Pinakbet: A Guide to This Delicious Filipino Dish

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Pinakbet is a popular vegetable dish in the Philippines, sometimes known as pakbet or pinakbet tagalog. This Filipino dish is considered a popular cultural food from the Ilocanos, and its texture and appearance make it a stew.

It’s made with a medley of locally grown vegetables and is typically flavored with bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp paste) and fish sauce. It may also be topped with crumbled pork crackling or chicharon for added flavor.

This dish is usually cooked in a clay pot (palayok) over an open fire. Nowadays, it can also be cooked in a regular cooking pot on the stove.

Pinakbet has a pleasant earthy sweet taste and a unique savory-salty flavor from the bagoong alamang.

The vegetables used in this dish are also known to have many health benefits. For example, bitter gourd (or ampalaya) is known to help regulate blood sugar levels, while eggplant is a good source of fiber and antioxidants.

This dish is also relatively easy to make, and it’s one of the people’s favorite recipes for home-cooked meals.

What is pinakbet

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This dish helps Filipino farmers because it uses vegetables as its main ingredients.

When consumers buy local veggies, they not only give their families a nutritious meal, but also support the livelihood of Filipino farmers who toil diligently to create high-quality vegetable crops.

So in many ways, cooking pinakbet (full recipe here) is a patriotic thing to do. Not to mention, it’s tasty and nutritious too!


The origin of pinakbet can be traced back to the Ilocos region in the northern part of the Philippines.

The term pinakbet or pakbet is derived from the Ilocano word “pinakebbet”, which means “shrunk” or “cook until shriveled.” This likely refers to the way the vegetables are cooked until they become soft and their natural flavors have been concentrated.

The Ilocanos are known for being thrifty people, and this is reflected in their cuisine. They often use whatever ingredients are locally available and cook them simply to preserve their nutrients.

This dish is a prime example of their ingenuity in using whatever ingredients are on hand to create a delicious and nutritious meal!

Pinakbet was originally one of the most popular vegetarian Filipino recipes. Back in the day, meat wasn’t as readily available or affordable, and fish was commonly used instead when people wanted to add some protein.

What Does Pinakbet Taste Like?

Pinakbet is a popular Filipino dish that consists of a medley of vegetables, pork, and shrimp in a flavorful sauce. The dish uses a variety of ingredients, including bitter melon, green beans, eggplant, and kalabasa (squash), all combined to create a colorful and visually distinctive stew.

The flavors of pinakbet are complex and delicious, with a slightly sweet taste that is combined with a bit of bitterness from the bitter melon. The dish is traditionally flavored with bagoong, a fermented anchovy paste that adds a salty and umami flavor to the dish.

The Meat in Pinakbet

Pinakbet usually includes pork, with cuts of belly or shoulder being the most commonly used. The pork is either grilled or boiled before being added to the pot, which starts the process of rendering the fat and making the meat super tender.

How to Describe the Taste of Pinakbet

Describing the taste of pinakbet is not an easy task, as the dish has a complex flavor profile that is hard to pin down. However, some words that could be used to describe the taste of pinakbet include:

  • Savory
  • Umami
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Sweet
  • Complex
  • Delicious

What to Pair with Pinakbet?

When it comes to Filipino cuisine, pinakbet is one of the most popular dishes. This iconic dish originated from the Ilocos region and is composed mainly of vegetables such as string beans, eggplant, and bitter melon. It also consists of local ingredients such as bagoong (shrimp paste), ginger, and onion. The word “pinakbet” means “shrunk” or “shriveled” in Ilocano, which refers to the method of cooking where the vegetables are cooked until they are completely soft and hot. Here are some traditional pairings for pinakbet:

  • Lechon (roasted pig) or crispy pork belly: The crispy texture of the meat complements the softness of the vegetables in pinakbet.
  • Grilled meat: Any type of grilled meat such as chicken or beef is a great pairing for pinakbet.
  • Bagoong: This salty and savory shrimp paste is a staple condiment for pinakbet and is often mixed with the dish before eating.
  • Steamed rice: Pinakbet is best eaten with steamed rice to balance out the flavors.

