Beef Rendang Recipe: Authentic Indonesian Dry Beef Curry

This authentic beef rendang recipe is rooted in the original one from West Sumatra, Indonesia. It’s meltingly-tender dry beef curry cooked in coconut milk and spices. The dish is one of Indonesia’s signature dishes that is now famous all over the country and beyond.

Indonesian beef rendang on a round white plate.

Authentic Indonesian beef rendang

Beef rendang is a delicious Indonesian dry beef curry cooked in spicy coconut milk. The beef is slow-cooked until all the liquid evaporates, leaving the meat soft and tender. It tastes delicious with aromatic rendang sauce. 

It is one of the most famous dishes originating from West Sumatra, Indonesia, and has reached all over the country and beyond.

A plate of beef rendang and white rice.

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You might encounter this dish in neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. Like any food worldwide, this original rendang from Indonesia has many versions according to the place that adopted it. Therefore, you might come across Malaysian rendang or Singaporean rendang.  But all is rooted in Padangnese (West Sumatran) rendang. 

The dish has become so popular all over Indonesia that beef rendang is now one of Indonesia’s acknowledged national foods. The others are Gado-Gado, Nasi Goreng, Sate Ayam/ Sate Kambing, and Soto

If you go to Indonesia, you can always find an eating place that serves this dish on their menu in any region/ province across the country. So you’ll see why beef rendang is a national Indonesian dish.

Traditionally, the West Sumatran cook this flavorsome dried rendang as a signature dish for the festive seasons, such as Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr. Or for celebratory occasions such as weddings and community events. But nowadays, people make the dish whenever they like as a part of the home food menu.

Like any food recipe, there are hundreds if not thousands of authentic beef rendang recipes. After tasting numerous, I’m confident that the recipe I’m sharing here offers the best flavor of beef rendang.

It’s a family recipe that my mom shared with me. Now, I want to share it with you. 

Types of rendang

There are two types of rendang: one with gravy, also known as Kalio, and the other with a dry curry without gravy. This difference is achieved according to the length of cooking time. 

The longer the cooking process is, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates. And the richer and more intense the flavor you get.

The one without gravy will turn dark brown, almost black. Therefore, it is called rendang hitam, which means black rendang. And this one is the real deal of beef rendang.

And the one with the gravy has a consistency like ordinary curry and is more luscious.

Furthermore, the dish varies according to the type of meat you use. Though the most common one is made with beef, there are also chicken and goat rendang. 

Just like most dishes from the Sumatra region, rendang is cooked in coconut milk with spices and herbs that give an irresistible aroma and flavor. And the hint of sweetness from caramelized coconut milk makes the dish ever so moreish.

The type of beef to use

Contrary to what some recipes suggest, you need good quality and fat-free beef meat to make beef rendang. Chunks of beef chuck, topside, shin, or brisket are the popular options for the dish. 

Because of its long, slow-cooking process, even the hard beef shin will become meltingly tender. 

Ingredients for authentic Indonesian rendang

Photo of ingredients for beef rendang.

In short, you only need four things to make this delicious dry curry. They are beef, spices, herbs, and coconut milk.

As for the spices, you need ground cumin, ground coriander, red chilies, and galangal.

Note that people in Indonesia use fresh red chilies and galangal roots. 

But to simplify and make things more practical, I use dried red chili powder (Kashmiri red chili powder is my favorite because of its color and flavor). 

You can also use dried galangal root or galangal paste in a jar. They are good alternatives.

Now, for herbs, you will need ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and turmeric leaf. It may be tricky and hard to get the latter because turmeric leaf is not available at regular Asian shops or at Chinatown. 

So you may have to look and order online. But if you find it impossible to get it, I would say that you still can make mouthwatering beef rendang without it. So don’t worry about it. 

Last but not least, you need coconut milk to make rendang. It is the number one ingredient that gives the meat a rich flavor. Make sure you choose good quality tinned coconut milk. And even better if you make it yourself. 

How to make the best beef rendang

There are two ways of cooking rendang, one with spice paste and the other without.

The video and images I share in this post refer to the latter. It is a simplified method, but the end result of this recipe yields a good rendang with the taste of authentic rendang.

For this one, you will chop the onion, mince the ginger, finely chop the galangal, and use Kashmiri red chili powder (or any Asian red chili powder).

raw beef, spices and herbs in a pot
raw beef covered with spices and herbs for rendang

Place the beef, chopped onion, minced ginger, galangal, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, salt, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaf (if using) in a cooking pot. Give it a stir as you cook over medium heat. Then, put the lid on and let it cook until the beef pieces are cooked through.

meat cooked in spices
beef cooked in spices and coconut milk to make rendang

Next, add the coconut milk, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer. Keep an eye on it and keep stirring every now and again to prevent the bottom of the pot from burning. 

beef rendang with gravy
Beef rendang with gravy
beef rendang without sauce
Beef rendang without gravy

If you want, you can turn the heat to high to reduce the sauce quickly. When you see the gravy has evaporated halfway, reduce the heat and continue to cook until you get soft and tender beef with little to no gravy. 

It takes approximately an hour for the gravy to dry up. In between, I turn the heat up and down to quicken the cooking process. 

The other method, which is the traditional way to cook the rendang, is by grinding all the spices until they form a smooth paste. 

You can use a pestle and mortar like in the olden days. Or, if you’re like me and want to cook fast, you can use a food chopper/ food processor. 

Once you get a smooth curry paste, place the beef pieces and the rest of the ingredients, including the spice paste, in the cooking pot and cook until the coconut milk reaches a boiling point. Then follow the rest as above.

If you want proper black rendang, let the beef slow cook at low heat with the lid on until the gravy evaporates and turns caramelized. Just don’t forget to keep turning and stirring, especially when the liquid starts to dry up. 

Tips to make authentic rendang Padang

  • Choose the best beef you can afford and cut the beef to an equal size. I usually cut in about 1.5 – 2 inches cubes. Ensure you don’t cut the beef too small, as those pieces will shrink even more due to cooking time. 
  • If you use tinned coconut milk, choose the best possible because not all canned coconut milk is equal. Some brands only put less than 50% of the milk in the tin. And some put loads of thickening agents that make the dish taste a bit weird. I won’t be able to recommend the same thing to all of you as you may live in different parts of the globe. But if you are in the UK, I recommend using this one. I find it best, especially if I want to use it for savory Asian recipes. 
  • And if you want to go more authentic, you can make your coconut milk by mixing some water with grated coconut. Mix and squeeze the coconut until you see the milk coming out. Then, you squeeze and sieve the coconut over a mixing bowl. You must put water gradually to ensure you get thick milk out of it. 
  • As mentioned above, it is not easy to get turmeric leaves. If you’re one of them, you can omit it altogether. Just make sure you have the rest from the list of ingredients, especially the spice paste ingredients. 
A plate of dried beef curry - rendang.

Ways to enjoy the dry beef curry

You can enjoy the cooked beef rendang with hot plain white rice.

Traditional rendang is best enjoyed with hard-boiled rice called lontong as a part of the celebration menu, such as Eid or weddings. You can check my post on how to make lontong

Usually, Padangnese (West Sumatran) would have the dish with similarly spicy dishes such as Balado kentang (potato cooked in spicy chili paste), sayur nangka (spicy jackfruit curry), and sambal ijo (green chilies cooked with onions and green tomatoes).

How to store the leftover beef rendang

In the olden days, beef rendang was made to preserve the meat. Because there was no refrigerator then. And rendang tastes even better when you leave it longer than overnight. I think the flavor of the dish develops better over time.

So, if you made a rendang in bulk, you can keep it in a tight-lid container and store it in the fridge/ refrigerator for about 3-4 weeks. You can also freeze it and keep it for up to 2 months.

The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuum-sealed food bag according to portions. When you need it, you can take the amount you like.

What to serve beef rendang with

Below are some Indonesian recipes that will go well with beef rendang in your food spread. 

Thank you for checking out my beef rendang recipe. I hope you like it and will want to try it. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below, I would really appreciate it.

Lastly, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Pinterest to sneak a peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen.

Thank you and all the best.

