Warm, rich and bursting with spicy flavour, rendang is a hallmark of Southeast Asian cuisine. Is rendang healthy? Generally, no. But can it be healthy? Yes!

Want to know how? Read on!

Is Rendang Healthy - Wooden plate of mutton rendang on banana leaf with fresh cihillies and garlic in the background

Image source: Fashionably Foody

Rendang is a spicy gravy dish that is rooted in Indonesia’s history. Originally served only at special or festive occasions, it has grown in popularity and now can be found in many Southeast Asian countries, especially Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines at any time of the year.

Original recipes for rendang call for an abundance of spices, meat, and coconut to be simmered for hours to achieve the desired flavour and texture. Of course, in the modern world, many ready-made shortcuts exist. However, those who stay true to their original recipes usually limit cooking rendang to festive occasions only. Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which is celebrated after the month-long fasting period of Ramadan, is one such special occasion on which rendang can be found in abundance.

Is Rendang Healthy - Platter of mutton rendang, lemang pieces, peanut sauce, and sliced cucumbers

Image source: The Singapore Women's Weekly

So, is rendang healthy? No, not really. Rendang’s main nutrition issue comes from its high saturated fat content. Saturated fat can be found in animal fat, as well as tropical oils like coconut or palm oil. Experts suggest limiting saturated fat intake as it has been linked to heart disease.

Rendang is typically made with fatty cuts of beef or chicken to keep the meat tender. Additionally, an abundance of oil and coconut (in the form of coconut milk and dessicated coconut) is added in the cooking process to add flavour. Combined, this results in a high fat content in general, and an especially high saturated fat content.

Is Rendang Healthy - Wok of rendang with coconut milk being poured in

Image source: Puur Eten

So, how do we make rendang healthy?

This recipe cuts the fat content of rendang by using lean meat (you can also use a vegetarian protein, like tempeh, to reduce the fat content even further). It also omits the coconut milk and relies on dessicated coconut (kerisik) for flavour. Lastly, the recipe uses no additional oil at all, using liquid to braise the meat and spices rather than fry them.

The result? A rendang dish that is 43% lower in fat and 40% lower in calories than original rendang! You could also take it a step further and adjust the amounts of salt and palm sugar used to make it even healthier.

Are you ready to make your healthy rendang? Here’s the recipe!

Is Rendang Healthy - Beef rendang in a white bowl on a pile of fresh ingredients: shallots, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, and ginger

Image source: Daily Cooking Quest

Healthy Rendang

Spice Blend:

2-3 tbsp chili paste
8 shallots
3 tbsp fresh ginger
4 stalks lemongrass
2 tbsp galangal
1.5 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tbsp black pepper
2 star anise
3 cloves

Blend all ingredients above in a blender until smooth.

Rendang:

1 kg lean beef/chicken, sliced
Spice blend (see above)
½ cup dessicated coconut (kerisik)
3 tbsp Gula Melaka or palm sugar
2 assam seeds
5 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, pounded
2 tbsp sliced ginger
Salt to taste

Method:

Place the meat and spice blend into a wok and add just enough water to cover. Cook slowly on low heat until the meat gets tender (the leaner the meat, the longer it will take to become tender).

Add all remaining ingredients and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes to avoid burning on the bottom.

The rendang is ready when almost all the liquid has evaporated and the meat is tender and well-flavoured.

Is Rendang Healthy - Plate of brown rice, rendang, and cooked vegetables on wooden table

Image source: Dah Makan

And that’s it! Healthy, warm, and oh-so-delicious rendang that you can enjoy guilt-free (with a heaping serving of vegetables!). Finally, the answer to the question “Is rendang healthy?” can be a resounding “YES”!

Want another option for guilt-free rendang? How about trying our Rendang Spice Nut Mix – a brand NEW flavour that you’re sure to love! Packed with protein and healthy fat, with all that fragrant rendang flavour – delicious! Find it under the "Shop" tab above!

Amazin' Graze Rendang Spice Nut Mix in a bowl with fresh coconut, lemongrass, chilli, turmeric, peanuts, and almonds