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Bo Kho: Authentic Vietnamese Beef Stew (Stovetop & Instant Pot) 

Are you too bored with sandwiches and burgers just like every day? Let’s try something new and exciting with the Vietnamese traditional food, Bo Kho. It is a popular stew made of slow-cooked beef, carrots, pineapple, coconut and other ingredients. The flavors from this dish are amazing, thanks to its combination of different spices. Bo Kho is one of the most beloved dishes because it is easy to cook and also incredibly delicious.

This article will provide comprehensive instructions for cooking Bò Kho, including how to choose the best ingredients and how to prepare and cook with the authentic Vietnamese recipe. Also, for those who cooked many Vietnamese dishes or know a little bit of recipe and want a quick guideline, just scroll down to the quick tutorial. However, we still encourage reading all our instructions because we will give you more tips in each detail step. 

Now, it’s time to explore this excellent dish!

What is Bò Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew

First, for those who are new to Vietnamese food, it’s exciting to grasp some information about Bò Kho, you not only enhance this food but also explore a new cuisine culture with many other famous Vietnamese food.

Bò Kho is a traditional Vietnamese beef stew that is known for its rich and flavorful broth. It is a popular comfort food in Vietnam and is typically served with bread or noodles. The dish is made with tender chunks of beef, carrots, and onions; all simmered in a fragrant and aromatic broth made with various spices and herbs.

The broth is usually infused with spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and lemongrass, which give the dish its distinctive taste and aroma. It is often cooked slowly to allow the flavors to meld together and create a delicious and hearty stew.

Bò Kho is commonly enjoyed as a main dish for lunch or dinner, especially for breakfast with Vietnamese bread, and it’s often served with a side of crusty bread or rice noodles to soak up the flavorful broth. The combination of tender beef, aromatic spices, and vegetables makes it a beloved dish in Vietnamese cuisine.

Quick Tutorial

Start by marinating the meat with sugar, ground annatto, Bo Kho spices, paprika, fish sauce, pepper, salt, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and pineapple juice. Allow it to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Next, brown the meat by sautéing minced garlic and lemongrass in cooking oil on a pan for 3 minutes. Then, simmer the meat with coconut milk or plain water until it reaches a boil. 

Lower the heat to low and continue simmering for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your preferred broth consistency.

Once the simmering is complete, add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Then, add the onions and tomatoes and continue cooking. After approximately 7 minutes, turn off the heat. And done, you have a homemade authentic Vietnamese Bo Kho to enjoy. 

Ingredients and How to Choose Ingredients

Fresh ingredients

  • Beef: 1kg

When it comes to choosing the meat, you should look for a cut of beef with enough marbling and fat content. The best cuts are from the front shoulder or hindquarters, such as chuck roast, brisket, flank steak, or short rib. Look for pieces that are about 1-2 inches thick. 

  • Carrots: 2

Choose carrots that are firm, fresh and bright in color. Avoid any carrots that are wilted or have soft spots.

  • Onions: 1

Look for a large yellow onion with smooth skin and no bruises or discoloration. 

  • Coconut Water: 1,5l (can use plain water instead or mix with white wine)

You should use fresh coconut water or can instead of plain water (can use plain water, however, coconut is recommended) or mix 700ml coconut water and 100 ml white wine.

  • Lemongrass: 4-5 stalks

Look for fragrant lemongrass with a bright green stem and white core. Avoid any that are dried out or have yellow spots. 

  • Tomato: 1

Choose a ripe tomato with bright red color and no bruises or discoloration.

  • Pineapple: a half

Look for a pineapple with a sweet smell, bright yellow color and no soft spots. 

  • Vegetables such as Thai Basil
  • Chipped Ginger: 1-inch pieces
  • Crushed Garlic: 3 cloves
  • Crushed Shallot: 3


  • Sugar: 3 tbsp
  • Ground annatto: 2 tbsp
  • Bo Kho spices: 1/4 cup
  • Paprika: 1.5 tbsp
  • Fish sauce: 2 tbsp
  • Pepper: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt: 1/2 tbsp


To prepare the Vietnamese Beef Stew, also known as Bò Kho, follow these steps:

Start by cleaning the beef and cutting it into approximately 2-inch chunks. Be cautious not to cut it too small, as this can cause the meat to shrink during cooking.

Add ginger and a small amount of white wine to remove the gamey smell of the beef. Use your hands to massage the meat gently. Avoid using salt, as it can toughen the meat.

If white wine is not available, there are alternative methods to eliminate the smell. One option is to blanch the beef briefly in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Avoid overcooking to prevent the meat from becoming tough and resistant to marinade absorption.

