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I visited Sabah while on a press trip hosted by Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines but as always, my thoughts remain my own. This post may contain affiliate links and if you make a purchase using these links, I'll receive a small commission fee at no extra cost to you.

Packed with flaky, fall-apart beef cooked in creamy coconut milk with fragrant lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, ginger and a myriad of spices, this traditional Malaysian slow cooker beef rendang can be left to bubble away in the kitchen while you get on with your day!

Malaysian slow cooker beef rendang

Beef rendang: an introduction

Perhaps one of the most popular beef dishes in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, traditional beef rendang is a fragrant concoction of fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, ginger and chilli cooked in coconut milk with a variety of spices and a slow-cooking cut of beef like chuck steak or shin. Occasionally, lamb or chicken may be used instead.

The origins of beef rendang lie in west Sumatra, Indonesia, where the Minang ethnic tribe cook this coconut-infused stew to welcome visitors and mark ceremonial occasions like Hari Raya (the Muslim festival of Eid).

While most curries consist of chunks of meat and/or veg swimming in sauce, beef rendang is a dry, somewhat stodgy curry. As the spicy sauce reduces and browns in colour, it transforms into a thick, flavoursome paste which embraces each tender chunk of beef. As the slow-cooked meat falls apart into tender flakes, this pungent paste clings to each shred and eventually becomes dotted throughout the rice.

Slow cooker beef rendang in a serving dish
Loving the look of @TheRareWelshBit's Melt-in-your-mouth Malaysian Beef Rendang! #malaysianfood #slowcooking Click to Tweet

This isn’t the quickest dish to prepare and you’ll probably need to put some legwork in to hunt down some of the Asian ingredients. Try your local Asian supermarkets if you don’t have any joy at the supermarket. Time and ingredients aside, however, beef rendang is fairly easy to prepare. Although it takes longer to cook the beef in a slow cooker as opposed to on the hob, this method enables you to simply leave the rendang bubbling away in the kitchen while you get on with your day.

If you haven’t got a slow cooker, you can follow this recipe in a large heavy-based pan with a lid on the hob, but reduce the cooking time to around 2-3 hours. You might need to add a little water (as slow cooking uses less liquid) and you’ll need to spend more time slaving over the stove to stir the pot occasionally as the stew simmers away. However, the advantage of cooking beef rendang on the hob is that you don’t have to bother with transferring the mixture to and from the slow-cooker to brown off the meat and reduce the sauce.

Slow cooker beef rendang close-up

However, I highly recommend investing in a slow cooker as they’re extremely affordable and safe to use and there’s nothing better than arriving home to a hot, home-cooked meal with minimal effort at the end of a long, tiring day. I absolutely love my 3.5-litre retro Swan slow cooker, which has three heat settings and a removable ceramic pot. At the moment, it’s selling for less than £30 on Amazon, so it’s a great investment for your kitchen.

While there are many variations on beef rendang, with most families tweaking the recipe to suit their own tastes, this particular version was kindly shared with me by Head Chef, Teddy Ibau at Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Sabah, Malaysia – one of the National Geographic’s highly-acclaimed Unique Lodges of the World.

I stayed at Sukau Rainforest Lodge while on a press trip with Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. Expect more blog posts about my time in Sabah over the next few weeks but in the meantime, as we’re all stuck at home on lockdown, I thought this would be the perfect time to share Teddy’s beef rendang recipe with you!

Sukau Rainforest Lodge on the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia
Sukau Rainforest Lodge is perched on the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia

Teddy began working at Sukau Rainforest Lodge in 2018 with over a decade of culinary experience under his belt, including a stint as Executive Chef at World Trade Hotel, Shanxi and various roles at five-star hotels including Shangri La in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

Head Chef Teddy Ibau at Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Sabah, Malaysia
Head Chef, Teddy Ibau at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

How to make beef rendang in a slow cooker

Looking at the long list of ingredients required and the method involved in making beef rendang, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of preparing this exotic dish ‘from scratch’ yourself at home.

Once you’ve prepared the ingredients and broken the method down into simple, easy-to-follow steps, however, it’s actually quite difficult to go wrong with beef rendang. What’s more, by preparing it in the slow cooker, you’re eliminating the need to stand over the hot stove for hours on end stirring the pot, freeing yourself up to get on with your day while the rendang bubbles away in the slow cooker.

