Rendang Sapi: Beef Rendang (Beef Braised in Spiced Coconut Milk)

Our special recipe for beef rendang. The secret: reduce the coconut milk until the spices caramelize and the meat is a rich, dark brown.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

An Indonesian cooking blog would not be complete without a rendang recipe. It is a culinary treasure from the Minangkabau region in West Sumatra. CNN crowned rendang No. 1 in its World’s 50 Best Foods list in 2011 and 2017. The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has also been promoting it as one of Indonesia’s ‘culinary icons’. Also featured are nasi goreng, gado-gado, soto and satay.

Rendang is mostly available in restaurants serving West Sumatra’s Padang cuisine. These Padang restaurants are ubiquitous in Indonesia, thanks to the merantau (migrating) culture of Minangkabau. This is where men tend to leave their hometowns to work in other cities or even other countries. They introduced rendang and popularized Padang food across Indonesia and in neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and parts of The Philippines.

Rendang is a meat dish, slow-cooked in spices and coconut milk. The most popular rendang is undoubtedly made with beef. But other proteins such as poultry, fish and even vegetables can be used, according to your tastes.


The Cooking Process

One of the interesting thing about rendang is that during the process of cooking, the dish goes through 3 distinct stages. Each stage yields a different dish in its own right: 

  • Gulai, a light yellow soupy curry, is obtained when the cooking process is stopped just as the meat is done. 
  • Kalio, a thick brown curry, is obtained when the gravy partly evaporates and the meat starts to brown.
  • (Dry) Rendang is obtained when the liquid has almost fully evaporated and the colour turns dark brown. 

Some people like their rendang more moist, with more gravy, and others prefer it dry. It’s just a matter of personal taste. Rendang is a culinary heritage Indonesians are very proud of, but we all have our individual preferences. Don’t be afraid to make it how you like it, because in the end, you’ll be the one enjoying it. 

And one more thing: although the cooking process is quite long, the end result will totally be worth it. Your reward for all the effort is a rich, creamy, tender, fragrant and delicious rendang. A feeling of great pride will consume you! Plus, your place will smell so heavenly your neighbour will knock on your door!

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Rendang Sapi: Beef braised in spiced coconut milk

Rendang Sapi: Beef Rendang (Beef Braised in Spiced Coconut Milk)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Braising
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Beef rendang, or beef braised in spiced coconut milk, is possibly Indonesia’s most famous dish. This recipe calls for the coconut milk to be reduced until the spices caramelize and the meat is a rich, dark brown.


  • 1kg top round beef, cut into 4 cm pieces
  • 250 gr big red chillies, chopped
  • 10 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlics, peeled, chopped
  • 4 cm fresh galangal, peeled, chopped
  • 4 cm fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp tamarind
  • 2 lemongrass, bruised, knotted
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 fresh turmeric leaves (optional)
  • 1.5 litre fresh thick coconut milk, or if not available substitute it to 1 litre water and 400 ml canned coconut milk.

Beef Rendang ingredients


  1. Using a blender or food processor, blend the chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal and ginger into a smooth paste.
  2. In a big, non-stick pan, put the beef chunks, then add the spice paste, along with tamarind, salt, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaves.Beef rendang add in ingredients
  3. Add the coconut milk.
  4. Mix everything together, then stir constantly under medium heat.
    Beef Rendang: stir constantly
  5. When the soup boils, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking.

    Beef Rendang: let the liquid evaporate

  6. Keep stirring and cooking until the meat is tender and the liquid has evaporated, leaving moist, sumptuous paste and tender tasty beef.


  • Use lean cuts of beef such as topside or round for the best result.
  • The key to making good rendang is low heat and constant stirring during the whole cooking process, especially during the first hour, and the last half an hour. The preparation itself is quite simple, but the cooking needs to be attended to for approximately 2.5-3 hrs. So please make sure you have enough time when cooking rendang.
  • As seen in the picture in this recipe, the gravy paste is still moist and not yet dry, and it’s because I prefer it that way. If you prefer drier rendang, just continue cooking until it becomes darker and drier.

Keywords: Common ingredients, beef, rendang, coconut

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