Carne deshebrada is a tasty and exciting dish you’ve probably never considered choosing before, but we will go over how to prepare this treat and to reap the gains from a nutritious forgotten gem.

Beef isn’t just for grilling and searing. Many cuts of beef, especially the more budget-friendly cuts, benefit from a slower, more tender treatment. Here we’ll explore a few different ways to make a Latin-style shredded beef.

In Mexico, the dish is called carne deshebrada, though similar dishes appear in other Latin American countries by different names. Venezuelans have carne mechada, for example.

The beef is braised in a rich, flavorful liquid for several hours in the oven in the classical form, Beef isn’t just for grilling and searing. Many cuts of beef, especially the more budget-friendly cuts, benefit from a slower, more tender treatment. Here we’ll explore a few different ways to make a Latin-style shredded beef.

What cuts of beef can you use?

7 Carne desebrada ideas | cooking recipes, shredded beef, slow cooker  recipes

There are dozens of different versions of carne deshebrada recipes, with as many different options for the cut of beef used. The advantage of this recipe is that it can adapt to just about any cut that tends to be tougher and which also has plenty of fat to work with. See my cheat sheet of beef cuts.
The most common cuts used in this recipe are

  • skirt steak
  • top round
  • bottom round
  • eye round
  • various chuck roasts
  • short ribs
  • flap meat

Personally, I have had good success with short ribs (for the most succulent version), chuck cuts, and round cuts. The round cuts will be the cheapest option, followed by the chuck cuts, then the short ribs. I don’t think skirt steak is as good an option; save that one for fajitas.

The Oven-Braised Recipe

I’ll give the recipe developed by America’s Test Kitchen in Meat Illustrated, but give notes for substitutes and other options from other sources. As far as yield goes, the servings are pretty accurate if you’re also providing tortillas and perhaps a side salad. However, this scales up very easily if you have a large Dutch oven. Read the entire recipe and instructions before beginning so you plan adequately.

Carne Deshebrada (Oven Braise); serves 6-8

Equipment Dutch Oven (enameled). See notes at the end of the recipe regarding equipment substitutes.

  • 1.5 cups beer (I know, I know. You’ll get a deeper flavor with beer here. Substitute beef broth or water if you don’t like the beer.)
  • 4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (I substitute 2-3 chopped dried super chilis I grew, but here’s where you can adjust to fit your spicy profile. See note at the bottom.)
  • 1/2 c cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed. Use the flat of your chef’s knife for this.
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
  • 3 lbs beef, cut into 2″ cubes. If using short ribs, remove the bones and save for stock.



  1. Put the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except the beef and onion in a large (at least 6 qt) Dutch oven.
  3. Arrange the onion rounds on the bottom of the pot. This will help keep the beef from scorching, and provide a delightful aromatic base.
  4. Place the beef on top of the onions in a single layer. Some of the tips will stick out of the liquid. This is fine; they’ll brown nicely.
  5. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and put the Dutch oven in the preheated oven. Cook 2.5-3 hours, until the meat has browned tips and is tender.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a large bowl, tent with foil and set aside.
  7. Strain the remaining liquid through a mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity). Do not wash the Dutch oven. Leave it on the stove.
  8. Discard bay leaves. Discard onions if desired, or you can blend it in with the sauce at the next step. I prefer the latter option.
  9. Let the strained liquid settle for 5 minutes or so, then skim fat from surface. (Remark: I actually don’t do this. I like the texture of the sauce when the fat is left in, but this is up to you.)
  10. Add water up to 1 cup as needed to adjust the sauce consistency. I usually only end up adding 1/2 cup here.
  11. Pour liquid, and onion if using, into a blender and blend until very smooth.
  12. Transfer the sauce back to the Dutch oven that you definitely didn’t wash yet.
  13. Shred the beef in the bowl with two forks, then return it to the Dutch oven with the sauce.
  14. Stir to coat the beef, and bring to simmer gently over medium-low heat until warm.
  15. Serve with tortillas (recipe follows), fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and either queso fresco or cotija cheese.


  • You could try to use a stew pot or some other oven-safe deeper pot with a lid, but I can’t guarantee the results. The cook time would likely decrease, and you may run the risk of scorching. It’s worth it to invest in a couple good quality 6qt and 8qt enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens. I use mine all the time.
  • Other recipes change up the types of peppers used. I like dried super chilis, but other people use jalepeño, serranos, poblanos, or any other hot pepper that suits your taste and spice preferences. If you really want to kick the heat up, add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper in Step 2. The braising will bloom the cayenne for a sneaky hot burn at the finish of a bite.
  • Other recipes I’ve seen omit the cinnamon and cloves. I really don’t recommend this. The warmth of these two ingredients really sets this recipe apart from any other shredded beef I’ve ever had.
  • Some people brown the beef cubes a bit before pouring in the braising liquid. If you follow the above instructions, the tips will brown on their own.

