| | | | | | | | | | |

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

En español 

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.

Jump to Recipe
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.
4.90 from 69 votes
Print Pin Your Questions and Comments
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}

Similar Posts


  1. I am making this this weekend Layla. I only found the tamarind pods so I boiled them down/strained them last night so it’s kind of a juice I guess. I think I’m going to freeze this to have for when my family comes for Christmas and serve it with tamales on Christmas eve! :)

  2. Hi,

    I made this with tamarind paste rather than pulp, since it was the only thing I could find. However, I think it might be much stronger than the pulp. I used half of what you recommended but it still came out tasting too sharply of the tamarind. Do you have any experience with the paste or any recommendation as to the amount to use to get the correct flavor? If I do it again I’ll probably only use a tablespoon or two.

    Great recipe, though, and everything on your site looks great.

  3. Once you reach step 5 could you put everything in a crock pot and leave it to cook for 8-10 hours on a really low temperature or does this need ot be made on the stove top?

    Hi Tara – Making it in a crock pot should work as well.

  4. My husband is Ecuadorian and I would like to make this recipe, however I’m not exactly sure how to make the Tamarindo pulp. How many tamarindo beans do I use, for how long do i boil the tamarindo? After I boil them and throw out the seeds do I add more water or do I just use the boiled water? Thank you.

    Hi Debra – Use about 12-15 beans, remove the hard skin and boil the pulp and seeds with about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water, stir frequently, the pulp part should begin to dissolve and separate from the seeds after boiling, at this point you can strain the seeds and use 1 1/2 cups of tamarind liquid to make the seco. You can also just let it simmer on low heat or let it soak in the hot water for 30 minutes-1 hour. Also taste it to make sure that none of the beans have gone bad – the taste should be very tart. If you have any extra liquid leftover you can add water and sugar to make a fresco or tamarind drink.

  5. That looks fantastic!!
    I bought achiote in the past, but I never used it, I didn’t know what to do with it.
    Mine came in cubes. What is it exactly?

    Hi Pia – Achiote is made from a red seed, it is mainly used to add color to food, the flavor is really minimal. Most of the time I buy it already ground, though you can also find the whole seeds. The cubes you have probably contain achiote as well as other spices, the only thing about buying the cubes or achiote seasonings that are already mixed is that you should read the ingredient list, many times they have MSG (if the ingredients are in Spanish it is called ajinomoto or glutamato monosodico).

Leave a Reply