mains/meat/recipes/vietnamese

Bo Kho: the Vietnamese Beef Stew You Never Knew You Loved

Posted February 27, 2018 by Stephanie

I didn’t grow up eating beef stew, but to say that I have an obsession with it is putting it mildly. There’s something about beef stew that’s always captured my attention. Even as a kid I always wanted to eat it – beef was never on the dinner table, so I’m not sure if it was the forbiddenness of it or the fact that beef stew smells so darn good.

Anyway, it’s still winter over here, complete with a random snowstorm, and snowy winter weather always puts me in the mood for a slow simmered soup or stew. I was going for warm and cozy and since I don’t have a beef stew recipe from childhood, I decided to steal Mike’s.

Well, to be honest, Mike said that his mom didn’t make beef stew that much growing up, but I really dig Vietnamese beef stew so of course I decided to make bo kho.

If you haven’t had it before, bo kho is essentially a Vietnamese take on beef stew. Bo means beef and kho means braise/stew. The same familiar ingredients found in a regular beef stew are in bo kho: beef, onions, carrots, and potatoes, but the seasoning is where the fun happens. Lemongrass adds a zippy undertone and star anise, fennel and cinnamon add warmth. Most of the time, annatto seeds are used to give bo kho a bright red hue, but I skipped out on that for simplicity’s sake.

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

I prepped this stew as the snow was falling and a couple of hours and a trip to the store for Vietnamese baguettes later, we sat down to the most comforting meal ever.

The bo kho was beefy, slightly tomato-y, and warm and inviting from spices. Toasted baguettes were essential for scooping up the gravy. The cubes of beef were tender and rich, with a bit of bite and the potatoes did that creamy potato thing that all good potatoes do in a stew. Half-way through, we changed it up a bit by squeezing a lime wedge in for brightness and acidity.

It was so, so good: warm and comforting, humble and familiar. It felt like I was wrapping myself up in my favorite cozy blanket on a cold night. It was so much more than beef stew, it was – as cheesy as it sounds – the taste of home.

PS – After making this, Mike discovered that in Da Nang, which is famous for bo kho, they eat stew for breakfast, with an egg. We tried it the next day with our leftovers and it was HEAVEN.

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Bo Kho/Vietnamese Beef Stew
serves 4


  • 1 lb beef, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • oil for the pan
  • 1 inch piece ginger, sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 stalks lemongrass, cut into 4 inch lengths, bruised
  • 1 onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 4 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste

To serve:

  • sliced green onion
  • sliced jalapeños
  • Thai basil
  • cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • lightly toasted baguettes

Lightly pat the beef cubes dry with a clean paper towel then toss in the flour, coating each cube. Dust off the excess and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a heavy bottomed pan with a lid or a dutch oven, heat a generous amount of oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the beef cubes on all sides until deeply golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the ginger slices, shallot, garlic, and lemongrass and cook, stirring, until the shallot and garlic are soft, but not brown, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Stir in the tomato paste and beef stock. Add the beef back into the pan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium high heat.

While the stew is coming to a simmer, wrap the star anise, fennel, cloves, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick in cheese cloth or place in a large tea bag for easy removal later. Add it to the stew.

When the stew comes to a boil, turn the heat as low as possible – you want the barest simmer – and cover partway, leaving a bit of the pan uncovered to let out steam. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding a touch of water as needed.

After 2 hours test the meat, it should be tender and delicious, but not at all falling apart. Season with fish sauce and sugar to taste. Enjoy!

Optional: Vietnamese beef stew is rarely thickened, but if you like your stew on the slightly thicker side, make a roux from 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking until brown and rich. After seasoning the stew, whisk the roux into the stew and bring it to a simmer.

25 Comments

  1. Ahmed Haque says:

    Beef is so much tasty food maximum people of the world. I also like it very much. Thanks for your lovely website.

  2. kb says:

    Looks great! What’s that white cube next to the egg on the breakfast bo kho picture?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi kb,

      it’s a cube of vietnamese ham :)

  3. SZ says:

    Looks amazing! May I ask where you buy vietnamese baguettes? My favourite bakery has closed and I have been on the search for vietnamese baguettes!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi sz! which city do you live in? :)

      1. SZ says:

        Vancouver! :-)

        1. Stephanie says:

          we usually hit up ba le :)

  4. Christina says:

    This is something I have on a semi-regular basis and can confirm that it’s so comforting! I’ll have to give your recipe a try :)

  5. Ernie says:

    Beef? Is there any specific cut that works well, or just any muscle fiber from the cow?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi ernie,
      i used chuck, but any stewing beef will work

  6. Albert Bevia says:

    I have never had this before…but wow, it just sounds so comforting and delicious! so many great flavors you have incorporated into this recipe

  7. Ben Myhre says:

    This looks really tasty!

  8. Louis says:

    Hi Steph! How does this compare to your Wagyu Brisket Bo Kho?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi louis,

      definitely has the same flavor profile, but a different cut of meat: brisket vs chuck. also, i thickened this stew so that’s different as well. the prep time is cut down a bit too because there’s no mincing/dicing of the lemongrass, ginger, and shallots. hope that helps!

      1. Louis says:

        It does! :-)

        Every time I’ve gotten this at a restaurant, it is made with tendon. Have you made it this way? If so, what is your source for high quality tendon?

        1. Stephanie says:

          you’re absolutely right, usually it’s made with tendon, but tendon takes a while to cook, so i skipped out on it for this one. you can get tendon at asian supermarkets (probably not the highest quality) or regular butchers that butcher their own meat (probably better quality). hope that helps :)

  9. lp says:

    Hi Stephanie, I am thinking of making this, but increasing it for a crowd. The cut of meat I have is a little over 3 lbs. Would you recommend scaling all of the spices equally or are there some you might not triple because they could get overpowering? Looks yummy and I can’t wait to try it! Thanks.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi, i defintely recommend scaling all of the spices except the cinnamon :) you might want to keep the star anise down as well, that tends to be one of those flavors that can over power. hope that helps!

  10. This recipe is perfect for the cold days, Stephanie! I would have loved to include the jalapeños in the stew itself but am afraid it could make everything too spicy for the common tongue. So just like your recipe indicated, I served jalapeños on the side, mainly for my use. This is heaven!

  11. Lynda says:

    Very yummy thank you. Easy too and the house smells amazing!
    It’s been very grey and cold here in Melbourne today and this stew is really hitting the spot and will be a keeper for winter.
    My stock didn’t evaporate so no need to add water and coating the meat with flour gave the right stewy consistancy so I didn’t need to thicken it and I’m soaking up sauce with crusty bread as I type. The meat is tender whilst retaining it’s structure.
    I’ve enjoyed the recipes I’ve tried that you’ve posted Stephanie, keep them coming!

    1. Stephanie says:

      yay! so happy it warmed you up and made you cozy :) thanks for taking the time to comment, i really appreciate it!

  12. grapsta says:

    II’m going to make this for the first time tomorrow…..I’ve looked at 3 recipes for this and the other 2 had coconut water in them ….but yours doesnt have any coconut flavour …..i’m guessing coconut water would make it taste totally different. Oh well…I guess I’ve gotta try it both ways now.

  13. Kent says:

    Hi, I have a question. In the recipe, there are ingredients that can be substitute by five spices powder. How would you adjust that? Because I have the spice ready at home, and I don’t have any asian store near me to buy those.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi kent,
      you can try 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of five spice instead of the spices listed :)

  14. Stacie Nguyen says:

    Going to surprise my hubby with this recipe. He always talked about his Mom’s Vietnamese Beef Stew. Thank you

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