Instant Pot Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) is the ultimate comfort food! Marinated beef, onions, and carrots float in a cozy and fragrant soup flavored with lemongrass, coconut milk, and cinnamon. You can serve it your way - with a crusty baguette (bánh mì), rice, or noodles. Either way, it's absolutely delicious and the perfect meal on a cold day!
🥩 What Is Bò Kho?
In Vietnamese, bò translates to "beef" and kho means "braised". "Kho" also refers to a common Vietnamese cooking technique that braises meat on low heat until tender and infused with a ton of flavor. Like Sup Nui (Vietnamese Macaroni Soup with Pork) and Pork Pâté Chaud, it’s a staple in Vietnamese homes and deserves a try!
Traditional Bò Kho is heavily influenced by Chinese and French cuisine. It has origins from French pot-au-feu and ragout, which were brought to Vietnam during the era of French colonialism from 1887-1954. Over time, traditional Asian ingredients were added to the stew to create a rich and flavorful fusion dish.
Authentic Vietnamese Beef Stew In One Pot
Anytime Vietnamese Beef Stew is on the menu, my dad is guaranteed to order it, especially when served with a fluffy baguette. He's the reason why Bò Kho is one of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes too!
The juicy, fall-apart beef is the perfect combination of hearty, sweet, and savory. A medley of onion and carrots is reminiscent of French beef stew, but the unique broth has delicious notes of cinnamon, lemongrass, and soy sauce. All together, it's an irresistible mix of fragrance, warmth, and sweetness!
In traditional Bò Kho, a tough cut of meat is braised for several hours to break down the fibers and achieve melt-in-your-mouth tender meat. However, this Bò Kho Instant Pot recipe takes much less effort and active cooking time. You'll have a steaming bowl of Vietnamese beef stew in no time!
Why You'll Love It
- Comforting: This authentic Instant Pot Vietnamese Beef Stew is a favorite amongst adults and kids. It’s the perfect recipe for when you need a delicious and flavorful meal to feed a crowd.
- Affordable: Traditional Instant Pot Bò Kho utilizes cheap cuts of beef and a variety of Asian pantry staples for a budget-friendly meal. Best news is that it still tastes wonderfully gourmet!
- Easy: Although this beef stew requires a bit of prep, making it in the Instant Pot means you won't be slaving over the stove for hours. Active cook time is just 5 minutes - plus, everything is cooked in one pot for minimal clean up!
For The Beef Marinade
- Beef: Traditional Bò Kho uses beef that has a lot of connective tissue, tendon, and fat because they're chewy and budget-friendly. My parents use beef drop flank but it can be difficult to find. I like a meaty cut for my beef stew. Brisket is my favorite - I use both the flat and point but if you want a leaner stew, stick with the flat cut. Boneless beef shank, chuck roast, beef stew meat, or short ribs are also great cuts of meat to use in Instant Pot Vietnamese Beef Stew.
- Aromatics: Shallot and garlic amplify the savory flavor and add depth to the marinade.
- Fish sauce: Used to marinate the beef for a salty, umami taste. My favorite brand is Red Boat because it's more concentrated. A little goes a long way.
- Spices: Most Bò Kho recipes call for a pre-made beef stew seasoning packets (bột bò kho). However, I prefer to make my own with Chinese 5 spice and paprika. The paprika doesn't make it spicy, just adds color and a little smokiness.
- Ketchup: Adds color and sweet taste. Sometimes annatto oil is used to add a red hue but it can be difficult to find. Ketchup is easy!
For The Stew
- Vegetables: Onion and carrots are classic and add flavor, texture, and nutrients. Chop them on the larger side so they maintain their texture. Potatoes are traditionally not included in Vietnamese Beef Stew.
- Ginger: I don't like a prominent ginger flavor so I cook it with the onion. For a stronger flavor, add it to the beef marinade instead.
- Lemongrass: Adds a light citrus, minty flavor to a variety of recipes like Vietnamese Chicken Curry and Thit Nuong. I use fresh stalks, but you can find pre-chopped lemongrass in the freezer section or stir-in paste in the vegetable section of your local grocery store.
- Bay leaves: Has a grassy, menthol-like savory flavor. I also love it in Instant Pot Pork Adobo.
- Cinnamon stick: Vietnamese Beef Stew is full of warm spices. Cinnamon is usually included in Chinese 5 spice blends, but I like a stronger flavor in the soup.
- Sugar: Just a touch to balance out all the rest of the ingredients.
