Exploring Bo Kho – Vietnam’s Delicious Beef Stew

By Alex Au Yeung

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Bo Kho is a traditional Vietnamese beef stew that has been enjoyed for generations. This hearty dish is known for its rich flavors and tender pieces of beef, making it a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. In this article, we will explore the history of Bo Kho, the special ingredients that make it unique, and how it is traditionally served in Vietnam.

What is bo kho beef stew? Is bo kho healthy?

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew
What is bo kho beef stew?

Bo Kho is a Vietnamese beef stew that is made with tender pieces of beef, vegetables, and a variety of aromatic spices. The dish is known for its rich, savory flavor and is often served with crusty bread or rice noodles.

Bo Kho is a popular comfort food in Vietnam, and it is commonly enjoyed as a hearty meal during the colder months. The dish is made by first marinating the beef in a mixture of spices, which often includes lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chili. The beef is then slowly cooked with a variety of vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and potatoes, until it is tender and flavorful.

In terms of its nutritional value, Bo Kho can be a healthy option when made with lean cuts of beef and a variety of fresh vegetables. The dish is high in protein and fiber, and the vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals. However, Bo Kho can also be high in sodium if it is made with a lot of salt or soy sauce.

When it comes to the taste of Bo Kho, it is often described as being rich and hearty, with a combination of sweet and savory flavors. The aromatic spices used in the dish give it a complex, flavorful profile that is unique to Vietnamese cuisine. The texture of the beef and vegetables is also a key component of the dish, as the tender meat and soft vegetables make for a comforting and satisfying meal.

Read more: Top 20 Vietnamese Breakfasts You Should Try

What does bo kho taste like?

Bo Kho is a delicious and hearty beef stew that is a beloved part of Vietnamese cuisine. With its rich flavors and comforting texture, it is a dish that is sure to please both meat-lovers and vegetable enthusiasts alike.

How to cook bo kho?

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew
How to cook bo kho?

Making Bo Kho from scratch may seem daunting, but with the right ingredients and techniques, it can be a satisfying and delicious cooking experience. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make Bo Kho:

Cooking note

  • Yield: 4-6 servings
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Marinating time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Course: Main dish
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese
  • Equipment: Instant Pot pressure cooker


The key to making delicious Bo Kho is using the right combination of spices and ingredients. Here are the ingredients you will need to make Bo Kho from scratch:

  • 1 lb. beef shank, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

What’s in bo kho seasoning?

  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise pods

The combination of lemongrass, cinnamon, star anise, and bay leaves gives Bo Kho its distinct flavor profile. The addition of carrots and potatoes not only adds flavor and texture but also makes the dish more filling and nutritious. Sugar and fish sauce are added to balance the flavors and add depth to the broth.

Instructions for making Bo Kho in an instant pot

Making Bo Kho from scratch may seem daunting, but with the right ingredients and techniques, it can be a satisfying and delicious cooking experience. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make Bo Kho in an Instant Pot:

Preparing the meat:

  1. Cut the beef shank into bite-sized pieces and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the Bo Kho seasoning (which typically includes lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon, and star anise) with soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar.
  3. Add the beef to the bowl and stir to coat evenly. Allow the beef to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Making Bo Kho in an instant pot:

  1. Turn on the Instant Pot and select the “Sauté” mode. Once the pot is hot, add the vegetable oil.
  2. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they are translucent.
  3. Add the marinated beef and cook for a few minutes until browned.
  4. Add the chopped carrots and potatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and beef broth to the Instant Pot.
  5. Close the lid and set the valve to “Sealing”. Select the “Meat/Stew” mode and adjust the time to 45 minutes.
  6. Once the cooking time is up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before switching the valve to “Venting” to release any remaining pressure.
  7. Open the lid and give the Bo Kho a good stir.
  8. Serve hot with crusty bread or rice noodles, and garnish with fresh herbs like cilantro or basil.

The flavor of bo kho: a taste test

Bo Kho is known for its rich, savory flavor and tender meat. The dish has a slightly sweet and spicy taste, with hints of lemongrass and cinnamon. The meat should be fork-tender and the broth should be thick and hearty.

When taste testing Bo Kho, pay attention to the balance of flavors. The dish should not be overly salty, sweet, or spicy. Adjust the seasoning as needed to achieve the desired taste.

Bo Kho is traditionally served with a crusty baguette or rice noodles, which provide a satisfying contrast to the bold flavors of the stew. The dish is also often garnished with fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, which add a bright, herbaceous note to the dish.

