What is Kare-Kare? A Guide to Taste, History, and Health Benefits

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Kare kare is a Filipino dish that’s popular worldwide. But what is kare kare?

Kare kare is a peanut-based stew made with oxtail, pork, and vegetables. It’s often served over rice and garnished with boiled eggs. The dish is a popular street food in the Philippines and is considered a national dish.

Let’s look at the history, ingredients, and preparation of this delicious dish.

What is kare kare

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Is Kare Kare a Curry? What Does Kare Kare Taste Like?

Many people believe that kare kare (full recipe here) is a type of curry, but this is not entirely accurate. While kare kare and curry share some similarities, they are not the same dish. Kare kare is a Filipino stew that features a rich, peanut-based sauce, while curry is a popular Japanese dish that uses a variety of spices and often includes seafood or vegetables.

The Taste of Kare Kare

So, what does kare kare taste like? The flavor of kare kare is rich, nutty, and slightly sweet. The peanut-based sauce is the star of the dish, and it is usually thick and smooth. The meat used in kare kare is typically beef, oxtail, or pork, and it is cooked until it is tender and falls off the bone. The vegetables included in kare kare can vary, but they usually include eggplant, string beans, and onions. The dish is often served with rice to help balance out the rich flavors.

The Process of Making Kare Kare

The process of making kare kare can be a bit time-consuming, but the end result is worth it. Here are the steps involved in making kare kare:

  • Begin by cutting the meat into small, bite-sized pieces. If you are using oxtail, make sure to cut it into smaller pieces to help it cook faster.
  • Next, heat a pot over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the meat and stir until it is browned on all sides.
  • Add chopped onions and garlic to the pot and stir until the onions are translucent.
  • Pour in enough water to cover the meat and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the meat to simmer until it is tender.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a separate pot, mix together peanut butter, ground rice, and water until it forms a smooth paste.
  • Add the peanut butter mixture to the pot with the meat and stir until everything is well combined.
  • Add the vegetables to the pot and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom.
  • Cover the pot and allow the dish to simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.
  • Season the kare kare with soy sauce and salt to taste.
  • Serve hot with rice.

Variations of Kare Kare

While the traditional version of kare kare includes beef, oxtail, or pork, there are many variations of the dish that include different cuts of meat or even seafood. Some versions of kare kare also include extra vegetables, such as bok choy or cabbage. Here are some popular variations of kare kare:

  • Kare kareng gulay: A vegetarian version of kare kare that uses vegetables instead of meat.
  • Kare kareng pata: This version of kare kare uses pork hocks instead of beef or oxtail.
  • Kare kareng hipon: A seafood version of kare kare that uses shrimp instead of meat.

Tips for Making the Perfect Kare Kare

If you want to try making kare kare at home, here are some tips to help you get the best results:

  • Use natural peanut butter: Natural peanut butter will give your kare kare a richer, more authentic flavor than processed peanut butter.
  • Cut the meat into small pieces: This will help the meat cook faster and prevent it from becoming tough.
  • Allow the dish to rest: After cooking, allow the kare kare to rest for a few minutes before serving. This will allow the flavors to meld together and make the dish even more delicious.
  • Use a powerful stock: A rich, flavorful stock will help enhance the flavor of your kare kare.
  • Include some heart cuts: Heart cuts of meat, such as beef heart, can add an extra layer of flavor to your kare kare.

The Origins of Kare Kare: A Rich and Deliciously Unique Dish

Kare Kare is a traditional Filipino dish that has become widely popular not only in the country but also in other parts of the world. The dish is known for its rich content and unique taste, which makes it a perfect choice for special occasions and catering services. But where did this famous dish come from? Let’s take a closer look at its history.

The Origins of Kare Kare: Stories and Beliefs

There are many stories and beliefs about the origins of Kare Kare, but the most widely accepted idea is that it originated from the province of Pampanga, the culinary epicenter of the Philippines. According to some locals, Kare Kare was invented by the native inhabitants of Pampanga who were trying to recreate a curry dish that the British soldiers requested. Instead of using the usual curry ingredients, they used oxtail and peanut butter, which resulted in the unique taste of Kare Kare.

Another story goes that Kare Kare was originally called “lomo-lomo” and was made with pork instead of beef. When the Americans came to the Philippines during the colonial era, they preferred beef over pork, and so the dish evolved into what we now know as Kare Kare.

The Key Ingredients of Kare Kare: An Attempt to Recreate Curry

The main ingredients of Kare Kare are oxtail and beef, which are cooked until tender and served with a thick peanut sauce. The sauce is made with ground peanuts, shrimp paste, and annatto seeds, which give it its distinct orange color. The dish is usually served with white rice and vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, and bok choy.

