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Costa Rican carne en salsa is a braised flank steak mixed with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce and served with white rice or as part of a Costa Rican casado.
There is really nothing that I love more than a great carne en salsa from Costa Rica- especially served with Costa Rican white rice.
I spent many years living in San Ramon, and they celebrate Saint Raymond Day in the two weeks leading up to his feast day on August 31. There are processions, an ox cart parade, and street food vendors everywhere.
The celebration is also a church fundraiser and women from all around the area donate their time to make classic Costa Rican dishes in the turnos- or small food stalls. This carne en salsa recipe (along with estofado, olla carne, arroz con pollo, and homemade tortillas) is sold by the ton because it’s the best eating of the year. (I’m salivating just thinking about it!)
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Since it isn’t exactly practical for me to fly to Costa Rica every time I’m craving shredded beef in red sauce, I finally got a tutorial from my husband’s uncle on how to make an authentic carne en salsa just like you can find in Costa Rica. (Tio William is also the one who taught us how to make traditional pork tamales).
Carne en salsa Recipe
(Printable recipe below)
- flank steak
- beef broth
- canned diced tomato (or fresh tomatoes)
- white onion
- soy sauce
- Salsa Lizano (optional)
Prepare and shred the meat according to the recipe here. You can do this several days in advance or right before making the carne en salsa sauce. I like to make half the meat for this recipe and the other half to use for shredded beef empanadas.
Place all ingredients (except the shredded meat!) in the blender and liquefy. If you are not getting a smooth enough consistency, add a bit more broth.
Heat the sauce in a large saucepan on medium until simmering. Stir in the shredded beef and bring to a low boil. I then taste the meat with sauce to see how it is and add salt or sugar accordingly.
If you don’t have canned or fresh tomatoes on hand, about two cups of tomato sauce will have a similar effect.
You can make this dish with shredded chicken as well.
If you can’t get the Salsa Lizano you can use Worcestershire sauce.
WONDERING ABOUT SALSA LIZANO? Read What Is Salsa Lizano From Costa Rica?
A similar version of this dish is made with ox tail- estofado.
You will often find that traditional Costa Rican nachos use this recipe along with meltable white cheese on top of freshly fried corn tortillas for nachos. It’s delish.
This dish will often be served as a light soup with traditional Costa Rican white rice at the bottom of the bowl or on the side.
You will also find this on top of a homemade corn tortilla for a gallo de carne en salsa.
We eat this dish for breakfast alongside gallo pinto, fried eggs, cheese and avocado.
As a lunch item, this carne en salsa is my favorite protein in the Costa Rican casado.
Leftover carne en salsa is often made into a Costa Rican sandwich- a fresh French baguette filled with meat, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayonnaise, and white cheese.
What beef is best for shredding?
I like flank steak, but chuck roast is an ok alternative. I would exercise caution when it comes to round and rump roasts, as those tend to be tougher and require more cooking. The best rule of thumb when it comes to selecting a cut for easily shred-able meat is to look for fat marbling. The higher the fat content, the more tender and juicy the beef.
What is “Ragu”?
Ragu is very similar to what we’re making here– traditionally used as an Italian pasta sauce, it’s made out of finely chopped meat, vegetables and tomato sauce.
- 2 lbs flank steak
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 14 oz cans diced tomato or the equivalent of fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 white onion, quartered
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 TB ketchup
- 3 TB soy sauce
- 3 TB Salsa Lizano (optional)
- 1 TB sugar
- salt to taste
- Prepare and shred the meat according to the recipe here. You can do this several days in advance or right before making the carne en salsa sauce. I like to make half the meat for this recipe and the other half to use for shredded beef empanadas.
- Place all ingredients (except the shredded meat!) in the blender and liquefy. If you are not getting a smooth enough consistency, add a bit more broth.
- Heat the sauce in a large saucepan on medium until simmering.
- Stir in the shredded beef and bring to a low boil.
- I then taste the meat with sauce to see how it is, and add salt or sugar accordingly.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 819mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 34g
Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.
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Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!