Tips for making Bo Kho at home

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew
Tips for making Bo Kho at home

Choose the right cut of meat

Bo Kho is traditionally made with beef shank, which is a tough cut of meat that becomes tender and flavorful when slow-cooked. If you can’t find beef shank, you can also use brisket or chuck roast.

Marinate the meat

Marinating the beef before cooking it can help to tenderize it and infuse it with flavor. A simple marinade of fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar can work wonders.

Don’t skip the spices

The combination of aromatic herbs and spices is what gives Bo Kho its unique flavor. Don’t skimp on the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and star anise.

Cook low and slow

Bo Kho is a stew that requires slow cooking to ensure that the beef becomes tender and the flavors meld together. You can use a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or cook the stew on the stove over low heat for a few hours.

Adjust seasoning to taste

Bo Kho can be adjusted to personal taste preferences when it comes to seasoning. Add more chili powder for a spicier kick, or more sugar for a sweeter flavor.

How many calories in bo kho?

Nutrition FactsAmount per serving
Total Fat10-20 g
Saturated Fat4-6 g
Cholesterol70-100 mg
Sodium800-1000 mg
Total Carbohydrates10-15 g
Dietary Fiber3-5 g
Sugars4-6 g
Protein20-30 g
Vitamin A50-100%
Vitamin C15-30%

Pairing Bo Kho

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew
Banh mi bo kho

Banh mi bo kho

Banh Mi Bo Kho is a popular Vietnamese dish that involves dipping a crispy, warm baguette into a savory and aromatic Bo Kho broth. The combination of the crusty bread and the flavorful beef stew creates a delicious and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed any time of day. Banh Mi Bo Kho is a nutritious breakfast option that can be added to your daily meal plan to add variety to your diet.

Pho bo kho

One popular way to serve Bo Kho is with Pho, another traditional Vietnamese dish. To enjoy Bo Kho with Pho, simply add a few spoonfuls of Bo Kho into your bowl of Pho, along with the usual Pho toppings such as bean sprouts, herbs, and lime. The rich and hearty flavors of the Bo Kho complement the light and refreshing taste of Pho, creating a balanced and satisfying meal. This combination is perfect for those who want to try different flavors and textures in their meal.

Watch more on this video to know how to make Pho Bo Kho

Bun bo kho

​​Bun Bo Kho is another delicious way to serve Bo Kho. Bun is a type of Vietnamese rice vermicelli that is often used in soups or served cold as a salad. To make Bun Bo Kho, simply cook the rice vermicelli according to package instructions, and then top it with a generous serving of Bo Kho. Garnish with fresh herbs and chopped peanuts, and you have a delicious and nutritious meal that is both satisfying and refreshing. The combination of the warm and savory Bo Kho with the cool and chewy Bun creates a unique and enjoyable eating experience.

Mi bo kho

Bo Kho can also be served with mi, a type of Vietnamese egg noodle that is commonly used in soups or stir-fries. To enjoy Bo Kho with mi, simply cook the egg noodles according to package instructions, and then add a generous amount of Bo Kho on top. You can also add some bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro for additional flavor and texture. The combination of the tender and flavorful beef stew with the soft and chewy egg noodles creates a delicious and satisfying meal that is perfect for any time of day.

Ingredients that can be substituted for traditional ingredients

While it is best to use traditional ingredients when making Bo Kho to achieve the authentic flavor and texture, there are some ingredient brands that can be substituted if the traditional ingredients are not available. Here are some common ingredient substitutions for Bo Kho:

  • Beef: You can use any type of beef that is suitable for stewing, such as chuck roast, sirloin, or brisket. If you cannot find beef shank, you can substitute it with beef stew meat.
  • Lemongrass: If fresh lemongrass is not available, you can use dried lemongrass or lemongrass paste. You can also substitute with lemon zest, but the flavor will not be as strong.
  • Star anise: If you cannot find whole star anise, you can use ground star anise or Chinese five-spice powder. Be sure to adjust the amount accordingly, as ground star anise is more potent than whole star anise.
  • Fish sauce: If you cannot find fish sauce, you can substitute with soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. However, the flavor will be slightly different.
  • Curry powder: If you cannot find Vietnamese curry powder, you can use any type of curry powder that you have on hand. However, the flavor will be different, and it may affect the overall taste of the dish.

While these substitutions can work in a pinch, keep in mind that they may alter the overall taste and authenticity of the dish.