Indonesian beef rendang on a round white plate.
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4.89 from 127 votes

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Beef rendang is Indonesian beef curry cooked in spiced coconut milk until all the liquid evaporates leaving the meat tastes rich and delicious.
Author: Devy Dar
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indonesian
Servings: 10

Equipment

  • Cooking pan or
  • Wok.
  • Wooden spoon
  • Food processor or
  • Food chopper

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ pounds boneless beef cut in chunks.
  • 2 medium-sized onions finely chopped.
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin.
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander.
  • ½ Inch galangal.
  • 1 inch ginger.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli pepper powder/ Kashmiri red chili powder, or 10-15 fresh red chillies (see the note)
  • 1 lemongrass.
  • ½ turmeric leaf optional.
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves.
  • 2 cans good quality coconut milk (2 x 13.5 fl.oz. canned unflavored coconut milk).
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt according to taste.

Video

Instructions

  • Using a pestle and mortar, pound and grind the onions, galangal, ginger, and fresh chilies (if using) into a paste. You can also use a food processor to make this paste. Just put the onion, galangal, ginger, and chilies in the food processor. Then give it a blitz until all the become a thick paste.
  • Put the meat in a big wok, add in the spices and herbs paste, the cumin, coriander, lemongrass, turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaves, and salt. 
  • Stir until all the meat pieces are covered with spices. Put the lid on and cook at medium heat. Keep checking and stirring every now and again.
  • After about 20-30 minutes when the meat looks cooked, add in the coconut milk. Stir and cook further with the lid on at medium-high heat until the milk reaches boiling point, then turn the heat to low. If the coconut milk overflows your cooking pan, you can take the lid off or leave it slightly ajar. Don't forget to always keep checking and stirring. And be careful with the boiling gravy that can be scattered around.
  • Rendang should be ready within a few hours. But at this point, the rendang will have quite a bit of gravy. You can enjoy it if you want to.
  • If you like to have a proper Rendang Hitam (black rendang), you have to cook longer for at least another hour. Until all the liquid evaporates completely and the color of your rendang becomes very dark brown. You can quicken the process by cooking at medium-high heat so the gravy evaporates quickly. But, take care not to let it stick to the wok, or worse, to burn. Keep checking and stirring.
  • When all the sauce is gone, and the rendang turns dark brown, you can switch the heat off. Your black rendang/ rendang hitam is ready.

Notes

  • If you use beef, you can either choose topside, shin, or brisket. Cut the meat into 2 inches cubes, and pierce each piece with skewers or a fork a few times. I promise this little thing will make your rendang tastier. 
  • You can use fresh red chilies, but make sure they’re grounded into a fine paste together with other herbs and spices. But really, I’ve tried using both fresh and dried chilies with the same result, which is yummy rendang. So, don’t fret if you can’t get fresh ones. Don’t worry, you can just use chili powder.
  • When it comes to chilies, you can always improvise according to your taste. Although the original rendang is quite hot due to a large number of chilies, in this recipe I only put a “moderate” amount of chilies. So, I suggest you put this moderate amount of chili at the beginning, then put some more after you tasted your rendang halfway through your cooking. 
  • If you use fresh lemongrass, cut it into one-inch length pieces so that we can get the most of its flavor. If you use lemongrass paste, you can put just a little less than one teaspoon of it. But please please don’t use lemongrass powder. They’re useless.
  • As for Turmeric leaf, I did put it as optional, but I strongly suggest you try your best to get it. If you can only get the powder form, put 1 teaspoon of it. But do not fret if this leaf is not available to you. You will still make a good rendang.

Nutrition

Serving: 8portions | Calories: 329kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 286mg | Potassium: 434mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 25IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 4mg

Disclaimer

Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.

What is beef rendang?

Beef rendang is an Indonesian dry curry that is made with good-quality beef meat and cooked in spicy aromatic coconut milk. It has spicy chili heat with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized coconut milk.

Is beef rendang spicy?

Yes, it can be spicy. The traditional rendang will look very dark in that it’s almost black and has a bit of fiery chili heat.

Where is beef rendang from?

It is originally from West Sumatra, Indonesia.

How to thicken beef rendang?

You just have to cook it longer. The longer you cook it, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates.

