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This Indonesian inspired Beef Rendang recipe is an absolute keeper! It’s a delicious thick beef curry made with chunks of tender meat that are slowly braised in a homemade aromatic chili paste, rich coconut milk, and a bold combination of spices!
What Is Beef Rendang
Beef Rendang is a traditional meat curry originally from Indonesia that is rich, spicy, and full of bold flavors! But it’s now actually more often known as a Malaysian dish and is quite popular all across Southeast Asia. Yet, unlike typical curries, beef rendang is a dry curry, which means that it’s a much thicker curry with a lot less sauce than other curries like Thai Red Chicken Curry, which is quite soupy.
However, the key to making this dish is a homemade spice paste and a combination of aromatic ingredients, which infuse the meat with flavor as it slowly cooks in coconut milk into tender deliciousness! Together red chilies, shallots, ginger, galangal (also known as Thai ginger), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, cardamon, star anise, and a touch of tamarind paste are essential components of this flavorful curry. Beef rendang has all the best Southeast Asian flavors wrapped up into one dish!
But don’t let the list of ingredients intimidate you! Beef rendang is really easy to make and requires very little prep time. Plus this dish is the perfect excuse for a fun trip to your local Asian market! And while you’re there you can pick up what you need to try my Szechuan Chicken or Korean Fried Chicken if you like! Yet, don’t worry if you don’t have a local Asian market near you many of the ingredients can be substituted.
Why You’ll Love This Beef Rendang
- Simple Recipe! Even beginners in the kitchen can whip this easy curry together. This dish may require a trip to an Asian Market and a food processor, but it doesn’t require any special cooking skills.
- Authentic Flavor! The homemade spice paste and mixture of Asian ingredients knock this dish out of the park by infusing the meat and coconut milk with layers of authentic Southeast Asian flavors.
- Versatile Meal! This tasty thick and rich beef curry is sure to impress. It’s perfect for dinner parties, potlucks, and family gatherings when you want to serve something a little special on the menu.
- Shallots – These little guys are a little sweeter than onions, but still have a hit of sharp flavor. Yellow onions are the best substitute.
- Garlic – Always use fresh garlic cloves! Curry is reliant on bold flavors.
- Red Chilies – Add a lovely kick to the dish. Just use fewer chilies if you want to make mild curry. But to make it hotter just leave a few of the seeds in the chilies.
- Ginger – You will need a fresh knob of ginger for the paste.
- Galangal – This rhizome is related to ginger, but it’s more earthy and peppery in flavor, which contributes to the authentic flavor of the rendang. You can find it in almost any Asian market. Yet, in a pinch, you can just use ginger.
- Lemongrass – Just like the name says it’s a member of the grass family with a very lemony taste. Commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine, it can be found in the produce section at almost any market.
- Vegetable Oil – You’ll need a flavorless oil to sear the beef.
- Beef – I like to use pieces of beef chuck, but stewing meat is another option. Just make sure all the pieces are cut about the same size.
- Coconut Milk – Use full-fat coconut milk for the best texture and flavor. Light coconut milk will work, but it’s just regular coconut milk with added water.
- Water – Needed to braise the meat and thin the sauce out.
- Lemongrass – You’ll need some whole stalks of bruised lemongrass to infuse the curry with more flavor. To bruise it all you have to do is remove the top half of the stalk and then smash the bottom bulb half to release some of the oils.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves – These are leaves from a type of citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia. They aren’t always easy to find in Asian markets, but a good alternative is fresh lime zest.
- Cinnamon Stick – A whole cinnamon stick adds warmth to the curry.
- Star Anise – It’s the seed pod of a type of evergreen shrub found in China. Star anise has a very distinctive flavor that is warm and spicy with a hint of sweetness. Some say it’s similar to licorice or fennel seed.
- Cardamom Pods – This spice made from the pods of plants related to the ginger family has a strong aromatic flavor that is a touch sweet.
- Turmeric – Probably the most popular curry spice, ground turmeric adds a bit of color and warm flavor to this dish.
- Ground Coriander – This spice highlights all the aromatics in the dish with its very subtle floral taste.
- Tamarind Paste – It’s a paste made from tamarind fruit that has a tart sweet and sour taste. You can mix together equal parts of rice vinegar and brown sugar as a substitute if you can’t find this ingredient. Another good replacement is simple ketchup.
- Brown Sugar – Adds just the right touch of sweetness to round out all the spice.
- Salt – No dish would be complete without some salt to enhance all the flavors.
I know this dish may sound complicated, but it’s actually a quite easy 4-step recipe! Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients together it doesn’t take much effort to make!
You can’t have curry without curry paste and in this recipe you will be making your own! But it’s so easy! Just put all the spice paste ingredients into a blender or food processor and then puree them until smooth. You will probably need to stop your processor and scrape down the sides a few times to help the paste along.
Next, you can start cooking the beef! First, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Then add the chunks of beef and brown them on all sides. Now, remove the cooked meat from the pot and set it on a plate for now. If your skillet isn’t big enough, you’ll need to do this in batches.
