Jackfruit & Bok Choy Filipino Peanut Stew (Kare Kare)Serves 6-8 

The whole world just can’t get enough of savory peanut butter laced stews. Kare kare is the Filipino spiritual sister of West African mafe and Ecuadorian/Bolivian guatita and Thai massaman curry. This version can be made with meaty jackfruit or tender eggplant, and kare kare gets additional zip from tender green veggies like bok choy and green beans that are stirred into the creamy peanut broth towards the very end of cooking to keep them crisp and fresh-tasting. The addition of toasted rice powder in the broth adds subtle texture and a little bit of thickening to the finished broth.

Like so many soups and especially ones richly flavored with lots of stuff, kare kare tastes even better the next day. The rice powder will plump up and thicken up the stew considerably, so you may want to dilute it slightly with additional vegetable broth when reheating. Or maybe not. Serve with any hot boiled long grain rice; jasmine makes a fine choice if you’re asking.

If you don’t like jackfruit or can’t find a suitable brand, make the version with eggplant and okra instead.

Jackfruit tip:

For best results look for unsweetened unripe jackfruit sold in cans or jars that has been lightly brined. Typically this jackfruit has a firm texture and a pinkish color. I don’t recommend using frozen whole jackfruit pods with a creamy white color, as they have something of a mushy texture; if you can’t find decent quality brined pinkish jackfruit make the eggplant okra variation instead.

Tester tip: Instead of preparing the annatto seeds for just this recipe, you can experiment by making Annatto Seed Oil for use in other recipes.

  • 15 ounce can or jar water packed, unsweetened unripe jackfruit or 1 pound quality frozen jackfruit
  • 1/2 pound baby bok choy
  • 2 large red onions, peeled
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 2 tablespoons annatto seeds
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil or grapeseed oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 5 cups warm vegetable broth
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup creamy all natural salted peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar or agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 large red ripe tomato, finely diced

Hot long grain boiled rice, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups per person

1. If using canned/jarred jackfruit, drain, rinse and pull or chop into 1 inch wide chunks. Squeeze out as much water as possible. If using frozen, thaw overnight or speed up thawing by steeping the jackfruit package in hot water. Squeeze out as much water as possible and separate into chunks as described above. Trim any large stems from the bok choy and slice in half bok choy; rinse very well to remove any grit. Slice onion in half, then slice into l/4 slices long slices starting from the root end of the onion, then slice off the root end. Trim ends of green beans and rinse.

2. In a large soup pot over low heat fry the annatto seeds in the peanut oil for about 2 minutes; the oil will turn a deep reddish orange. Turn off heat and strain the oil, discard the seeds and return the oil to the pot. Heat the oil over medium heat and fry onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the garlic and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the pieces of jackfruit and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and pour the rest into the pot, then stir in the star anise, coriander, ground black pepper, and bay leaves. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile in a small mixing bowl stir together reserved vegetable broth and peanut butter thoroughly to form a creamy sauce.

3. After 40 minutes, nibble on a piece of jackfruit. It should be tender but pleasantly chewy, if too tough, cover and simmer continue to simmer until desired texture is reached. Stir in the peanut butter, toasted rice powder, and then brown sugar. Simmer, keep partially covered and stir occasionally for 15 minutes. Stir in coconut vinegar, taste the broth and season with salt as needed.

4. Stir in green beans and simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in bok choy and then turn off heat. Partially cover and let stand for 15 minutes; the bok choy will cook in the hot soup and should be still somewhat crisp in the center of the stems. Ladle vegetables with plenty of sauce in deep, large serving bowls and top with chopped cilantro and diced tomato. Serve with a bowl of hot long grain rice.

Variation: Eggplant Okra Kare Kare

Make this variation if you can’t find or just don’t like jackfruit. Trim the stem end off 1 pound of Asian eggplant and slice into diagonal pieces 1/2 inch thick. Trim the stems off of 1/2 pound of okra pods.

In a wok or skillet fry the eggplant with 2 tablespoons of peanut oil over high heat; brown both cut sides of the eggplant but don’t cook the eggplant enough to get it very soft. Add the eggplant and the whole okra pods along with the vegetable broth and peanut butter. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until okra is tender, then proceed as directed for the recipe.