Beef Nilaga, or Bulalo, is a Filipino beef soup dish made with vegetables. This beef nilaga recipe just takes 30 minutes to cook using an Instant Pot with ingredients you can find in your local grocery store. No fancy spices or exotic vegetables are needed. So I know you can make this for dinner!
I want to teach you how to use an Instant Pot to make Beef Nilaga (Bulalo) which will save you a lot of cooking time. You will have a very satisfying soup dish in under an hour. Although, I did include both stovetop and slow cooking methods (CrockPot) as options below.
What Is Beef Nilaga
First, how do you say "Nilaga?" OK, repeat after me, "Nee-la-ga". You got it!
Now that you know how to say "Nilaga", let me tell you what it means.
"Nilaga" is more of a cooking method used to prepare this dish and nilaga means to boil in Tagalog. And "baka" is the word for beef or cow. Beef Nilaga in literal terms is beef that has been boiled in water, like soup, with some vegetables added. Meh. Sounds boring if you ask me. Like, would you want to have a serving of "Boiled Beef with Vegetables" or "Beef Nilaga with Vegetables?" I think I'll take the latter, and double servings, please!
Trust me when I tell you that as simple as this dish sounds, the flavor will astound you. The combination of all the vegetables with the meat makes a delightful flavor and knowing that each spoonful rewards you with a boost of nutrients. That alone is very satisfying! Delicious + Healthy is always a great combination. Quick to make dish is always a bonus, especially if you're busy like me!
Beef Nilaga is a staple dish in my house and I cook it more often in the wintertime. Although, since Nilaga is a very comforting, soothe-the-soul kind of dish, I make it whenever someone needs tender love and care. If someone just had a baby, I make nilaga; surgery, I make nilaga, cold or flu, you got it, I make nilaga, or for "just because", yep! Gimme some Beef Nilaga!!
As you can tell by now, Beef Nilaga is medicine!
What is Bulalo
"Bulalo" is very much the same as Nilaga, in terms of the cooking method. However, Bulalo is specific to the type of meat used as in my recipe below, which uses Beef Shanks with Marrow Bones. And if you want to know another simple recipe using Marrow Bones, check out my fancy Roasted Marrow Bone recipe as a very decadent appetizer.
"Bulalo" means beef soup made with bones like bone marrow. And if you want to know how to say "Bulalo" go here.
What I Love About This Dish
- Nilaga can be made using any type of protein from tofu, fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, or beef. Or even NO MEAT ALL. Just follow the flavorings for the broth and you're all set.
- You can make this dish using all types of vegetables. ALL. Whatever your heart desires.
- You can make this for one or many. Just click on the recipe card to either double or triple the ingredients.
Ingredients for Beef Nilaga (Bulalo)
Nilaga is loaded with lots of protein, vitamins, and minerals from all the ingredients used to make Beef Nilaga.
- Beef Shanks - For this Nilaga (Bulalo) recipe, I used Beef Shanks and bone marrow. My other favorite meats for nilaga are beef short ribs or oxtails. There's nothing quite like making soup using meat with bones since that's where most of the flavoring comes from. And since cooking nilaga over the stove using this type of meat would typically require hours of stewing and boiling time, I opted to use my Instant Pot. Cooking nilaga using the Instant Pot only takes 30 minutes, compared to 3 hours of cooking time over the stop.
- Potatoes - you can use any type of potatoes, like Yukon or Red, I like using the baby potatoes because they're already washed and takes cooking time in half.
- Cabbage - I used green cabbage, however, as an option, you can use napa cabbage, savoy cabbage, or bokchoy
- Scallions + Onions
- Other vegetables typically used to make nilaga are: Green Beans, Carrots, Corn (even the baby corn variety). However, do not limit yourself into just using these vegetables mentioned. You can add any of your favorite vegetables and make your own version of Beef Nilaga. It will be just as delicious and healthy!!
- Salt + Peppercorns
- Fishsauce (affiliate link)
How To Cook Beef Nilaga (Bulalo) in an Instant Pot
STEP 1: Set the Instant Pot at Sauté settings for 10 minutes.
STEP 2: Sauté the onions for 2 minutes.
STEP 3: Sear the beef for 4 minutes on each side. Add fish sauce, salt, and peppercorns.
STEP 4: Add water in the pot, close the lid tightly then set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook on High for 30 minutes.
STEP 5: Depressurize the pressure cooker. If necessary, skim any foam from the broth. If you wish, cook the broth in advance and refrigerate. Any solidified fat will be easier to skim.
STEP 6: Add the vegetables in the pot in layers with potatoes underneath, followed by cabbage, then broccoli. Place the lid back, slightly ajar. The hot steam will cook the vegetables perfectly. I don't like eating vegetables that are overcooked. And I'm all about presentation, see.... take a look at the finished dish, below.
