How To Cook The Best Pinakbet

If you’re sort of a vegetable lover, I’d bet you’d like Pinakbet! Wanna bet?

We have made eating together as a family a part of our culture. Of course, a healthy and savory Filipino dish will make it more memorable. Pinakbet is one of the most uncomplicated foods to make because of its beginner-friendly recipe. Pinakbet is a dish you can make in a snap because its ingredients are plentiful in every area and can be easily resourced wherever you may be – that is another win!

delicious and colorful filipino pinakbet
(Photo Credits to: Mostly Paleo Always Delicious)

Locally fresh produce and harvest are the critical ingredients for the dish. Readily available, right? One more thing is that vegetables are just easy to prepare and shrimp or the other meat compounds of Pinakbet. Anyone can quickly follow the recipe. We’ve seen young ones cook this, too. We’ve grown and witnessed the people’s affection, especially the Filipinos, into cooking and then, of course, eating! Cooking contests, food festivals, boodle fights, and the likes are some of the many point cases that undeniably shows our deep devotion to food. By cooking the best fares on the table, we are like being ushered to a different time and place. We may feel like we are being backed to childhood by tasting that remarkable Special Pinakbet. These great dishes have time-traveling become realized.

Pinakbet has become one of the Philippine cuisine wonders and will never go out of the list regardless of whether it’s home-cooked or being ordered in a restaurant. Another classic Filipino specialty. A filling and hearty infusion of vegetables and varieties of meat. Pinakbet is a dish that will not only fill your stomach but is also something that will be tattooed to your heart and mind. Like it is something that gives you affection and keeps you wanting for more. 

What is Pinakbet?

Pinakbet is mixed vegetables with shrimp sauce that originated in the Ilocos region. The dish name is an Ilocano word, “Pinakebbet” which means “shrivel” or “shrink.” Specifically, the dish is from the province of Ilocos Sur. It is popular because its ingredients are commonly found in their local grounds and are planted yearly. Pinakbet reflects the agricultural and livelihoods of Ilocos. Also, it represents the Ilocano and every family living there. It symbolizes their hard work in growing and working for their family.

tasty pinakbet
(Photo Credits to: East West Seed Foundation)

This dish has usually been dubbed as a representative or as a cultural symbol of a family. Families are like Pinakbet: there is a bitter gourd that represents challenges and trials, pumpkin sweetness symbolizes prosperity, love, care, and gateway to success and victory, the saltiness of the bagoong and meat compounds are the hard work and high peaks of our lives, and each spice is their love for one another. 

The dish is visually enticing because of the colorful vegetables. It is a colorful medley of delicious food and nutrients. Also, the plate has the perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, and bulkiness of vegetables. It can be eaten alone or with a little rice. Probably not so sure with what we just said, but if you are a light eater, you’ll ask for a bit of rice, because the vegetables might already consume too much space in your tummy! There is a lot in every bite.

Pinakbet is a refreshing dish with a neutral taste of combined sweetness, bitterness, and saltiness that comprise it to perfection. It can never go wrong, may it be the one on the restaurant’s menu or grandma’s special recipe. We are confident you couldn’t agree more with everything we shared about Pinakbet for those who are lucky enough to have tasted it already. If you have not tried it yet, I bet Pinakbet will get you hooked the very first time you’ll try it.

This food is a kind of dish that can be served every day at the table. You also have vast options on how to cook it. Due to its fame, many have made their Pinakbet to a different level. With the avalanche of food innovations all over the country, you may have one that will join the hype. If you want to explore more on the pliability and what more you can do to level up your Pinakbet, we have listed a few versions of the ever famous Pinakbet. Like a cooking contest, you might have a hard time choosing which one is best. Let’s bid on it one by one.

Recipe Variations

fresh vegetables, okra, string beans, eggplants, tomatoes, onion, ginger, bittergourd
(Photo Credits to: for Filipinos in Europe magazine)

Grilled Version

Grilling the vegetables adds a smoky flavor to the dish and compliments well with the pinakbet’s bagoong. Grilled Pinakbet metamorphoses the traditional way of cooking the dish. In this version of the plate, the vegetable ingredients are being grilled first in the fire before finally mixing in the stew. This way of cooking Pinakbet is ideal for extra health-conscious people as grilling is a way of cooking that can be less risky for our body’s state and health.

All Vegetables Version

This variety is probably the best version of pinakbet for health-conscious people. The all-vegetable pinakbet. A dish that belongs to the healthy type that gives a complete package of combined tastiness and nutritional benefits at the same time. Many people opt for this version as it is the most beneficial among other variations without compromising its savor. If you want a little more spicy taste, you may add different spices or more salt or fish sauce.

Baked Dish

We have seen a lot of dishes with their baked version. Pinakbet can go by the trend. By baking all the pinakbet ingredients in one pan, it is creative and pleasing to the eye and a unique and healthy way of cooking the dish without much oil. Baked pinakbet is often made with rice as the base, and then the pinakbet is usually placed on top of it. This is a complete meal in one that is undoubtedly worth a mouthful bite!

