Gallina pinta is a tasty Mexican northern dish made with hominy corn, pinto beans, and beef. Delicious, practical, and simple to prepare, it is a wonderful comfort soup perfect to make any day of the week.
What is gallina pinta?
Originating in the Mexican state of Sonora, this dish consists of a slow-cook recipe made with beef, corn, and beans.
The origin of the name is not clear, gallina pinta is a species of spotted hen, yet this recipe does not include chicken. If there is no chicken, why is it called gallina pinta? There are two stories as to how this name originated. Choose your favorite:
- One tale tells of the mixture of beans and corn creating a spotted effect, just like a spotted hen sort of looks.
- The second tale, and my favorite, is that when the dish was first created there was a spotted chicken in the vicinity creating a fuss. “Watch out for that gallina pinta!” was heard from passers by, and so the name was born.
In English, this dish is commonly called Mexican oxtail soup, which makes more sense since it is made with that cut of meat, but is not nearly as much fun, don’t you agree?
How it is made?
This delicious Mexican stew has three main ingredients:
Ingredient number one is hominy corn. The same type of hominy used to make pozole, this ingredient is a staple in many Mexican recipes, and even though is normally used in its dried form, many recipes use canned hominy because is easier to find outside Mexico.
The second ingredient is pinto beans which may be the origin of the word “pinta” in the name of this dish, but that is just a conjecture. Other types of beans can also be used.
The third ingredient is beef. Oxtail is traditionally used, but other cuts are also a good option, especially those with bone that gives an amazing flavor to this dish.
Related: Cheap beef cuts for frugal meals.
Mexican Oxtail Soup Legend
Sonora, its place of origin, is well known for its ranchos – lands used for cattle – and many men worked there as rancheros.
Legend has it this dish was created by men instead of women. Generally, women created new stews that varied in complexity, some of these stews were not very practical for the rancheros who had to leave their homes for days, looking for cattle to tame.
As they needed to create an easy-to-prepare meal during their travels, the gallina pinta became one of the best options, it was a very simple one-pot dish compared to some more complex Mexican dishes.
Those busy people would only have to mix some of the most common ingredients of the region in no particular order to get a fulfilling and nutritious dish that will cover their needs from breakfast to dinner.
Nowadays the recipe has changed and more ingredients have been added, like oregano, chili, onion, garlic, and some other types of meat or beans. But the core of the original recipe stays the same.
The Step By Step Recipe
Place beans in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let them soak until needed. The beans need to soak for at least 1 hour while the meat is cooking.
Place the meat in a large stockpot. Add water to cover about 2-inches the meat. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
Add tomato, Anaheim pepper, onion, cilantro, garlic, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour.
During the cooking, skim off the foam that rises to the top and discard.
After one hour has passed, remove the onion, tomato, and chili pepper. Place them in a blender and add peppercorns, oregano, and cumin. Pour in 1 cup of water and blend until smooth.
Strain the sauce into the pot. You can also add it without straining, is up to you.
Drain the beans and add them to the pot too. Make sure there’s enough water to continue the cooking for at least another hour.
After one hour, add the hominy, and again, make sure there’s enough liquid to cover the ingredients and continue with the cooking. So, if necessary, add more water to the pot.
Once the meat is falling from the bones, and the beans and hominy are cooked through, adjust with salt to taste and turn off the heat.
You can remove the meat from the pot and shred it, then return it to the pot. Or you can just serve it in large chunks with the soup, is up to you.
Prep the garnish
Chop 1 medium onion, and place it in a small bowl. Do the same with cilantro, then cut some limes into wedges and place them also in a bowl.
Set everything on the table so everyone can garnish their plate as they prefer.
- Ladle the gallina pinta soup into bowls making sure you add also enough meat and broth.
- Top with the garnishes you prefer and add as much chile as you want (and handle!).
- Add a squeeze of lime and enjoy with warm corn tortillas or tostadas.
- Serve with your favorite Mexican drink, we suggest strawberry agua fresca or tepache.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Most likely you will end with some leftovers, and that is perfect because this soup freezes wonderfully and is an amazing prep meal for those busy days.
So, once the soup has cooled down, place leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 4 days. Or place in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For reheating. Place gallina pinta soup in a stockpot and reheat on the stovetop over medium heat. If the soup gets too thick, add a splash of water to loosen it up.
Watch How To Make It
More Mexican Authentic Stew Recipes
- Chicken Pozole Verde. Made with hominy, chicken, and green sauce.
- Charro Beans. Made with beans, chorizo, sausages, ham, and tomato sauce.
- Tesmole. A super easy dish made with chicken, mole sauce, and corn dumplings.
- 1 ½ lb beef oxtail
- 1 lb chuck roast (cut into chunks)
- 1 -10 oz can hominy (rinsed)
- ½ lb pinto beans
- 1 green hot pepper (Anaheim, jalapeño, etc.)
- 1 medium onion (peeled)
- 1 small garlic knob
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ½ Tbsp oregano
- salt (as needed)
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 bunch cilantro (chopped)
- limes (cut into wedges)
- chiltepin chiles (or chili flakes)
- Place beans in a bowl and cover with water. Leave them soak until needed.
- Add the meat to a large stockpot. Add water to cover for about 2-inches. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Add tomato, chili pepper, onion, cilantro, garlic, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour.
- During the cooking, skim off the the foam that raises to the top and discard.
- After one hour, remove the onion, tomato, and chili pepper, and place them in a blender.
- Add peppercorns, oregano, and cumin. Pour in 1 cup of water and blend until smooth.
- Using a fine sieve, strain the sauce into the pot.
- Remove the beans from the soaking water and add them to the pot as well. Cook for 1 more hour.
- After one hour has passed, add the hominy and keep cooking for 30 minutes.
- Make sure the meat is falling from the bones, and the beans and hominy are cooked through. Then adjust with salt to taste and turn off the heat.
- Ladle the soup into bowls making sure you add also enough meat and broth.
- Top with chopped onions and cilantro. Add a squeeze of lime and some dried chilies.
I hope you enjoyed this delicious, simple, and yet flavorful Mexican traditional recipe. I truly believe it is a wonderful addition to every cook repertoire!
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.