Bistec ranchero is a traditional Mexican dish that is rich in flavors and texture. It is made with thinly sliced beef, a smoky tomato sauce, and vegetables.
If you are looking for a perfect Mexican recipe to enjoy with your friends and family at any time of the day, bistec ranchero is an ideal option.
Whether it is lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, this steak ranchero serves the purpose. It is super easy to make and has a depth of flavor that never disappoints in bringing a smile to your face.
What is bistec ranchero?
Bistec ranchero is a traditional Mexican beef dish that is jam-packed with flavor. The name comes from the origin of the dish: Ranchos (ranchs). Back in time, making this dish was all about what you have available, specially in those places where you don’t have markets near by.
So, since salsa is always on Mexican tables, no wonder that when there were leftovers they will end being thrown with eggs (huevos rancheros), meat or vegetables.
Bistec ranchero can be made in so many ways, from stir frying the meat with onions, tomatoes and chilies, to making an stew with potatoes. It all depend from which family or region this meal is coming.
The ingredients you will need
The dish has a rich and depth of flavors. The secret lies in the use of simple ingredients. Here are the three main components of this dish:
- Meat: The main ingredient of this dish is beef. Traditionally, this dish is made with thinly sliced boneless beef. The meat is seasoned with spices like black pepper, garlic powder, and ground cumin to bring in more flavors. Furthermore, it is cooked at low heat so that the meat cooks in its juices. That’s where you get the meaty flavors from.
- Tomato sauce: The next main component of this dish is the tomato sauce. This sauce holds the secret to flavors. It uses ingredients like tomatoes, onions, garlic, chili peppers, etc.; instead of adding the raw vegetables and blending them, you will have to char them on an iron skillet. This way, the vegetables won’t just get soft but will also get a delicious smoky flavor.
- Vegetables: this dish is incomplete without onions and potatoes. These vegetables make the dish more wholesome and add flavor and texture to it.
Which meat cut is used for this dish?
There is no special preference on which meat cut is perfect for this recipe. You can use any cut. However, the only thing you have to keep in mind is that the meat should be thinly sliced so it can take less to cook. And because you can use any cut, this dish is also light on your pocket.
Related article: A guide to all cuts of beef. – The spruce eats.
The step by step recipe
Make Ranchero Salsa
Roast tomatoes, chili peppers, onions and garlic on a cast iron skillet or comal until ingredients are soft and charred.
Now, if you want to make your salsa in a very ranchero-style, use a molcajete and grind all ingredients until your desired consistency. Start by grinding onions, garlic and cumin seeds with a pinch of salt, then add chilies and lastly tomatoes.
If you want to use your blender is fine too. Just remember to place first garlic, cumin seeds, salt and onion. Blend for about 1 minute then add chilies and tomatoes and pulse two or three times to give the salsa a “rustic” texture. Set aside.
Cook the meat
We need the meat to cook until tender before adding salsa or other ingredients. So, start by seasoning the meat with salt, garlic powder, pepper and a pinch of cumin.
Add oil to a pan and sear the meat for one minute over high heat.
Next, cover the pan and set the heat to the lowest. This will allow the meat to cook in its own juices and become very tender. You’re going to cook it until tender, so it will depends what kind of beef cut you got. Mine took about 30 minutes.
If you see the meat is still not cooked through add a little bit of water, but not too much! we don’t want the meat to be covered, just to have some liquid that will help it to steam.
Make bistec ranchero
Once beef is cooked and all liquid is gone, add onions and potatoes and stir for 2 minutes over moderate heat.
Now, pour in the ranchero salsa. Season with salt.
Pour in water enough to cover the ingredients, bring to a boil and then add roasted pepper. Cover the pan, set heat to medium-low and allow to cook until potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes) mixing from time to time.
What to serve with?
Traditionally, bistec ranchero is served with freshly made tortillas. You can either serve it with flour tortillas or corn tortillas. And for side dishes, arroz blanco or arroz rojo are a nice option, so it it refried beans. But for a more ranch-style, I absolutely recommend serving with frijoles de la olla (pot cooked beans).
However, if you want to deviate a little from the Mexican tradition, you can serve it with a simple steamed rice or quinoa. The dish has so much flavor in it that even if you eat it without a side, it will taste heavenly.
This dish is perfect when you are feeding a large number of people. So, if you’re hosting a brunch or dinner party, you can serve it with various sides.
- 1 ½ lb beef steak (thinly sliced)
- 1 medium onion (sliced)
- 1-7 oz can of roasted and sliced poblano peppers (read notes)
- 1 lb potatoes (peeled and cut into cubes)
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
For ranchero salsa
- 1 lb tomatoes
- ½ small onion
- 2 jalapeño peppers
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
Make Ranchero Salsa
- Roast tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, onions and garlic on a cast iron skillet or comal until soft and charred.
- Place garlic, cumin seeds, salt and onion in a blender with ½ cup water. Blend for about 1 minute then add chilies and tomatoes and pulse two or three times to give the salsa a “rustic” texture. Or you can also use a molcajete and grind all ingredients to your desired consistency.
Make bistec ranchero
- Season the meat with salt, garlic powder, pepper and cumin.
- Add oil to a pan and sear the meat for one minute over high heat.
- Cover the pan and set the heat to the lowest. This will allow the meat to cook in its own juices and become very tender.
- If you see the meat is still not cooked through add a little bit of water to create some steam and allow to keep cooking. Cook for about 30 minutes or until meat is very tender.
- Once the meat is cooked, add onions and potatoes and stir for 2 minutes over moderate heat.
- Now, pour in the ranchero salsa and season with salt.
- Pour in water enough to cover the ingredients, bring to a boil and then mix in the can of roasted peppers (drained).
- Cover the pan, set heat to medium-low and allow to cook until potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes) mixing from time to time.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.