Everything You Can Put Into Your Nilaga

You need to know how to make your nilaga more delicious.

IMAGE Patrick Martires

The nilaga recipe is one of the most basic recipes any Filipino home cook should know or at least have in their daily recipes. It's a simple boiled beef recipe with cabbage, potatoes, and green beans that's delicious, hearty, and best of all, comforting, especially when the day becomes chilly. 

While the nilaga is a basic recipe with easy-to-find ingredients, there may come a time when, maybe, you don't want beef, potatoes are too expensive at the supermarket, or cabbages and green beans aren't available at the wet market for some reason. It's times like these that make it a great idea to tweak the nilaga recipe. 

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Flexibility in the kitchen is one of the most useful skills to learn when cooking so when you become stumped in the middle of a recipe because you want to change an ingredient, that's a sign you've leveled up. 

Changing ingredients is not always a good idea nor is it easy but it can be done if you know what to do. The key to tweaking recipes is to recognize that there is only so much you can change to a recipe before it's a totally different recipe altogether. A little restraint is a good thing when tweaking recipes, so changing one or two ingredients only, even in a recipe as simple as a nilaga, can make a big difference already. 


If you're ready to tweak your nilaga recipe the next time you make it, here are all the ways you can make it different: 

Photo by Majoy Siason
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1 Swap the beef with pork or chicken. 

Even the simple switching of the kind of meat you put in your nilaga recipe can make a big difference in flavor! When the prices of meat fluctuate, take advantage and swap out the beef for pork or even chicken to make your nilaga. Remember: recipes are a guide, not the rule so don't think of this switch as breaking the rules of how to make nilaga. 


Photo by KKristie from Pixabay

2 Add a different kind of green bean. 

Visit the wet market and you'll see that there's more than one kind of green bean. String beans, or sitaw, are also known as yardlong beans since these can grow that long and would make a fanatstic substitute for the more expensive green Baguio beans that's usually in the nilaga. You probably already use it for your sinigang recipe, why not this simpler recipe, too? 


Photo by Pixabay

3 Use camote. 

We say it's time more people eat camote! This underrated root vegetable deserves just as much love as the potato! While the potato is a fantastic ingredient that's almost neutral in flavor, the camote meanwhile, is slightly sweet with an almost creamy texture. Take advantage of these qualities to make your nilaga a little sweet but just as hearty. 


Photo by Patrick Martires

4 Mix meats. 

Just like the chicken and pork adobo, you can mix meats! Use both pork and beef when making your nilaga for double the umami-boost that's meatier than anything you may taste yet! Just remember that cooking times may differ and adjust accordingly. 

These groupers are flash frozen as soon as possible to give you the freshest meat.
Photo courtesy of Wild Caught PH

5 Make it with fish. 

Anything that you need to simmer is basically a nilaga recipe, so it's perfectly alright to swap out what would normally be a meaty dish into one that's a little lighter using fish. You can still use the same vegetables in a nilaga but with the substitution of fish, you changed the meaty quality. It's a big flavor change that may just become a favorite new recipe. 

Tweaking recipes can be a headache but the results are usually well worth the flavor change. Discover other ways you can make your nilaga different with simple and easy changes and you may yet learn a new recipe that you adore and love enough to serve to everyone you love. 


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