What Is Machaca?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Machaca is a Mexican dish consisting of marinated shredded beef. Traditionally, the beef in machaca was dried after it was cooked, creating a beef jerky. More modern versions, however, do not dry the beef. Instead, the meat is placed in tortillas or taco shells or served with salsa, guacamole, or scrambled eggs. Machaca can be frequently be found in Mexican restaurants but is usually spotted under the simple name of shredded beef.

Marinades for machaca normally contain garlic, chilies, lime juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Other spices, such as cumin, may also be included in the marinade. Garlic and chili powder may be used instead of fresh garlic or chilies. Salt and pepper are also usually included in the marinade.

The meat used is normally a beef chuck roast. A subprime meat, chuck is generally a fattier choice than many of the other cuts. Only after the meat has been cooked is it shredded, but the roast is cut into pieces, usually about a quarter pound each (113 g), before it is marinated.

Onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes are often added to the dish. Bell peppers and chili peppers may be included as well. Seasoning such as dried mustard, cumin, oregano, and peppercorns may also be added. Normally, machaca is cooked in beef broth.


To make machaca, the marinade ingredients are combined, and the cut beef is placed in the liquid overnight. After marinating, the beef is drained and allowed to sit until it warms to room temperature. Then, the meat is browned in oil and set aside. The onions, garlic and seasonings are fried, and the tomatoes, chilies, and broth are added. After the mixture cooks briefly, the beef is included, and the dish is allowed to simmer for up to two hours.

Once cooking is complete, the meat should be tender enough to pull apart with a fork and is shredded. Some versions return the shredded beef to the pan and continue simmering the machaca until the liquid is nearly eliminated. When the dish is complete, it is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

A few versions of machaca will omit the marinating step. Instead, the meat and some of the seasonings are simmered in water for over an hour. Afterward, the meat is cooled and the broth reserved. The other ingredients are then fried before the meat is returned to the pan. The reserved broth is stirred in near the end of the cooking process.


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