Costa Rican Beef Soup

Yellow bowl of beef soup with a traditionally painted disc in the background.

This Costa Rican sustancia de carne is a traditional beef soup topped with fresh veggies and served with white rice.

Costa Rican Beef Soup Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 2 lbs stew meat 
  • 1-2 TB salt (see notes)
  • 1-2 TB chicken bullion
  • 1 -2 TB soy sauce
  • 1/2 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Salsa Lizano
  • 6-8 cups water (see notes)
  • 1 cup white rice
  • Extra cilantro for garnishing (if desired)

Instructions:

Cut your vegetables into large pieces and then place all the ingredients except for the rice and garnishing cilantro into a pressure cooker. (I use an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot). Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.

While the meat is cooking, prepare your rice in a separate pot. You can do this conventionally, or can follow this traditional Costa Rican recipe if desired. 

Once the 25 minutes are up, remove the meat- and- broth mixture from the pressure cooker and set aside in a large bowl to cool slightly.

Finely chop red pepper, onion and cilantro and put on top of the soup. Allow to rest for a few minutes. 

Spoon the cooked rice into the bottoms of six bowls and ladle the beef and broth mixture over the top of each one. Enjoy!

Notes:

  1. One of my favorite things (apart from the flavor) about this recipe is that it is a great way to use up produce that might no longer be crisp but still has flavor. I add them in BIG pieces to the slow cooker, just cutting them up enough that the flavor will release during the cooking process. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots are always great additions!
  2. The salt to water ratio can be a little tricky to get when preparing meat! Generally, I do about 1 tablespoon of salt per 3 cups of water, and cover the meat with 3-4 inches of water before cooking.

About This Sustancia de Carne Costa Rica Recipe

This recipe brings back so many memories. I was first introduced to this soup by my host brother after long nights of drinking and dancing in San Ramon. Before heading home we would stop at a 24-hour soda called La Barra and order sustancia de carne with coffee (Diet Coke for me). 

You could order the soup in three sizes- anywhere from about half a cup of soup to about 3 cups of soup. I always knew how drunk Oscar had been that night by the size of soup he ordered before heading home. 

Now we make this soup on cold days and when we need a quick, hearty meal. If my youngest had her way, she’d have this for after school snack on the daily.

Sustancia de Carne” translates to “meat substance” in English… not the most flattering term for what is actually an amazing vegetable beef stew! 

In Costa Rica, we tend to serve beef-based stews over white rice with LOTS of cilantro on top. Sustancia de Carne is soup at its simplest and most flavorful. It’s kind of like the Latin American version of chicken noodle soup– the perfect remedy for a cold day or an illness!

Nothing beats a bowl of homemade soup, and since we’re heading into the winter months, I wanted to share this recipe for one of my favorite Costa Rican comfort foods.  

Related Recipes You’ll Love:

If you liked this recipe, here are some more soups and stews from Pura Vida Moms

Substitutions

Another way to serve your beef stew is by swapping in angel hair pasta for the white rice. Similarly, vegetable broth cubes can be substituted for the chicken bullion. 

If cilantro isn’t your thing, you can omit it and top your stew with diced scallions instead.

Variations

It will take a little longer, but you can also make this recipe in a crockpot or slow cooker. Just place all the ingredients in the pot and set the slow cooker on high for 6-8 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. 

When I make this in the slow cooker I generally just cook it overnight and shred in the morning. One thing to note is that the slow cooker variation of this recipe does not yield as much broth, so you can compensate with extra water and salt.

If you’d like to give the soup a little more texture and sweetness, you can add in kernels of sweet corn.

Serving Suggestions

Fill your bowl with a generous spoonful of white rice and then ladle the stew on top of it. Garnish with cilantro leaves or chopped scallions for a fresh, herby flavor and serve. 

FAQ

1.) How long does the stew broth last for? – If you like, you can strain out the broth and seal it in a bell jar or a plastic gallon bag. The broth will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge and about two months in the freezer. 

2.) How should I reheat sustancia de carne? – This stew is even better on the second day after the flavors have all blended together! Pour the desired amount of stew into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until simmering. 

Printable Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Costa Rican Beef Soup

Yellow ceramic bowl full of beef soup with peppers, onions, and cilantro.

This classic Costa Rican dish is a simple yet hearty and flavorful dinner favorite-- perfect for crowds and cold nights!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs stew meat 
  • 1-2 TB salt (see notes)
  • 1-2 TB chicken bullion
  • 1 -2 TB soy sauce
  • 1/2 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Salsa Lizano
  • 6-8 cups water (see notes)
  • 1 cup white rice
  • Extra cilantro for garnishing (if desired)

Instructions

  1. Cut your vegetables into large pieces and then place all the ingredients except for the rice and garnishing cilantro into a pressure cooker. (I use an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot).
  2. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.
  3. While the meat is cooking, prepare your rice in a separate pot. You can do this conventionally, or can follow this traditional Costa Rican recipe if desired. 
  4. Once the 25 minutes are up, remove the meat- and- broth mixture from the pressure cooker and set aside in a large bowl to cool slightly.
  5. Strain the beef broth through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside in a separate bowl.
  6. Shred the beef very fine using two forks or your hands and place the beef back in the broth bowl. Taste the beef and broth mixture, seasoning with extra salt and pepper if needed. 
  7. Spoon the cooked rice into the bottoms of six bowls and ladle the beef and broth mixture over the top of each one. Garnish each stew portion with fresh cilantro sprigs if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. One of my favorite things (apart from the flavor) about this recipe is that it is a great way to use up produce that might no longer be crisp but still has flavor. I add them in BIG pieces to the slow cooker, just cutting them up enough that the flavor will release during the cooking process. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots are always great additions!
  2. The salt to water ratio can be a little tricky to get when preparing meat! Generally, I do about 1 tablespoon of salt per 3 cups of water, and cover the meat with 3-4 inches of water before cooking.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 343Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 2648mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 51g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

Pin it!

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

No Comments