Vegetarian Pairings

For those who prefer a vegetarian diet, pinakbet can still be enjoyed without any meat. Here are some vegetarian pairings for pinakbet:

  • Tofu: Cut into uniform pieces and add to the dish while cooking.
  • Shrimp: If you’re not a vegetarian, adding shrimp to the dish is a great way to add some protein.
  • Crispy fried fish: This is a popular pairing in the Ilocos region.
  • Steamed rice: As mentioned before, steamed rice is a must-have with pinakbet.

Regional Variations

Pinakbet is a dish that is widely spread throughout the Philippines, and different regions have their own take on the dish. Here are some regional variations and pairings:

  • Ilocos: The traditional way of cooking pinakbet in Ilocos is to add crispy pork belly or lechon. It is also common to add bagoong isda (fish paste) instead of bagoong alamang (shrimp paste).
  • Tagalog: In the Tagalog region, pinakbet is known as “pakbet” and is cooked with ground pork and shrimp paste. It is also common to add kalabasa (squash) and okra to the dish.
  • Bicol: In the Bicol region, pinakbet is known as “pinakbet na may lada” and is cooked with black pepper. It is also common to add gata (coconut milk) to the dish.
  • Cebu: In Cebu, pinakbet is known as “pinakbet bisaya” and is cooked with crispy fried fish.
  • Mindanao: In Mindanao, pinakbet is cooked with a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and garlic. It is also common to add sliced pork or chicken to the dish.

Preserving the Flavor: How to Keep Your Pinakbet Fresh

The best way to store your leftover pinakbet is to put it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. This will keep the vegetables fresh and prevent them from getting soggy. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your container is airtight to prevent moisture from getting in.
  • Store your pinakbet in the fridge as soon as possible after cooking.
  • If you’re storing a large batch of pinakbet, divide it into smaller portions to make it easier to reheat later.

Use Your Leftover Pinakbet in Other Dishes

If you don’t want to eat your leftover pinakbet as is, consider using it in other dishes. Here are some ideas:

  • Use it as a filling for an omelet or frittata.
  • Mix it with cooked rice to make a flavorful fried rice.
  • Use it as a topping for pizza or flatbread.
  • Blend it with some vegetable or chicken broth to make a flavorful soup.

Pinakbet’s Kindred Dishes

Pinakbet is just one of the many vegetable dishes in the Philippines. Here are some other similar dishes to try:

  • Dinengdeng: A dish that originated in the Ilocos region, just like pinakbet. It includes a mix of vegetables and can also contain grilled or fried fish or meat.
  • Bulanglang: A vegetable soup that usually includes a lot of leafy greens and is often served with fish or shrimp paste.
  • Laing: A dish from the Bicol region that uses taro leaves and coconut milk. It’s usually a bit spicier than pinakbet.

Other Dishes with Pork and Vegetables

If you love the combination of pork and vegetables, here are some other dishes to try:

  • Adobo: A popular Filipino dish that can be made with pork, chicken, or both. It includes a sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and other ingredients.
  • Menudo: A stew that usually includes pork, liver, and vegetables like potatoes and carrots. It’s often served with rice.
  • Sinigang: A sour soup that can be made with pork or other meats. It includes vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and leafy greens.

Other Dishes with Bagoong

Bagoong is a key ingredient in pinakbet, but it’s also used in other Filipino dishes. Here are some to try:

  • Kare-kare: A stew that usually includes oxtail, tripe, and vegetables like eggplant and green beans. It’s served with a peanut sauce that includes bagoong.
  • Binagoongan: A dish that includes pork belly and a sauce made with bagoong, tomatoes, and onions. It’s usually a bit sweet and a bit spicy.
  • Ginisang Monggo: A dish made with mung beans and vegetables like spinach and bitter melon. It’s often served with bagoong on the side.

Other Dishes with Crispy Pork Belly

Crispy pork belly is a delicious ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some to try:

  • Lechon Kawali: A dish that involves boiling pork belly until it’s tender, then slicing it into pieces and deep-frying until crispy. It’s often served with a dipping sauce made with vinegar and onions.
  • Bagnet: A dish from the Ilocos region that involves deep-frying pork belly until crispy. It’s usually served with vegetables and rice.
  • Sisig: A dish that originated as a way to use up leftover pig’s head and other parts. It includes crispy pork belly, onions, and other ingredients, and is often served on a sizzling plate.