Beef rendang spice paste
Beef rendang spice paste

Step-by-step guide

  1. Prep the spice paste by blitzing all the ingredients together in a food processor or blender.
  2. Cook the spice paste over a medium flame for around five minutes, toasting the spices to impart flavour. Once finished, the paste will have darkened slightly in colour.
  3. Next, add the raw meat to the pot and cook it for a further five minutes, stirring regularly until browned all over.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the meat and spice mixture, plus all the other curry ingredients, into your slow cooker. Place on ‘auto’ or ‘high’ (refer to the full recipe below for further details) and cook for around six hours, stirring very occasionally.
  5. Transfer the contents of the slow cooker back into the pot and cook over a medium flame for around 30 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the meat has browned in the excess oil.
  6. Allow the beef rendang to cool slightly (it’ll be piping hot when it comes out of the slow cooker!) and serve with sticky coconut-infused Jasmine rice.

One of the things I love about cooking beef rendang is witnessing the marvellous transformation in the colour of the sauce during the cooking process, right through from pale, creamy beige to deep, reddish-brown. This change in colour is a by-product of the sauce reduction process. As the sauce bubbles away, the oil separates and the beef browns off in it until the flaky, fall-apart meaty chunks become coated in a stodgy paste.

Ingredients for beef rendang sitting in the slow cooker.

What to serve with slow cooker beef rendang

As beef rendang is traditionally a dry curry, it pairs well with rice but as it doesn’t have much sauce, it’s not the kind of curry you’d mop up with a chapati or naan bread. In Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, the dish is usually served with sticky jasmine rice, rice cooked with coconut milk, almondy pandan leaves and spices, or vibrant turmeric rice.

With no pandan leaves to hand, I teamed my slow cooker beef rendang with basmati rice cooked in coconut milk with kaffir lime leaves, dusted with dessicated coconut and topped with fresh coriander and a juicy lime wedge to serve. If you like, you could even prepare an Asian-inspired salad to accompany your beef rendang and coconut rice; this rainbow vermicelli salad with soy certainly gets my vote!

Coconut rice garnished with kaffir lime leaves, fresh lime and coriander and served with slow cooker beef rendang.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a lighter accompaniment, consider some stir-fried greens with Malaysian kecap manis (thick soy sauce), garlic and chilli or a fresh, crunchy salad. I love the look of this cucumber and peanut salad I just stumbled across while browsing for inspiration.

Just looking at @TheRareWelshBit's slow-cooker Malaysian Beef Rendang is making me drool! Definitely need to make this sometime! #malaysianfood #slowcookerrecipes Click to Tweet

How to store beef rendang

In the unlikely event that your family don’t end up polishing off your beef rendang in one sitting, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for two to three days or pop it in the freezer for up to around three months.

Overhead flatlay shot of slow cooker beef rendang
Malaysian slow cooker beef rendang
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5 from 21 votes

Slow Cooker Beef Rendang

Packed with flaky, fall-apart beef cooked in creamy coconut milk with fragrant lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, ginger and a myriad of spices, this traditional Malaysian slow cooker beef rendang can be left to bubble away in the kitchen while you get on with your day.
Traditionally, Malaysian beef rendang is a real labour of love, slow-cooked over a low to medium flame for several hours with occasional stirring. However, it's entirely possible to prepare this dish in a slow cooker, although you'll need to brown the meat and spice paste off on the hob first and reduce the sauce down afterwards. Simply go about your day and once you get home from work or finish all your household chores, all you'll have to do is prepare your rice or chosen side dish and you'll have a melt-in-your-mouth, aromatic beef rendang on the table before you know it!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indonesian, Malaysian, Slow cooking
Keyword beef, curry, rendang, slow cooker
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours 40 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 550kcal
Author Adapted from a recipe by Teddy Ibau, Head Chef at Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Sabah, Malaysia

Equipment

  • Slow cooker

Ingredients

For the spice paste

  • 10 fresh red chillies, finely sliced (with extra for garnishing)
  • 1 medium onion or 3-4 large shallots finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped or minced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 1.5" fresh galangal peeled and chopped
  • 1.5" fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped or minced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the curry

  • 1 kg slow-cooking beef (chuck steak or shin works particularly well) diced into 1.5" cubes
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cardamom pods seeds only
  • 1 fresh lemongrass bottom-half only, bashed
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tsp tamarind puree, paste or pulp soaked in hot water, seeds removed
  • 4-6 kaffir lime leaves (dependent on size) finely shredded (with extra for garnishing)
  • 5 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1½  tsp salt

