Costa Rican Shredded Beef Recipe

Glass bowl of shredded beef centered to the right and flanked by vegetables.

This Costa Rican shredded beef recipe is an essential recipe for all kinds of traditional Costa Rican dishes- beef empanadas, taco tico, beef in red sauce, estofado and more. Of course, this shredded beef is always served with white rice. 

Flank steak cooked with red pepper, white onion, garlic, and of course Salsa Lizano to create a delicious and tender shredded beef recipe that leaves a good amount of beef stock for soups as well. 

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About Carne Mechada (Shredded Beef)

Beef is a very popular food in Costa Rica. It doesn’t hurt at all that the locally produced meat comes straight from Brahman cows who eat grass on the plains of Guanacaste and in the mountains of the San Carlos/La Fortuna area. And we use the whole cow in Costa Rica- from the short ribs for our olla de carne soup (arguably the most popular national dish among Costa Ricans) to the tail used in estofado.

Related post: Easy and Delicious Costa Rican Shredded Pork Recipe

This shredded beef (carne mechada) is generally prepared in a pressure cooker, although I will include slow cooker instructions here too. This recipe is a staple in Costa Rica because it is a base for so many other recipes- especially appetizers.

It’s also a great way to feed a crowd on a budget- with just a few simple ingredients we can turn shredded beef into nachos, tacos, empanadas, meat sandwiches, and more. This shredded beef also becomes carne in salsa– a shredded beef in red sauce often served as part of a casado. Here are just a few of the traditional Costa Rican foods that use shredded beef:

Another huge advantage to this recipe is that is leaves behind a gorgeous beef stock that can be used in soups. Here’s the recipe- with pressure cooker and slow cooker instructions.

Related post: What Is Salsa Lizano From Costa Rica?

Recipe – Shredded Beef (Costa Rica)

Ingredients: 

  • 3 pounds flank steak
  • 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)

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the pressure cooker. (I use an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot).  Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. You can use the quick release or the natural release- I don’t think it matters but I usually just let the pressure release on its own unless I’m in a hurry.

Remove the meat from the pressure cooker and set aside to cool slightly.

Strain the beef broth through a fine-mesh strainer and place in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. I usually put the broth in Ball jars, or freeze it in plastic gallon bags for later. 

Shred the beef using two forks or your hands. True Costa Rican shredded beef is shredded very finely, so I use my hands for this. Store for up to a week in an airtight container, or freeze. 

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.
  2. There is a large variant in the amount of salt in the recipe. I have found that the meat is the best when I add the perfect amount of salt, which is hard to do. Because this style of meat is usually cooked again in many popular Costa Rican recipes, it’s important that the meat has an inherently salty flavor that’s cooked in. I usually do a tablespoon of salt per 3 cups of water, and generally cover the meat with 3-4 inches of water before cooking.

Substitutions

You can use a chuck roast, a rump roast or a round roast for this recipe is you want. However- none of these cuts of meat will taste like traditional Costa Rican shredded beef. I don’t know enough about the cuts of meat to know why, but I do know about taste and it’s different. 

Variations

This meat is also delicious when slow-cooked. You can make this recipe easily in the crock pot or slow cooker as well. Just place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6-8 hours. 

When I make this in the slow cooker I generally just cook it overnight and shred in the morning. You won’t have quite as much broth with the slow cooker shredded beef meat unless you add quite a bit more water and salt.

Related post: Costa Rican Style Slow Cooker Black Beans Recipe

Serving Suggestions

We use this shredded beef for so many things once we have it!

However-  a lot of times I will shred the beef and then put it back into the broth. We add some white rice to the bottom of the bowl and serve it as a very simple soup- or a sustancia de carne. 

Sometimes we add freshly chopped onion and cilantro and a squeeze of lime to this meat, put it on top of a tortilla and have shredded beef tacos. It’s almost like a barbacoa taco- except with Salsa Lizano! I love to eat with my two favorite salsas too- creamy green salsa and chile del arbol salsa. Of course, this is always delicious with a Costa Rican chimichurri sauce too. 

FAQ

Can I make this in a Dutch oven? – Yes! I haven’t fully embraced the Dutch oven yet, although I want to try making my pork carnitas in there when I get one someday. I would just place in cooking liquid and bake at 425 for one hour.

What’s the best way to reheat this recipe? – I usually reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Then I place the shredded meat in a saucepan, add the cooking liquid and heat, covered, on medium-low until hot. I stir it occasionally so the meat doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. 

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Printable Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Costa Rican Shredded Beef Recipe

Glass bowl of shredded beef centered to the right and flanked by vegetables.

This Costa Rican shredded beef recipe uses flank steak, red pepper, white onion, garlic, and of course Salsa Lizano. It's delicious too!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds flank steak
  • 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)

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients into the pressure cooker. (I use an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot). 
  2. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes.
  3. You can use the quick release or the natural release- I don't think it matters but I usually just let the pressure release on its own unless I'm in a hurry.
  4. Remove the meat from the pressure cooker and set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Strain the beef broth through a fine-mesh strainer and place in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. I usually put the broth in Ball jars, or freeze it in plastic gallon bags for later. 
  6. Shred the beef using two forks or your hands.
  7. True Costa Rican shredded beef is shredded very finely, so I use my hands for this.
  8. Store for up to a week in an airtight container, or freeze. 

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.
  2. There is a large variant in the amount of salt in the recipe. I have found that the meat is the best when I add the perfect amount of salt, which is hard to do. Because this style of meat is usually cooked again in many popular Costa Rican recipes, it's important that the meat has an inherently salty flavor that's cooked in. I usually do a tablespoon of salt per 3 cups of water, and generally cover the meat with 3-4 inches of water before cooking.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 455Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 182mgSodium: 2673mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 64g

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

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Sitzman
    July 20, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Another great recipe–thanks for sharing it!

    • Reply
      Christa
      July 27, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks! And thanks for commenting!

  • Reply
    Clare
    July 25, 2016 at 8:55 am

    How much garlic do you use?

    • Reply
      Christa
      July 25, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Hi Clare! I forgot the measurements for the produce! Good catch! I’ll update it now. I use about 2 whole cloves. Let me know how it turns out and thanks so much for reading!
      Christa

      • Reply
        Clare
        July 25, 2016 at 9:23 am

        Thanks!

  • Reply
    Chris
    February 15, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    We are planning a dinner party. How many adults would this serve? Thanks

    • Reply
      Christa
      February 17, 2020 at 6:33 pm

      I’d say 6 big eaters! We usually eat it three times with our family of four. Have a great party! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Laura Rodriguez
    June 2, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I love this recipe, thanks. I have a big family, 7 and this is the kind of meals we love. WE can make it and eat it in different ways. I will do it in my slow cooker.

  • Reply
    Anabella Mirowski (Aeroconcierge)
    June 2, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing your shredded beef recipe. We have a similar recipe in Venezuela. I like that you use chicken broth. I wil definitely try this recipe

  • Reply
    Enriqueta E Lemoine
    June 2, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    Christa this Costa Rican Shredded Beef has a Venezuelan cousin: our carne mechada! Once cooked we shred it. Then we cook ins a tomato sauce. Delicious!

  • Reply
    Rosanna Mancino
    June 2, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    Christa, thaks so much for sharing this ¨¡COSTA RICAN SHREDDED BEEF RECIPE! I just love every ingredient on it.