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Costa Rican Carne en Salsa Recipe

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 becuase it’s the best eating of the year. (I’m salivating just thinking about it!)

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This is Saint Raymond, the patron saint of San Ramòn, as he parades through town on august 31, his feast day.
This is Saint Raymond, the patron saint of San Ramón, as he parades through town on August 31, his feast day.

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).

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Carne en salsa Recipe

(Printable recipe below)

Ingredients

  • flank steak
  • beef broth
  • canned diced tomato (or fresh tomatoes)
  • white onion
  • cilantro
  • garlic
  • ketchup
  • soy sauce
  • Salsa Lizano (optional)
  • sugar
  • salt

Instructions

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 ther 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.

Substitutions

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 Worchestershire sauce.

Variations

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 a meltable white cheese on top of freshly fried corn tortillas for nachos. It’s delish.

The shredded beef on it’s own is used for empanadas and also a nice sustancia de carne- or we serve it with it’s broth for a light shredded beef soup.

Serving Suggestions

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- fresh French baguette filled with meat, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayonnaise and white cheese.

Related post: Big List Of Delicious Recipes Served With White Rice

FAQ


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. 

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Printable Recipe

Yield: 6-8 servings

Costa Rican Carne en Salsa

Costa Rican Carne en Salsa

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.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. Heat the sauce in a large saucepan on medium until simmering.
  4. Stir in the shredded beef and bring to a low boil.
  5. I then taste the meat with sauce to see how it is, and add salt or sugar accordingly.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

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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Leave a Reply

9 Comments

  • Reply
    Sitzman
    July 19, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Nice! I have this a lot around here, but I’ve never made it, mainly just because of an aversion to buying meat. But I’ll try this. I’m assuming it’s basically the same as the carne in salsa that has the beef in cubes, right?

    • Reply
      Christa
      July 27, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Why make it when you can get a huge plate of it for about $4? Yes, it’s similar to the cubes or the slabs of meat, but I definitely can’t get that cut of meat here. You’ll be back for Dia de San Ramon, and eating at the ranchos is the best carne en salsa ever. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

      • Reply
        Sitzman
        July 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm

        Hey!

        I think that there is also the carne en salsa that’s more common around breakfast time, and that tends to have cubed meat, at least from what I’ve had. The two seem pretty similar, but this shredded beef does look more like the lunch/dinner versions.

        And good point about the price, but there’s nowhere where I live that sells that, and I’d have to drive to town to get it, probably. I actually do cook about 95% of the food we eat, since we rarely eat out in Costa Rica. But that’s fine, and it’s always good to have recipe options!

        • Reply
          Christa
          July 29, 2016 at 2:11 pm

          I know you cook a lot, which is totally awesome. I eat out in Costa Rica a lot more than here in the States, since I don’t really like to cook on vacation. I’ll have to pay more attention to the breakfast vs. lunch carne en salsa next time. There’s a soda at the cruce de Naranjo that sells a casado with carne and salsa that is incredible… it’s on the south east side of the road and it’s got a cool view into the forest right there. Anyway, you know me and eating in Costa Rica…

  • Reply
    Elissa
    August 12, 2016 at 4:18 am

    It looks so tasty, what an amazing dish.

  • Reply
    Marie
    September 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Hi

    I made your recipe. My husband who is from Plantares Oratorio, CR. He loved it. His family Oratorio is located in San Jose. Mostly farms. All of his family is still there. I am American and I am always looking for CR recipes so my husband can have a little taste of home. He has not been home in almost 20 years. We hope 2017 will be his year.

    Thank you for the delicious recipe.

    Marie

    • Reply
      Christa
      September 21, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Marie!
      Thank you so much for visiting the site! I am always putting up new recipes, so please come back and visit any time! I hope that 2017 is also his year… it’s hard to be away from Costa Rica for that long!
      XO
      ~Christa

  • Reply
    Lola
    September 1, 2020 at 5:28 am

    Hi! Thank you so much for posting all these recipes. I’m Tica but I live in the states with my husband and daughter. Thankfully because of your site I can make them delicious food from my home country.

    • Reply
      Christa
      September 1, 2020 at 10:41 am

      Lola this makes my day! I am so happy these recipes are helpful- sometimes we just need to know how to adapt the foods to the ingredients we can find in the United States. If you ever have any recipe requests- please let me know!
      Pura vida! ~Christa

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