Machaca Tacos

Machaca is something that you don’t see a lot of in New York, which is sad, because it’s one of my favorite things ever. I haven’t even met that many people who know what it is, but when they try it, they fall in love. You can put it in tacos, burritos, on a salad, or even served simply with eggs and salsa for breakfast or dinner. It’s versatile and delicious, and I hope that it will become more prevalent in the US over the coming years; maybe it will even become as popular as its barbacoa counterpart.

Machaca is nothing fancy, but it has a unique preparation that gives it a ton of flavor with a lovely crispy texture. While the dish was originally made from dried or spiced meat, rehydrated and cooked down again, this was due to necessity – you couldn’t always have fresh meat, so you made it into jerky, and when you were sick of eating dried meat, you could make machaca. It’s now most commonly made by cooking meat in a spice mixture, usually something with coffee and chile peppers, then braised slowly with red wine or dark beer, citrus juice, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. I used blood orange juice for my machaca, which I think really added a beautiful flavor, but you can use anything from regular orange juice to grapefruit juice. The mixture is then cooked down for hours, until the meat has completely absorbed every last drop of liquid, leaving behind shredded beef that is slightly crispy, slightly sweet and spicy, and extremely tasty. Kramer and I used to get it in breakfast burritos in Phoenix whenever we could; the texture is just perfect for eggs, and the spice really wakes you up in the morning. Machaca is probably the food that we miss most from Phoenix. One time we saw it on the menu at La Esquina and couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. Now, however, we can make it at home, and I even froze about half of the cooked machaca to eat over the next few months; as it’s been cooked down so much, it freezes beautifully, so we can have machaca tacos whenever we want, and there’s nothing better than that.

Machaca Tacos
Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to share a few photos from the other night, including this one of my blueberry cobbler.

Machaca Tacos
I will be sharing the recipe for these babies soon, too.

Machaca Tacos
And these.

Machaca Tacos
Morgan enjoying a buttermilk biscuit.

Machaca Tacos
Pig candy.

Machaca Tacos
The aftermath.

Machaca Tacos Machaca Tacos

Gather up your ingredients and combine your ground coffee, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Machaca Tacos
Rub the coffee mixture all over your pieces of meat.

Machaca Tacos
Sear the meat on each side until well browned and set aside.

Machaca Tacos Machaca Tacos
Machaca Tacos Machaca Tacos

Cook your shallots, dried peppers, and garlic in the fat from the meat, then juice your blood oranges and add the juice to the pot, along with the lime juice, vinegar, wine, water, coffee, cinnamon, and cocoa. Add the meat back to the pan, cover, and cook for 3 1/2 hours in a 275 degree F oven.

Machaca Tacos
Remove the meat from the oven and place everything over medium-high heat.

Machaca Tacos
Break down the meat with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has completely evaporated, another 30-45 minutes or so.

Machaca TacosMachaca Tacos

Machaca Tacos
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15
  • 4 pounds beef (rump roast or something similar works best), cut into 4 equal sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 3 dried chile peppers, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups blood orange juice
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅓ cup freshly brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • tortillas, for serving
  • diced red onions, for serving
  • salsa or diced tomatoes, for serving
  • cilantro, for serving
  • queso blanco, for serving
  1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F. Combine your ground coffee, salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin in a small dish and rub the equally sliced pieces of beef with it. Heat your olive oil over high heat in a large, high-sided pan, and add the meat, one or two pieces at a time, browning evenly on all sides for 1-2 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
  2. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan, and add in the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, until translucent, then add in the chile peppers. Cook for another 2 minutes, then add in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the blood orange juice, red wine, lime juice, water, coffee, and vinegar to the pan, along with the cocoa powder and cinnamon. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Add the meat back to the pan - make sure that the liquid only comes about ⅔ of the way up the side of the pan; if it comes higher than that, spoon some of it out or else it will bubble over in your oven. Cover the pan and place the meat in the oven for 3½ hours.
  4. After 3½ hours, remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and place it over medium-high heat. Break down the meat with a wooden spoon (it should shred very easily), then stir occasionally for another 30-45 minutes or so, until all of the liquid has evaporated/absorbed. The mixture shouldn't be boiling too much, so turn down the heat to medium if it starts to. Be sure to stir every so often so nothing burns to the bottom of the pan.
  5. When the meat is ready, heat your tortillas by placing them in the oven or over a burner until toasted. Place a spoonful of meat in the tortilla, followed by your preferred toppings, and serve. This will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.


39 Responses

  1. I’ve never heard of this until now! It looks delicious and flavorful!

  2. Erin says:

    This looks so good and I will have to try some time soon!

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Could I throw the meat into the slow cooker instead of the oven for a comparable amount of time before I broke it up on the stovetop? This recipe actually looks delicious and not as complicated as I anticipated! Thank you so much for sharing your southwestern recipes on this site – I really think they help make your blog more unique.