Another alternative is to marinate the beef with roasted and mashed shallots.

Once the beef is ready, wash and prepare the pineapple, lemongrass, carrot, and onion for further processing.

Finely chop the pineapple and extract its essence by squeezing the chopped pineapple to obtain juice. This pineapple juice will enhance the tenderness and flavor of the Bò Kho. 

Using a fine strainer or cheesecloth, filter the pineapple juice to remove any solid pieces, leaving only the liquid.

Gently pound the lemongrass and cut it into long pieces, approximately 3-4 inches. Avoid chopping it too finely, as finely chopped lemongrass can become fibrous and dry during cooking, affecting the dish’s texture.

Cut the carrot into chunks of approximately 2 inches, ensuring they are not too small to avoid them becoming overly soft or mushy during cooking.

Lastly, cut the onion into 2-inch pieces.

Now you have prepared all ingredients for cooking Bo Kho; it’s time to show off your cooking skills!

Cooking Bo Kho – Step By Step Instruction

Step 1: Marinate Beef and other ingredient 

To marinate beef for Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bò Kho), follow these steps:

Prepare the marinade by combining the following ingredients: 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of ground annatto, 1/4 cup of Bo Kho spices, 1.5 tablespoons of paprika (adjust according to your desired level of spiciness), 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, 1/4 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 lemongrasses (previously cut into sections), finely chopped ginger and shallots, 1/2 part of chopped garlic.

Mix the marinade ingredients thoroughly.

Wrap the beef with the marinade using a food wrap and refrigerate it for approximately 20-30 minutes if you’re pressed for time, but preferably 1-4 hours for the flavors to penetrate the meat.

By marinating the beef with these flavorful ingredients, you will achieve a delightful Vietnamese Beef Stew known as Bò Kho.

Step 2: Cooking 

To cook the Bò Kho, follow these steps:

Heat 2,5 tablespoons of cooking oil in a pot. Once the oil is hot, add lemongrass and the remaining garlic, allowing them to sizzle for about 30 seconds.

When the lemongrass and garlic turn fragrant and golden, add the marinated beef. 

Continuously stir the beef to ensure even cooking and browning. Cook until the meat is firm and well done, which usually takes around 3 minutes. 

When the beef is brown,  add fresh coconut and filtered water to the pot.

During the cooking process, skim off any foam or impurities that float on the surface of the pot. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for approximately one hour.

Afterward, add carrots and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When the carrots become tender, add onions and tomatoes. Approximately 7 minutes after the onions and tomatoes are cooked, turn off the heat.

These instructions are for cooking Vietnamese Beef Stew using a stove. If you prefer using a pressure cooker, the cooking process is similar. Instead of simmering the meat for an hour on the stove, pressure cooking it for 20-25 minutes will yield a tender result. Afterward, add the remaining ingredients, such as carrots, onions, and tomatoes, in the specified order. 

Finally, release the pressure and wait for about 5 minutes until the carrots, onions and tomatoes become soft.

Serving Bo Kho

To serve Bo Kho, there are several options you can consider:

If you prefer a breakfast option, you can enjoy Bo Kho with crispy toasted bread instead of the usual sandwich or any other dish. Vietnamese baguettes or any other type of bread that can be toasted to a crispy texture will work well. 

When cooking Bo Kho, make sure to use plenty of broth and avoid simmering it for too long to prevent the broth from becoming too thick. This broth will be used to dip the bread into.

Alternatively, Bo Kho can also be enjoyed for lunch or even dinner. If you don’t have bread, you can serve it with rice or noodles instead. When using noodles, mix them with the broth instead of dipping them like the bread. If you prefer a tangy and slightly sour taste, you can try adding 1/4 lime to the dish. Lime is commonly used by many Vietnamese people to enhance the flavors of dishes like Pho, Bun Bo, and even Bo Kho. However, keep in mind that some people may not enjoy the overpowering taste of lime, so it’s important to consider personal preferences.

If you decide to serve Bo Kho with rice, you can make the sauce thicker. Combining hot steamed white rice with flavorful and rich Bo Kho creates a whole new world of deliciousness that you should definitely try.

For the best culinary experience, it is recommended to enjoy Bo Kho while it’s still hot. Pair it with chili peppers or fresh herbs, particularly basil, to elevate the flavors even further.


Besides being flavorful and delicious, Bo Kho is also a healthy dish. It is packed with nutrients that are good for your body. 

Beef provides essential B vitamins such as vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 which helps maintain a healthy brain. It is also an excellent source of iron, zinc, selenium, and protein. The carbohydrates in Bo Kho come from the vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and tomatoes. These vegetables provide dietary fiber to help boost metabolism and aid digestion.