Carne Deshebrada (Puerto Rican Shredded Beef) | Mexican Appetizers and More!

Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker Version

If you’re in a heat wave, or just don’t want to run the oven for almost 3 hours that day, this recipe can be adapted to the Instant Pot with success. It won’t come out quite as deeply flavorful as a long, slow braise, but I find the results worth it compared to sweating all afternoon in the house in summer.

To adapt the recipe above to the instant pot, retain all the same ingredients. However, make the following modifications:

Omit the oven preheating.
Dice the onions this time, instead of cutting into rounds.

  1. Using the sauté feature of the Instant Pot, put in about 1 tbsp of bacon grease or ghee and brown the beef cubes briefly.
  2. Press cancel and remove the beef briefly.
  3. Add all other ingredients but the beef.
  4. Add the beef.
  5. Place the lid on the instant pot.
  6. Switch to Pressure cooking mode (high pressure), and set the timer for 35-45 minutes. The longer you go, the more time the flavors have to meld.
  7. hen the time is up, let the pressure come down naturally. This may take about 15-20 minutes, so plan ahead. If you forget or are in a hurry, you can use the quick release, but it will affect the texture slightly.
  8. Open the lid, remove the beef, and follow all the remaining instructions as in the above oven version starting with Step 7.

Notes: Remember to account for the time the Instant Pot takes to come up to pressure as well, typically 5-15 minutes depending on how full the bowl is. Overall, the “Instant Pot” isn’t exactly instant, so this recipe will still take about 1.5 hours from start to finish; you’re just not running the oven.

Slow Cooker Version

Follow the same instructions as for the Instant Pot Steps 2′-5′(including browning the beef beforehand.) Place everything into the slow cooker, and cook 4-5 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low. Finish the recipe starting with Step 7 of the original.

Finally, shredded beef this delicious deserves homemade tortillas to go with it. You can omit the tortillas, use corn tortillas, or store-bought flour tortillas if you wish or lack the time to prep the tortillas from scratch. I start making the tortillas about 45 minutes before the braising is done in the oven, or immediately after the instant pot is turned to high pressure mode to ensure everything is done at the same time.

Homemade Tortillas

Makes 12 8″ tortillas.

  • rolling pin
  • cast iron skillet. (You can use a nonstick pan as well, at least 10-12″, or a griddle. I don’t recommend a regular aluminum/copper pan. The tortillas will scorch and stick to it at the high heat you’ll be using.)


  • 2.75 c all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp fat. You can use lard, ghee, or bacon grease. I use bacon grease regularly. If using ghee, let it warm a little before you try to work it into the flour.
  • 7 oz warm water (no more than 90F)


  1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Using a silicone flexible spatula or wooden spoon, stir the warm water into the flour mixture until the dough comes together. Be patient here. It’ll happen.
  3. Knead by hand to form a smooth cohesive ball on a clean counter. If the dough sticks, sprinkle some extra flour on it and keep kneading. The dough shouldn’t be dry, but it shouldn’t be scraggy or sticky either.
  4. Cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into thirds.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball. The best technique is difficult to describe in words, but see the note at the bottom for my attempt. Good balls will yield round tortillas, and bad balls yield amoebic tortillas.
  6. Roll each ball into an 8″ round. Here, my technique is to start with the rolling pin at the center of the ball, then roll hard and out from the center in each direction, like you’re going around a clock.
  7. Heat the skillet over medium high heat until you can flick a drop of water onto the skillet and hear an angry sizzle.
  8. Place one tortilla in the skillet and cook for about one minute, then flip and cook another minute. Transfer to plate or tortilla warmer. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Notes: The best ball technique I know came from a lot of practice. After you cut the pieces, you’ll have “cut edges”. Stick your thumb in the center of the piece and try to wrap those cut edgesover your thumb as you make a rough ball shape. Pinch those tips together at the bottom, removing your thumb. You should have what might look like an upside-down dumpling. Then place the ball, seam side down, on the counter, cup with your palm, and roll in a circular fashion until you feel the ball get taut.

Don’t worry if your tortillas come out funny-shaped at first. They’ll still hold filling, and practice will make it easier.

Here’s an alternative visual aid to prepare Carne Deshebrada.


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