Pinakbet with Pork Belly

To infuse more flavor to Pinakbet, we may add pork belly. The vegetable stew is instinctively best when partnered with a lump of meat, and pork belly is one of the many that can be Pinakbet’s forever partner. Pork belly can be delightfully crisp and tender in just one bite. No wonder it was also one of the popular dishes everyone is familiar with. It is always a good idea to put that tasty belly inside your tummy—another cracking delicious supplementary for Pinakbet.

Ilocano Version with Chicharon

Chicharon is deep-fried pork with exceptional crunch and taste. It is widely used as toppings too many dishes. Ilocanos often mix it with Pinakbet. Like other dishes, chicharon will never go wrong with anything as it is one of the deadliest and the exclusively topnotch food partner of all time. It has always been charismatic because of its puffiness and irresistible crackle.

Ginataan (With Coconut Milk)

A classic Filipino vegetable dish like Pinakbet may become even more delicious if mixed with gata or coconut milk. The plate becomes flavorful and creamier with the addition of this ingredient. This ingredient not only adds sweetness to Pinakbet, but it also has its nutritional value.

Troubleshooting Recipes

  1. Pinakbet or pakbet is naturally bitter. A prevalent mistake most people make is mixing the vegetables while cooking. These will bring out the bitterness of the gourd. To avoid excessive bitterness to dominate the Pinakbet, mix the vegetables before tossing them into the pan.
  2. Although ampalaya or bitter gourd is loved by many, some people may frown on its bitterness. Pinakbet is incomplete without ampalaya, but there are easy ways to lessen or remove its bitterness. You can rub it with salt. Yes! Salt is the trick to neutralize ampalaya’s bitterness by blocking the taste buds in charge of it.
  3. Less is more, and Pinakbet is one of the simplest dishes, let the bagoong do its work, but you can always add a little salt until you are satisfied with its taste. Try to add the flavor enhancers gradually so you will achieve that “just right” taste.
  4. There are times when the vegetables are unevenly cooked. Always put the lid on, these will evenly cook all the vegetables, and it will also keep the bagoong simmering, distributing evenly among all the ingredients.

Trivia About this Filipino Dish

  1. The word Pinakbet originated from the term “Pinakebbet,” meaning ‘shrunk’ because vegetables turn into smaller sizes whenever cooked in the stew. 
  2. Pinakbet is well-known in the northern part of the Philippines and has originated in the Ilocos region. As the days go by, this dish has already become part of the Filipino tradition and culture. It has been very famous in every corner of the country up to the present.
  3. During the early days, people did not buy but only harvest vegetables in their backyard. Eventually, people have been sharing vegetable planting techniques and management of crops. The start of Pinakbet has begun as vegetables are cooked and served as they talk over the farm production.
  4. Different regions have different entries on unique versions of Pinakbet. Just for example, in Bicol, they put a lot of chilies, as they are known for being avid fans of really spicy foods. This version’s spiciness also counterfeits the bitterness of some vegetables of the Pinakbet, like the ampalaya.
  5. Some people who have unimaginable ideas have used Pinakbet as toppings for pizza dough, completing it with the ever-demand mozzarella cheese. It is unique and weird to be heard, but I think it is not bad if we give it a try. We also heard it turned out tasty and pleasant! Who wouldn’t love pizza?
  6. There are a few people who are allergic to shrimp, thus the bagoong. We have an alternative to that, so close to how the shrimp tastes. It is no other than tuyo or dried fish. It will fill out the sought after saltiness that balances the dish.
  7. There is a festival to celebrate one of the favorite dishes of the Ilocanos. The “Pinakbet Festival” is celebrated through street dances and cooking festivals. It was before celebrated in March but later on, moved to December as “OFW’s” desire to join with the celebration’s festivity.

Tips On How to Cook the Best Pinakbet Dish

  1. The Ilocano way of cooking Pinakbet is by using fish bagoong sauce instead of bagoong alamang. You can dilute the bagoong with water to balance the saltiness and the aroma. One glass is more than enough. 
  2. One traditional way of preparing Pinakbet is cooking it in a clay pot. It is believed that this method of cooking helps enhance the flavor of the vegetables. So if you want a dominant taste of the vegetables, get that clay pot.
  3. When cooking the vegetables, put them in the pot according to how long each takes to get cooked. Set in first the sturdy ones like the beans and squash, then followed by the ones which take less time to cook. The quickest vegetable to cook comes last.
  4. Cut the vegetables in uniform length and thickness to ensure that everything is evenly cooked—the string beans consistent in size, the squash in the same thickness, and so forth.
  5. Do not overcook the vegetables. Keep an eye on the fire as the heat of the pot is enough to do the rest. Vegetables that are overcooked will lead to discoloration and loss of nutrients and vitamins.
  6. If there are more tomatoes, this dish is more delicious. Smashing the tomatoes thoroughly before putting them in the pan helps to get all the juice out. Tomatoes are one of the vital ingredients that give a distinctive taste to the Pinakbet.
  7. If you find the ampalaya too bitter, you can cut down its contents of the recipe or rub it with salt before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Food Best Served With Pinakbet

Steamed Rice

Pinakbet, with its bountiful ingredients, may already be considered as a complete meal on its own. We can add any side dish we may want, but steamed rice will never go out of place. Steamed rice and Pinakbet as a combo is a classic part of the traditional Filipino cuisine.