The Timeless Reputation of Kare Kare: A Dish that Continues to Serve

Kare Kare has become one of the most requested dishes in Filipino menus, and it’s not hard to see why. Its rich and unique taste has captured the hearts and palates of people from all walks of life. The dish has even made its way to other countries, where it has been adapted to local tastes. In Japan, for example, there is a similar dish called “katsu curry,” which is made with pork or chicken instead of beef.

Despite the many variations of Kare Kare available today, the traditional recipe remains the best. It is a dish that has stood the test of time and has become a staple in Filipino cuisine. Whether you’re a local or a foreigner, Kare Kare is a dish that you must try at least once in your life.

Getting to the Meat of Kare-Kare: Oxtail and Beef

  • Kare-kare is known for its flavorful and tender meat, which is usually made up of oxtail and beef.
  • To prepare the meat, start by cutting the oxtail into pieces and slicing the beef into thin strips.
  • In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat some oil over medium heat and add the oxtail pieces. Cook until golden brown on all sides.
  • Add garlic and onions, and stir until fragrant.
  • Pour in enough water or stock to cover the meat, and let it simmer for a few hours until the oxtail is tender and the beef is cooked through.
  • Note: The process of cooking the meat takes a long time, but it’s definitely worth it for the flavorful and tender result.

Adding Vegetables and Other Ingredients

  • Once the meat is cooked, transfer it to a bowl and set it aside.
  • In the same pan, add some oil and sauté some finely sliced onions and garlic until fragrant.
  • Add some sliced carrots and cook for a few minutes until slightly softened.
  • Pour in the kare-kare sauce mixture (made up of ground peanuts, rice, and water) and stir until well combined.
  • Add the cooked oxtail and beef back into the pan, followed by some sliced eggplant and string beans.
  • Stir everything together and let it simmer for a few more minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.
  • Note: Some people like to add additional ingredients like seafood or heart, but the classic kare-kare recipe sticks to oxtail and beef.

Serving and Enjoying Kare-Kare

  • Kare-kare is traditionally served with plain or steamed rice on the side.
  • Some people like to sprinkle a little bit of bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) on top for an extra burst of flavor.
  • Kare-kare is a heavy and flavorful dish, so it’s best enjoyed in small portions with some nice sides to balance it out.
  • Note: Kare-kare is often compared to Japanese beef stew or braise, but the addition of ground peanuts and rice in the sauce mixture gives it a unique and flavorful twist.

How to Prepare the Perfect Kare-Kare: A Beginner’s Guide

To make a traditional kare-kare dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Beef (oxtail, shank, or tripe)
  • Ground peanuts or peanut butter
  • Rice
  • String beans
  • Eggplant
  • Bok choy
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil

Serving Suggestions

  • Kare-kare is traditionally served with rice.
  • You can also include a side dish of bagoong (shrimp paste) for an added flavor.
  • For a seafood version, you can substitute the beef with shrimp or squid.
  • For a pork version, you can use pork hocks or belly.
  • For a healthier version, you can use young jackfruit instead of meat.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t overcook the vegetables to maintain their crunchiness.
  • If the sauce is too thick, add a little water to improve the consistency.
  • Grounded toasted rice is sometimes added to the sauce to thicken it.
  • Some people also incorporate a little Chinese five-spice powder to add a special flavor.
  • Cuts of meat like shank or tripe are cheaper and can be used as a substitute for oxtail.
  • Reviews say that adding a bit of sugar can improve the taste of the dish.

Pairing Kare Kare with the Perfect Side Dishes

Kare Kare is a traditional Filipino dish that is rich in flavor and history. It is a hearty stew made with oxtail, beef, or pork, and a peanut-based sauce. While it is delicious on its own, pairing it with the right side dishes can take it to the next level. In this section, we’ll explore some of the best side dishes to serve with Kare Kare.


Rice is the perfect accompaniment to Kare Kare. It helps to balance out the rich and flavorful sauce and provides a nice base for the meat and vegetables. Here are some tips for preparing rice to go with your Kare Kare:

  • Use a medium-grain white rice for the best texture and flavor.
  • Wash the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch.
  • Use a 1:1.5 ratio of rice to water.
  • Bring the rice and water to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pot.
  • Cook for about 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed.
  • Allow the rice to rest for a few minutes before fluffing it with a fork and serving.


Kare Kare typically includes vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, and bok choy. However, you can also serve additional vegetables on the side to provide extra nutrition and flavor. Here are some vegetable dishes that pair well with Kare Kare:

  • Pinakbet- a traditional Filipino dish made with mixed vegetables and shrimp paste.
  • Ginisang Gulay- a simple stir-fry of mixed vegetables with onions and garlic.
  • Japanese-style mixed vegetables- a mix of carrots, broccoli, and snow peas stir-fried with soy sauce and ginger.


