Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

By: MeganPosted: 07/11/2023 Updated: 09/12/2023
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 2 hours
Total 2 hours 20 minutes
Bò kho or Vietnamese beef stew made with deliciously tender braised beef, carrots and loaded with fragrant aromatics and spices. This authentic bo kho recipe served with fresh herbs and a baguette is the most satisfying and comforting dish.
Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

Bò kho or Vietnamese beef stew made with deliciously tender braised beef, and carrots and loaded with fragrant aromatics and spices. This authentic bo kho recipe served with fresh herbs and a baguette is the most satisfying and comforting dish.

A bowl of vietnamese beef stew surrounded by table settings.

When it comes to underrated Vietnamese dishes, bò kho or Vietnamese beef stew is at the top of the list. Bo kho is made with slow-braised beef, and carrots and served with a variety of fresh herbs and French baguette. What makes this a Vietnamese stew is the numerous aromatics and spices such as lemongrass, ginger, shallots, five spice, turmeric, etc that make this bo kho recipe incredibly complex and delicious.

This is my mom’s special bo kho recipe that she has been perfecting for years. The list of ingredients may seem excessive but trust me the final result is 100% worth the effort. If you are looking for more authentic comforting Vietnamese recipes, check out my pho ga (Vietnamese chicken soup), bun rieu (Vietnamese crab and tomato soup), and bun bo hue (Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup) recipes.

Looking down at a bowl of bo kho with herbs and bread nearby.

What is Bò Kho?

Bò kho is a traditional Vietnamese stew that is made with beef, carrots, and a variety of aromatic spices and herbs. Bo translates to beef and kho translates to braise. It is a flavorful and comforting dish that is typically served with French baguette, rice noodles, or steamed rice. Bo kho is known for its rich and comforting red broth, tender braised pieces of beef, and fragrant lemongrass flavor.

The ingredients for bo kho typically include beef brisket, beef shank, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger, five spice, and other spices. It is cooked slowly to allow the flavors to blend together and for the beef to become tender and fall apart. Each bowl is then garnished with fresh herbs like cilantro and Thai basil.

A spoon lifting up a chunk of beef from a bowl of bo kow vietnamese beef stew.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This Vietnamese beef stew recipe is one of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes. Here are three reasons why you will love this bo kho recipe.

  1. Comforting and Hearty. Bo kho is the most comforting dish that is perfect for the colder months. The warm, aromatic broth and tender beef make it the most satisfying meal.
  2. Rich and Flavorful. Made with a long list of aromatics and spices this Vietnamese beef stew recipe is deeply flavorful. Dip a piece of French baguette into the broth for the most perfect bite.
  3. Versatile. You can serve this authentic bo kho recipe with either rice noodles, French baguette, or rice allowing you to customize your meal to your preferences.

Kitchen Equipment

You will need the following items of kitchen equipment to make this Vietnamese braised beef stew.

  • Large Mixing Bowl: you will need a large mixing bowl to marinate the beef overnight.
  • Skillet: You will need a skillet to lightly toast the aromatics and saute the carrots.
  • Tenderizer: to prepare the lemongrass, you will need a tenderizer to pound the lemongrass.
  • Large Pot: I used an 8-quart stock pot for this bo kho recipe. You will need a large enough stock pot that can hold all the aromatics, carrots, and beef.

Ingredients

You can find all of the following bo kho ingredients at your local Chinese or Vietnamese grocery store. I’ve linked all the ingredients you can find online below. This bo kho recipe has three layers of ingredients that contribute to the deeply layered flavorful broth you’ll taste at the end.

Parboil

  • Beef Shank and Beef Brisket: a combination of beef shank and beef brisket adds variety to the beef broth.
  • Salt: salt seasons the parboil liquid
  • Ginger: ginger adds a rich spicy aromatic to the beef.
  • Shallots: shallots add a combination of onion and garlic aromatic flavor to the beef.
All the ingredients for parboiling the beef for bo kho.

