Shredded Beef & Mexican Spiced Tomato Sauce
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Family-friendly, easy-to-make, and flavourful comfort food, Carne Entomatada delivers big on taste with easy-to-find ingredients like lean beef, crushed tomatoes, bell peppers, and common spices. It’s easiest to make in an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, but it can easily be adapted to a slow cooker or the stovetop.
Hiya folks. Life is nuts, so I made us some food.
I generally don’t get into current events in my recipe posts. Diversivore has always had more of a focus on the intersection of food, science, and culture rather than more diaristic blogging. But the world is a little upside down right now, and it’s made me (and a lot of other food writers) rethink what kind of recipes I should make, and how best to get them out into the world. The novel coronavirus outbreak and pandemic of 2019/2020 has caused massive shifts in the ways that many of us eat, cook, and shop for food. As such, I’ve hit the pause button on a number of my recipe and publishing plans for the year, and have instead decided to try to present content that will, I hope, help more people through this especially difficult time. This recipe, for example, is meant to be fairly easy to make with simple, inexpensive ingredients and common pantry staples. It will feed a family easily, and it makes great leftovers, so it’s an ideal meal to make-and-freeze. Hopefully you’ll have a lot of this stuff on hand already, but if not you should be able to pick it up with ease during a (quick, safe) grocery trip, or even from an online grocery purchase.
Of course I wouldn’t share anything here unless I thought it was worth making at any time, regardless of the state of affairs in the world. Hopefully some of you will be discovering this recipe in a future where life isn’t nuts and we can all go outside again, and I hope it will still seem every bit as appealing then. After all, quick, easy, cheap, and tasty never really go out of style.
So, let’s talk about carne entomatada. Do you love enchiladas? Then you should love entomatadas! The idea is basically the same in both cases – some kind of a meat or protein, cooked in a scratch-made, spiced sauce. Enchilada sauce is based around chiles, while entomatada sauce is based around tomatoes (and some chilies, because… Mexican food). The basic idea is easy enough to execute, and like so many good home-cooking style recipes, the possibilities are endless. This particular recipe uses a pressure cooker (I used my Instant Pot, but any electric or manual pressure cooker will work) to transform a lean, cheap cut of beef into tasty, shredded meat with a healthy, and delicious savoury sauce. The spice mix is fairly prototypically Mexican, with an emphasis on allspice (pimienta gorda) that really plays well with the beef, tomato, and ancho. And speaking of the ancho, I know it’s one ingredient that many people are less likely to have on hand, but don’t worry too much, as I’ll get into options for finding and/or substituting in the Recipe Notes section below.
One last little note regarding naming conventions and serving suggestions – the word ‘entomatadas,’ like the word enchiladas, is generally used in both English and Spanish to describe tortillas topped or filled with meat (etc.) and drenched in sauce. The word entomatada (and enchilada), minus the final s, is used to describe the sauce or the overall cooking style of the meal. So carne entomatada means meat cooked with a tomato or tomatillo sauce, while entomatadas con carne means tortillas filled with meat and topped/soaked in tomato sauce. This recipe is for the former, but if you serve the meat in tortillas and cover them with the sauce, you’ve got the latter. You don’t have to serve your entomatada as entomotadas though; the meaty meal is great as a stew with rice or beans, or in tacos. I generally go with corn tortillas for most of my taco meals, but I prefer flour for these. Regardless of the serving style you go with, I highly recommend making some quick-pickled red onions too. They’re easy, and they add a nice texture and sour tang that partners really well with the entomatada sauce.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. It makes me happy to know that my food is finding its way into people’s homes at a time like this, and, I hope, giving them something to smile about. Stay healthy, stay safe, and here’s to better days ahead.
This recipe is designed to be easy to make, and to use fairly common foods and pantry staples. It’s wonderfully easy with an electric pressure cooker (e.g. Instant Pot), but it’s still pretty hands-off using other methods too. I’ve included some notes below to help you figure out ingredient substitutions, and to adapt it to other cooking methods.
This entomatada recipe was designed for an electric pressure cooker (e.g. an Instant Pot), but it only takes a few minor adjustments to make it in a manual pressure cooker, slow cooker, or on the stovetop. I’ll go over those in a bit of detail here.
If you’re not using a pressure cooker, make sure to read the next section about chopping the onions too.
