You’re probably familiar with cooking with wine, even if you’ve never tried it yourself. But did you know that beer is an incredibly versatile ingredient for cooking, too? As with wine, beer comes in a vast variety of styles, flavors and densities – and, when used correctly, it can enhance the different flavors of a recipe.
The best part about cooking with beer is you can use it in just about any cooking style — marinating, simmering, braising, basting, poaching, steaming, roasting, frying, grilling – you name it! For example, if you add beer to a stew, sauce or chili, it will taste like you’ve simmered it for hours. And if you add it to a batter for deep frying, your fried food will come out perfectly crisp and airy. When used as a marinade, it can break down the tough muscle fibers in meat to keep it tender and juicy. You can even use beer in dessert recipes and baked goods!
If you’re ready to start creating some beersome new recipes (see what we did there?), then read on for some inspiring ideas!
Cooking With Beer: 20 Delicious Recipes to Try
From delicious appetizers to rich desserts, these recipes will have you well on your way to cooking like a professional beer chef! But first, a word on choosing the right beer.
How to Choose the Right Beer for Cooking
It’s helpful to understand a bit about beer styles before you jump right in. Rule No. 1: only cook with beer you like. However, don’t be afraid to cook with an unfamiliar beer style. For example, if you don’t drink chocolate stouts, but you’re making beef chili, adding a chocolate stout will enrich your chili in ways you might not have imagined.
In general, choose lighter, less bitter styles such as wheat beers and pilsners for more delicate recipes using seafood and chicken. Choose heartier ales, stouts and porters in more robust dishes such as beef and game (more on beer, game, and other meat cuts can be found here). Avoid bitter or unusually flavored beers such as India pale ales (IPAs) or fruit beers unless you’re going for a certain flavor profile.
You also don’t have to drink the same style of beer you use in a recipe, so if you love IPAs, sip away as you stir that chili! CraftBeer.com has a comprehensive list that explains different beer styles, and BeerAdvocate.com has a list where you can search for specific beers by style or name.
Starters and Dips
You’ve probably sampled beer cheese soup or beer-battered onion rings, but now you can make them at home! Here are just a few ways to use beer to kick off your meal or party.
Beer Cheese Soup
This recipe is a little more flavorful than simpler beer cheese soup recipes, but the extra ingredients make a difference. This beer cheese soup uses carrots, leeks, celery and garlic, along with an English-style bitter ale and sharp cheddar cheese. If you don’t have an English-style bitter (sometimes labeled “ESB”) on hand, you can substitute a dark lager, bock, brown ale or another non-hoppy beer. Redhook ESB, Fuller’s ESB and Shipyard Brewing Old Thumper would be perfect. (By the way, despite the name English-style bitter, ESBs are not bitter or considered highly hopped like an IPA or American pale ale.)
Creamy Triple Mushroom Doppelbock Lager Soup
Beer cheese soups aren’t the only soups where beer is the star ingredient. Doppelbocks are malty, toasty German lagers and they work perfectly in this earthy, savory mushroom soup recipe. Sam Adams Double Bock, Salvatore Doppel Bock from Paulaner or Spaten Optimator are good choices.
Beer Battered Onion Rings
Beer’s natural carbonation makes it an excellent ingredient in batters because it helps the food inside cook faster, reducing the risk of overcooking. It also helps keep the batter light and crisp as opposed to chewy or mushy. This onion ring recipe calls for club soda and beer, but feel free to eliminate the club soda and use more beer in its place. A highly carbonated pilsner, light lager or wheat beer works best for fried food batter. Pilsner Urquell is a classic pilsner, but Lagunitas PILS from Lagunitas Brewing Co. or Bear Republic’s Double Aught work equally well.
Beer Caramelized Onion Dip
What happens when you combine onions, cream cheese, sour cream, swiss cheese, Gruyere and sharp white cheddar with bacon and beer for your next gathering? A stampede! This delectable beer onion dip recipe calls for caramelizing onions in butter and brown sugar, then adding an IPA. Combine this with the cheeses and other ingredients and bake it in the oven. If you don’t have an IPA, use another hoppy style beer such as an American pale ale. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Dale’s Pale Ale are widely available options.