Can beef rendang be frozen?

Yes, you can also freeze beef rendang and keep it for 2 months. The best way is to put the meat in a food container or vacuum the food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.

Author: Devy Dar

Title: Food Writer, Recipe Developer, and Digital Content Creator.

Bio:

Devy Dar founded So Yummy Recipes and Drizzling Flavor to share her love of food after exploring various cultures and cuisines for more than two decades. Her mission is to help others easily recreate traditional and non-traditional food with readily available ingredients. Her works have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Al Jazeera, MSN, Yahoo, Bon Appetit, and more. 

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18 Comments

  1. Novi Samosir says:

    5 stars
    Delicious and worth to try????????

  2. 5 stars
    This Indonesian Beef Rendang recipe is super tasty!

  3. Alex Bala says:

    What a flavorful dish! I love stew, what a great combination of flavors.

      1. I like how you say “two cans of coconut milk.” I have NEVER seen 7oz cans. They are always 13.5oz. I saw two cans and used two…So stupid. And you also didn’t specify if you cook it covered or uncovered after you bring the coconut milk to a boil…

        1. You are right about 13.5oz in a can. I’m not sure how and where the 7oz came from, because it clearly says in the metric measure that the total coconut milk is 800ml. As for the lid, it is explained that you can leave the lid a jar or take it off after the coconut milk boils. Because the boiling heat often causes the liquid overflowing. But really, you can do however you like as long as the liquid evaporates and the meat is cooked until it is tender.

  4. This beef rendang curry was so yummy, I’m putting it on my regular rotation!

    1. If you’re okay with freezing food, I’d say cook the rendang in bulk and freeze some. So you don’t have to cook often. Because it takes time to make it.

  5. Michael de Riaet says:

    Hi just wanted to check if 2 cans of 400ml of coconut milk as mentioned is accurate.And also cud u pls clarify as to how I cud cook the meat after pouring 800ml of coconut milk onto 800gms of meat wth the lid on .cos it literally boiled over .Small details but pls help to clarify in making the rendang recipe better

    1. Hi, yes you need 2 cans of 400 ml of good quality coconut milk for this recipe. Thank you for pointing out the details needed for this recipe. I will put it in the recipe card. So you may need a large cooking pan/ pot that can fit the meat, spices, and coconut milk. When you put the lid on, you can do so just until the coconut milk reaches boiling point. After that, you can slightly leave the lid ajar. I sometimes just take the lid off until almost all the liquid evaporated. In the olden days, Padangnese cooked this rendang in a big wok without the lid. To help the liquid evaporates quicker. Hope this help.

      1. 5 stars
        What brand of coconut milk in UK do you recommend ? Thanks

        1. I think the best answer will be anything that has more than 50% coconut milk content. And even better if you get the one without thickening agent such as xanthan gum etc. Also pay attention that it doesn’t have sugar in their ingredients. The reason I answer this way because I find that brands try to “improve” their recipe all the time that sometimes the ingredients and their proportion changed. I once used a certain brand with thought it had what I wanted, it turned out that they changed their ingredients proportion and add xantham gum. I didn’t how it result in my cooking.
          I hope that helps. Good luck.

  6. This recipe/food is absolutely incredible the best thing I have EVER tasted. It’s absolutely beautiful.!!
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
    I have literally made this nearly every week and again going to make it tonight.
    Love this food… omg yummmmm❤️

    1. Aww I’m so happy that you like this beef rendang. Thank you for letting us know.

  7. Wilma van der Giessen says:

    Dear friend, when starting, you cook the meat without any oil? Just dry in a hot pan?
    thank you in advance! Being a hobbycook with a passion for Indonesian food, i still have to make rendang! I came across your site and i think i have found the best receipe!

    Terima kasi

    Wilma

    1. Hello Wilma, thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, you don’t need any oil to make beef rendang. Because the coconut milk will turn into coconut oil once it evaporates. All the best, and enjoy your cooking sessions 😉

  8. 5 stars
    Thank you for a wonderful flavoursome recipe, this is by far the best rendang I’ve ever made!

    1. You’re most welcome. I thank you too for sharing this. It made my morning seems brighter despite the cold weather :-).

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