- Soy sauce: Brings out the beefy flavors in Vietnamese Beef Stew. I always recommend the low-sodium version.
- Coconut milk: Makes this easy stew lightly creamy and fragrant. I use full-fat but either will work. If you can find it, use Coco Rico (coconut soda). The carbonation helps tenderize the beef but since we're using the Instant Pot, it's not totally needed.
- Beef broth: I cook exclusively with bone broth. It supports digestion, is rich in collagen, and has anti-inflammatory components. You can find it in the frozen section. If using regular beef broth, I recommend low-sodium.
- Cooking oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F).
How To Prepare Lemongrass
- Remove any dry outer leaves, saving one, and cut the top ⅓ off.
- Use a mallet, rolling pin, or back of your knife to pound the lower ⅓. This opens up the lemongrass bulb to release its oils.
- Fold in half to fit into your Instant Pot. If you'd like, wrap with one of the leaves to create a bundle.
Substitutions & Variations
- Substitute a whole cinnamon stick with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- Add tendon or honeycomb tripe if you like extra chewiness in your Instant Pot Vietnamese Beef Stew. Just be sure to rinse it in a bowl with salt, and clean and prepare it properly before adding it to the soup.
- If you prefer to use a pre-made Bò Kho seasoning packet, use 1 tablespoon to replace the Chinese 5 spice and paprika.
- For a spicier Bò Kho, add more paprika. Or top the stew with chili oil, jalapeño, or Thai chiles.
- For additional flavor, include additional ingredients like whole star anise (I recommend 2), beef bouillon, potatoes, or radish.
- Prefer a thicker broth? Add tomato paste to the mix.
- To make gluten-free Bò Kho, replace the soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos.
👩🏻🍳 How To Make Instant Pot Bò Kho
STEP ONE: First, cut the beef into 1½-2 inch cubes and trim any excess fat or connective tissue. Add to a large bowl and cover with water. This will help draw out blood and impurities for a cleaner broth.
You can skip this step to save time, but depending on your cut of beef, the broth may come out murky. Fresh cuts from the butcher should definitely be soaked; they can even benefit from a 5-10 minute blanch in boiling water.
After 30-60 minutes, drain the beef through a colander, rinse well, and pat dry.
STEP TWO: Next, make the marinade for Instant Pot Bò Kho. To the same bowl, whisk together shallot, garlic, Chinese 5 spice, paprika, fish sauce, ketchup, salt, and pepper.
STEP THREE: Add the beef and mix well until evenly coated. Let marinade for 30 minutes while you prepare the vegetables.
STEP FOUR: Once the beef is done marinading, turn on Sauté (Normal) mode and add a splash of oil. When it reads "Hot", add the onion and cook for 1 minute.
Then stir in ginger for 30 seconds until fragrant.
STEP FIVE: Add the marinaded beef into the Instant Pot. Stir for 1-2 minutes and then turn off Sauté mode. We're not trying to brown or sear the beef, just bloom the spices so it's more fragrant.
STEP SIX: Next, add the beef broth, coconut milk, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, lemongrass, carrots, sugar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Give it a light stir, then seal the Instant Pot. Cook on Pressure Cook (Normal) for 35 minutes and let release naturally for 10 minutes.
STEP SEVEN: Carefully open the Instant Pot and discard the lemongrass, cinnamons stick, and bay leaves. Transfer to individual bowls and top with fresh cilantro. Serve with lime on the side, plus your choice of carbs.
💭 Top Tips
- The key to a good Vietnamese broth is clarity. If the meat is very red or bloody, soak it in cold water for 30-60 minutes until it looks paler in color. Then rinse and dry very well. Alternatively, blanch it for 5 minutes in boiling water to remove impurities.
- Marinate the beef for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to overnight. Let it come to room temperature before adding it to the Instant Pot.
- Cut the onions and carrots on the thicker side so they don’t disintegrate in the pressure cooker.
- Like most stews, this Instant Pot Bò Kho gets better as it sits in the fridge. It'll also be easy to skim any excess fat from the stew after it's solidified.
What To Serve With Instant Pot Bò Kho
One of the best things about Instant Pot Vietnamese Beef Stew is how versatile it is! You can serve it any way you’d like.
- Noodles: Egg or yellow noodles are popular for Mì Bò Kho. Or use rice noodles for Phở Bò Kho - Sincere Orient Food fresh noodles are my favorite. Both versions are classic and make for a super filling dish.
- Rice: To create scrumptious Cơm Bò Kho, scoop fluffy white or brown rice into bowls and spoon warm beef stew over it. Yum!
