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How to Make Filipino Vegetable Stew (Pinakbet)

There’s something about a hearty vegetable stew that feels like a warm embrace, especially when it’s a dish as rich in flavor and tradition as Pinakbet. This Filipino favorite has always held a special place in my heart. It’s not just the medley of textures and flavors that make it stand out, but also the deep nutritional value it brings to every meal. Let’s dive into what makes Pinakbet so unique and why it should be your next kitchen adventure.

A Taste of Filipino Heritage

Pinakbet, a staple in Filipino cuisine, marries the earthy flavors of indigenous vegetables with the bold taste of fermented fish or shrimp, known as bagoong. Originating from the northern regions of the Philippines, this dish is a celebration of harvest, showcasing vegetables like eggplant, bitter melon, okra, and squash. The magic of Pinakbet lies in its ability to transform simple ingredients into a dish bursting with flavor.

Might Be Outside Your Pallet!

I understand that bagoong might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Its strong, pungent flavor can be quite polarizing, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing the delight of Pinakbet. The beauty of this dish is its versatility. By omitting bagoong, you can still enjoy a version that’s equally satisfying and packed with the goodness of vegetables. This adaptation is perfect for vegetarians or anyone looking to explore Filipino cuisine with a milder flavor profile.

How to Make Filipino Vegetable Stew


  • ½ medium-sized squash, cut into bite-sized pieces (you may also use sweet potatoes)

Bitter Melon or Gourd

  • 2 medium-sized bitter gourd, sliced diagonally
  • 6 cups warm water, 110°F/43°C
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 8oz young okra, ends trimmed
  • 2 large Filipino eggplants, sliced diagonally
  • ½ bunch string beans, cut into 3-inch long

Fried Shrimp

  • 5oz large shrimp (tail-on, cleaned, and deveined)
  • 2 tbsp corn flour (cornstarch)

Shrimp and Fish Mixture

  • 5oz large shrimp, shelled, cleaned, and deveined
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce or patis (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (use any oil of your choice) + 4 tbsp more (divided) for frying and sauteing
  • ½ lb pork, cut into strips (I used pork chops, use any parts of the pork of your choosing)
  • ½ medium-sized white onion, sliced
  • 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large thumb-sized ginger root, cut into strips
  • 1 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups drinking water, room temperature • 2-3 tsp ground black pepper (add more salt as needed, adjust to taste)



Cut the Vegetables

Cutting large squash with a knife on a wooden cutting board

Remove the seeds and cut off the skin of the squash. Cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a separate bowl or colander. Rinse and set aside. Cut the ends of the bitter melon or gourds. Slice them in half and remove the seeds using a spoon. Cut them diagonally and soak them in warm water (110°F/43°C) and salt to reduce the bitterness. Cut or chop the rest of the veggies including okra (ends trimmed), eggplants (cut diagonally), string beans (cut into 3-inch long). Put them all together in a large bowl soak in water at room temperature to lessen the bruising. Set aside later.

Make the Shrimp Paste Substitute

Raw tail on shrimp with corn flour in a bowl

Finely mince the shrimp using a butcher knife or food processor bowl. Mix in the patis or fish sauce. Mix well and set aside for later.

Cook the Tail-on Shrimp

Cooking Shrimp on a wook with oil

Put the shrimp in a bowl and mix in the corn flour or cornstarch. Mix and well coat the shrimp. In a large wok or pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Carefully lower the shrimp. Cook them for 2 minutes or until golden. Flip them over and cook the other side for an equal time. Transfer onto a paper towel-lined bowl. Set aside for later.

Cook the Pinakbet or Veggies Stew

adding Squash to Pinakbet in a large wok

Deglaze the wok or pot and heat some more cooking oil over medium-high heat. Lower the strips of pork and cook them for 3-5 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Cook the other side for an equal time. Push them to the side and saute the sliced onion and crushed garlic cloves until the onion’s translucent and garlic cloves become fragrant. Then saute the strips of ginger root. Add more oil as needed. Saute the chopped tomato until soft. Then cook the shrimp paste substitute or minced shrimp. Cook for 1-2 minutes then stirs them all together. Pour the water and stir until well incorporated. The squash cooks longer so we will add them first. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes or until the squash is soft. Check every 4 minutes and stir occasionally until the squash is fork-tender. Drain the bitter melon add them into the wok. Mix in the rest of the veggies as well and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for another 8-10 minutes or until the veggies turn soft but still crunchy. Take a peek every so often and stir occasionally until the veggies are soft to your desired doneness. Turn the heat off and add the cooked shrimp. Season with pepper and add more salt as needed. If you like a bit of a kick, garnish with some chili flakes and top it with some Kosher or flaky salt. Serve warm with rice or eat it by itself and enjoy!

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Johnny 9gag
Johnny 9gag
Johnny 9gag

This looks awesome!