter blends, thus eliminating the bartender as blending middleman. Porter tastes like a combination of stout and pale ale; it’s less toasty than stout and less bitter than pale ale, and it picks up the flavors in stews especially well.


Stout is what you think of when you think Irish beer. It’s black and dry-tasting, with toasty coffee-and-chocolate flavors, a fluffy-but-solid head and, surprisingly, less alcohol than most other beers. Despite its foreboding appearance, stout brings out the flavors in everything from shellfish to stews. Because of its distinct coffee and chocolate notes, it’s also perfect for blending into rich desserts.

Recipes to Try:
Beef and Guinness Stew


2 pounds stewing beef
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups Guinness
2 cups largely diced carrots
Sprig of fresh thyme
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, and cut into 2-inch cubes. Toss beef with 1 tablespoon of the oil. In a small bowl, season the flour with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss meat with seasoned flour.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Reduce the heat, add the onions, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the skillet, cover, and cook gently for 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a casserole and pour half of the Guinness into the skillet. Bring Guinness to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan. Pour over the meat, along with the remaining Guinness. Add the carrots and thyme. Stir and adjust seasonings. Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat, or in a 300 degree F oven until the meat is tender, 2 to 3 hours.
Garnish the beef with parsley and serve.

Two Basic Lagers: Pilsner and Bock

Pilsner, a crisp, bitter lager, originated in Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. It’s a bright and snappy beer with the appetizing sharpness for grilled sausage and the backbone to stand up to spicy Asian flavors and oily fish.

Bock beers are strong, dark and flavorful, with yeasty, malty flavors. They’ve got a roasty, caramely, barley-based sweetness braced with bitter structure, and are perfect alongside pork and root vegetables. Doppelbock is even stronger, and excellent with bolder cheeses.

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