Fried Fish

Just when you thought you had enough of its saltiness, Fried ” Danggit” or any fried fish for that matter, compliments the pinakbet. Both are so healthy, and the fish’s crispness blends well with the pinakbet vegetables’ soft taste and texture. Pairing fish with vegetables is always a great idea. Although fried fish is so simple, it is delicious. Let’s eat now and pass on the rice.

Chicharon

It also goes well with crispy pork skin or chicharon for a more classy presentation and a refreshing way of serving pinakbet. Or you can just use bits of chicharon on top for a more affordable version. Chicharon gives a dash of flavor to the mix of vegetables and adds a crunchy texture to Pinakbet.

Bagnet

The Ilocos region is where Pinakbet originated, and when you hear Ilocos, you will most likely crave their ever famous Bagnet. It is boiled tender pork chunks that are deeply fried to perfection. It is like a top-of-the-line version of Chicharon. This combo is well-known in the province. They are like a love team dubbed as the “BagBet.”

Shrimp

And guess what, If you are a fan of shrimp, you can use that too! Its fresh taste will surely compliment the taste of bagoong. It is easy to make quickly enough for the next meal and is always effortlessly ideal for adding to every meal. A fantastic flavor oozes from this mouthwatering seafood that is lip-smackingly delicious.

Shrimp Paste

More than the shrimp itself, shrimp paste is something that we can’t get enough of. Aside from being the main salt of the Pinakbet, we can also have this satisfyingly tasty shrimp paste on the side for a more inviting and delicious meal.

Iced Soda

Finally, wash it down with ice-cold sodas or carbonated drinks. Its sweetness will balance your palate, keeping the saltiness and bitterness in your taste buds at bay. A perfectly refreshing beverage that is sweet and gives a good pop on your taste buds. Iced soda is the perfect drink to do that trick.

Conclusion

Pinakbet is an effortless dish to make that will surely satisfy your palates. It is also a dish that contains chunks of nutritional value that comes from different vegetables comprising it. Pinakbet is only one of the many words that Filipinos should be proud of. Vegetable dishes like this are popular throughout the country because of our fresh produce and how they naturally love cooking and eating together as a family or a community. Who would like to live in that house in the song “Bahay Kubo?” Everyone has a soft heart when it comes to food. We have traditional ways of preparing Pinakbet, but we are also that creative that we always find other ways of innovating and creating our versions of the dish depending on how we like it to be. We are being bound harmoniously by the food that we eat because food has been one of the easiest ways to make people come together in peace. So bring your appetite, and let’s get on to cooking. 

top view of pinakbet - mixed vegetables with shrimp paste, ground pork and dried shrimp
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4.34 from 3 votes

Best Pinakbet Recipe

Pinakbet is mixed vegetables with shrimp sauce that originated in the Ilocos region.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Filipino
Keyword Best Pinakbet Recipe, How to cook the Best Pinakbet, Pinakbet, Vegetables
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 289kcal
Cost $5-$20

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb Ground Pork optional
  • 1/2 cup Dried shrimp
  • 12 pcs String beans (sitaw) cut into 2-inch length
  • 1 lbs Pumpkin (kalabasa) cubed
  • 12 pcs Lady's fingers (okra) sliced
  • 2 pcs Eggplant sliced
  • 1 pc Bitter gourd (ampalaya) sliced
  • 4 pcs Tomatoes chopped
  • 1 pcs Onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic minced
  • 2 tsp Shrimp paste (bagoong alamang)
  • 2 1/2 cups Water
  • 1/2 cup Cooking oil
  • 1/4 tsp Ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a pan, saute onion, garlic, and tomatoes until onion softened.
  • Add the shrimp paste and ground pork (optional).
  • Pour water into the pan. Stir and let it boil for 3 minutes.
  • Add black pepper. Stir. Then, put the dried shrimp. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  • Add string beans and cook for 1-3 minutes.
  • Add pumpkin and simmer for 1-3 minutes.
  • Then put in lady’s fingers, bitter gourd, and eggplant. Stir then cover the pot and cook for 1-3 minutes. Wait until the vegetables are all softened.
  • Serve hot and enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 289kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 406mg | Sodium: 1171mg | Potassium: 569mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 9696IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 4mg
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