Manual Pressure Cooker – Only minor modifications are necessary here, and the times given in the main recipe can be followed more-or-less as-is. You’ll probably want to brown the beef in a separate pan or pot before adding it to your pressure cooker. You can simply add the peppers to the pot after the pressure has released and simmer over low heat, uncovered, until the peppers are soft.
Slow Cooker – Brown the beef in a heavy-bottomed pot or pan (I like to use cast iron). Add the spices to the pan with the browned beef and oil and toss/stir until everything is nicely fragrant; about 30 seconds. Transfer the contents of the pan your slow cooker. Add all the remaining ingredients (minus the peppers), then cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or on high for 5-6 hours. After the allotted time has passed, check to see if the beef is tender enough. If it’s done to your liking, add the sliced peppers, then cover again and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the peppers are soft but not falling apart.
Stovetop – The best way to do this is with a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Brown the beef in the pot, then add the spices and toss/stir until everything is nicely fragrant; about 30 seconds. Add all the remaining ingredients (minus the peppers), then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer on the stovetop for 4-5 hours, or until the meat is falling apart and very tender. Alternatively, after combining the ingredients, transfer the covered pot to an oven preheated to 300°F (150°C), and cook for 4-5 hours. The latter method is recommended if you have a tough time getting a low enough temperature on your stovetop.
Pressure cookers tend to turn sliced onions into a sort of onion puree, and that’s exactly what we want in a recipe like this (or, for example, in my recent recipe for Carbonnade Flamande). The resulting cooked onions add flavour and texture to the final sauce, blending nicely with the tomatoes. If you’re not using a pressure cooker however, I would recommend that you dice the onions fairly finely rather than leaving them sliced. This will likewise allow them to blend into the sauce, rather than ending up as large pieces.
I used red onions to make this recipe, but you can use white or yellow onions too.
Want to make those bright and beautiful pickled onions you see in the pictures? You can find the recipe right here.
Canned tomatoes rock. They’re cheap, versatile, and tasty. This recipe calls crushed tomatoes, but you can actually use a variety of other canned tomato products instead if you have them available. Passata (strained tomatoes) can be used identically to canned crushed tomatoes. Whole or diced tomatoes can be used too – simply run them through a blender or food processor first. You can also use tomato sauce, but you want to use something that is mostly tomatoes, and not a sauce with loads of other ingredients added. Many jarred tomato sauces are surprisingly high in added fat and sugar, and would therefore require you to adjust your seasonings for this recipe.
If you have an abundance of fresh tomatoes, you can definitely use those here too. My recipe for Chicken Tinga goes into the basics of making a Mexican tomato sauce from scratch, but I’ll give you a brief overview here too. Firm, meaty tomatoes (e.g. roma or plum tomatoes) will work best, though any tomatoes will do in a pinch. Add the tomatoes to a large pot of water, and bring this to a boil. Cook the tomatoes for 6-8 minutes. They should be soft, but not mushy and disintegrating. The skins will most likely split open. Once they’re done, transfer the tomatoes to a blender or food processor. You can remove the skins if you like, but it’s not necessary if you’ve got a good blender. Puree the cooked tomatoes, then use them in place of the crushed tomatoes in the recipe.
As an added option, you can switch things up a little bit here and use tomatillos (either alone or in combination with tomatoes). They’ve got a tangy, somewhat more herbal character that makes for an excellent spin on these types of sauces.
I love ancho chilies – I even wrote a whole article about them (and a separate guide to Mexican chilies in general). I try to keep some whole chilies, ground ancho chili powder, or (ideally) both in my pantry all the time. But I do recognize that this is the one ingredient in this recipe that many people are likely to be without – especially if you don’t do a lot of Mexican or Tex-Mex cooking.
Ancho chilies can be found at Mexican grocery stores, and at many conventional grocery stores catering to a lot of Mexican or Tex-Mex cooks. Ancho chili powder is generally easier to get than whole chilies, and can often be found in grocery stores with well-stocked spice sections. Here in Canada, the bulk food store Bulk Barn is a handy place to get ancho chili powder, and an especially good choice if you only want to pick up a little bit. If you want to avoid an extra trip to the grocery store (a choice I would wholeheartedly endorse at the time of writing, or during any other pandemic or outbreak), there are numerous online stores, including Amazon, that will ship anchos and other chilies directly to your home. If sealed properly and kept in a cool, dry pantry, whole chilies will keep for a year or more, while the ancho chili powder will keep for at least 6 months.