NOTE: Scroll down to the recipe card to see how to cook Beef Nilaga (Bulalo) using a Stockpot (CrockPot) or on a stovetop.
- For a clearer broth, first soak the meat in cold water for 30 minutes, then discard. Use fresh cold water as the base for the soup.
- For a more tender beef and added healthy bonus, add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar in the water when tenderizing the beef. This helps to breakdown the collagen and muscle fibers of the meat thus, retaining its juices, giving you a more tender and healthier dish.
- For a healthy low-fat content soup, buy your meat from a reputable place. I buy my meat from a local farmer, so the meat to fat ratio is equally balanced and I didn't have to use a fat separator (affiliate link).
- Soak your alliums! Did you know that a simple iced-water soak before you slice onions helps to neutralize the sulfuric compounds that bring about an almost bitter taste and instead reward you with a more mellow and subtle sweetness from the allium?
- Show me the umami! Sauté the meat with aromatics, like onions and fish sauce, this will give the meat a more succulent flavor, and you will get that umami "give-me-some-more" flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
While the cooking method is the same, the cut of meat used is different! Nilaga uses any cuts of beef, pork, or chicken, while Bulalo uses beef shanks or marrow bones.
The best cuts are chucks, rounds, or shanks. These cuts have a high concentration of collagen-rich connective tissues that also have some fat marbling for flavor. Go here for a great resource for different cuts of beef.
Yes! Nilaga can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Leftover Nilaga will last up to 3 days in the fridge.
YES! The compounds in marrow bones have been linked to decreased inflammation, better skin health, and improved joint function. Check out my blog about the health benefits of marrow bones.
Other Soup Recipes To Try
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium-sized onion sliced
- 2 pounds Beef Shank
- 1 tablespoons fish sauce
- Salt + Peppercorns
- 4 cups of water
- 1 cup Potatoes
- ½ Green Cabbage quartered
- 1 head of Broccoli cut into florets
- 2 Green Onions sliced 3" length
How to Cook Beef Nilaga (Bulalo) in Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot
- Set the Instant Pot at Sauté for 10 minutes.
- Sauté the onions for 2 minutes, until translucent.
- Add fish sauce, salt, and peppercorns, then sear the beef for 4 minutes on each side.
- Add water in the pot, close the lid tightly then set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook on High for 30 minutes.
- Depressurize the pressure cooker. If necessary, skim any foam from the broth.
- Add the vegetables in the pot in layers with potatoes underneath, followed by cabbage, then broccoli. Place the lid back, slightly ajar, since we are not pressure cooking at this point. The hot steam will cook the vegetables perfectly.
How to Cook Beef Nilaga (Bulalo) Stovetop
- In a Dutch oven or another stockpot, over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté onions until translucent, about 2 minutes
- Add salt, peppercorns, and fish sauce, then sear the beef for 4 minutes on each side.
- Add water, bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and continue to simmer the beef. This process takes anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. This is when you will skim the scum from the broth.
- When the meat is tender, add the vegetables in the order as written giving them 3 minutes each to cook.
How to Cook Beef Nilaga (Bulalo) in a Slow-Cooker / Crockpot
- Add oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, saute the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add salt, peppercorns, and fish sauce, then sear the beef for 4 minutes on each side. Add water and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat off.
- Meanwhile, layer, the potatoes on the bottom of the crockpot, followed by cabbage, then broccoli.
- Transfer the meat mixture to the crockpot; layering the meat on top of the vegetables.
- Cover and cook on a high setting for 4-5 hours or on low for 8-9 hours.
- Safety first! Read and follow your Instant Pot instructions manual, especially if you're using it for the first time.
- Soak the beef! Soaking the meat prior to cooking and using fresh cold water as your base for the soup will give you a tastier and clearer broth.
- Soak the onions! Did you know that a simple iced water soak before you slice onions helps to neutralize the sulfuric compounds that bring about an almost bitter taste and instead reward you with a more mellow and subtle sweetness from the allium?
- Tasty + Healthy: If there's too much fat on the broth, use a fat separator (affiliate link)
- Want Umami?! Sauté the meat with aromatics, like onions and fish sauce, this will give the meat a more succulent and savory flavor, and no-fail, you will get that "give-me-some-more" umami flavor you crave for.
Hello and welcome, friend! I'm Jocelyn, the recipe developer, food photographer + stylist here at JOZmahal. As a Food & Nutrition major, I keep healthy and nutritious ingredients at the core of my recipe creations. I love to cook delicious and healthy meals for my family and friends. And I am so grateful that you are here as I hope to inspire and empower you to make all these delicious and healthy foods at home for your family and friends as well. Every recipe you will find here is quick and simple to make using fresh and natural ingredients that you can easily find at your local grocery store if not online. Read more about me here...
PS: If you try any of my recipes please use the tag #JOZmahalrecipes and you may be featured in my upcoming posts! ~ cook with love, my friend!