Bulalo (A Flavorful Filipino Beef Marrow Soup)

Bulalo is a homey, boiled beef and marrow bone stew, slow-cooked and flavorful. This comforting Filipino favorite has fall-off-the-bone meat and a broth that is full-bodied and very beefy.

Eat as a warming bowl of soup or serve with some Steamed White Rice.




  • 3 lbs (1.3 kg) beef shanks w/ marrow bones
  • 2 lbs (.9 kg) meaty neck bones
  • 1/2 tbsp (9 g) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (3 g) MSG*
  • Vegetable oil, for browning
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic (about 1/2 head), peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp (9 g) salt
  • 2 tbsp (12 g) black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp (6 g) MSG*
  • 1/2 tbsp (4.5 g) garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp (4.5 g) onion powder
  • water
  • 8 baby potatoes (or 2 large potatoes, quartered) – Yukon Gold or Red
  • 2 ears of corn, cut into thirds
  • 4 baby bok choy, leaves separated
  • Optional vegetables – green beans, Napa or green cabbage, scallions
  • Salt, to taste

*MSG is wonderful for savory foods and truly adds so much to the dish. But if you do not like to use MSG, it can be omitted.


1. Brown the shanks and neck bones.

– Pat the shanks and neck bones dry with paper towels and then season with the salt and MSG.
– Pour enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat.
– Brown the shanks and bones in batches on all sides. Be patient and get good color on the meat.
– Remove from the pot and set aside.

2. Sauté the onions, garlic and seasonings until fragrant.

– Add the the onions and garlic into the pot and sauté until fragrant, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
– Add in the salt, peppercorns, MSG, garlic powder and onion powder.

3. De-glaze the pot. Add in the shanks, neck bones and water. Skim off any foam and impurities then simmer for 3 hours.

– Pour about 2 cups of water into the pot to de-glaze, scraping up all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
– Return the beef shanks and neck bones back into pot.
– Fill the pot with enough water to just cover the shanks and neck bones.
– Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to low for a gentle simmer.
– Skim off any foam and impurities from the broth until cleared.
– Cover and let simmer for 3 hours or more, until the meat is very soft and falling off the bone.

4. Strain the broth and cook the vegetables. Season to taste.

– Carefully remove the shanks and meaty neck bones into a large serving bowl. Cover with foil to keep warm.
– Strain the broth and place back on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil.
– Add the potatoes and corn cobs to the broth and let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
– Add the baby bok choy and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.
– Taste the broth and add salt, if needed. Or reduce the broth for a stronger flavor.


– Ladle the vegetables and hot broth over the shanks in the serving bowl.
– Serve with a dipping bowl of patis (fish sauce) or Maggi Seasoning with chilies crushed into it on the side.

Eat as soup or over Steamed White Rice.


About this recipe

Bulalo is really a very simple and minimalist dish. Beef and beef bones are simmered for hours until the full flavor of the beef and the silkiness from the marrow and collagen-rich bones are brought out.

In our house, the beef and bones in bulalo are browned well and the garlic and onions are cooked until fragrant before simmering, adding layers of rich flavor and color. (So if you’ve had bulalo before and were wondering why the broth in this bulalo is so dark, this is why.)

**Because this dish requires low, slow cooking and the amount of time to truly breakdown tough cuts can vary (I have had times ranging from 3 to 5 hours!), consider doing the simmering the day (or 2) before. It may not only help with time management, but it will actually taste better!

Serve bulalo as a warming bowl of soup or with Steamed White Rice.



Here are 3 helpful tips:

1) Brown the beef shanks and the bones very well.

– All that color on the meat and on the bottom of the pot after browning is pure flavor that will add depth and richness to your broth.

  • Pat the meat dry first. A drier surface will brown much better and faster.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pot. Browning the meat and bones in batches will bring better color faster.

2) Be patient and slow-simmer the bulalo as long as needed. Don’t rush it.

The most important thing needed for bulalo is time. Time is the only thing that can turn tough shanks and neckbones into the comforting, warming soup that bulalo is.

  • Turning up the heat and bringing the bulalo to a full rolling bowl will not tenderize the meat any faster. It will just cause all the broth to evaporate away quickly.

Low and slow is always the best way to go with tough cuts of meat. So be patient and wait for time to do its thing. The reward is fork-tender beef that falls off the bone and a rich, full-bodied broth.

Soft, fork-tender beef
Soft and fork-tender

3) Vegetables round out the dish.

– Vegetables complete the bulalo by adding layers of interest though flavor and texture.

potatoes and baby bok choy
Baby potatoes and baby bok choy
  • Potatoes soak in the richness of the bulalo broth and add a little sweetness. We like to use baby Yukon Gold or Red potatoes because they have a smooth, creamy texture and keep their shape well in the soup.
  • Cabbages like baby bok choy, green cabbage or Napa cabbage can add a sweet, bitter, even peppery element to the bulalo. They are also great because their watery crunch offsets the richness of the bulalo.
  • Other vegetables like corn on the cob, green beans, even summer squash are nice. Bulalo is a rich and filling dish and the vegetables can really be a welcome element.
Bulalo in a pot
Bulalo with zucchini and baby bok choy.

Note: Watery vegetables can sometimes water down the broth. So be sure to taste it and reduce it or add seasoning to your liking before serving.

4) Condiments add extra “Oomph!”

Serve your bulalo with little dipping bowls of patis (fish sauce) or Maggi Seasoning. If you do not have these around, soy sauce or salt will do. Mash in some Thai chilies for heat or add in a squeeze of calamansi or lemon juice for freshness, if you like.


– This is a salty, umami-rich sauce made from fermented fish. It is a distinctive Asian condiment that defines the flavor in so many Southeast Asian dishes. Its aroma is quite pungent and can be over-powering if not used correctly.
– Patis can be found in most Asian grocery stores near other condiments such as soy sauce.


– Maggi Seasoning is another umami-rich condiment sauce. I believe it can be likened to Worcestershire or soy sauce, but with its own distinctive taste.
– This can also be found in most Asian grocery stores in the condiments aisles close to the soy sauce.


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