Since beef is the main ingredient in Kare Kare, it may seem odd to serve additional beef dishes on the side. However, there are some beef dishes that can complement Kare Kare nicely. Here are a few options:

  • Beef Tapa- a Filipino breakfast dish made with thinly sliced beef marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic.
  • Beef Caldereta- a similar stew to Kare Kare, but with a tomato-based sauce and additional vegetables like potatoes and bell peppers.
  • Beef Salpicao- a flavorful dish of cubed beef sautéed with garlic, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

The Many Versions of Kare-Kare

The most common and popular version of kare-kare is the traditional beef kare-kare. This dish is made with cuts of beef, mainly oxtail and tripe, and incorporates a thick peanut sauce. The dish also features vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, and bok choy. The sauce is made by toasting ground peanuts and atsuete seeds, which are then combined with water, onions, and garlic. Soy sauce is added for flavor, and the dish is served with rice.

Seafood Kare-Kare

For those looking for a lighter version of kare-kare, seafood kare-kare is a perfect dish. This version of kare-kare uses shrimp as its main protein ingredient, and the dish is cooked in a similar way to traditional beef kare-kare. The peanut sauce is still used, but the vegetables used in the dish are slightly different, with okra being a common addition.

Vegetarian Kare-Kare

For those who do not eat meat, vegetarian kare-kare is a good option. This version of kare-kare uses vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, and bok choy as the main ingredients. The peanut sauce is still used, but the meat is removed. Some people add tofu to the dish to add a bit of protein.

Chinese Kare-Kare

Chinese kare-kare is a version of the dish that incorporates Chinese ingredients. This version of kare-kare uses sliced beef instead of oxtail and tripe. The peanut sauce is still used, but it is improved by adding a little bit of sesame oil. The vegetables used in this dish are also slightly different, with onions and sliced carrots being a common addition.

Reviews and Ratings

Kare-kare is a popular dish in the Philippines, and there are many different versions available. Some people prefer the traditional beef kare-kare, while others prefer seafood or vegetarian versions. There is no one “correct” way to make kare-kare, and the dish can be customized to suit individual tastes. If you are looking for a good kare-kare recipe, click on wiki or wikipedia for more information.

Why Kare-Kare is More Than Just a Delicious Dish: Its Health Benefits

Kare-kare is a traditional Filipino dish that takes time and effort to prepare. But did you know that the way you prepare it can affect its health benefits? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use cuts of beef that are leaner to reduce the total calories and fat content of the dish.
  • Boil the meat for a few hours to tenderize it and break down the tough fibers.
  • Use a pressure cooker to cook the meat quicker and with less water.
  • Use a ratio of 1:1 for the meat and vegetables to achieve the ideal consistency.
  • Use annatto seeds or extract to give the dish its signature warm, reddish-brown color.

The Nutritional Components of Kare-Kare

Kare-kare is a heavy dish that contains a mixture of meat, vegetables, and peanut sauce. Here are some of the nutritional components of kare-kare:

  • The meat (usually oxtail or beef) provides protein, which is important for building and repairing muscles.
  • The peanut sauce provides healthy fats and energy for the body.
  • The vegetables (usually eggplant, string beans, and pechay) provide fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
  • The annatto seeds or extract provide antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radicals.

The Health Benefits of Kare-Kare

Kare-kare may be a heavy dish, but it provides several health benefits when consumed in moderation and prepared properly. Here are some of the health benefits of kare-kare:

  • It provides energy for the body, making it an ideal dish for those who need to stay active throughout the day.
  • It contains active components that can help burn calories and fat during a workout or physical activity.
  • It can help with weight management by utilizing the body’s total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and net calorie burn.
  • It can help with muscle recovery and growth due to its high protein content.
  • It can help with digestion due to its fiber content and the fact that it is a warm, cooked food.

How to Make a Healthier Version of Kare-Kare

If you’re looking to make a healthier version of kare-kare, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use leaner cuts of beef or substitute it with chicken or tofu.
  • Use ground peanuts instead of peanut butter to reduce the fat content of the sauce.
  • Use crushed peanuts instead of butter to thicken the sauce.
  • Use a mixture of different colored vegetables to provide a wider range of nutrients.
  • Soak the annatto seeds in warm water before discarding them to extract more of the color and nutrients.

Kare Kare vs Kaldereta: Battle of the Beef Dishes

Kare Kare is a popular Filipino dish that is usually served as a main course. It is a rich and flavorful stew that brings together a variety of meats, vegetables, and a special peanut sauce. Here are some key points to note about Kare Kare:

  • The meat used in Kare Kare is usually oxtail and beef, but some versions may also include pork or chicken.
  • The sauce is made with ground peanuts, soy sauce, and other spices, giving it a sweet and savory taste.
  • Kare Kare is usually served with white rice and a side of bagoong (shrimp paste).
  • Some variations of Kare Kare include seafood or vegetables, such as eggplant, string beans, and young jackfruit.