    • Sydney says:

      I didn’t even think of that, but you probably could, to be honest! Maybe 6-8 hours on low would do the trick, then into a pan with the juices to evaporate the liquid. Smart smart smart! :) And thanks for your kind words, Gabrielle!

  4. Pat says:

    An easier way that I have used it to slow cook the pork (while I am at work) all day at 200-225 degrees, with a coffee/spice rub, and then when I get home, shred it, and cook it in red wine, tomato sauce, and coffee for about 20 minutes on the stove top.

    I haven’t tried using a citrus before, because the slow-cooked meat is already broke down…just my two cents worth!

    My family’s favorite is using this in deep-fried taquitos – it really is so versatile!

  5. I had never heard of machaca before – very interesting!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I loved the look of the toasted tortillas!

  7. Dana says:

    Tacos are always on the back of my mind, I love them so much but don’t eat them near regularly enough. Machaca sounds really interesting. I’m going to have to put together some tacos.

  8. Matt says:

    Ive never heard of this before, and it sounds like im seriously missing out! will be trying this soon!

  9. Anthony says:

    I love machaca. Never actually made it, myself, but this recipe may make me try it. :)

  10. I had never heard of Machaca, but I mentioned it to my husband when I opened this up. Actually, I said, “What’s masaca? Machasa? What does that say??” and he yelled out “MACHACA!!” He lived in Mexico for 2 years and loooooves this stuff. He had a friend who owned a taco stand who would give him free Machaca tacos. yum I will have to make this soon!! Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Rhonda says:

    We are big fans of machaca in this house, thanks for the recipe I may just give it a try once it cools off here…so like in November :)

  12. Christine says:

    Is there something that could be substituted for the coffee or is that essential to the recipe?

    • Sydney says:

      I personally find it is essential because it adds a mild element to the spice rub (otherwise you’ve just got an overwhelming amount of cayenne pepper). Coffee makes a great rub for everything – chicken, pork, beef…it’s definitely worth picking some up! I think you could probably use black tea leaves, though, for a different flavor – you just want something to balance out the cayenne.

  13. Arielle says:

    I just finished making this, and even though it took about 5 hours total with prep and I didn’t eat until 10:30 p.m., it was SO WORTH IT. This recipe is amazing. My thesis writing partner and roommates agree.

  14. […] Machacha Tacos – Braised and spiced meat stuffed in a taco? It doesn’t get much better than this for May 5th! (@ Crepes of Wrath) […]

  15. […] Machacha Tacos – Braised and spiced meat stuffed in a taco? It doesn’t get much better than this for May 5th! (@ Crepes of Wrath) […]

  16. Joseph says:

    This is exactly why I follow this blog. I have almost everything I need in my cupboard right now! Though I’m gonna try using packaged beef jerky instead of fresh meat since I’ve already got it. Do you think using red chili pepper flakes instead of dried chiles would work as a substitution?

    • Sydney says:

      Definitely! It’ll probably even be spicier that way, to be honest. Let me know how it goes using the jerky – remember to cut back on the salt since the jerky will already be quite salty.

  17. What a fun night. Everything looks so good, especially that pig candy!

  18. tchudson says:

    Machaca is a wonderful thing! Definitely want to try this recipe….

  19. Marianne Wire says:

    Can I make this dish without the wine? Because of my husband’s needs, no wine in any thing but I love the idea of making this meat for tacos. thanks for letting me know!!!

  20. Leigh says:

    I used to eat machaca burros ALL the time when I lived in Phoenix. I miss it so much! I will DEFINITELY be making this.

