Everything You Need to Know About Making Delicious Kare-Kare

This classic peanut butter stew can be made better.

IMAGE Riell Santos

The kare-kare (peanut stew) may be one of the more unique of Filipino dishes. It's a peanut stew usually made that is not replicated in other dishes. The peanut sauce is what makes it different from other stews, but more than that, it's a dish that uses up cuts of meat that isn't typically used or commonly used. 

If you love peanuts and the cuts of meat that is used in the typical kare-kare, here is a great guide to help you make it the best dish you've made yet: 

Illustrator Bianca Laxamana
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1 Choose a fatty, meat cut. 

One of the best ways to make your kare-kare recipe even better is to use a nice, fatty cut. Our favorite is the pata or leg cut. It's a fantastic cut that combines everything you want in a meat cut: juicy marbled meat, gelatinized pork skin and tendons, and a layer of some fatty connective tissue that dissolves into your sauce, creating a silky mouthfeel that pairs well with the earthiness of the peanut sauce. 

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The other choice of meat that you will usually find in a typical kare-kare is the beef tripe. This edible part of one of the cow's stomachs is a classic part of the kare-kare. The addition of this part to the kare-kare amps up the flavor of the stew. It's gamey but only slightly; that's why it's a great idea if you cook the tripe until tender prior to adding it to the dish.      

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Photo by Pexels from Pixabay

2 Use peanut butter but grind some nuts anyway. 

Peanuts are an essential ingredient to the kare-kare recipe. The easiest way to add this to your dish is by using peanut butter. We admit having to make your own peanut butter is a tiresome, tedious task and it's usually thought to be unnecessary since you're already using peanut butter. 

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However, while we think the peanut butter is a fantastic ingredient to use for kare-kare, we think your dish will be made even better if you pair it up with a handful of crushed peanuts. There is nothing like the texture that you get from mixing both peanut butter and crushed peanuts to your dish. Not only do crushed peanuts add texture, but it also adds extra nutty flavors, too, that you just don't get from prepared peanut butter. 

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3 Use rice flour as a thickener. 

The most common way of making the kare-kare sauce thicker is by using enough peanut butter. Using a nut butter like peanut butter is a common way of thickening dishes and it's not exclusive to the Philippines. It has been used in dishes of other countries, too, including Africa and South America

However, in the case of the kare-kare recipe, you may not be using enough peanut butter to make it as thick as you want. For those times when you want your kare-kare sauce to be thickened even more than it is, dissolve some rice flour into some water and drizzle that slurry into your dish. 

Don't have rice flour? You can use bigas! Better yet, use malagkit rice and simmer that along with the meat so when it's tender, it can easily be incorporated into the sauce. No rice either? Then you can use flour, cornstarch, or even mashed vegetables to make your sauce a little thicker. 

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This salty-sweet bagoong would make a delicious condiment to your kare kare.
Photo by Bianca Laxamana

4 Serve it with your favorite bagoong. 

The kare-kare dish is one of the best reasons to have bagoong on hand. The kare-kare recipe is naturally bland so you can add bagoong to taste with every bite you take.  

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If you're not a fan of bagoong, you can actually do without! You will, however, be stuck with a bland stew. If you're foregoing the salty bagoong, you can season your stew with patis or plain salt. 

The last thing you'll need before this is a complete success is a big bowl of steamed rice because just like many Filipino dishes, you need some rice to eat this to your stomach's satisfaction. 

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