Instructions

  • Transfer the spice paste ingredients to a food processor or blender and combine until finely chopped.
  • Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large, heavy pot over a low-to-medium heat and cook the spice paste for five minutes or so, allowing the spices to 'bloom'; once complete, the paste should darken in colour slightly.
  • Increase the heat slightly and add the cubed beef to the pan. Cook for a further five minutes or so, until browned.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the beef and spice paste to the slow cooker along with the remaining curry ingredients, stirring to combine. You might want to add a little water too, but be mindful that you don't need to use as much liquid when cooking in a slow-cooker. Set the temperature on the slow cooker to auto or high, pop the lid on and allow to bubble away for six hours. It's best to cook red meat on high when using a slow cooker but you'll probably need to give it an occasional stir so if you'll be leaving the house, consider switching to auto.
  • Once six hours has passed, the meat should be incredibly tender, yet not quite at that 'fall apart' stage yet. Turn off the slow cooker and carefully pour the contents back into the large pan we used earlier on. Simmer over a medium flame for around half an hour, until the sauce has reduced to a thick paste and the meat falls apart at the touch of a fork. If necessary, keep adding more water and reducing down until the meat is to your desired tenderness.

Notes

  • While beef rendang is a fairly spicy curry, the heat isn’t too over-powering as the slow cooking process tempers the spices. However, if you’d prefer a milder curry, remove the seeds from the chillies or use less chillies. 
  • If fresh galangal or lemongrass aren’t available, substitute with 1 tbsp each of paste. Galangal is tricker to find so if you can’t get any, use extra ginger instead. 
  • When dicing the beef into cubes, aim for fairly large chunks; they’ll reduce in size considerable during cooking and eventually they’ll be literally falling apart, so you don’t want them to be so small that they end up reducing to nothing. 
  • Beef rendang can also be cooked on the hob in a large, heavy-based pot. Simply reduce the cooking time to around 2-3 hours and be mindful that you’ll need to hang around in the kitchen to stir the pot regularly. 

Nutrition

Calories: 550kcal

Have you ever made slow cooker beef rendang or are there any other dishes you enjoy preparing in a slow cooker? Share your thoughts with other readers in the comment box below.

Looking for recipe inspiration? Check out these other dishes before you head off:

I visited Sabah while on a press trip hosted by Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines but as always, my thoughts remain my own. This post may contain affiliate links and if you make a purchase using these links, I'll receive a small commission fee at no extra cost to you.

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80 Comments on Best Ever Slow Cooker Beef Rendang

  1. 5 stars
    I need to use the word stodgy more, it’s such a great term. And this beef rendang looks so delicious! Your instructions are so clear

    • Hehe, I love the word too. Thank you! Glad you like the look of the recipe and found the instructions helpful.

    • I’ve had it a few times but I’ve never attempted to make my own. Regretting it now as it’s so delicious and it was quite easy too.

    • You could say that πŸ™‚ This was actually my first time using a slow cooker. I am so pleased with the result!

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever had rendang before. I wonder if it’s a popular dish in my area because I don’t think I’ve even seen it on most menus. Thankfully, I have this recipe so I can finally taste it.

    • It’s a popular dish in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore but to be fair I don’t see it on restaurant menus often – unless it’s a Malaysian restaurant, of course.

    • It was lovely – I love spicy food but you could always adjust the spice level if it’s too overpowering or if you like it extra fiery!

  3. Lovely recipe full of spices. We have them all in our pantry, it is just so nice to cook with them, it makes the dish tastes amazing.

  4. 5 stars
    I can only imagine how this tastes with all those amazing spices and flavors. I keep seeing recipes with galangal in them, so interesting. I need to find some.

    • I couldn’t find fresh galangal at the moment but I did manage to get the paste in the supermarket. It’s a lovely dish!

  5. This looks good. I’ve previously made rendang in the slow cooker but this recipe is a way of passing yet another day at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Thanks

    • Thanks Stuart. I am sure I will be using my slow cooker very often during this lockdown – it’s so handy!

  6. 5 stars
    You definitely had me at lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and coconut. All of the ingredients, really. SE Asia in one delicious dish!

