Machaca (Dried Beef)
- 2 tablespoons chile ancho powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt plus more for braising liquid
- 2½ pounds skirt steak or any beef that shreds well
- olive oil
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 Roma tomatoes quartered
- 2 serranos or jalapeño peppers sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry red wine or use low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules or chicken base
- 1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- salt to taste
- 2 chiles ancho stems and seeds removed
Machaca, or carne seca, refers to spiced dried beef or pork. Authentic machaca was dried, one of the oldest forms of preservation started by the ranchers in northern Mexico. In the modern world of today, there is refrigeration now, but machaca is still prepared and sold for cooking in Mexico as well as larger Hispanic communities throughout the U.S. Growing up, my mom would prepare it at least once a month.
Most times it was prepared for breakfast, sauteed with onions and serranos, eggs and topped with fresh warm salsa. And of course accompanying the machaca were warm, freshly made flour tortillas and refried beans — in my opinion, the perfect Mexican breakfast. On occasion my brothers and myself would sneak the bag of machaca to snack on. It’s very similar to beef jerky, just finer.
As with many authentic Mexican ingredients, machaca is one of those impossible items for me to find where I live. So, for this recipe, I prepared a home cook’s version with my favorite spices and a little added red wine for a rich finish. If you are cooking for a smaller family, just divide the beef in half or into thirds after shredding and freeze for another time.
Slice the beef into 3 equal parts for easier searing. I prefer using chicken broth and chicken base even with beef dishes because the beef can be a bit strong at times. You can mix half and half if you like. My favorite ways to serve tacos de machaca: add onions, sliced chile peppers and tomatoes once the beef is browned and crisp on most sides. When preparing the tacos, I like to brush some of the braising liquid onto the tortillas as they cook on the comal or griddle.