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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 70 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 love secos :D Nice to see some interesting variant of the traditional seco. I have made my owns too.
    I’ll try your seco de carne with tamarindo, and I’ll suggest you to try the seco de pollo with kiwi! I guess no instruction is needed, you replace the naranjilla with kiwi and that’s it :D
    Buen provecho!

  2. My husband grew up in Ecuador and has “favorited” just about every recipe on your site! I’ve made this seco several times now, twice for company, and everyone always loves it. It’s a definite winner!

  3. I backpacked around South America last year and loved it — such an exciting place to go! I try to take myself back there in my cooking. I made your beautiful seco a few nights ago and was transported back to Brazil, actually — it reminds me of a lunch I had on a Pousada near Campo Grande.

    Your blog is fantastic. Thank you for providing all the recipes of the food I ate and loved during my travels.

  4. Wow, just discovered this site and I can’t wait to make my own seco de carne!

    Just wondering, should the pot be covered or uncovered while we simmer for about 2 hours? I’m thinking that would make a difference in how much the sauce reduces. Thanks!

    I usually have it covered for the first half of cooking, partially covered for the next 1/4 and then off for the last 1/4.

  5. Hola Laylita,
    I have some concentrate cooking tamarind that I buy at my local Vietnamise grocery store it’s a liquied concentrate (sour) I use to make Pad Thau, but I think that maybr I can substituted for the Pods, I love Secos, my husband is from Peru and they make them a lot, I’m Dominican, but I love cooking foods from all over the world! Thanks Sandra.

  6. Hi Laylita,
    I made it with the tomate de arbol pulp and it was good! I think tamarind would still be better but it came out good either way. The color was a lot lighter though. Thank you for the great recipe! I would love to know what your recipe for aji is with tomate de arbol as well as more mote recipes! I have been making a lot of your food and it’s delicious and perfect since I am in Ecuador where I can find all of the ingredients easily (except tamarind!) Take care.

  7. Hi
    I am going to make this tomorrow but I couldn’t find tamarind pulp anywhere! Do they use it in Ecuador? I live in Quito and just bought pulp of tomate de arbol instead. I hope that works okay! I didn’t see any other pulp that looked appropriate.

    Hi Kathleen – I’ve never used tomate de arbol for this stew, but I have used it for sauces for fish or just for making aji, let me know if it works. I’m not sure about in Quito, but in my city – Loja- you could find tamarind pulp at the mercado (or market).

  8. This tamarind pulp is sour, right? I found Tamarind juice in an asian store that’s from Thailand (I think). Can I use this instead? Thanks.

    You can use the juice, if it has added sugar just leave out the panela or brown sugar so that the stew doesn’t turn out too sweet.

  9. Hey laylita, sure was fun to grow up in Ecuador,ha. Love this seco, I remember when ur mom got tamarindo pulpo , sure miss her cooking. For those of you who use the paste, if u dilute 2 tsp in 14oz of warm water it turns out just right. layla love the site. Thank u

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