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Beef stew in tamarind sauce {Seco de carne con tamarindo}

 Recipe for beef stew in tamarind sauce, also known as Ecuadorian seco de carne con tamarindo, made by simmering meat in sauce of tamarind, beer, garlic, cumin, achiote, peppers, onions, cilantro or parsley, tomatoes, and other spices.

Beef stew with tamarind and beer

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A good plate of beef stew in tamarind sauce, called seco de carne con tamarindo in Ecuador, is perfect for this time of the year when it starts to cool down and you need something comforting to warm you up. The flavors of the meat slowly cooked in a sauce of tamarind, beer, garlic, cumin, achiote, oregano, peppers, onions, cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, and other spices, is an ideal mix of spicy, sweet and salty.

Ecuadorians seco de carne recipe

Secos are a type of stew and are very popular in Ecuador and other South American countries. These yummy stews are usually made with beef, goat, lamb, pork or chicken, but fish can also be used. The meat or poultry is slow cooked in a sauce made from a combination of liquid that can include beer, chicha, fruit juice, or wine, along with vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and/or peppers; and various different seasonings, spices and herbs –garlic, cumin, coriander, achiote, cinnamon, cilantro, parsley, oregano, among others.

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Beef stew in tamarind sauce {Seco de carne con tamarindo}

The exact ingredients and quantities vary from one type of seco to another, as well as from one region to another, but the goal is always the same: to obtain a delicious tender meat that breaks easily with a fork and that melts in your mouth, all inside a very flavorful sauce that has slowly absorbed each distinct flavor to create one amazing taste.

Beef stew in tamarind sauce // Seco de carne con tamarindo

I’ve mentioned before that secos are one of the best comfort dishes and I especially crave them when it is cold. I also love the versatility of these stews, you can make a great seco de carne or beef stew by preparing it in the most well known way –at least in Ecuador – which is with beer. In past times it used to be that secos were always prepared with chicha, which is a fermented corn drink,but now beer has replaced chicha as the liquid of choice to prepare a good seco.

I wanted to change this seco de carne and used tamarind pulp instead of only beer – or naranjilla juice which is also very popular. I have great memories of my mom buying huge amounts of tamarind. Sometimes she would buy the whole beans and other times she would buy these packs of tamarind where the bean shells had been removed and the flesh and seeds were tightly packed into a medium sized plastic bag.

The tamarind in those bags had a very intense taste, I loved getting a spoonful of it and eating it pure – it was good but very strong. My mom would boil it with water and panela or brown sugar to make fresco de tamarindo – a very refreshing drink.

Seco de carne beef stew recipe

For this recipe I used frozen tamarind pulp, in the Latin grocery stores you can find an assortment of frozen concentrate or pulps of different fruits in their freezer section. If you can’t find the frozen pulp you can use tamarind juice, but if it has added sugar then don’t add the panela or brown sugar or the sauce will be too sweet.

I’ve seen the tamarind beans at a few supermarkets, you can also use those, simply peel the hard skin off, boil the insides –seeds and all- with a cup of water,then remove the seeds, you can taste it and make it as concentrated as you like. The only problem with the beans or pods is that they aren’t always very fresh, and in those cases the flavor won’t be as concentrated, so it’s best to get the frozen concentrate or the paste that they sell in Asian supermarkets.

Ecuadorian beef stew / Seco de carne

One of the best parts of a good seco is the sauce, which is why secos are always served with rice: it is the best way to soak up the delicious sauce. Other typical side dishes include boiled or fried yucas or cassava root– a starchy vegetable similar to potatoes but still very different , as well as fried sweet plantains,pickled red onions or a small salad, avocado slices, and hot sauce.

Ecuadorians seco de carne recipe

Beef stew in tamarind sauce {Seco de carne con tamarindo}

Recipe for beef stew in tamarind sauce, also known as Ecuadorian seco de carne con tamarindo, made by simmering meat in sauce of tamarind, beer, garlic, cumin, achiote, peppers, onions, cilantro or parsley, tomatoes, and other spices.
4.91 from 72 votes
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Andean, Ecuadorian, Latin American, South American
Keyword: Beef, Comfort food, Seco de carne, Stew, Tamarind
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 8


