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Beef Rendang

Beef rendang is a popular Indonesian/Malaysian curry known for its incredible depth and complexity of flavor, thick sauce and juicy, meltingly tender beef. It’s made by simmering chunks of beef in a fragrant coconut curry bath bolstered with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots and tamarind for hours until the beef drinks up the sauce and all that’s left is a thick, aromatic coating and caramelized, fall apart tender beef. This beef rendang recipe is best if you can make it to the Asian market, but I’ve also included pantry friendly substitutions to make your life easier.  Once you gather your ingredients, this beef rendang recipe is easy and straightforward to make – most of the time is hands-off simmering and you’ll be rewarded with juicy, aromatic, buttery tender beef in your own kitchen. Prepare yourself to skip the takeout forever.
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 6 servings


Curry Paste

  • 3-6 Thai whole dried chiles or fresh Birdseye chilies
  • 3 shallots or 1/2 large onion, peeled
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 lemongrass stalks white part only, sliced, cut into pieces (see notes)
  • 1 3-inch piece fresh galangal, peeled (or ginger and a crack of pepper)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp EACH cardamom powder, ground cloves, ground nutmeg

Braising ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 2” cubes
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 lemongrass, cut into 4-inch lengths and pounded
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 14.5 oz. can low sodium beef broth (1 3/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind puree (may sub 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
  • 4 large kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced (may sub 4 bay leaves, 1 Tbsp lime juice + the zest of 1 lime)
  • 1 grated palm sugar (may sub 1 Tbsp brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


  • Toast coconut: Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shredded coconut and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Make curry paste: If using dried chilies, simmer them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, until softened. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering liquid (or water if using fresh chilies) to a high-powered blender. Chop the tops off the chilies (keep the seeds) and add to the blender along with all remaining curry paste ingredients; blend until very smooth. Add up to ¼ cup additional liquid if needed to blend; set aside.
  • Sear beef: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 3.5 quart or larger Dutch oven over high heat. Once hot, add half the beef and sear on all sides; remove to a plate and repeat with remaining beef.
  • Make curry: Reduce heat to medium-low. Add curry paste to the empty pot and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the moisture reduces and the curry thickens into a paste and begins to caramelize.
  • Braise: Add all of the braising ingredients to the pot with the curry paste, including the beef. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to the lowest setting to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until very tender. Stir often (and recover) the last 30 minutes so it doesn’t burn.
  • Reduce: This step may not be needed if your sauce reduced completely with the lid covered. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the beef is fall apart tender and sauce thickens into a paste to coat the beef, about 20 minutes, stirring often. If the sauce thickens too much before the beef is done, add a water and continue to cook until fall part tender.
  • Serve: Discard lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon before serving. Serve with coconut rice and limes.


  • Thai chilies: slice the tops of the chilies but keep all of the seeds. Use 3 for mild and up to 6 for spicy.  You may use different chili peppers and adjust the recipe as needed by googling the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) of your chilies.  For example, Thai chili peppers range from 50,000 to 100,000 SHU compared to cayenne chili peppers that range from 30,000-50,000 SHU, so if you use cayenne, you would need roughly double the number of chilies to equal the same SHU as Thai chilies.
  • Lemongrass: you may be able to find lemongrass in the produce section of your local grocery store or definitely at specialty stores such as Sprouts, Whole Foods or an Asian Market. Sometimes my Sprouts only carries it by the stalk already chopped into 4 sections in a plastic container, so, if you can’t find it, make sure to ask someone. To use the lemongrass, start by chopping off the bottom and spiky tops. Peel off the tough green outer layer to reveal the softer whitish/green part on the bottom half of the lemongrass. Chop the top reedy green part off, we only want to work with the white part and very pale green part, otherwise you’ll end up with tough, reedy pieces in your teeth!  Press the stalks with the side of your knife to bruise and release the aromatic oils, then slice the them in into thirds or fourths to fit into your blender and the pot. 
  • Spices:  I don't recommend whole spices (except where mentioned) because they are hard to pick out after cooking and you will inevitably crunch down on one.
  • Don’t be alarmed when the grease separates:  At the end of cooking, the sauce reduces down to the point some of the oil separates from the beef – this is a good thing! The beef will continue to brown and caramelize in the fragrant oil until it’s deeply golden.

Make Ahead 

Beef rendang is one of those recipes that gets exponentially better the next day!  You can prepare the entire recipe ahead of time and reheat the next day or, you can prepare individual elements of the recipe before cooking it: 
  • Curry paste: rehydrate the chiles and blend up the curry paste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week before using or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Beef:  chop the beef and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
  • Assemble: follow the recipe up to combining all of the ingredients, cover and pop in the fridge. The next day, get your simmer on.

How to Store and Reheat 

  • How to store: seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. 
  • How to freeze: let the dish cool completely, then seal inside a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Label and freeze up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. 
  • How to reheat in the microwave: heat the beef rendang in a microwave-safe dish for 1 minute, stir, then continue heating at 30-second intervals until warmed through. 
  • How to reheat on the stove:  heat a drizzle of oil in saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add the beef rendang and warm through. You may need to add a splash of water if it looks dry at any point.