Nilagang Baka (Filipino Beef Nilaga) with Squash & Sweet Potato

Want better beef nilaga? Stir mashed kalabasa (squash) and kamote (sweet potato) into your beef broth for a lightly creamy sweetness.
4–6 servings
Prep Time
10 Mins
Active Time
2 Hrs 15 Mins

Have you ever heard anyone say they love beef nilaga more than sinigang? It doesn’t inspire as much fervor as other Filipino soups. Some people think of beef nilaga as sad bulalo, minus the marrow: just boiled beef and a bunch of veggies in salted water.

If nilaga has one fan, he’s in the Pepper team and his name is Cody. His family’s secret to better beef nilaga, the kind that raises nilaga fans and defenders? Kalabasa (squash) and kamote (sweet potato) that's boiled, mashed, and stirred into the soup. The beef broth clouds into a sunny hue, forming a lightly creamy and earthy-sweet soup that perks up the entire dish.

If your family’s harboring a nilaga hater, change their mind with this version! Bonus: Make a kamote, kalabasa, and roasted talong ensalada for serving.


  • 1 kg beef short ribs
  • 8 cups water, more as needed
  • 1 onion, sliced into quarters
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp patis or fish sauce
  • 2–3 cobs fresh corn, husked and sliced
  • 1 cup (about 125g) diced squash
  • 1 cup (about 125g) diced sweet potato
  • 2 saba bananas, peeled and halved
  • 1 whole cabbage, sliced into quarters

Cook beef: Add beef, water, onion, and black peppercorns to a large pot or Dutch oven. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Skim and discard any scum that rises to the top, using either a fine mesh skimmer or a paper towel. Once boiling, reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Simmer beef until softened, at least 3 hours. Season with salt and patis.


Cook hard vegetables: Add corn, squash, and sweet potatoes to the pot. Cook until squash and sweet potatoes are soft and fork-tender, about 20 minutes.


Make squash-potato mash: Transfer squash and sweet potatoes to a bowl. Using a fork, mash into a chunky paste. Return half of the squash-sweet potato mash into the soup and stir to incorporate,, adding more mash to taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Extra squash-sweet potato mash can be used to make an ensalada for serving.


Cook soft vegetables: Add saba bananas to the pot. Add the cabbage last, placing the wedges on top of the soup. Cover pot and let cabbage steam until softened but still crunchy, about 2–3 minutes.


Serve: Transfer nilaga to a serving bowl. Serve hot with steamed rice, patis, and calamansi. To store leftovers, let nilaga cool to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for a few days.

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