Chile rojo is a Mexican staple recipe very easy to make at home. A warm and comforting stew made with a chili sauce which you can easily adjust the spiciness to your liking.
This delicious dish can be served for any weeknight dinner as a main dish alongside with warm corn or flour tortillas, beans, and rice.
What is chile rojo?
Chile rojo refers to a dish made with meat and a red spicy sauce from Mexico. There’s not only a way of making this recipe. Actually, there are many variations and all of them are authentic and delicious.
The meat for this dish can be of various types but the most used are beef and pork. It can also be cut in many ways, such as strips, small bites, chunks, slices, etc.
This traditional dish can be recognized with other names that depend on the main ingredient to prepare it, for example, meat (carne con chile rojo), cheese, or vegetables.
The chile rojo refers to a red sauce made with tomatoes, and chilies, mostly red and hot. It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh or dry as long as they are red. Other types of chilies -like guajillo or pasilla– can be added to achieve that bright, red color.
The spices can vary too, mostly depending on the region this dish is made. Pepper, cumin, oregano, marjoram, and garlic are the most common for this recipe.
Blending all those ingredients together will result in a scrumptious, flavorful, and hearty chili sauce that will brighten up any protein you decide to add.
How To Make Carne Con Chile Rojo
Clean guajillo and arbol chiles with a damp paper towel to remove any debris. Remove the stems, then cut them lengthwise and remove the seeds too.
Place tomatoes on a pot and add enough water to cover them. Boil until tomatoes are nicely tender (about 10 minutes).
Turn off the heat, add chilies and push them down with a spoon to make sure they are well immersed in the hot water.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes or until the chilies are nicely soft and everything has lightly cooled down.
Add tomatoes and chilies to a blender along with onion, cumin, and garlic. You can also use powdered spices if you want to.
Add one cup of water and blend until you will have a smooth sauce. Set aside.
Cut the meat as you prefer: Slices, strips, small bites, etc. Then generously season it with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil on a cooking pan over medium heat. Add the meat and cook, mixing constantly, until nicely browned on all sides.
Pour in the sauce. Some people like to strain it, but I don’t think this is necessary unless your blender doesn’t work properly.
Add 2 cups of water, bring to a simmer, and then cover the pan. Let the stew simmer for about 45 minutes, mixing from time to time.
If the sauce gets too thick, just add a little bit more warm water or stock.
Let the sauce reduce to the consistency you prefer. Before removing from heat, adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve as suggested or store for later.
Useful Notes And Tips
- You can find chile pasilla, chile de arbol, or chile guajillo at any Latin American store or also on Amazon.
- If you want to cut off the spiciness in this recipe, leave out the chilis de arbol.
- If you cut the meat in chunks the cooking time will increase, so you might need more water too.
- Keep the pan covered while cooking the stew as it can splatter a bit and make a mess in your kitchen.
- If your blender doesn’t have too much power to blend the sauce until smooth, you might find some bits of chilies in your final dish and that’s something you might not like. In this case, is always better to strain the sauce before adding it to the meat.
- You can use the types of protein to make this recipe, pork, chicken, shrimp, or even vegetables like zucchini, green beans, mushrooms, etc.
How To Serve
- I usually serve this dish with a side of de la olla beans, corn tortillas, and sometimes with rice.
- If you are making it for a Mexican-themed night, you can also serve guacamole, pico de gallo salsa, and chips as appetizers.
- For drinking, you will need something to tone down the spiciness, so I suggest trying one of our sweet aguas frescas, like horchata & strawberry, pineapple agua fresca, or lemon & chia fresca.
- Last, for those with a sweet tooth, you can serve a simple arroz con leche or sweet pineapple tamales as dessert.
How To Store And Reheat
This recipe makes the perfect prep meal and it freezes wonderfully too. So, follow the steps below for storing your leftovers or double the recipe and have it ready for those busy days.
- Fridge. Place the dish in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. We recommend using glass containers as those preserve better the flavors.
- Freezer. Use freezer-proof containers and store them for up to 3 months.
- Thaw. Better thaw in the refrigerator, we usually transfer the container the night before so it has plenty of time to defrost slowly and be ready for dinner.
- Reheating. Reheat in a pan with a splash of water to loosen up the sauce. Or use the microwave at 1-minute intervals.
Beef Chile Rojo
- 1 ½ lbs beef chuck steak (cut into small bites)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (or any oil you prefer)
- salt and pepper
For chile rojo sauce
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 small onion (cut into chunks)
- 2-3 chile de árbol (optional or adjust to your liking)
- 4 pasilla or guajillo chilies (seeded)
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
- water or beef stock (about 3-4 cups)
- Place tomatoes on a pot and add enough water to cover them.
- Boil until tomatoes are tender (about 10 minutes).
- Turn off the heat, add chilies and push them down with a spoon to make sure they are well immersed in the hot water.
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes or until the chilies are soft and everything is lightly cool.
- Add tomatoes, onion, and chilies to a blender with cumin and garlic.
- Add one cup of beef stock or water and blend until you will have a smooth sauce. Set aside.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil on a cooking pan over medium heat. Add meat and cook stirring constantly until browned on all sides.
- Pour over the sauce, mix, then add 2 cups of water (or beef stock). Bring to a boil.
- Set heat at low. Cover the pan and let the stew simmer for about 45 minutes or until the meat is very tender.
- Mix from time to time. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little bit more water or stock.
- Let the sauce reduce to the consistency you prefer. Adjust salt to taste, turn off the heat and serve.
- You can find chile pasilla, chile ancho, or chile guajillo at any Latin American store or also on Amazon.
- If you don’t like spicy, just leave out arbol chilies. The recipe will be delicious anyway.
- If you cut the meat in chunks the cooking time will increase by about 30 minutes, so keep in mind that.
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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.