Beef Rendang: The Real Deal Of Authentic Dried Beef Curry From Indonesia

A bowl of Indonesian beef rendang with three chillies as garnish

Beef rendang is one of Indonesia’s signature dishes. It’s meltingly tender dry beef curry that is slow-cooked in coconut milk with fragrant spices and herbs. 

A national dish

Beef rendang is Indonesian beef curry cooked in spiced coconut milk until all the liquid evaporates leaving the meat taste rich and delicious. It is one very famous dish that originated in West Sumatra, Indonesia that has now reached all over the country and beyond.

It has become so popular all over Indonesia that It is now acknowledged as one of the national foods in Indonesia. 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 literally in any region/ province across the country.

Beef rendang with an overlay text of "Indonesian Beef Rendang"

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

Just like any food recipe, there are hundreds if not thousands of beef rendang recipes. After tasting numerous ones, I’m confident enough to say that the recipe I’m sharing here offers the best flavour 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 and the other one without. This difference is achieved according to the length of cooking time. 

The longer you cook it, the thicker and drier the gravy becomes as it evaporates. And the richer and more intense the flavour you get.

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

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

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

You can also use lamb or goat meat or chicken for rendang. If you use lamb or goat meat, you can cook exactly the same way as you cook with beef. 

When you use chicken, you would want to cut down the coconut milk to half. And you may have to cook it half time and leave it with the gravy as it will break the chicken to pieces if you cook it too long. 

You don’t need anything else to enjoy this dish. Just hot plain white rice will do.

And it is actually quite simple to make this flavourful dish. Although it takes a bit of time to cook it.

The key ingredients

Ingredients of beef rendang

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

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

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

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

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

But to simplify and make things more practical, I use the dried red chilli powder (Kashmiri red chilli powder is my favourite because of its colour and flavour). 

And you can also use the dried galangal root or the ready-pasted 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 the 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-rich flavour. Make sure you choose good quality coconut milk. And even better if you make it yourself. 

bowls of spices

How to make Indonesian Beef Rendang

Firstly, you make the spice paste by grinding the onions, chillies, ginger, galangal, cumin, and coriander into a paste using a pestle and mortar or a food processor/ blender. Then, place the beef chunks, the spice paste and the rest of the ingredients in a large cooking pan. Give it a good stir and start cooking at medium-high heat. You can put the lid on to quicken the process.

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

Continue cooking until the liquid (coconut milk and meat juice) starts to boil. Then turn the heat down and cook further at low heat with the lid on. 

meat cooked in spices

beef cooked in spices and coconut milk to make rendang

Take care and keep checking every now and again. Make sure you stir it every so often to prevent it from getting burned at the bottom of the pan. 

After about an hour, the curry gravy should get thickened and look shiny thanks to the coconut milk. And the meat should be fully cooked and quite tender. At this point, you can stop cooking and enjoy it with a little bit of gravy, if you like.

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

If you want a proper dry-ish black rendang, keep cooking at low heat with the lid on until the gravy evaporates and turns caramelised. Don’t forget to keep turning and stirring. Especially when the liquid starts to dry up. 

Ways to enjoy  

You can simply enjoy this Indonesian beef rendang with hot plain rice. But people have it with hard-boiled rice called lontong when they have it as a part of Eid’s celebration menu. You can check my post on how to make lontong

Usually, they would have the dish with similarly spicy dishes such as Balado kentang (potato cooked in spicy chilli paste), sayur nangka (jackfruit cooked in spicy coconut milk), and sambal ijo (green chillies cooked with onions and green tomatoes).

How to store

In the old days, the beef rendang was made as a way to preserve the meat. Because there was no refrigerator then. 

Therefore, you can keep your dried beef curry in a tight lid container and store it in the fridge/ refrigerator for about 3-4 weeks. 

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

Recipes that go well with beef rendang

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 will really appreciate it.

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

Before you go, don’t forget to check my other recipes that you’ll equally love:

Thank you and all the best.

Yield: 10

Indonesian Beef Rendang

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.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes


  • 800 grams/ 28.2 oz of boneless beef, cut in chunks.
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped.
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin.
  • 2 teaspoons of ground coriander.
  • ½ Inch of galangal.
  • 1 inch of ginger.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of chilli powder, or 10-15 fresh red chillies (see the note)
  • 1 Lemongrass.
  • ½ turmeric leaf (optional).
  • 5 Kaffir lime leaves.
  • 2 Cans of good quality coconut milk (2 x 400 ml.).
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt, according to taste.


  1. Using pestle and mortar, pound and grind the onions, galangal, ginger, and fresh chillies (if using) into a paste. You can also use a food processor to make this paste. Just put the onion, galangal, ginger, and chillies in the food processor. Then give it a blitz until all the become a thick paste.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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 heat until the milk reaches boiling point, then turn the heat to low. Don't forget to always keep checking and stirring.
  5. 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.
  6. If you like to have a proper Rendang Hitam (black rendang), you have to cook longer for at least another hour. Cook the rendang until all the gravy evaporates. Take care not to let it stick to the wok, or worse, to burn. Keep checking and stirring.
  7. 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.


  • If you use beef, you can either choose topside, shin, or brisket. Cut the meat in 2 inches cubes, and pierce each piece with skewers or a fork for a few times. I promise this little thing will make your rendang tastier. 
  • You can use fresh red chillies, 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 chillies 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 chilli powder.
  • When it comes to chillies, you can always improvise according to your taste. Although the original rendang is quite hot due to a large number of chillies, in this recipe I only put a “moderate” amount of chillies. So, I suggest you put this moderate amount of chilli at the beginning, then put some more after you tasted your rendang half-way through your cooking. 
  • If you use fresh lemongrass, cut it in one-inch length pieces so that we can get the most of its flavour. If you use lemongrass paste, you can put just a little less than one teaspoon of it. But please please don’t use the 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.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 390Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 87mgSodium 538mgCarbohydrates 6gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 28g

The nutrition calculation you find here is just a guide provided by online nutrition calculator. You should not use to substitute advice from nutritionists or health practitioners.

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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 chilli heat with a hint of sweetness from the caramelised coconut milk.

Is beef rendang spicy?

Yes, it can be spicy. The traditional rendang will look very dark that it’s almost black and has a bit of fiery chilli 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 vacuumed the food bag according to portions. And when you need it, you can just take the amount you like.

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