Carne Guisada, Puerto Rican Beef Stew: All You Need to Know

Puerto Rican food is a hybrid of a variety of cultures, including the indigenous Taino people of the Caribbean, the Spanish colonizers, and African slaves. After the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico fell under American control, and our ingredients and cooking techniques came into play.

Carne guisada, or Puerto Rican Stew, is a traditional beef stew accompanied by potatoes, onions, and carrots. Additionally, it is flavored with a cooking base, adobo seasoning, sazon seasoning, and bay leaves. It is typically cooked for a few hours to blend the flavors and to tenderize the meat.

Let’s get started by discussing the various elements that make up carne guisada, followed by step-by-step instructions for preparing this traditional Puerto Rican dish.

What is Carne Guisada?

Carne Guisada con arroz
Puerto Rican Beef Stew with Rice

Carne guisada puertorriqueña or Puerto Rican Stew is a stewed beef that is popular in Latin American and parts of the United States. For example, many restaurants in Texas serve a variation of carne guisada on a flour tortilla. In Latin America, it is typically paired with rice, tostones (fried plantains), or an avocado salad.

Carne guisada is made like any other stew. You begin by brazing cubes of beef in vegetable oil. Next, you add plenty of vegetables and a few other herbs. Then, you cook it for at least two hours to tenderize the meat and to give its various flavors time to blend.

You will also need a few Latin American ingredients. But never fear, you can find them online or at most large grocery chains or health food stores. Those ingredients include adobo seasoning, sofrito, and sazon seasoning.

Adobo Seasoning

This spice blend typically includes kosher salt, black pepper, dried oregano, garlic powder, and ground turmeric. You can purchase it online or make a blend using two tablespoons of salt and one tablespoon each of the other ingredients. If you opt to make adobo seasoning, you can store it for up to a year in an air-tight container.

Sazon Seasoning

This blend is another Latin favorite for flavoring rice, soups, and stew. Additionally, with its ground annatto seeds, it adds an appealing golden color to many dishes. You can get it online, or you can make it using one teaspoon each of kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, ground annatto seeds, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Like homemade adobo seasoning, you can store it for up to a year.

Puerto Rican Sofrito

Sofrito is a cooking base used in a variety of dishes to include rice and bean dishes, soups, and stews. This soup base combines the flavors of green bell pepper, sweet peppers, onion, garlic and culantro (an herb with a similar taste and aroma to cilantro). You can buy sofrito online, or you can make your own following this recipe courtesy of Delish D’Lites.

How to Make Carne Guisada

Carne Guisada Cooking in a crock pot
Carne Guisada Cooking

Carne guisada or Puerto Rican Stew is Latin American cooking at its best. There’s no better comfort food than a piping hot bowl of stew. And, carne guisada is also great served on a flour tortilla like a taco, if you dare!

We created the following recipe using our own experience and combining methods published on several websites to include All Recipes, the Hispanic Kitchen, and Kitchen Gidget.

What Ingredients You Need to Make Carne Guisada

  • 1 tablespoon oil (vegetable or olive oil work best)
  • 2 1/2 pounds (1.14 kg) of beef chuck roast, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 teaspoons adobo seasoning blend
  • 1/4 cup sofrito cooking base
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sazon seasoning
  • 1 32-ounce (907 gram) carton beef broth
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 10 olives, stuffed with garlic or pimientos
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

How You Make Carne Guisada

  • Using a large mixing bowl, season the bite-sized pieces of beef with the adobo seasoning making sure to coat it thoroughly. Next, heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven on the stove using medium heat for a couple of minutes and add the oil. Then sear the beef for about four to six minutes on each side until all the pieces are brown. (You might need to do this in a couple of batches.) Remove all the beef from the pan and set it aside.
  • Next, you need to add the sofrito and the onions to the pan and braise them for a couple of minutes. Then, add the sazon seasoning, beef broth, dry red wine, tomato sauce, dried Italian seasoning, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Once it begins boiling, add all the beef into the pot, making sure to stir it into the other ingredients.
  • Reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook everything for about two to three hours, stirring everything occasionally. Next, add the carrots, potatoes, and olives and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Check to make sure that the potatoes and carrots are tender. If they are, your carne guisada is just about finished. All you need to do now is stir in the vinegar and check to see if it needs any salt.
  • Serve hot with rice or on flour tortillas.

Notes

  • Make sure you thoroughly sear the meat and don’t just brown it. When the meat forms a dark crust, then you know you have cooked it enough. This process creates a sticky dark glaze in the pan, which is essential to making a flavorful stew.
  • Feel free to substitute your favorite roast like a chuck-eye roast, bottom round roast, round tip roast, English roast, and the like. If money isn’t a concern, you can even go with a rib roast or ribeye steaks if you want.
  • Be daring and add some of your favorite vegetables to this recipe if you want. For example, corn, zucchini, and mushrooms go great with this stew.
  • Some people like to substitute dark beer or stout for the dry red wine for a more robust flavor. Likewise, if you want a slightly sweet touch, you can substitute Amaretto for the dry red wine.

Tips and Tricks for Making Carne Guisada

There is a variety of tricks to making carne guisada depending on your culinary preferences, dietary restrictions, and overall flavor goals.

For example, unless you are dieting, you should always select meat with plenty of marbling. Additionally, if you do opt for lean beef, be prepared for it to turn out a bit on the dry side.

Other tips include:

  • Replacing the potatoes using yucca if you are on a low-carb diet or trying to lose weight. Likewise, you can use other low-carb vegetables like white mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini (or a combination of any of them).
  • If you want to make vegetarian carne guisada, you can use portabella mushroom caps in place of the beef. Not only is it a delicious substitute, but portabella mushrooms are also chewy and tender, and they have a natural meaty flavor (umami)
  • Several Latin American countries and Caribbean islands substitute chicken and pork for beef in this recipe. Feel free to check out what variations or combinations work best for you and your loved ones. Chicken legs and thighs are ideal for making stews, and you don’t have to worry about them drying out at all.

What We Learned Today About Carne Guisada

We hope you enjoyed our article discussing everything you need to know about carne guisada or Puerto Rican beef stew. It is one of the most popular dishes in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America.

And, we suspect you will want to prepare it often once you try our recipe. You are probably going to want to bookmark this article, particularly for those chilly autumn and winter months.

Sources

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