  21. Adriana Hernández says:

    I’m a foodie and I love to cook…I’m from Mexico, specifically from Sonora…a northern state where Machaca is from….congratulations on your recipes and pictures!!
    I saw your recipe for machaca and couldn’t help noticing that what you made is more like a “Barbacoa” for us. It looks really delicious and look froward to preparing it myself, but I’d love to let you know how we actually make Machaca from Scratch.
    My mom has been making and selling her own hommade machaca for a little over a decade the same way my grandma use to make Machaca, and let me tell you: it’s the best machaca in the whole wide world!!, it’s made it’s way all around the globe and you cannot find it in stores!!, you actually have to call her and order your own amount of the meat!!….it’s pure hommade machaca, and people who have tried it, just love it and want to send it to people far away from them….people in Greece, the US, Asia, u name it!!
    So I’m sharig this family secret with you…hope you like it!!
    The beef we use for machaca is a cut from the cow called “flan steak”….hope you’re familiar with it, or the cut used in “fajitas” can also work….but it has to be sliced thinly at the meat store for you. I would say a little thicker than ham (about a third of a centimeter) It has to have some fat, too. If it’s sliced too thinly, it’ll dehydrate faster, but with that width I gave you, it should take about two to three days.
    You lay out the meat on a frame with a screen…some type of net…I don’t know what it’s called.
    Basically what you do, is you generously sprinkle the meat with coarse salt all over it and let it dry in a COOL, DRY place protected from any form of bug (for this my Dad built some sort of “cage” in which the meat dries safely. My mom actually turns the fan on in front of the meat to accelerate the drying process.
    The net is for the fluids that are released, to fall easily from the meat.
    Once you do this, you let it dry for three days….at this point the meat has to look dark and it has to be hard like cardboard. Then it’s time to grill the meat.
    We put the dry steak pieces on a grill (we use mezquite charcoal preferably) and literally grill it. Like “carne asada”. This is only half of the entire process.
    Once all your meat is “asada” or grilled, you put it in a food processor or even in a very good mixer, and we add cloves of garlic (unpealed). And what the mixer does is it shreds the meat, and the fresh garlic adds up to the dried, grilled flavor of the meat.
    For this my father built a special mill with very sharp blades that shred the meat in a heartbeat!! And that is how Machaca is made.
    We eat it pure, pinching little bites from this “cotton candy look-alike meat” when it’s just done, as a snack with beer or wine, but the way we cook it for lunch or breakfast is this:
    250 grams of machaca (about half a pound)
    1 julienned white onion
    2 chopped tomatoes
    1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    2 julienned potatoes
    2 to 3 julienned Anaheim chiles (peppers) previuosly burnt, peeled and seeded.
    1. Sauté potatoes in enough oil until golden, then add the onions until transluscent.
    2. Then proceed to add the machaca, the tomatoes, tossing constantly….usually no salt is needed for the meat is salty itself, but feel free to add salt if it’s necessary.
    3. Also add some pepper to taste.
    4. Right after the tomatoes have released their juice you turn it off and add the chopped fresh cilantro and the julienned Anaheim peppers. And toss a bit.

    How we serve it:
    We serve it with fried beans, flour tortillas (for making “burritos de machaca” and we make come nice hot salsa to put on the table. If possible some nice “queso fresc0″ (fresh mexican cheese) to go with it on the side…..oh!! sublime!!
    With this same recipe, you can add some eggs and scramble them with the machaca…’s another way of having it for breakfast.
    Anyway….I was anything but concise….but Ireally wanted to share this with you. Good luck!!

  22. Adriana Hernández says:

    I forgot to mention…..the reason the fat is necesary in the meat is because the meat dries up to such a point, where if it didn’t have fat, the meat would pulverize when you put it in the processor.
    Beware that some very hard pieces of the meat sometimes are hard to shred, simply put those pieces again in the mixer or processor and try it again…..if they don’t give in, eat those like snacks!! just make sure to chew and chew and chew!!
    Ok….Good Luck!!

  23. El Asador says:

    I tell you how we make it in LA, mano. You get some flank steak. Let’s say two pounds. Add a cup of kosher salt and two cups of water. I put some bay leaves in there also. Let it sit out over night.
    In the morning, braise it real slow. When it’s tender, it’s done. Slice it against the grain, and beat it with the food processor and the plastic blade. Once it’s shredded, fry it in some rendered tallow with some onion and tomato and some chiles if you want. That’s how we do it in America, vato!

  24. Gaff Pearce says:

    Just wondering what happens to the “freshly ground coffee” used as part of a rub at the first of this recipe. Does it give a gritty texture to the cooked meat or dissolve? Had machaca for the first time yesterday and I am now looking for recipes. This looks good!

  25. Gaff Pearce says:

    Thanks, I’ll be trying this soo n!

  26. […] Recipe and Photo credit to […]

  27. Jose Reina says:

    I’m starting to sell the “real” machaca, original from Sonora Mexico, 100% beef and prepared the real Sonora way, I’m selling a bag of 125 Gr. for $10.00 plus $2.00 shipping. Soon I will have my web site. By the way, I’m from Sonora Mexico.

  28. Ok, I just made this for dinner and here are my findings.

    1. The recipe has a bit too much salt for my taste. Next time I’m going to knock the salt in half and see how that works.

    2. There is also a good bit of bite from the citrus, which is awesome, but needed a little balance. I stirred in a spoonful of molasses to take the edge off a little.

  29. vanessa says:

    Loved it, cut down a little on the coffee (husband hates it), cinnamon (personal preference) and the cayenne (wimpy gringos here). Was great, but too salty, will use less next time. Thanks for the recipe! Don’t care if it authentic or not, it’s good eating!

  30. Allie says:

    Wow this recipe makes some yummy taco meat. I followed all of the directions exactly except I put it in the slow cooker over night instead of cooking it in the oven. It’s just finishing up on the stove now and I am trying my best to make sure there’s some left to share later.

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