  7. 5 stars
    I love, love, love beef rendang and truly the freshly made spice gives it much flavor! I need a huge bowl of rice with this!!!

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve never heard of rendang before but this sounds so flavorful with the coconut milk and all those herbs and spices!

  9. 5 stars
    I could almost smell the delicious fragrances of the lemongrass and the kaffir lime coming off the screen! The beef looks so tender!

    • Good to hear it Jacqui πŸ™‚ My kitchen smelled wonderful while I was cooking this. I just took some out of the freezer to have for dinner later actually – can’t wait!

  10. I am not really a fun of eating beef but seeing this dish makes my mouthwatering and I am sure that this one is a flavorful and delicious dish to make for the family.

    • I don’t eat beef often but I love it when it’s slow-cooked like this – or roasted but still pink and served on a traditional British roast dinner – mmm!

  11. I’ve just ordered the ingredients for my next grocery delivery. If it tastes half as good as the one we had in Borneo I’ll be very happy!

  12. I had beef rendang for the first time this year in Bali and it looks a little different than this recipe but was amazing. I can’t wait to try your recipe out. It looks great!

  13. Wow this recipe looks so flavourful!! I love all the ingredients and will definitely have to give this one a go! Thanks for sharing!

  14. 5 stars
    I love coconut milk in my curry. I loved the flavors in this Beef Rendang. I’m sure it’s so delicious.

  15. 5 stars
    I made this for our lockdown Saturday treat – absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely be making this again πŸ™‚

  16. Oh wow this looks delicious and all the colours are so rainbow like. I’m veggie but I recently made a similar veggie Rendang noodle soup!

  17. Not a dish I would eat as I am vegan, but my husband and kids would love this! Slow cooked food is my kind of cooking too! Do love a bit of one pot cooking!

    • Hi Becky,

      It’s meant to be a dry curry, so I haven’t experimented with making the sauce runnier myself; I suspect it would affect the intensity of the flavour. You could try using less liquid or reducing the cooking time to the sauce doesn’t reduce down quite as much. Please let me know how you get on if you decide to give it a go πŸ™‚

      Kacie

  18. 5 stars
    It was very good, but I think I put too much tamarind in there so that sour flavour became overpowering.

    Also think it needs less salt, but I guess that’s to taste.

    Anyway, thanks for writing a clear and easy to follow recipe.

    • Thank you for trying my recipe, I’m glad you like it. Maybe you added a little too much tamarind. I will be making this again soon will have to assess the salt letvel again, thanks for the heads-up! πŸ™‚

  19. Made this dish and had it with the cucumber and peanut side. The flavours and textures complimented each other beautifully.

  20. I have all my ingredients ready to go and I cannot WAIT to get this in my belly! Do you think I could cook it the day before ready for the next day? This will be my first time using a slow cooker too so not sure on the best way to reheat it the next day? x

    • Hi Melanie,

      Great to hear it! πŸ™‚

      Yes, you could certainly reheat it after cooking, I do that often.

      Let me know how it goes πŸ™‚

  21. Hi,

    The calorie information… im guessing that’s per serving? And is that including rice or is it for the curry alone?

    Thanks,

    • Hi Nadine,

      Sure, the calorie information is per serving and this is for the curry alone. Hope this helps! πŸ™‚

      Kacie

  22. 5 stars
    I love beef rendang but haven’t made it for such a long time – It’s definitely something I need to make again. I love the sound of your recipe and it’s great that it’s for the slow cooker.

  23. 5 stars
    This looks super delicious and any recipe with coconut and lemon flavour wins me over easily! Thank you for sharing such a colourful background to this recipe, it looks like an amazing place to visit.

  24. 5 stars
    Great curry. Super easy and great taste. I changed a couple of things though, i used coconut cream instead of milk I found it creamier that way and i like it like that, also I only used 1 lemon grass stalk I found the lemon grass a bit over powering the first time i cooked it.

    • Thank you Alice! I love this recipe too. It’s all about what tastes best to you; there must be so many Rendang recipes out there! I’ll have to try this again with coconut cream and less lemongrass and see what it’s like.

  25. I don’t think I have tried this before, but it sounds amazing and I love slow cooked beef, so will love trying this recipe

    • I love a good beef rendang, but I do find that the way it’s served seems to differ quite widely; it’s intended to be a dry dish, but some UK restaurants tend to prepare it in the style of a curry.

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