Pinakbet vs Dinengdeng: What’s the Difference?

Dinengdeng is another popular dish from the Ilocano region of the Philippines. It is a soup-based dish that contains fewer vegetables than pinakbet and is often called “bagoong soup” because of the fermented fish paste or bagoong used as a condiment. The bagoong used in dinengdeng is typically made from krill or shrimp, which produces a stronger flavor than the bagoong used in pinakbet.

How is Dinengdeng Cooked?

The cooking process for dinengdeng is similar to that of pinakbet, but with a few key differences. Here’s how it’s done:

  • The vegetables used in dinengdeng are often limited to squash, bitter melon, and string beans.
  • The bagoong used in dinengdeng is called “bagoongbagoong,” which is a thicker and more fermented paste than the bagoong used in pinakbet.
  • After cooking the vegetables in water, the bagoongbagoong is added to the pot and simmered for a few minutes.
  • The dish is then served with fried fish or grilled meat as a side dish.

What Makes Pinakbet and Dinengdeng Different?

While both dishes are popular in the Ilocano region and contain vegetables and bagoong, there are a few key differences between the two:

  • Pinakbet contains more vegetables than dinengdeng.
  • Pinakbet has a thicker sauce, while dinengdeng is more of a soup-based dish.
  • The bagoong used in dinengdeng is more fermented and produces a stronger flavor than the bagoong used in pinakbet.
  • Pinakbet is often paired with fried fish, while dinengdeng is served with fried or grilled meat.
  • The term “dinengdeng” means “to separate” or “to strain,” which refers to the process of separating the vegetables from the broth before serving.

Pinakbet vs Bulanglang: What’s the Difference?

While both dishes are composed of a variety of vegetables, the main difference between pinakbet and bulanglang is the protein used. Pinakbet is a pork-based dish, while bulanglang is usually made without any meat. Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients and method for each dish:

  • Cut pork into small pieces and brown in a pan with onions and ginger.
  • Add a mix of vegetables such as eggplant, okra, bitter melon, and string beans.
  • Pour in a sauce made of water, fish sauce, and ground black pepper.
  • Stir and let it simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
  • Serve with rice.


  • Boil water and add a mix of fresh vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, onions, and string beans.
  • Let it simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
  • Remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes.
  • Serve with rice.

Taste and Texture

Pinakbet and bulanglang may have similar ingredients, but they have distinct differences in taste and texture. Here’s what you can expect:

  • The pork brings a nice heartiness to the dish.
  • The sauce is usually on the salty side due to the fish sauce.
  • The vegetables are cooked until they are soft and tender.
  • The dish has a solid texture due to the pork and vegetables being cooked together.


  • The absence of meat makes it a great option for vegetarians.
  • The dish has a lighter taste due to the absence of the pork and the use of boiled water instead of a sauce.
  • The vegetables are cooked until they are soft but still have a bit of a bite to them.
  • The dish has a soupy texture due to the use of boiled water.

Popularity and Benefits

Both pinakbet and bulanglang are popular dishes in the Philippines, but they are more popular in different parts of the country. Pinakbet is more commonly found in the northern parts of the Philippines, while bulanglang is more popular in the southern parts. Here are some benefits of each dish:

  • The addition of pork provides a good source of protein.
  • The vegetables used in the dish supply plenty of vitamins and minerals.
  • The use of fish sauce brings a nice umami flavor to the dish.


  • The absence of meat makes it a great option for people who want to increase their vegetable intake.
  • The dish is composed of a variety of vegetables, providing a range of vitamins and minerals.
  • The method of boiling the vegetables helps to prevent the loss of nutrients and produces a nice, clear broth.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about pinakbet. It’s a delicious Filipino dish made with a variety of vegetables, usually containing pork, and flavored with bagoong.

It’s a great way to enjoy a healthy and flavorful meal, and it’s perfect for any occasion.

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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.