- Bread: My personal favorite way to enjoy Vietnamese soups and stews! Vietnamese baguettes (bánh mi) are extra light and fluffy, but French baguettes or even dinner rolls would work too.
- Greens on the side: Serve the stew alongside cilantro, Thai basil leaves, lime, green onion, mint, and onion slices for a customizable flavor.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: If you have leftover Instant Pot Bò Kho, let it cool completely. Then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezing: Let the beef stew cool completely to room temperature. Place leftovers in freezer-safe airtight containers, write a “Reheat By” date on top, and keep it stored for up to 6 months. For best results, let thaw overnight in the fridge.
Reheating: Transfer leftovers to a bowl, and warm it in the microwave. Alternatively, bring the ingredients to a simmer on the stovetop, stirring frequently until your desired temperature is reached.
Make Ahead: You can soak and marinade the beef 1 day in advance, then cook day-of. To prepare Instant Pot Bò Kho fully, I recommend a maximum of 2 days in advance to allow the flavors to really sink in.
📖 Recipe FAQs
Unlike American stews, Vietnamese Beef Stew is meant to have a thinner, soup-like broth. As the gelatin and connective tissue in the beef breaks down, it releases into the stew to make a delicious broth. The ketchup and coconut milk helps to keep the stew a little thick, but if you prefer a thicker stew use half the beef broth and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste with the ginger.
I haven’t tested it, but it should work. Follow the prep and marinade instructions as directed. Then add all the ingredients into the slower cooker. Cook on Low for 7-8 hours or High for 3-4 hours.
Traditionally, it's a very long braise and cook time that will break down the connective tissues enough for tender, juicy beef. Luckily, a pressure cooker can tenderize beef in a fraction of the time. You won't have to stand watch at the stove with this Instant Pot Vietnamese Beef Stew!
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Instant Pot Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- ½ onion sliced; about ¾ cup
- ½ inch knob ginger grated; about 1 tsp
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lemongrass top ⅓ cut off and folded in half
- 4-5 carrots cut into 1 inch chunks; about 1½ cups
- 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
- ½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 1 cup low sodium beef broth I use bone broth
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Cilantro and lime for garnish
- Soak the beef. Add beef to a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 30 minutes-1 hour. Then drain in colander, rinse well, and pat dry. Wipe bowl dry.
- Marinade the beef. To the empty bowl, add shallot, garlic, Chinese five spice, paprika, fish sauce, ketchup, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine. Add beef cubes and mix until evenly coated, then let marinade for at least 30 minutes while you prep the vegetables.
- Cook the stew. On your Instant Pot, turn on Sauté (Normal) mode and add oil. When it reads "Hot", add onion and let sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Then add ginger and stir for 30 seconds, making sure to not let it brown.
- Add the marinaded beef and stir for another 1-2 minutes. We're not trying to cook or brown the beef, just simply toast the spices. Then turn off Sauté mode.
- To the Instant Pot, add cinnamon stick, bay leaves, lemongrass, carrots, white sugar, soy sauce, coconut milk, beef broth, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix together, then place the lid on and seal the Instant Pot. Pressure Cook on High Pressure (Normal) for 35 minutes, then Natural Release for 10 minutes.
- Take off the lid and remove the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and lemongrass. Mix well and season to taste. Let cool slightly before serving, then top with cilantro and lime wedges on the side. Serve with rice, noodles, or a baguette.
- Beef: Traditional Bò Kho uses beef that has a lot of connective tissue, tendon, and fat because they're more budget-friendly and chewy. Personally, I prefer a meatier cut. Brisket is my favorite - I use both the flat and point but if you want a leaner stew, stick with the flat cut. Boneless beef shank, chuck roast, beef stew meat, or short ribs are also great cuts of meat to use in Instant Pot Vietnamese Beef Stew.
- Spices: Most Bò Kho recipes call for a store-bought beef stew seasoning packet. However, I prefer to make my own with Chinese 5 spice and paprika. The paprika doesn't make it spicy, just adds color and a little smokiness.
- The key to a good Vietnamese broth is clarity. If the meat is very red or bloody, soak it in cold water for 30-60 minutes until it looks paler in color. Then, rinse and dry it very well. Alternatively, blanch it for 5 minutes in boiling water to remove impurities so it doesn't end up in your stew.
- Substitute a whole cinnamon stick with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- If you prefer to use a mix of spices or a pre-made Bò Kho seasoning packet, use 1 tablespoon to replace the Chinese 5 spice and paprika.