Nilagang Baka - Feastful Fork
Filipino Beef Lunch Meats and Seafoods Philippines

Nilagang Baka (Beef Nilaga)

What is nilagang baka?

Are you looking for common Filipino recipes? Nilagang baka (beef soup with vegetables) is a common Filipino dish; as common as beef sinigangchicken adobo and tinola. Nilaga is a term that means boiling or to boil. Chicken nilaga is the same recipe as beef, however, understandably, with the difference in the meats, the tastes differ.

Nilagang baka ingredients

On its own, nilagang baka have different renditions, the original of which has potatoes, white cabbage, and string beans. The other versions have kalabasa or corn on cobs replacing the potatoes. Cabbage can be replaced by pechay (bok choy) or Chinese cabbage, while the string beans can be replaced by green beans.  This post has kalabasa or pumpkin, green beans, and a full head of cabbage. Would you agree with me that the taste of kalabasa comes close to that of sweet potatoes? If you do, then it is safe to say that it sweet potatoes or yams can be used to replace kalabasa or potato in the nilaga recipe.

The addition of choice vegetables would give the soup the certain desired taste. For example, by comparison, the original recipe will maximize the beef-and salty taste, while the one with kalabasa has the sweetness of the vegetable with the taste. It is a matter of preference altogether.

Nilagang Baka Ingredients

For the meat ingredients, any cuts of beef are best: beef brisket, chunks of beef, or beef tendons are good. Any of them combined with a good amount of beef bones will give the soup its wondrous taste from about 6 cups water for a kilo of meat. Season with 2 tablespoons fish sauce near the end of cooking and presto! With fish sauce, and or beef stock, I eliminate salt from the recipe.

Secrets of a successful nilagang baka

As in a number of Filipino soup recipes, one top secret is the tenderness from the cuts of meat, or are tenderized by low to medium heat in cooking. This slow cooking process keeps the taste of the meat in the cooking pot instead of letting it evaporate over high heat. That would require more cooking time or additional minutes, but it is all worth it. Boil the meat with quartered onions, a tablespoon of black peppercorns  until the meat is fork-tender, then add the rest of your choice of vegetables, and you are guaranteed a perfect beef nilaga.

Another secret of nilaga is the use of bone-in meat. If you have heard of or came across recipes for “bulalo,” which is literally beef bones, this taste is indeed truly Filipino and would be the best in the line-up of all versions of nilaga! Bulalo, though a term to mean beef bones, denotes nilaga by itself, however suggesting more bones than meat in the same recipe.

Nilagang Baka

Health benefits of nilaga

Nilaga is known for its healing effects, especially in headaches, muscular or joint pains. I, for one, know the magical response of headaches to nilaga. If I can reach for its hot soup soon enough, I do not need any more paracetamols or pain relievers as I surely would be fine in no time.

I had a trip-and-fall accident at the beginning of 2021, gaining an infamous bone fracture in one of my metatarsal bones. I was advised by one of my colleagues that consuming beef or chicken bone broth regularly would hasten my recovery. Bone broth? I immediately thought of beef nilaga. Not only did I repeatedly enjoy the hot broth, and had an excuse to have it more than once a week, I also realized the truth in the advice of a friend and colleague.

Nilaga always brings delicious beef soup, comfort, and healing.

How to eat beef nilaga

Most people go for the flavourful beef broth from nilaga. This is the ultimate “why.”  By itself, you already have a perfect meal. Having said that, most eat nilaga with plain steamed rice.

I have been to a couple of restaurants in the Philippines that serve only nilaga. And there are many eateries and outlets that have this dish as their main offering.

How to keep left-over beef nilaga

To preserve the delicious taste of nilaga, leftovers can be kept in airtight containers in the fridge for a couple of days and then reheated. If you are sensitive to the smell of cabbage, I suggest separating it from the rest onto another container and mixing it again in reheating.

Cooking Tips

  • Boil the beef with onions and peppercorns at the beginning of cooking. Do not add salt at this stage yet.
  • It is safe to use salt, fish sauce, or commercial beef cubes and compliment nilaga with fish sauce (patis) on the side.
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Nilagang Baka with Kalabasa

Nilagang Baka (Beef Nilaga)

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Filipino


Beef nilaga is a basic Filipino recipe that is proud of its tasty, healthy soup. It has minimal ingredients which result to a dish that has healing properties as well.


  • 1 kilo beef cuts, bone-in
  • whole black peppercorns
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 3 medium onion quartered
  • 300 g kalabasa (pumpkin cut into 2-inch pieces)
  • 300 g string or green beans cut into 3” length
  • ½ head cabbage quartered
  • 1 bunch Bok Choy optional
  • 2 tbsp. patis (fish sauce fish sauce)


  1. Bring water to boil with peppercorns and onion.
  2. Add beef pieces, cover, let boil again then lower the heat. Simmer until beef pieces are fork-tender.
  3. Add kalabasa halfway through followed by string/green beans.
  4. Add cabbage, Bok Choy (if using), and patis, then simmer for another 2 minutes.
  5. Serve hot.

Keywords: beef nilaga, Filipino beef soup, nilagang baka

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