Beef Marinade

  • Shallot and Garlic: shallots and garlic are the main aromatics for the Vietnamese braised beef marinade.
  • Salt and pepper: salt and pepper season the beef.
  • Chicken Bouillon Powder: chicken bouillon powder adds a strong savory flavor to the beef.
  • Sugar: sugar adds sweetness to the beef.
  • Soy Sauce: soy sauce adds a sweet, salty, umami flavor to the beef.
  • Curry Powder, Turmeric Powder, Cumin: curry powder, turmeric powder, and cumin add warm earthy flavors that contribute to the warm comforting feeling in this authentic bo kho recipe.
  • Five Spice Powder: five-spice powder has a complex flavor profile that has notes of warm sweetness, heat, and licorice-like aroma.
  • Paprika: paprika adds a smokey flavor while also aiding in the red color of the Vietnamese beef stew.
  • Thyme: thyme adds an aromatic slightly pungent, sweet, spicy, and savory flavor.
  • Shaoxing Cooking Wine: Shaoxing wine is made with rice that adds a slightly sweet, caramel, nutty, briny flavor.
  • Annatto Oil: annatto oil adds a nutty, peppery, and floral aroma that contributes to the deep red iconic color of the bo kho.
All the ingredients for marinading the beef in vietnamese beef stew organized and labeled.

Vietnamese Stew

  • Cinnamon Stick and Star Anise: cinnamon stick and star anise add a rich spiced flavor profile to the bò kho recipe.
  • Shallot and garlic: shallots and garlic are the main aromatics for the beef stew.
  • Coconut water: Coconut water is the base of the Vietnamese beef stew giving it a gentle sweetness.
  • Lemongrass: lemongrass adds a mild citrus, hint of ginger, and floral aromatic flavor to the bo kho.
  • Ginger: ginger adds a spicy aromatic flavor.
  • Bay Leaves: a few bay leaves add a more herbal flavor to the beef broth.
  • Chicken Bouillon Powder: Chicken bouillon powder adds a rich umami flavor to the stew.
  • Sugar: sugar adds sweetness to the broth.
  • Salt: salt seasons the bo kho stew.
  • Yellow Onion: yellow onion adds another sweet layer of aromatic flavor.
  • Carrots: carrots add a pop of color and add a gentle sweetness to the Vietnamese stew.
  • Cornstarch: cornstarch is the thickening agent that makes the Vietnamese braised beef soup thicker.
All the stew ingredients organized and labeled for making Vietnamese beef stew.

Substitutions and Additions

You can customize your Vietnamese beef stew recipe based on your preferences. I’ve listed some suggestions for substitutions and additions below.

Substitutions

  • Beef: you can also use a combination of either beef brisket, beef shank, or chuck roast.
  • Coconut Soda: instead of coconut water, you can use coco rico instead
  • Tomato Paste: instead of annatto oil, you can substitute it with tomato paste.

Additions

  • Chili: if you’d like a spicy bo kho, go ahead and add chili flakes, fresh chili peppers, or hot sauce.
  • Vegetables: for a more hearty Vietnamese stew go ahead and add potatoes, bell peppers, or bok choy.

How to Make Bo Kho

Here are the instructions on how to make this homemade bo kho recipe! It is a labor of love but the end result is 100% worth it.

Beef Marinade

  1. Parboil the beef. In a large pot, fill the pot about 1/2 way with water. Then add salt, 2 smashed slices of ginger, and 2 shallots sliced in half. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, add the beef and cook for 3 minutes then remove the beef and rinse under running water to clean. Cube the meat into 2-inch pieces.
  1. Marinate the beef. In a large mixing bowl, add the beef, minced shallot, minced garlic, salt, chicken powder, sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, curry powder, turmeric powder, cumin, five spice, paprika, thyme, Shaoxing wine, and annatto oil. Toss to combine. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
Chunks of parboiled beef tossed in a marinade inside a large glass bowl.