Besides, Bo Kho also has a lot of other nutrition that is essential for health, below is some nutrition can be contained in this delicious dish: 

  • Calories: 380 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 25g
  • Protein: 35g
  • Fat: 15g
  • Saturated Fat: 7g
  • Cholesterol: 100mg
  • Sodium: 1115 mg
  • Potassium: 1210 mg
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugar: 8g
  • Vitamin A: 1800 IU
  • Vitamin C: 12 mg
  • Calcium: 103 mg
  • Iron: 5.7 mg

How to Preserve Bo Kho?

Bo Kho can be preserved for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and stored for up to 2 months in the freezer. To preserve Bo Kho, allow it to cool completely before transferring it into an airtight container. Make sure not to fill the container too much with Bo Kho, as if you do; it won’t freeze properly. 

For longer periods of storage, Bo Kho can be canned. To do this, make sure to use a pressure canner and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This method will ensure that all microorganisms are destroyed to preserve your dish for up to one year. 

Canned Bo Kho is perfect for long-term storage as it is shelf stable and less likely to spoil. To enjoy the fresh flavors of Bo Kho without sacrificing its nutritional value, it is best to consume canned Bo Kho within 1-2 months. 

When using after-storage, please be aware of reheating until it’s boiled to ensure the oil and other ingredients aren’t cold anymore. Especially if you use oil that isn’t reheated in the right way, you may get food poisoning.

No matter how you decide to store your delicious Vietnamese Beef Stew, make sure that proper preservation techniques are used in order to avoid food poisoning or other health risks. However, using it after cooking is recommended instead of storing Bo Kho. 

Common Mistakes When Cooking Vietnamese Bo Kho

 Vietnamese Bo Kho is a delicious and flavorful dish, but it can be challenging to get the perfect balance of fat, sweet, savory, sour, and spicy flavors. Below are some common mistakes to avoid when preparing this traditional Vietnamese Beef Stew: 

  • Using lemongrass in finely chopped pieces rather than cutting it into small 2-3 inch segments. Because the finely chopped lemongrass will quickly become mushy and disintegrate when cooked. When eating Bo Kho, you may eat these small lemongrass pieces that make your mouth uncomfortable.
  • Not adding enough cooking oil to the pot – while Bo Kho should be served with some broth, it’s important to add enough cooking oil so that the meat can brown properly.
  • Not marinating the beef for long enough – marinating beef for at least 20 minutes (1-4 hours is recommended) allows the flavors to penetrate the meat, yielding a flavorful and tender texture.
  • Not browning the beef before adding other ingredients – this is important for building flavor, as it helps to caramelize the sugars in the marinade and enhance its taste. 
  • Adding too much liquid – while Bo Kho should be served with some broth, adding too much liquid will/can dilute the flavor and make the sauce overly watery.
  • Not using enough spices – Bo Kho is known for its bold flavors, so it’s important to use the right combination of spices to achieve this characteristic feature. 
  • Adding all ingredients at once – can lead to over-cooking some ingredients or under-cooking others; for example, if you put carrot and tomato at the same time, while tomato is quickly softer than the carrot, so it’s important to add them in the order specified and take into account the cooking time needed for each ingredient. 
  • Not skimming off foam or impurities – Bo Kho should have a clear broth, so it’s important to skim off any foam or impurities that may be produced during boiling. 


How Do I Make Bo Kho More Flavorful?

Bo Kho is already a flavorful dish, but if you want to take it up a notch, try adding more spices or fresh herbs. Adding some chili peppers can also give the stew an extra kick. You may also consider adding 1/4 lime for a slightly sour and tangy flavor. 

How Do I Thicken The Broth?

Bo Kho is traditionally served with a light and flavorful broth. However, if you prefer a thicker sauce, you can try reducing the broth by simmering it down and cooking longer. Alternatively, you can also use cornstarch to thicken the sauce. 

Is Bo Kho gluten-free?

Bo Kho is gluten-free as long as you do not add any wheat flour or other gluten-containing ingredients. For a gluten-free version of the dish, make sure to use fish sauce and tamarind paste (or juice) instead of soy sauce and hoisin sauce. 

Final Thoughts

Bo Kho is a traditional and flavorful Vietnamese beef stew that can be enjoyed with steamed white rice, fresh herbs, or chili peppers. With proper preparation, Bo Kho can be an enjoyable and delicious dish for the whole family. Remember to marinate the beef for at least 20 minutes before cooking it, brown the beef properly before adding other ingredients, and use the right combination of spices for a bold and delicious flavor. Also, make sure to take proper preservation steps for longer storage duration if desired.