Kaldereta: A Spanish-Inspired Dish with a Filipino Twist

Kaldereta is another popular Filipino dish that is often compared to Kare Kare. It is a hearty stew that uses beef or goat meat, and is cooked with tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers. Here are some key points to note about Kaldereta:

  • The meat used in Kaldereta is usually beef, but some versions may also include goat or pork.
  • The sauce is made with tomato paste, soy sauce, and other spices, giving it a rich and slightly spicy taste.
  • Kaldereta is usually served with white rice and a side of pickled vegetables or sliced tomatoes.
  • Some variations of Kaldereta include crispy pork skin or grilled chicken added to the stew.

Kare Kare vs Kaldereta: What’s the Difference?

While both Kare Kare and Kaldereta are beef stews that are popular in the Philippines, there are some key differences between the two dishes. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which dish to try:

  • Meat: Kare Kare uses oxtail and beef, while Kaldereta uses beef or goat meat.
  • Sauce: Kare Kare uses a peanut sauce, while Kaldereta uses a tomato-based sauce.
  • Vegetables: Kare Kare includes a variety of vegetables, such as eggplant and string beans, while Kaldereta typically includes potatoes and bell peppers.
  • Taste: Kare Kare has a sweet and savory taste, while Kaldereta has a rich and slightly spicy taste.
  • Special additions: Kare Kare is usually served with bagoong (shrimp paste), while Kaldereta may include crispy pork skin or grilled chicken.

Where to Find Kare Kare and Kaldereta

If you’re looking to try Kare Kare or Kaldereta, you can find these dishes at many Filipino restaurants around the world. Some restaurants may offer different variations or special additions to these dishes, so be sure to ask your server for recommendations. Here are some other Filipino dishes to try:

  • Adobo: A popular dish made with chicken or pork, cooked in a soy sauce and vinegar marinade.
  • Sinigang: A sour soup made with tamarind, vegetables, and your choice of meat.
  • Pancit: A noodle dish that can be served with a variety of meats and vegetables.
  • Lechon: A roasted pig dish that is often served at special occasions.
  • Halo-halo: A sweet dessert made with shaved ice, sweet beans, coconut, and other toppings.

Kare Kare vs Pinakbet: Which Filipino Dish is the Best?

Pinakbet is a traditional Filipino dish that originated from the Ilocos region. It is a stew made with a combination of vegetables such as eggplant, okra, string beans, and bitter melon. The dish is usually cooked with pork, shrimp, or seafood and is flavored with bagoong, a fermented fish sauce. Pinakbet is a simple dish that is easy to make and is perfect for those who are looking for a healthy and flavorful meal.

What are the Main Ingredients of Pinakbet and Kare Kare?

Pinakbet and Kare Kare have different main ingredients. Here are the ingredients for each dish:

  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • String beans
  • Bitter melon
  • Pork, shrimp, or seafood
  • Bagoong (fermented fish sauce)

Kare Kare:

  • Beef, oxtail, or tripe
  • Peanut sauce
  • Toasted rice
  • Atsuete seeds

How are Pinakbet and Kare Kare Cooked?

The cooking process for Pinakbet and Kare Kare are different. Here’s how each dish is cooked:
1. Saute onions and garlic in oil.
2. Add the pork, shrimp, or seafood and cook until brown.
3. Add the vegetables and cook for a few minutes.
4. Pour in water and bring to a boil.
5. Add bagoong and cook until the vegetables are tender.
Kare Kare:
1. Boil the meat until tender and remove any excess fat.
2. Combine the grounded toasted rice and atsuete seeds in water and strain.
3. Add the mixture to the meat and bring to a boil.
4. Add the peanut sauce and cook until the meat is tender.
5. Add the vegetables and cook until they are tender.

Which Dish is Healthier?

Pinakbet is a healthier option compared to Kare Kare. Pinakbet is a vegetable-based dish that is low in fat and calories. On the other hand, Kare Kare is a meat-based dish that is high in fat and calories.

Where to Find Pinakbet and Kare Kare Recipes?

If you’re looking for Pinakbet and Kare Kare recipes, you can find them online. There are a number of websites and blogs that offer traditional and modern versions of these dishes. You can also find recipes on social media platforms like Facebook.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about kare kare. It’s a delicious Filipino dish that you can make at home with a little bit of effort. 

So, don’t be afraid to try something new and enjoy kare kare for dinner tonight!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.