Bo Kho

  1. Toast the spices. In a small skillet over medium heat, add the cinnamon stick and star anise pieces and toast until fragrant for about 1-2 minutes.
Toasting star anise and cinnamon in a large skillet.
  1. Saute the aromatics. In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Then add the minced garlic and 1/2 of the minced shallot until fragrant and lightly browned. Then add the marinated beef, toss to combine, and cook on high heat for 6 minutes.
  1. Add coconut water and spices. Then add in the coconut water, cinnamon stick, star anise, cut and pounded lemongrass, ginger, and bay leaves. Cover and cook on high heat for 30 minutes.
Aromatics mixed into a large pot of Vietnamese beef stew.
  1. Add water and simmer. After 30 minutes, add 4 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium heat and cook for 1 hour- 1 hour 30 minutes or until the beef is tender.
  2. Cook the carrots. While the stew is simmering, add 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 of minced shallot, and saute until fragrant and translucent. Then add the carrots, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to combine and cook for 3 minutes or until lightly charred.
Chunks of carrots tossed with seasoning being cooked in a large skillet.
  1. Remove the spices and add seasoning. Once the beef is tender, remove the bay leaves, ginger, star anise, and lemongrass. Add another 1 1/4 cup of water, 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder, sugar, salt, and carrots. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes. Then season with more salt to taste.
Removing the aromatics from a large pot of Vietnamese beef stew.
  1. Add cornstarch slurry and onion. In a small mixing bowl, combine cornstarch and water and mix until combined. Add the cornstarch slurry into the pot and onion. Mix to combine and cook until thickened. Taste to adjust with more salt, fish sauce, or sugar.
Adding cornstarch slurry to a large pot of Vietnamese beef stew.
  1. Serve. Ladle the bò kho into a bowl, garnish with Thai basil, and a squeeze of lime, and serve with sliced French baguette. Enjoy!
Up close with a bowl of bo kho.

Tips for the Best Bo Kho

  • Choose the right cut of beef: the best cuts of beef for good flavor and ability to become tender through slow cooking are brisket, shank, and chuck roast.
  • Parboil the beef: parboiling the beef is key to cleaning the beef to remove any unsavory smells from the beef. It also speeds up the cooking time and ensures a moist and tender beef.
  • Marinate overnight. For the most flavorful Vietnamese braised beef, marinate the beef overnight so the beef has time to soak in all the marinade flavors.
  • Toast the spices: Lightly toast the cinnamon stick and star anise to release their flavors before adding them to the stew.
  • Crush the lemongrass. Make sure to pound the lemongrass to release all of their aromas for the most fragrant flavor.
  • The longer you cook the more tender the beef. The amount of time you cook the beef correlates with how tender the beef will become. It may take longer than an hour to reach your desired tenderness.
  • Taste to adjust. The last step is to taste and adjust based on your preferences! At this step, you may want to add more salt, pepper, sugar, chicken bouillon powder, or fish sauce.

Storage Instructions

This Vietnamese beef stew recipe can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Reheat: reheat any leftovers in a pot on the stove over medium heat covered until warm.

Freeze: you can freeze this bo kho recipe in freezer-safe containers in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

Frequently Asked Q’s & A’s

What are the key ingredients in bò kho?

Bò kho is typically made with beef brisket or beef shank, garlic, onions, lemongrass, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, five spice, and carrots. It is then garnished with Thai basil and cilantro.

How do I serve bo kho?

You can serve bo kho with French baguette, Thai basil, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Alternatively, you can serve it with rice noodles or rice instead of a French baguette.

Can I make Vietnamese beef stew in advance?

Yes! This Vietnamese beef stew recipe freezes well. Portion it into containers and freeze it for future meals. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat over a stove to enjoy.

How do I make annatto oil?

You can make anatto oil by adding 1 tablespoon of annatto seeds to 1/2 cup of oil. Heat over medium heat for 10 minutes and let the oil rest for 30 minutes. Strain the oil and discard the seeds.

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Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Bò kho or Vietnamese beef stew made with deliciously tender braised beef, carrots and loaded with fragrant aromatics and spices. This authentic bo kho recipe served with fresh herbs and a baguette is the most satisfying and comforting dish.
Servings: 8 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Beef Parboil

  • 3 lbs beef shank
  • 1 ½ lb beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 inch knob of ginger peeled, sliced into 2 pieces and smashed
  • 2 shallots sliced in half

Beef Marinade

  • 2 large shallots minced about 1/4 cup
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ½ tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoon annatto oil

Stew

  • 1 (10 g) cinnamon stick
  • 4 pieces star anise
  • 2 shallot minced and divided
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 40 oz coconut water
  • 5 stick lemon grass cut about 4 inches then smashed it
  • 1 inch knob ginger sliced into 2 pieces and smashed
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 ¾ cup water divided
  • 2 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large yellow onion wedge cut
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional to taste)

Carrots

Cornstarch slurry

Serve

  • Thai basil
  • Cilantro
  • Lime sliced
  • French Baguette

Instructions

Beef Marinade

  • Parboil the beef. In a large pot, fill the pot about 1/2 way with water. Then add salt, 2 smashed slices of ginger, and 2 shallots sliced in half. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, add the beef and cook for 3 minutes then remove the beef and rinse under running water to clean. Cube the meat into 2-inch pieces.
  • Marinate the beef. In a large mixing bowl, add the beef, minced shallot, minced garlic, salt, chicken powder, sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, curry powder, turmeric powder, cumin, five spice, paprika, thyme, Shaoxing wine, and annatto oil. Toss to combine. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Bo Kho

  • Toast the spices. In a small skillet over medium heat, add the cinnamon stick and star anise pieces and toast until fragrant for about 1-2 minutes.
  • Saute the aromatics. In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Then add the minced garlic and 1/2 of the minced shallot until fragrant and lightly browned. Then add the marinated beef, toss to combine, and cook on high heat for 6 minutes.
  • Add coconut water and spices. Then add in the coconut water, cinnamon stick, star anise, cut and pounded lemongrass, ginger, and bay leaves. Cover and cook on high heat for 30 minutes stirring periodically. Make sure the coconut water covers the meat completely during the 30 minutes. If it evaporates too much add more coconut water or water.
  • Add water and simmer. After 30 minutes, add 4 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium heat and cook for 1 hour- 1 hour 30 minutes or until the beef is tender.
  • Cook the carrots. While the stew is simmering, add 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 of minced shallot, and saute until fragrant and translucent. Then add the carrots, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to combine and cook for 3 minutes or until lightly charred.
  • Remove the spices and add seasoning. Once the beef is tender, remove the bay leaves, ginger, star anise, and lemongrass. Add another 1 1/4 cup of water, 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder, sugar, salt, and carrots. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes. Then season with more salt to taste.
  • Add cornstarch slurry and onion. In a small mixing bowl, combine cornstarch and water and mix until combined. Add the cornstarch slurry into the pot and onion. Mix to combine and cook until thickened. Taste to adjust with more salt, a dash of fish sauce, or sugar.
  • Serve. Ladle the bò kho into a bowl, garnish with Thai basil, and a squeeze of lime, and serve with sliced French baguette. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Choose the right cut of beef: the best cuts of beef for good flavor and the ability to become tender through slow cooking are brisket, shank, and chuck roast.
  • Parboil the beef: parboiling the beef is key to cleaning the beef to remove any unsavory smells from the beef. It also speeds up the cooking time and ensures a moist and tender beef.
  • Marinate overnight. For the most flavorful Vietnamese braised beef, marinate the beef overnight so the beef has time to soak in all the marinade flavors.
  • Toast the spices: Lightly toast the cinnamon stick and star anise to release their flavors before adding them to the stew.
  • Crush the lemongrass. Make sure to pound the lemongrass to release all of their aromas for the most fragrant flavor.
  • The longer you cook the more tender the beef. The amount of time you cook the beef correlates with how tender the beef will become. It may take longer than an hour to reach your desired tenderness.
  • Taste to adjust. The last step is to taste and adjust based on your preferences! At this step, you may want to add more salt, pepper, sugar, chicken bouillon powder, or fish sauce.
  • Storage Instructions: This Vietnamese beef stew recipe can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Nutrition:

Calories: 381kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 3591mg | Potassium: 1307mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 3887IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 122mg | Iron: 6mg

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