How to store leftover Bo Kho?

Leftover Bo Kho can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

To freeze Bo Kho, let it cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

When you want to eat it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat it on the stove or in the microwave.

Where to find the best Bo Kho in Vietnam?

If you are looking for the best Bo Kho in Vietnam, some popular places to try are Pho Quynh, Pho bo kho Ut Nhung, Hu Tieu Bo Kho Ba Nam, and Bo Kho Vo Van Tan. These restaurants are known for serving delicious and authentic Bo Kho. However, it’s always a good idea to ask locals for their recommendations, as there may be lesser-known spots that serve exceptional Bo Kho as well.


How does Bo Kho get its red color?

Bo Kho gets its red color from the combination of chili powder and tomatoes in the seasoning. The amount of chili powder used can be adjusted to personal preference, which will also affect the intensity of the red color in the dish.

Is bo kho spicy?

Bo Kho can be spicy depending on the recipe and the preference of the cook. Some recipes use spicy ingredients like chili peppers or hot sauce, while others may not. If you prefer less spice, you can adjust the recipe to your liking by reducing or omitting the spicy ingredients. It’s always a good idea to taste the Bo Kho before serving to make sure it’s at the desired level of spiciness.

Northern vs. Southern Bo Kho

The texture of Bo Kho can vary depending on personal preference and regional variations. In Northern Vietnam, Bo Kho is typically thicker, similar to a stew, and eaten as a breakfast dish. In Central Vietnam, it’s often served with noodles in the stew, making it thinner like a noodle soup. In Southern Vietnam, it’s served alongside bread for dipping in the broth. Ultimately, whether you eat Bo Kho thick or thin is up to your own taste and preference.

Which beef cuts are best for Vietnamese Beef Stew?

There are several beef cuts that work well for Vietnamese beef stew, such as chuck roast, beef shank, and brisket. These cuts have a good amount of marbling, which helps to add flavor and tenderness to the stew as it cooks. Some people also like to add oxtail to their beef stew for additional flavor and texture. Ultimately, the choice of beef cut will depend on personal preference and availability in your area.

Which Bo Kho spice brand do I use?

Oriental Vietnamese Beef Stew Spices Seasoning (Pack of 3) – Gia Vi Nau Bo Kho

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew

Oriental Beef Spices(Bo Kho)

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew

Quoc Viet Foods Beef Flavored Stew Base 10oz Cot Bo Kho Brand

Exploring Bo Kho - Vietnam's Delicious Beef Stew

Can I make it ahead?

You can make Bo Kho ahead of time. In fact, many people believe that it tastes even better the next day as the flavors have had more time to meld together. 

How do I thicken Bo Kho?

To thicken Bo Kho, you can use a cornstarch slurry. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water until it forms a smooth paste. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the Bo Kho while stirring continuously. Cook for a few more minutes until the broth reaches the desired thickness. Another way to thicken the stew is by adding a pureed potato or some mashed beans to the broth, which will add a creamy texture and thicken the stew.

Can I make it in a slow cooker?

Yes, Bo Kho can be made in a slow cooker. To make Bo Kho in a slow cooker, follow the same steps as making it in a pot or instant pot, but adjust the cooking time and setting. Typically, you would cook it on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high heat for 3-4 hours. However, the exact cooking time may vary depending on your slow cooker model and the amount of ingredients used. It’s important to ensure that the beef is tender and fully cooked before serving.

How Bo Kho helps in maintaining a healthy diet?

Bo Kho can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet for several reasons. Firstly, it is a good source of protein from the beef and contains a variety of vegetables like carrots and onions, which provide essential vitamins and minerals. Secondly, the spices used in Bo Kho, such as star anise and cinnamon, have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit overall health. Additionally, using lean cuts of beef and minimizing the use of oil can make Bo Kho a lower-fat option compared to other stews or soups.

More beef recipe:


Bo Kho is a Vietnamese beef stew that is hearty, flavorful, and comforting. It is traditionally made with tender beef, lemongrass, ginger, star anise, and a variety of other spices.

Some key points about Bo Kho include:

  • It can be served with different types of noodles, bread, or rice.
  • The spice blend used in Bo Kho can vary depending on personal preference or regional differences.
  • Bo Kho is a great source of protein and other essential nutrients, making it a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for later consumption.

Overall, Bo Kho is a delicious and satisfying dish that is perfect for cold weather or anytime you need a hearty meal. Its unique blend of spices and tender beef make it a standout in Vietnamese cuisine.