Beef in Broth (Beef Nilaga)

nilaga 2

I was hesitant, at first, about featuring a recipe that is from the Philippines. But I grew up eating this stuff and I can attest, through experience, that many cultures across the world have their own version of a beef stew / beef soup like this. Slight nuances in the choice of ingredients and method of cooking may set one stew apart from another, but one thing is certain: people find comfort in such a dish.

Why I love this kind of stew is because it is easier to make than expected. The only downside is (if you even consider this as one) could be the cooking time, which is up to 2 hours! That said, you can literally rough chop and throw everything together in a pot of water, then forget about it until later!

This kind of dish I really enjoy making: it’s simple; it’s rustic; it’s unpretentious. And unlike the process of cooking French or Italian food – where I use 2 to 3 pots or pans at the same time – this only makes use of 1!

It’s interesting to note that in a country like the Philippines, this dish transcends social class. It has graced the tables of both the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, differing only in the quality of meat used. I can imagine this type of soup being perfect for a rustic meal at a farm, where ingredients are fresh! So, get your steamed white rice or crusty bread ready…

P.S. Check Giveaway post here for winner of cookbooks!

4.8 from 4 reviews
Beef Short Ribs in Broth or "Nilagang Baka"
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe is from my father-in-law, Manuel.
Recipe Type: Main Course
Serves: 6 - 8
  • 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) bone-in beef short ribs or beef shank, cut into large cubes.
  • 2 large onions, cut in quarters lengthwise
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in quarters crosswise
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt + more for seasoning
  • 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold or mini potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
  • 10 stalks your choice of bok choy, baby bok choy, or Shanghai choy, with the bases chopped off and leaves separated.
  • patis or fish sauce to taste (optional)
  1. Soak beef ribs or shank in a large bowl of cold water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the water.
  2. Place beef in a lidded pot, and cover with cold water, approximately 12 to 16 cups. Cover with lid and bring water to a boil on high heat. Then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Throw out the water and drain the short ribs in a colander, then rinse and wipe the pot clean.
  4. Return the ribs to the pot, cover with cold water.
  5. Add onions, celery, garlic, peppercorn, and kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours. Season your broth with salt at the end of the cooking time.
  6. Add the potatoes and cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until almost tender.
  7. Remove onion, celery, and garlic from broth and skim any debris that may have floated to the top.
  8. Add the greens and cook on low heat until the leaves turn bright green, about 1 to 2 minutes. Try not to overcook the vegetables. Add fish sauce (optional) to taste or add more salt, as needed.
  9. At this point, if you prefer, strain your broth through a fine mesh sieve to remove any debris.
I like to serve my beef stew or nilaga the next day. I refrigerate it overnight, let the soup coagulate, at which point the fat will float to the top. I can easily remove the layer of fat to make the broth clearer.


  • I love nilagang baka. I never tried making it with short ribs, though — will definitely try that after the Lenten season! :)

    • Reply March 10, 2012


      Ah yes, the Lenten sacrifice. Mine is to stop eating ice cream :(

  • Reply March 10, 2012


    Hi Jen! Sorry for the absence, but time has been at a premium here… ;)

    Great to see you in this new one!! But a «Folie a Deux» never ends… ;)

    Blogtrotter Two has reached April 2011; no trips, and posting delay is shortening… ;). Enjoy and have a great weekend!!!

  • Reply March 10, 2012


    Your recipe called for potatoes peeled and halved or quartered; but the potatoes in your photos don’t look like they’re peeled. I know it’s a matter of preference but do they have to be peeled?

    • Reply March 10, 2012


      Hi, Tonito! Thanks for stopping by. To answer your question, yes, it is a mtter of preference whether you’d like your potatoes peeled or not. I like my potatoes peeled if I don’t trust the source that it is from, just to be sure, as dirt and pesticides often cling to the skins of any vegetable or fruits. Of course, the trade off with peeling is, you lose some nutrients that are found in the skin. For my recipe and photos above, I used organic mini potatoes, thus peeling was unnecessary. Sometimes, I have to leave the skins of vegetables in my photos to show readers what kind of vegetable they are, as peeled veggies start looking alike in pictures when cooked. But you are right, there really are no hard and fast rules in cooking Filipino-style – it’s mostly what your preference is :)

      • Reply March 10, 2012


        Thanks Jen.

  • I haven’t had nilagang baka in quite a long while but I remember it being in regular rotation while growing up. These days, I make it out of chicken since it’s my husband’s preference. Now looking at your images, I’m feeling the need to change things up a bit. I like to eat mine with a condiment of lemon juice and patis. Yum!

    • Reply March 12, 2012


      Yes, of course, the patis! I often put it straight in the broth to flavour it! ;)

  • Reply March 12, 2012

    Banu Bingor

    Hello Jen,

    This is the first time I visit your blog. In fact I was looking for a recipe of tea jelly (like marmelade) and found your previous blog : )

    I like the style and photography of your blog. And just wanted to say hello.

    Recipes seems inspiring… I guess I’ll be visiting often :)

    Cheers from Istanbul,

    • Reply March 12, 2012


      Hi Banu,
      Thanks for visiting. I hope you come again and stay a while :) Maybe next time I will make something Turkish :) as I love Turkish cuisine!

  • Reply March 12, 2012


    Hi Jen! I don’t know how I got into your blog, but I’m sure glad I discovered Tartine and Apron Strings! Your photography and styling is amazing! Love it! Your photos are soooo inspiring! For a while I thought I was browsing at Cannelle et Vanille! :) More power! Irene :)

    • Reply March 12, 2012


      Hello, Irene! Wow, Cannelle et Vanille…Aran is an inspiration and a food styling hero to me. In fact, I am attending one of her food styling and photography workshop in June…hoping to learn from her :) Thanks for visiting; I hope you come again and stay a while :)

  • Reply March 12, 2012

    Nine Seventeen

    I had never tried that filipino dish until last year and omigosh I fell in love. I fell in love with filipino food just in the last year! I am always on the hunt for great restaurants and recipes. Thank you for sharing : )

  • Reply March 13, 2012


    Fong, this is lovely! Ode to Pinoy comfort food! ;)

    Although I prefer my nilagang baka in bulalo style — using beef shanks / bone marrow! Add cabbage, potatoes, and cut up sweet corn on the cob. Perfect for a rainy day. :)

  • Jen, I am glad that you are featuring some dishes from the Philippines. It’s so hard to find Filipino restaurants and this is the only way for us to see what everyone in the Philippines are eating – the authentic dishes! I enjoy variety of dishes, so thank you for featuring. Looks perfect for rainy weather like today.

  • Reply May 3, 2012


    Can I have this right now? Wow, this is exactly what I am craving at this very moment! I think I will have to wait till tomorrow because the only ingredient I have right now is the sea salt, ha! I can’t wait to make this! Beautiful pictures, great recipe fun write up!

  • Reply July 27, 2012


    I used the recipe once and my family loved it, so I’m doing this again. I used the vegetables from my garden, harvested them as needed. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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