Skip to Content

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef)

Venezuelan shredded beef or carne mechada slowcooks in homemade sofrito and warm spices for a classic one-pot comfort meal. Plus, it is a perfect filling for flavorful arepas and empanadas!

Carne Mechada on a plate with rice and beans.

What is Carne Mechada?

Like Cuban ropa vieja, Carne mechada gets its name from its appearance. Mechar (or desmechar) means ‘to separate hair into strands’ – a nod to how the shredded beef looks once the dish finishes cooking.

Carne mechada is a base for many South American dishes, including the Venezuelan national dish, pabellon criollo, which includes white rice, black beans, and sweet fried plantains. While you can serve beef as is with your favorite side dishes, it makes the best filling for arepas or empanadas.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Olive Oil: Sear the beef in olive oil, or a neutral oil to seal in moisture.
  • Chuck Roast: I prefer chuck roast for carne mechada in the Instant Pot. Chuck is inexpensive and holds up well during the cooking process. The beef takes a while to become tender enough to pull apart, but the wait is worth it.
  • Vegetables: Thinly sliced onions and red bell peppers break down in the pressure cooker alongside the shredded beef.
  • Spices: Season the beef and sofrito with kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, ground cumin, and bay leaves.
  • Garlic: I suggest using four garlic cloves, but measure with your heart.
  • Tomato Paste: Adding a spoonful of tomato paste intensifies the tomato flavor and deepens the color of the sauce.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire sauce enhances the beef with an umami flavor.
  • Broth: Use beef or chicken broth to flavor the sauce.
  • Red Cooking Wine: Adding red cooking wine is optional but highly recommended for added flavor. Increase broth if omitting wine.

Additions and Substitutions

  • For subtle heat and a more traditional flavor, saute fresh sweet peppers called ají dulce with the other vegetables in the sofrito.

How to Make Carne Mechada

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Season the chuck roast with kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Then, warm oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chuck roast and sear it on each side for 4-5 minutes.

Seasoned chuck roast on a cutting board.

Step 2: Fill the pot with quartered onions, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and enough water to cover the roast.

Place a lid on the pan and cook the beef on the stove for 3 hours.

Chuck in water with onions and bay leaves.

Step 3: Remove the chuck roast from the pot and let it rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. 

Use two forks to shred the meat. Reserve ½ cup of the juice from cooking the beef and discard the rest.

Shredded chuck roast on a cutting board.

Step 4: In the same pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Then, add the garlic and tomato paste. Saute for 30 seconds.

Garlic and tomato paste in a pan.

Step 5: Add the onions and bell peppers for about 10 minutes until the onions soften and become translucent.

Step 6: Stir in the reserved shredded beef, salt, black pepper, and ground cumin. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Shredded chuck added to cooking onions, peppers, and sauce.

Step 7: Deglaze the pan with Worcestershire sauce, broth, and red cooking wine. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the meat absorbs the cooking liquid.

Expert Tips

  • Reserve a portion of the broth from boiling the beef to flavor the sauce, made Venezuelan-style, with a sofrito of onions, bell peppers, and garlic.
  • If you are serving a meal with rice and beans, leave some liquid in the sauce. However, you use the beef to fill empanadas, then saute the meat until the liquid evaporates. 
  • Ensure the meat is covered with broth during the cooking process to help keep the shredded beef juicy and tender. I suggest 6 to 8 cups, depending on the size of your pot.

If you enjoy the meal, try one of these dinner recipes!  

Carne Mechada on a plate with rice and beans.

Serving Suggestions

If you decide to eat the shredded beef as it is, pair it with one of these tasty side dishes.

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store the leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Let the dish cool and transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Instant Pot Carne mechada freezes for three months.
  • Thaw: Defrost the shredded beef in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: Warm the leftovers in the microwave or stovetop until heated through.
  • Repurpose: Use leftover shredded beef as a filling for arepas and empanadas. You can also use the meat for tacos and burrito bowls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What cut of beef is best for shredded beef?

Carne mechada is typically made with skirt or flank steak, although there are various ways to prepare the dish.
Chuck roast is my favorite cut of meat because it’s affordable, readily available, and becomes tender after slow cooking for 3-4 hours.

Skirt steak is the most common cut of beef to use in Venezuela. Compared to chuck roast, the steak cooks in half the time, about 1-2 hours. While it takes less time to cook and becomes tender, skirt steak tends to be more pricey than chuck. You can also use flank steak or point-cut brisket to make this recipe.

What does mechada mean?  

The name shredded or pulled beef comes from the long strands you get when you boil the meat until it’s pull-apart tender.

More Roast Recipes:

Your Feedback is Valuable

Did you try this recipe? Consider leaving a ⭐️ rating and comment below. And for more healthy international recipes for everyday cooking, sign up to have recipes emailed right to you.

Carne Mechada on a plate with rice and beans.

Carne Mechada

Tressa Jamil
Tender, flavorful Venezuelan pulled beef, carne mechada, slow-cooks with homemade sofrito and warm spices for a classic one-pot comfort meal.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Venezuelan
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 372 kcal
Equipment
Ingredients
  
For the Beef:
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3 pounds chuck roast
  • 2 yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • water
For the Sofrito:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup broth, (reserved from cooking the beef)
  • ¼ cup red cooking wine, optional
Instructions
 
  • Season the chuck roast with kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Then, warm oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chuck roast and sear it on each side for 4-5 minutes.
  • Fill the pot with quartered onions, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and enough water to cover the roast.
  • Place a lid on the pan and cook the beef on the stove for for 3 hours.
  • Remove the chuck roast from the pot and let it rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat and reserve ½ cup of the juice from cooking the beef and discard the rest.
  • In the same pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Then, add the garlic and tomato paste. Saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add the onions and bell peppers for about 10 minutes until the onions soften and become translucent.
  • Stir in the reserved shredded beef, salt, black pepper, and ground cumin. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
  • Deglaze the pan with Worcestershire sauce, broth, and red cooking wine. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the meat absorbs the cooking liquid.
Notes
Expert Tips:
  • Reserve a portion of the broth from boiling the beef to flavor the sauce, made Venezuelan-style, with a sofrito of onions, bell peppers, and garlic.
  • If you are serving a meal with rice and beans, leave some liquid in the sauce. However, you use the beef to fill empanadas, then saute the meat until the liquid evaporates. 
  • Ensure the meat is covered with broth during the cooking process to help keep the shredded beef juicy and tender. I suggest 6 to 8 cups, depending on the size of your pot.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 372 kcal | Carbohydrates: 7 g | Protein: 33 g | Fat: 23 g | Saturated Fat: 9 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 117 mg | Sodium: 988 mg | Potassium: 721 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin A: 540 IU | Vitamin C: 23 mg | Calcium: 51 mg | Iron: 4 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating