Carne picada translates to chopped beef in English; appropriately, the dish features chopped beef braised in a sauce with sautéed veggies like onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Mexican cuisine is already so vastly complex and different between regions throughout the country, and this recipe is no different. There are so many different takes on this tasty stewed beef!
My interpretation of carne picada is similar to my mom’s approach. She would often make carne picada for me and my siblings whenever her days were running a little long and she needed to make something that was versatile enough that it could be served a number of ways: over rice, in an ooey gooey quesadilla filled with quesillo, or simply as tacos.
What Kind of Beef to Use
Although you can use chopped skirt steak, I find that cubed chuck roast ends up a little more tender and juicy, absorbs more of the flavor from the sauce, and overall performs a lot better in a braise. By the time you’re done cooking the beef, it’s so tender that it melts in your mouth.
I like to toss the beef in flour and sear it before braising. Tossing the beef in flour does double duty: it helps to brown the beef and give it a deep rich caramel color and extra flavor, while also helping to thicken up the sauce.
Although this recipe calls for beef, feel free to substitute the chuck roast for chicken thighs. Chicken thighs stay nice and juicy and do well in a braise, and would work just as well here.
What Kind of Vegetables to Use
For the veggies, I wanted to keep this simple so I opted for veggies that you’d typically find in fajitas: yellow onion plus red and green bell peppers. Since I use tomato paste in the sauce, I decided not to include any in the braise, but you can introduce some of your favorite veggies like diced tomato, diced potato, or even diced carrot into the mix.
Make It in a Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker
To make carne picada in the pressure cooker, prep the sauce, then sautéed the beef and veggies. Once you are ready to cook, place the lid on and pressure cook for 40 minutes on high, then let the pressure release naturally. Once the pressure has released, remove the lid and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly.
For the slow cooker, prep the sauce then sauté the beef and veggies. Add everything to the cooker and slow cook on high heat until the beef is tender, about 2 hours, or on low heat for 4 hours.
How to Serve Carne Picada
There are several different ways to serve carne picada. You can serve it with the traditional Mexican red rice and beans, or you can serve it over cilantro lime rice and top it with your favorite pico de gallo for a quick burrito bowl. You can also use it as a filling for burritos, sopes, and quesadillas.
Or keep it traditional and serve the carne picada taco-style over corn tortillas topped with your favorite salsa and a sprinkle of chopped onion and cilantro.
Braised Beef from Around the World
- Galbi Jjim (Korean Braised Short Ribs)
- Beef Bourguignon
- The Best Osso Buco
- Jamaican Beef Stew
Brown the beef:
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the beef and toss to coat.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add half the beef. Cook for about 5 minutes untouched, then flip and cook another 5 minutes, making sure you get a nice rich brown color on each side.
Remove the beef to a bowl or plate and repeat the process with the rest of the beef, adding more oil if needed.
Make the sauce:
While the beef browns, make the sauce. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Sauté the vegetables:
Once the beef is done and set aside, cook the vegetables for the braise in the same pan. Add the oil followed by the peppers and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are slightly translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the sauce to deglaze the Dutch oven, scraping up all the brown bits that might’ve stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the browned beef and bring the mixture up to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the pot, then remove the lid and cook for about 15 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken up slightly.
Taste for salt and adjust to your liking. Serve as a filling for tacos or over rice.
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