After all the beef has been seared and removed from the pot, add the spice paste and cook it for about 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat while stirring it often. You want the paste to become fragrant.
Next, add all the remaining curry ingredients to the pot along with the cooked beef. Then stir everything together really well. There should be no lumps of spice paste.
At this point, the curry just needs to slowly cook into deliciousness! So bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Now, let the curry simmer uncovered for about 2 hours or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened up. However, while this dish basically cooks itself, you do need to stir the curry and scrape the bottom of the pot from time to time to prevent the sauce from burning.
Once the beef is nice and tender remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, and lemongrass from the sauce. Now, taste the dish and add more salt if needed. Then serve the beef rendang over hot steamed rice with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and some homemade Naan Bread.
Frequently Asked Questions
What cut of beef is best for rendang?
You can use any type of stew meat for this recipe. However, I find that chuck is the best as it comes out perfectly tender and juicy. Even beef brisket will work, but it won’t be quite as tender. Yet, I don’t recommend using really soft cuts of meat because they will just fall apart after being cooked for hours. This is a dish where tougher cuts of meat can shine.
Can I make beef rendang in a slow cooker or Instant Pot?
Yes, you can adapt this recipe for a slow cooker or Instant Pot. For a slow cooker, follow the recipe until step 4, then transfer everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. For an Instant Pot, use the sauté function for steps 1-4, then switch to the pressure cook setting, and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release.
Why does my rendang taste bitter?
Sadly this probably means that you’ve burned your curry. It can happen when you are cooking the spice paste or braising the beef. This is why it’s really important to stir the spice paste often once it’s added to the pot. It’s also just as important to cook this dish very slowly and scrape the bottom of the pot.
Can I substitute any of the spices if I can’t find them locally?
While it’s best to use the authentic ingredients, you can make some substitutions if necessary. For galangal, you can use additional ginger. For kaffir lime leaves, you can use lime zest. Instead of lemongrass, you can use lemon zest mixed with a little bit of minced fresh ginger. Keep in mind that substitutions might slightly alter the taste of the dish.
- Puree the spice paste. Chop up the spice paste ingredients before pureeing them together. This makes it easier for your food processor or blender to form a smooth paste without any big chunks remaining.
- Don’t skimp on the coconut milk: Coconut milk is a key ingredient in beef rendang, and using full-fat coconut milk will give the dish a rich and creamy texture.
- Cook it slowly. You can’t rush this dish. It takes hours for the beef to break down and become tender. Turning up the heat will only result in tough meat and burning the curry.
Leftover beef rendang will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months when stored in an airtight container. To reheat, just put it in the microwave for about 4 minutes on medium power or in a saucepan on the stovetop. However, if the leftovers have been frozen you’ll want to let them thaw out overnight in the fridge prior to reheating.
Other Delicious Curries To Try
- Coconut Shrimp Curry
- Coconut Chicken Curry
- Thai Red Chicken Curry
- Chicken Korma
- Thai Inspired Green Curry Tofu
- Butter Chicken
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds chuck beef (or stewing meat, cut into bite-size pieces)
- 28 ounces coconut milk (2 cans)
- 1 cup water
- 2 stalks lemongrass (bruised)
- 6 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or dry, cut into thin strips)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- salt (to taste)
- Add all the spice paste ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.
- Add the vegetable oil to a large Dutch oven and heat over high heat. Add half the beef pieces and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining beef.
- Add the spice paste to the Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot along with the beef. Stir well until everything is well incorporated.
- Bring to a simmer then turn the heat down to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours, until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened. While the beef is cooking, make sure to stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent the sauce from sticking or burning.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, and lemongrass from the pot.
- Serve the beef warm with steamed rice and garnish with cilantro.
- Use fresh ingredients: Whenever possible, use fresh spices and herbs, like ginger, galangal, and lemongrass, for the best flavor. Fresh ingredients will give your Beef Rendang a more vibrant and aromatic taste.
- Customize heat level: Adjust the amount of red chilies according to your preferred spice level. If you like your Beef Rendang milder, remove the seeds and membranes from the chilies or use fewer chilies. For a spicier version, add more chilies or even incorporate some Thai bird’s eye chilies.
- Toast whole spices: Before adding the cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom pods to the pot, lightly toast them in a dry pan over low heat for a couple of minutes. This will help release their natural oils and enhance the flavor of the dish.
- Be patient with the cooking process: Beef Rendang is a slow-cooked dish, and the key to achieving tender beef and a rich, flavorful sauce is allowing it to simmer gently for 2-3 hours. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking or burning.
- Remove excess fat: For a lighter version of the dish, you can skim off some of the fat that rises to the surface during cooking. Alternatively, you can chill the cooked Beef Rendang overnight in the refrigerator, and the fat will solidify on the surface, making it easy to remove before reheating and serving.
- Make it ahead of time: Beef Rendang tastes even better the next day, as the flavors have more time to meld and develop. Make the dish a day in advance, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat gently over low heat before serving.
- Garnish for added flavor: Garnish your Beef Rendang with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice to add a burst of freshness and acidity that complements the rich flavors of the dish.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.