Bacon and beer are a match made in heaven. This simple recipe uses only three ingredients: beer, brown sugar and a Dogfish Head Chicory Stout. If you can’t find a chicory stout, excellent alternatives are pecan or maple-flavored beers such as Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter and Funky Buddha Brewing Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.
Soft Beer Pretzel Nuggets
Soft pretzels and beer are another quintessential match, and in this recipe, you get to combine both. Beer works well in baking because it acts as a natural leavening agent, helping dough rise and become airy. This pretzel nugget recipe calls for an amber ale, so Fat Tire Amber Ale, Bell’s Brewery Amber Ale or Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale are good options.
You can substitute beer for a liquid in just about any dish, including wine. The possibilities are almost endless, but here are a few examples of how you can incorporate beer into your main course.
Instant Pot Pulled Pork with Radish Jalapeno Slaw
This flavorful single-pot meal uses jalapeno pepper, radishes, hot smoked paprika and ancho chili powder for kick and a golden ale for balance. Look for a Belgian golden ale such as Duvel Belgian Gold Ale. Wheat beers and blonde ales work well too. This recipe also calls for a some slicing and dicing, so be sure to have a sharp chef’s knife ready to put those knife skills to work.
Amber Ale Fried Chicken and Waffles
Fried chicken and waffles are showing up on menus across America. This down-home comfort dish receives an upgrade with an overnight marinade using an amber ale such as Bell’s Brewery Amber Ale, Fat Tire Amber Ale or Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. The recipe doesn’t include instructions for waffles, so if you need a waffle recipe, click here.
Swap your boring Thanksgiving turkey with a beer and butter basting sauce – and enjoy it any time of year! This super easy recipe suggests a pale ale, so look for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Doggie Style from Flying Dog Brewing, Mosaic Promise from Founders Brewing or Goose Green Line Pale Ale from Goose Island Beer Co. If you need some tips for slicing that baby up, then check out this F.N. Sharp guide to carving that turkey!
Beer Can Chicken
No beer recipe list would be complete without Beer Can Chicken! This fun recipe uses an open can of beer inside the body of a chicken, which props it up and allows the beer to steam the meat from the inside. The result is tender, moist, savory chicken. This recipe says to use a cheap beer — and you could choose any old beer such as a Budweiser, but you’d be wasting an opportunity to get creative. Beer Can Chicken begs for a fruit beer such as Pyramid Apricot Ale, almost any Belgian beer, a nut-flavored beer such as Nut Brown Ale from AleSmith Brewing Company or a citrusy IPA like Stone Brewing’s Tangerine Express IPA. This is the time to choose a beer you like to drink! And when it comes time to serve this delicious bird, be sure to check out these F.N. Sharp tips for cutting up a whole chicken so you don’t waste any of that juicy meat!
Bratwurst or other German-style sausage simmered in beer is another must on any beer recipe list! You’ll find some recipes call for simmering uncooked bratwurst in beer and then finishing them on the grill. Others say to grill the brats first, then simmer in beer after. If it’s not grilling weather, try this stovetop option, which sears the brats in an iron skillet, then simmers them in a beer bath. Regardless of the recipe you choose, uncooked brats are best and a traditional German bock or dark lager such as a Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer, 1554 from New Belgian Brewing, Negra Modelo or Shiner Bock is a great choice.
Beersamic Glazed Citrus Salmon
Beer isn’t just for cooking meats — it makes a tasty ingredient in seafood recipes, too. This healthy, delicious salmon recipe calls for fresh oranges and limes and a “beersamic” reduction. Beersamic is a flavor-laden reduction sauce you can make ahead and drizzle on a variety of foods, including meat, cheese, veggies and fruits. You’ll want a rich, malty beer such as a Belgian quad like Abt 12 from St. Bernardus. A Scotch or Scottish ale like Claymore from Great Divide Brewing, Wee Heavy from AleSmith or Sam Adams Scotch Ale will work well too.
Lick Your Fingers Beer, Butter & Garlic Crab Legs
Beer makes a fantastic liquid for crab boils. Alaskan jumbo snow crab legs are the star in this dish, which are boiled in beer and smothered in a rich, savory butter sauce. For a more traditional crab boil that includes sausage, corn and potatoes, check out this Crab Boil with Beer and Old Bay recipe. Your best beer choices are a pilsner, a blonde ale or any non-hoppy beer.
Beer-Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak
As we mentioned earlier, beer breaks down tough muscle fibers and infuses meat with flavor when used as a marinade. Next time you’re making fajitas, try this grilled skirt steak recipe which uses beer in the marinade. If you want to stick with a Mexican flavor profile, use Tecate, Modelo Especial or Numero Uno from Flying Dog Brewing.
Lager Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
Good ol’ comfort dish mac-n-cheese has enjoyed an upgrade in recent years, and you’ll see all sorts of gourmet renditions on top restaurant menus. This decadent, creamy version takes it to the top with fresh lobster, Gruyere and white cheddar cheese. If you can’t find lobster, you can substitute shrimp or crab. For the beer, use a crisp lager such as Cigar City Tampa-style Lager or Firestone Walker Lager. A German-style Kölsch beer would work well too, which tend to show up on shelves more often during the summer months. Try Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Summer Ale or Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Travelin’ Light Kolsch.
Just because most beers aren’t sweet like wines, don’t hesitate to use them in dessert recipes. Chocolate stouts, pumpkin ales, fruity IPAs and even crème brulee-flavored beers are just a few you’ll find in desserts. Here are a few different recipes to try.
Beer Ice Cream with Espresso, Walnut, Brownies and Coconut
Not your run-of-the-mill chocolate ice cream, this luscious recipe uses unsweetened cocoa powder, a malty beer and brownie bites to jazz things up. Or make this Chocolate Stout Ice Cream and Spiced Oatmeal Cake if you want to impress your guests. Look for chocolatey stouts such as Great Divide Mexican Chocolate Yeti, Organic Chocolate Stout from Samuel Smith or Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout from Terrapin Beer Co.
Strawberry Pineapple Pale Ale Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
You might think a marriage of pineapple and beer unusual, but pineapples have been finding their way into beers in recent years. Beer is a terrific baking ingredient because it acts as a natural rising agent, creating light, airy batter. This crowd-pleaser dessert calls for beers such as Ballast Point Pineapple Sculpin, Terrapin Brewing Panama Krunkles Pineapple-Papaya IPA, Maui Brewing Co. Pineapple Mana Wheat or Pine’Hop’Le Pineapple IPA from Evolution Craft Brewing Co. It also calls for fresh pineapple, so make sure you have a sharp knife on hand! We prefer the boning knife since its thin, semi-flexible blade can remove the bark without sacrificing any of that sweet pineapple.
Fudgy Guinness Brownies
If you’re a brownie lover, then you may have enjoyed all sorts of brownies – traditional fudge brownies, devil’s food brownies, peanut butter brownies, salted caramel brownies, blonde brownies, cheesecake brownies, and even cookie brownies (brookies), but have you ever tried brownies made with…Guinness? If not, then this F.N. Sharp recipe for Fudgy Guinness Brownies may just be your new favorite!
Summer Shandy Cupcakes
If you need a dessert to take to an outdoor picnic, check out these cupcakes that use a refreshing beer style called Summer Shandy. You can make it yourself using a light pilsner and lemonade or buy it already blended. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is widely available.
Beer Infused S’mores
Camping and beer go hand in hand, so why not combine your favorite campfire dessert with beer? This recipe requires a baking dish, but you could probably get away with a Dutch oven over coals if you’re far from an oven. Use a hearty chocolate stout like the ones listed above or 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout from Breckenridge Brewery.
So there you have it – 20 recipes to try cooking with beer! And if you’re more into cooking with wine, then check out these recipe ideas!