The recipe here calls for ancho chili powder, but a whole small ancho chili can be substituted too. If you have whole ancho chilies, you can use them in one of two fashions. First, you can grind one up (minus seeds and stems) and use 1 tbsp of the resulting powder. Second, you can toast a whole seeded pepper in a hot, dry frying pan, then soak it in a bit of hot water for about 15 minutes. The resulting mixture can be pureed in a blender or food processor along with your tomatoes, then added to the recipe. A word of caution on the latter method though – while it delivers big flavour, it might be more ancho chili taste (and heat) than you want here. I would recommend adding about half of the ancho and soaking liquid, reserving the rest to adjust the final recipe to taste.
I’m a big proponent of grinding your own spices, as whole spices keep their flavour much, much longer than pre-ground ones. In this particular recipe, I used whole allspice and cumin, while my other spices were pre-ground (recently, and by me). I have a dedicated spice grinder that I like to use – basically an over-sized coffee grinder. If you want to grind your own spices, I would recommend using a clean coffee grinder to do the work. You can use a mortar and pestle too, but the emphasis is definitely on work there.
As with the ancho chilies, if you need to shop for spices and you don’t want to make any extra/unnecessary trips out to stores, I’d recommend shopping online. Whole spices are the best way to go, in my opinion, because they’ll last much longer in your pantry. If you’re going to buy a whole packet of allspice, you might as well get berries that will last for years, rather than powder that will start to drop off in flavour after 6 months.
If you’ve already got all the spices you need for this recipe in a pre-ground state, of course go ahead and use them (the necessary quantities are already in the recipe card below). If you think that they might be a bit older and less flavourful, you can use a little bit more of them.
There are three primary ways to serve this recipe that I like. First, as shown in the photos here, is in flour tortillas as some messy, amazing tacos. I’m particularly fond of adding pickled red onions to this serving style, so do be sure to check out the recipe for those. also threw some fresh tomato and cilantro in there, but you can go with whatever floats your taco boat. A second option is to fill or roll corn tortillas with the meat and peppers, then drench the combination with the tomato sauce. We commonly call these enchiladas in English, although in this case it’s more accurate to call them entomatadas. Lastly, this is basically already a stew, so feel free to enjoy it like that. Serve over rice, inside of tamales, with some fried tortillas, or with some nice crusty bed.
But hey, we’re living that quarantine life right now, so you go ahead and eat this however the heck you want. On toast? Go for it. Straight out of the pot? You do you. Mixed into whatever leftovers you’ve got in the fridge? Been there, my friend. Enjoy, and be well.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1/8th portion of the total recipe), and does NOT include tortillas.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Carne Entomatada - Beef with Mexican Tomato Sauce
- 2.5 lbs lean beef (e.g. brisket or inside round)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or lard
- 2 medium onions sliced (see note)
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp piloncillo or brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes (see note)
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 3 red peppers sliced
- 5 allspice berries or 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp cumin (whole or freshly ground)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander (freshly ground)
- 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- pinch black pepper
To Serve (Optional)
- cilantro chopped
- pickled red onions
- tomato diced
- flour tortillas
- (For stovetop and slow cooker methods, see the notes below)Cut the beef into several large pieces and set it aside. Allow it to reach room temperature.
- Prepare the spice mix by grinding and mixing the whole spices, or simply by mixing pre-ground spices thoroughly. Set aside.
- Set your Instant Pot (or other electric pressure cooker) to the saute setting and add the vegetable oil.
- Add about half of the beef to the pot. Brown the meat, turning the pieces in order to brown them all over. Remove them from the pot and repeat with the remaining beef.
- Return all the beef to the pot, and pour the spice mix over the meat. Toss the ingredients a bit and let the spices sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds, then add the onions, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, and salt.
- Seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes (manual setting).
- Allow the pressure to release naturally, then remove the lid and add the red peppers. Set to the saute function and simmer the mixture for 10-15 minutes, or until peppers are soft. Remove from heat and serve (see note below for serving suggestions).
1. Tacos - I prefer flour tortillas for this recipe, but corn is good too.
2. Entomatadas - Fill or roll corn tortillas with the meat and peppers, then drench the combination with the tomato sauce.
3. Stew - Serve over rice, inside of tamales, with some fried tortillas, or with some nice crusty bed.