Hearty rabbit stew recipe with rich, complex flavors and fall-off-the-bone tender meat.
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Best Ways to Cook Rabbit
The mildness of rabbit meat makes it a perfect candidate for partnerships with bolder flavors such as those of tomatoes, anchovies, wild mushrooms, fennel, mustard, olives, dried cherries or cranberries. Extra virgin olive oil, duck fat or bacon are also excellent ingredients to use in conjunction with the lean meat.
And because the meat is quite dry it greatly benefits from cooking methods such as stewing and braising in rich, aromatic liquids.
Of all the braised rabbit and rabbit stew recipes we’ve tried over the years this one – a specialty of the Brussels region, is our favorite.
The Belgians know what they are doing when it comes to cooking comfort food and rabbit is always prepared deliciously. The original recipe of Ruth Van Waerebeek uses a Flanders red-brown ale which is oak cask aged after primary fermentation and adds lovely tart nuances to the dish. You are welcome to try the recipe with Rodenbach Grand Cru or Duchesse De Bourgogne ale.
In our version we love to use a dark Belgian ale as the backbone of the stew liquid. Its dark fruit notes, potent sweetness and mild spice create a mysterious, complex richness.
What does Rabbit meat Taste Like?
Farmed rabbit meat is lean and tender with a very delicate flavor reminiscent of chicken meat.
Wild rabbit has tougher meat with a more assertive gamy flavor, but when properly marinated and cooked low and slow with moist heat it becomes very flavorful and tender.
That being said, in the US selling hunted rabbit is illegal so all the rabbit meat you can buy is from commercially raised animals and has wonderfully mild flavor.
Ingredients for Rabbit Stew with Prunes and Dark Belgian Ale
Rabbit. A whole rabbit portioned into 6 to 7 parts, depending on its size. Rabbit is always sold skinned. You need about 2 to 2 1/2 pound one to serve three. If not already pre-cut into hoppers, legs and saddle pieces you can do so yourself. We typically do not use the loin parts in a stew but save them for a quick stir-fry.
Flour, salt & black pepper. To nicely brown the meat and ultimately to act as a thickener. All purpose flour works best.
Butter & olive oil. To sear the rabbit meat in before stewing.
Bacon. It lends a savory, smoky richness and substance to the stew.
Onions. An essential savory flavor contributor. This stew does not use carrots as an aromatic or a contributor of sweetness.
Belgian ale. In this case we used Chimay Premiere, which is a red ale brewed by Belgian monks and a legitimate Trappist product. Alternatively, seek out imported Belgian dubbel ales or US craft brewed versions like New Belgium’s Abbey Ale instead. All of them work great.
White wine vinegar. Adds balancing acidity to the sweetness of the ale.
Garlic & bouquet garni. Mince the garlic cloves and make a bouquet garni with bay leaves, thyme sprigs and clove.
Prunes. Use pitted. They will slowly melt into the braise and contribute their earthy sweet and sour flavor.
TIP: If you are not a huge fan of prunes use dried apricots, cherries or another flavor compatible dried fruit that is more to your liking.
How to Make Rabbit Stew – Instructions
- Do the prep work first:
- Soak the the prunes in 1/2 cup of warm water, rough chop the onion and bacon, make the bouquet garni and mince the garlic.
- Mix the flour with the salt and pepper, dredge the rabbit pieces and shake off all excess. Reserve excess flour.
- Begin the cooking process:
- Sauté the rabbit pieces working in batches and set aside (a Dutch oven works great)
- In the same pot sauté the bacon, then remove and sauté the onions. Add back the rabbit and leftover flour mixture.
- Add the abbey ale, in phases, while stirring to thicken the sauce. Bring to boil, add the garlic, vinegar and bouquet garni. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer.
- Complete the stewing:
- After about an hour add the soaked prunes along with the water and the bacon, stir in, cover and let stew for additional 30 to 50 minutes, until the meat is very, very tender.
How to Serve & Store Rabbit Stew
Serve. Compatible sides for this homey dish are mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, rice, crispy potatoes. Or if you want the ultimate simple comfort food – serve with fresh baked bread as there are plenty of delicious juices to mop up.
Store. As is the case with most stews, the flavors do develop after a day. If you can resist the urge to dive in instantly – refrigerate overnight and reheat the stew the next day. If you make a larger batch leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen.
Reheat. Warm up rabbit stew in a pot, covered, over low heat. Be sure to thaw frozen rabbit stew in the fridge overnight, then reheat.
TIP: Beware of small flat bones, especially when tackling the saddle and hoppers pieces.
Where to Buy Rabbit?
We usually find whole rabbit at a nearby Asian store which also happens to have a great meat and seafood selection.
If you are having trouble locating rabbit meat in your area, we recommend the selection of D’Artagnan Foods online (affiliate link). They offer both fresh and frozen rabbit meat of excellent quality and their shipping service is impeccable.
Other Recipes You Might Like
- 1 rabbit, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds, cut into 6 to 7 pieces (hoppers, legs, saddle portions)
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 slices thick-cut bacon
- 2 onions, large
- 12 oz dark abbey ale (ex. Chimay Premiere)*
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove
- 1 tsp dried thyme (or a few sprigs fresh)
- Soak the prunes into the water. Set aside.
- Roughly chop the bacon and the onions.
- Make a bouquet garni with the bay leaf, clove and thyme.
- Mix the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the rabbit pieces, shake off excess and reserve the extra flour.
- Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed stew pot over medium-high. Add the butter and olive oil and sear the rabbit pieces until golden brown on each side. Work in batches. Set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium and sauté the bacon until it renders most of its fat. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
- Sauté the onions in the bacon fat until translucent. Add back the rabbit pieces and sprinkle the reserved flour. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Gradually add the abbey ale, about 2 oz at a time and stir after each addition in order to thicken the sauce.
- Bring to boil, add the garlic, vinegar and the bouquet garni.
- Cover, reduce the heat to low/medium-low and let simmer for 60 minutes.
- Stir, add the prunes and the water they were in, add the bacon, stir again and cover. Gently simmer over low/medium-low heat for another 30 to 50 minutes, until the rabbit meat is really tender.**
- Remove the bouquet garni, garnish with fresh thyme (optional) and serve.
*Feel free to increase the quantity of beer or add chicken or vegetable stock if you would like to prepare the stew with more sauce.
**If the liquids are reducing too fast, add a bit of stock as needed.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 420Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 1099mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 15gProtein: 17g