A delicious beef mechado recipe made with fresh tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and pork belly. Yes, pork belly! The sauce is rich, and hearty with a hint of tanginess from calamansi (Philippine lime). If you love beef caldereta, you're definitely going to love this too!
What is Beef Mechado?
The word Mechado is derived from Spanish word "mecha" which means "wick", as in candlewick.
When prepared traditionally, the beef in mechado resembles a "candlewick" with strips of pork fat inserted into the center of inexpensive beef cuts. This method is called "larding", a Spanish cooking method, which makes lean cuts of meat moist and succulent.
I hope you get the picture 🙂
Don't worry, we won't be doing any "wicking" here in RTK. We will still use pork fat, specifically pork belly, but in an easier and more delicious way.
Mechado vs Caldereta
Beef Mechado is a much simpler Filipino beef stew compared to caldereta. It uses fewer ingredients although you'll find their flavor profile probably somewhat similar.
There's also no liver or cheese in this beef stew recipe. Calamansi is the source of acidity while caldereta uses vinegar. Other recipes add bell peppers in their mechado, but I prefer mine without because I want the flavor of the beef, tomatoes, and bay leaf to really stand out.
To make this Filipino beef stew, you will need:
- Beef – use stewing cuts such as chuck or round or knuckle or beef ribs. My personal favorite is beef brisket.
- Pork belly - the secret to a really good mechado. Use the fatty part to render the fat/lard.
- Marinade - a mixture of soy sauce, calamansi, and garlic. You can use lemon if calamansi is not available.
- Shallots or red onion - there's just something about it that really makes a good beef stew sauce.
- Liquid Seasoning - my favorite seasoning. I swear this really does wonders to many beef dishes.
- Tomato Paste and Fresh tomatoes – I personally prefer this combo over tomato sauce.
- Fish Sauce - for more depth of flavor.
- Vegetables - carrots, potatoes, and green peas are all we need.
- Beef broth - use homemade, good-quality store-bought broth or beef bouillon dissolved in hot water.
How to Make Beef Mechado
The process may look a lot but these really are simple steps that will help you make a really good Filipino beef stew.
- Marinate the beef in calamansi, soy sauce, and garlic. This will flavor, tenderize and retain the moisture of the meat.
- Render the fat/lard from the pork belly. Use a small number of vegetables to kick start the process and slowly cook the pork until the fat comes out.
- Sear the meat until all sides are brown. Searing helps build more flavor with caramelization. Remember not to overcrowd the pan.
- Stir-fry the onion and tomatoes until softened and juices have come out. This deglazes the pan and makes the stew rich and more flavorful. Make sure to use ripe tomatoes for a naturally sweet and reddish sauce.
- Slow cook on the stovetop or pressure cook. Either method works wonderfully; use whatever suits your schedule.
- Reduce and thicken the sauce - according to your liking. I didn't need to do this using the slow cook method.
How to cook Beef Mechado in an Instant Pot/Pressure cooker
Using a pressure cooker is one of the quickest ways of cooking mechado. It's not only time-saving but energy-saving too. Now that I'm a mom of two active toddlers, I've been using this nifty tool more and more and it is such a lifesaver!
Here are my tips on how to make a good beef stew in a pressure cooker.
- Use beef brisket, oxtail, or beef ribs. These cuts tenderize well in a pressure cooker with less chance of becoming stringy and rubbery.
- Use enough water but don't fill it past the max level to prevent liquid from bursting out of the valve while releasing the pressure.
- Don't include the vegetables in the pressure cooking process or they will disintegrate. Add them once the beef is tender and when you start reducing the liquid.
Beef Mechado, just like many Filipino dishes is best served with rice. It is also so much better the next day after all the flavors have developed.
Storage and Shelf-life
This beef stew can last in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days stored in an air-tight container. To further extend the shelf life, freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Thaw before reheating on the stove or microwave
More beef recipes...
- Beef Tapa for Tapsilog
- Bistek Tagalog (Filipino Beef Steak)
- Easy Korean Beef Bulgogi
- Beef Nilaga Pressure Cooker Recipe (Nilagang Baka)
- Homemade Beef Pares
- Thai Basil Beef Zucchini Stir-fry
- Quick and Easy Beef Stir-fry
- Minced Beef Sopas-Filipino Style Macaroni Beef Soup
Try these next...
The recipe and photos are updated. Originally published on Oct. 29, 2019.
- 5 oz pork belly (choose a fatty cut, cut into chunks)
- 8 pcs shallots (sliced)
- 1 red onion
- 5 ripe tomatoes (sliced)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 cups beef broth (see note 2)
- 2 cups water (add more as needed)
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce/patis
- 2 teaspoon sugar (add more if preferred)
- 2 pcs bay leaves
- 1 large carrots (peeled, cut diagonally)
- 3 med-size potatoes (quartered)
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Place marinade ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add beef and massage with the mixture. Let it sit for 30 mins to 1 hour.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large deep pot. Add pork belly. Cook until golden brown and fat is rendered. Transfer to a bowl leaving some of the oil in the pot, about 1 tbsp.
- Add carrots and potatoes. Stir-fry until lightly brown. Set aside.
- Remove the beef from the marinade and any visible garlic bits. Reserve the marinade. Add back some of the pork fat in the pot. Sear the beef on both sides until brown and caramelized. Do it in two batches, if needed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Next, add shallots and red onion. Stir-fry until translucent. Add oil from the pork as needed. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Cover with a lid and let it cook until the flesh has softened and juices have formed.
- Add back the beef. Pour the marinade, fish sauce, pork, and tomato paste. Stir all together while scraping the brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Pour the beef stock, water, sugar, and bay leaf. Cover with a lid. Bring to boil then adjust heat to medium-low. Cook until beef is tender. This could take 1 to 2 hours depending on the beef cut you're using. Add water as needed. *See notes for different cooking methods.
- Add carrots and potatoes. Cook until fork-tender. If the stew is too watery, simmer without a lid to reduce the liquid. Taste, season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add green peas, simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with rice and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Beef- I used round/knuckle. You can also beef ribs and oxtail which are the cuts I recommend if cooking with a pressure cooker.
- Broth alternative - dissolve1 beef bouillon cubes in 3 cups hot water.
- Liquid Seasoning - use Maggi, Knorr, or Braggs Liquid Aminos
- Make it spicy - add chopped bird's eye chilies.
PRESSURE COOKER/ INSTANT POT
- Do steps 1 to 7. Close the lid and position the valve to SEALING position. Don’t fill it past the max level to prevent liquid from bursting out. Reduce water up to 1 cup. PRESSURE COOK for 25 minutes (adjust to 35 minutes if using thicker cuts). Release the pressure using quick release. Proceed with steps 8 and 9 using the SAUTE mode.
- Refrigerate or freeze, then thaw before reheating on the stove or microwave. Tastes even better the next day because the flavors develop even more.