Cebu Balbacua Recipe

Uncover the secrets of Balbacua Cebu recipe! Explore authentic flavors, step-by-step guide, and expert tips. Your culinary adventure starts here!

Balbacua Cebu

    Balbacua Cebu

  • Cuisine: Filipino, Cebuano
  • Category: Main Dish, Stew
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 300 calories

Balbacua is a cherished and hearty dish that hails from Cebu, a province in the Philippines. This dish is a testament to Filipino culinary ingenuity, known for its rich and robust flavors.

At its core, Balbacua is a slow-cooked stew made primarily from beef, typically using the shank or tail. The meat is simmered for an extended period until it reaches a state of tender succulence, making it a comforting and nourishing meal.

One of the distinguishing features of Balbacua is its distinct reddish-brown color, which is achieved by using achuete (annatto) oil. This infusion of color not only adds visual appeal but also contributes to the complex flavors of the dish.

Additionally, Balbacua is seasoned with an array of aromatic spices and seasonings, such as lemongrass, star anise, bay leaves, and garlic, all of which impart a unique and fragrant taste.

Balbacua is often served with accompaniments like fried garlic, green onions, and crushed chicharrón (pork cracklings) for added texture and flavor. It's typically enjoyed with a side of rice or puto (rice cake), creating a fulfilling and satisfying meal. This beloved Cebuano stew represents the Philippines' culinary diversity, showcasing the regional specialties that make Filipino cuisine so captivating and cherished.


Discover the rich flavors of Cebu's beloved Balbacua! Dive into our authentic recipe, tips, and tantalizing taste journey. Let's get cooking!


  • 1 kg beef shank or tail, cut into serving pieces
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons achuete (annatto) oil (for color)
  • 2-3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 2-3 stalks of lemongrass, smashed
  • 2-3 pieces star anise
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fish sauce (patis) to taste
  • Optional toppings: fried garlic, green onions, and crushed chicharrón (pork cracklings)

Method Instructions

  1. In a large pot, sauté the garlic and onion in oil until fragrant.
  2. Add the beef shank or tail and cook until it changes color.
  3. Pour in the achuete oil for a nice red hue and mix well.
  4. Add the peanut butter and continue to sauté for a few minutes.
  5. Pour in the water, enough to cover the beef. Let it come to a boil.
  6. Add lemongrass, star anise, and bay leaves for that distinct flavor. Simmer for a few hours until the meat becomes tender. This might take 2-3 hours or more, depending on the meat's tenderness.
  7. Season with salt, pepper, and fish sauce to taste.
  8. Once the beef is tender and the stew has thickened, it's ready to serve.
  9. Serve hot with your choice of toppings like fried garlic, green onions, and crushed chicharrón. Balbacua is best enjoyed with a side of rice or puto (rice cake).
  10. Enjoy your homemade Cebu-style Balbacua!

Recipe Video

Balbacua Cebu

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Recipe Tags: Balbacua Cebu, Balbacua Cebu Recipe, Recipe


Serving Balbacua Cebu is a delightful experience, and it's traditionally presented in a way that complements its rich and flavorful nature. Here's how you can serve Balbacua:

  • Prepare Individual Bowls: Serve the Balbacua in individual bowls. This not only makes for an attractive presentation but also allows each person to enjoy their portion with all the delicious toppings.
  • Balbacua Stew: Ladle a generous amount of the Balbacua stew, along with tender beef shank or tail pieces, into each bowl. Make sure the broth covers the meat nicely.
  • Toppings: Sprinkle fried garlic over the top of the stew for a delightful crunch and extra flavor. You can also add chopped green onions for freshness and a pop of color. Some people like to include crushed chicharrón (pork cracklings) for an additional layer of texture.
  • Side Dish: Balbacua is often served with steamed rice, which helps balance the richness of the stew. You can also enjoy it with puto (rice cake) if you prefer.
  • Condiments: Place fish sauce (patis) or soy sauce on the table for those who want to season their Balbacua further to their taste.


  1. Choose the Right Cut of Meat: While the traditional choice for Balbacua is beef shank or tail, you can also use other cuts like oxtail or beef stew meat. Make sure the meat has some bones and connective tissue, as this contributes to the rich, gelatinous broth.
  2. Slow Cooking is Key: Balbacua is all about slow cooking to achieve that tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat. Be patient and allow it to simmer for at least a couple of hours or more. The longer it cooks, the more flavorful and tender it becomes.
  3. Achuete Oil: Using achuete (annatto) oil is important for both color and flavor. You can make achuete oil by heating annatto seeds in oil until it turns a rich red color, then straining the seeds out.
  4. Spices and Aromatics: The lemongrass, star anise, and bay leaves are essential for the distinct flavor of Balbacua. Don't skip them, as they add a unique and aromatic touch to the stew.
  5. Taste and Adjust: Balbacua's flavor can be adjusted to your liking. Taste the stew as it cooks and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and fish sauce to achieve the perfect balance for your palate.
  6. Toppings: Get creative with your toppings. While fried garlic, green onions, and chicharrón are traditional, you can also add a squeeze of calamansi or lime for a zesty twist.
  7. Serving: As mentioned earlier, serve Balbacua with steamed rice or puto to balance the rich flavors. It's a hearty and satisfying meal.
  8. Leftovers: Balbacua often tastes even better the next day as the flavors continue to meld. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  9. Enjoy with Company: Balbacua is a perfect dish for sharing with family and friends. It's meant to be enjoyed together, so gather your loved ones around the table for a warm and communal meal.

Ingredient Substitutes

If you're looking for ingredient substitutes for Balbacua Cebu, there are a few options you can consider based on availability and dietary preferences:

  1. Beef: While the traditional choice is beef shank or tail, you can substitute it with other cuts of beef such as oxtail or beef stew meat. You could even use pork if you prefer.
  2. Achuete (Annatto) Oil: If you can't find achuete (annatto) seeds or oil, you can use paprika as a substitute for the red color and a mild earthy flavor. It won't have the exact same flavor, but it will add a pleasant color to the dish.
  3. Peanut Butter: If you have allergies or don't like peanut butter, you can use almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter as a substitute. These alternatives will provide a similar creamy texture and nutty flavor.
  4. Lemongrass: If lemongrass is not available, you can use lime or lemon zest to add a hint of citrusy aroma. Lemongrass paste or dried lemongrass can also be used as substitutes.
  5. Star Anise: Anise seeds or fennel seeds can be used in place of star anise for a similar licorice-like flavor. Use them sparingly as they can be quite potent.
  6. Bay Leaves: Substitute bay leaves with dried thyme or oregano for a different herbal note in the stew.
  7. Fish Sauce (Patis): If you don't have fish sauce, you can use soy sauce or even Worcestershire sauce as a substitute. Keep in mind that these options will change the flavor profile slightly.
  8. Toppings: Feel free to get creative with toppings. If you don't have chicharrón, you can use crispy bacon bits, toasted coconut flakes, or even crumbled crackers for some crunch.


Embrace the warmth of Cebu with each spoonful of Balbacua. Share this delectable journey with friends and family. Happy cooking!

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