Kare-kare is made from a base of stewed oxtail (sometimes this is the only meat used), pork hocks, calves feet, pig feet, beef stew meat; and occasionally offal, or tripe. Vegetables, which include (but are not limited to): eggplant, Chinese cabbage, or other greens, daikon, green beans, and asparagus beans are added – usually equaling or exceeding the amount of meats. The stew is flavored with ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, onions, and garlic.
The stew is colored with annatto (extracted from annatto seeds in oil or water), and can be thickened with toasted or plain ground rice. Other flavorings may be added, but the dish is usually quite plain, compared to other Filipino dishes as other seasonings are added at the table.
It is often eaten with bagoong (shrimp paste), sometimes spiced with chili, bagoong guisado (spiced and sautéed shrimp paste), and sprinkled with calamansi juice. Traditionally, any Filipino fiesta (particularly in Pampanga region) is not complete without kare-kare.