  • 4 lbs beef (boneless) for stew cut in chunks
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground all spice
  • ½ tbs ground achiote
  • ½ tbs chili or hot pepper powder add more or less based on your preference
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1 medium red onion cut in large chunks
  • 3 bell peppers red & green, cut in large chunks
  • 4 roma tomatoes quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of cilantro ½ for the sauce and remaining ½ chopped finely to add at the end
  • 1 cup of unsweetened tamarind juice can use frozen tamarind pulp (defrosted), or mix 3.5 ounces of tamarin paste mixed with 1 cup of hot water)
  • 1 cup light beer
  • 4 tbs grated panela (piloncillo) or brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Suggested side dishes:


  • Season the beef with the cumin, all spice, achiote, salt, pepper.
  • If you are using the tamarind paste, dilute the 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of paste with 1 cup of hot water. Let it rest for 30 minutes, mix it well and strain it to remove the seeds and fibers.
  • Blend the onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and ½ of the cilantro with the tamarind juice or pulp until you get a smooth puree.
  • In a large pot or deep pan, heat the oil over medium high heat, cook the meat until lightly browned on each side.
  • Add the tamarind puree sauce, grated panela or piloncillo, and beer, bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until the meat is very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 2-3 hours, sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Taste and adjust salt/pepper or other spices/condiments if needed.
  • If using a slow cooker, you will set it to low for 6-8 hours.
  • Serve with rice, fried ripe plantains, yuca, avocado slices, and curtido or red pickled onions.
Seco de carne con tamarindo or beef tamarind stew

Other recipes for secos:

Seco de chivo or goat stew

Seco de gallina or chicken stew

Seco de borrego or lamb stew

Step by step preparation photos for Ecuadorian beef stew in tamarind sauce {Seco de carne con tamarindo}

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  1. I want to make this tomorrow but having a hard time finding frozen tamarind pulp is un refrigerated pulp ok? It just seems like it would be way too much 14oz when you see it like that vs frozen?

    1. If you have the concentrated refrigerated paste (the kind that is used for Thai cooking) then it will a lot stronger than the Latin frozen pulp. I would add dilute about 3.5 ounces (or 100 grams) with 1 cup of hot water. It should be sour but not overpowering, also the intentisity of the paste might vary based on how fresh it is and the brand.The tamarind flavor is not overpowering in this stew and the acidity is used to help balance out the flavors of the meat and spices.

      1. I actually found the tamarind frozen pulp one last quick question what part do you add in the chilli powder … is that part of the seasoning for the meat or to be added to the blender mixture?

          1. I just want to say thank you my husband is from Ambato and I’m American. I’ve been to Ecuador twice but of course only tried a handful of dishes. So being able to cook his favorites because of you has made him so happy! I made the seco de borrego last week and he couldn’t believe I made it taste like home! Today I just finished this tamarind stew and he was again so in love! Thank you for making them so easy to follow and picture etc! I’ve also made many many time your maní sauce and Ilapingachos! The mani is always a hit! Next week he wants the colorada (a little nervous i won’t buy the right meat since it cooks in 30mins).. he also keeps asking for quimbolitos as do I love them I wish you had a recipe for them! Thank you again for always answering you’ve made my husband so happy! lol you have no idea!

  2. Dear Laylita,
    This recipe is so much like my mom’s seco. I love your site and every single Ecuadorian recipe. My life is much happier since I found your website. I live in Japan and never thought I would be able to cook authentic Ecuadorian food. Your substitutions ( beer and orange juice for chicha, paprika for achitote) are great and makes it possible for me to cook.
    Thank you!!!!
    It is possible now to buy verdes from Ecuador from time to time in Japan so I was even able to enjoy bolones, chifles and patacones. My daughter and I had so much fun making guaguas de pan. I am from Ambato so it was great to share that with her. Thanks again for making it possible.

    Abrazos desde Tokio,

  3. Your site is awesome. This is going to be the first recipe I try. For the lamb, is there a preferred cut that you use? Just wondering what part of the lamb to order before heading to the butcher. Thanks!

    Hi Chris – I usually use a boneless leg roast type of cut.

  4. Hello, your recipes (and pictures) look fabulous! We live in Canada, but my husband is Ecuadorian, so I’m excited to be able to give him more of a taste of home :) I want to make this seco, but for tamarind I could only find the flesh tightly packed into a plastic bag (seedless). I imagine this would be too strong a flavour if I used 14 oz of it? Or should I boil it in water? I notice in one of the comments above, you said that when using beans, we should boil 12-15 beans in 1 1/2 cups water. If I boil the tamarind I have, how much do you think I should use?


  5. well im trying this for the first time! its bubbling away, half and hour before its ready. smells good though. i live in mexico and bought the tamarind pods on a whim, and thought id finally try to use them. fingers crossed =)

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