Beef Caldereta is a hearty and delicious Filipino stew made of tender beef chunks, carrots, potatoes and bell pepper, and a rich and creamy tomato-based sauce.
What is Beef Caldereta?
Beef Caldereta is a popular Filipino stew known for its hearty and rich flavors. Bursting with a medley of spices and tender beef, it has become a favorite among both locals and food enthusiasts around the world.
The dish typically features tender chunks of beef, often from tougher cuts, slow-cooked in a tomato-based sauce along with various vegetables. The sauce is made flavorful with a combination of tomato sauce, aromatics like onions and garlic, and spices.
Filipino Beef Caldereta is a true testament to the vibrant and diverse culinary heritage of the Philippines. Its blend of Spanish and Filipino influences makes it a dish that is both comforting and intriguing.
Whether you’re a food enthusiast looking to expand your palate or a Filipino longing for a taste of home, Beef Caldereta is a dish that will transport you to the beautiful islands of the Philippines, even if just for a moment. So why not give it a try? Indulge in the rich flavors and let Beef Caldereta take you on a culinary adventure you won’t soon forget.
Origins and Cultural Significance
Beef Caldereta has deep roots in Spanish cuisine, owing to the significant influence of Spanish colonization on the Philippines. The dish is believed to have been adapted from the Spanish “caldero,” a type of stew. Over time, Filipinos have added their own unique touch, incorporating local ingredients and flavors to create a distinctly Filipino version of this classic dish.
Beef Caldereta is often served during special occasions, family gatherings, and fiestas, showcasing its cultural significance and importance in Filipino cuisine.
Flavor Profile and Ingredients
Beef Caldereta is special because of its rich and complex flavor profile. The dish typically features tender beef chunks, cooked to perfection in a savoury tomato-based sauce. The flavours are heightened with the addition of aromatic spices like garlic, onions, and bay leaves.
The real star of the show, however, is the use of liver spread, which lends a unique richness and depth of flavor to the stew. Other staple ingredients include potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and green peas, adding color, texture, and a touch of sweetness to the dish.
Cooking Techniques and Variations
Preparing Beef Caldereta requires patience and attention to detail. It is simmered slowly to allow the flavors to meld together, resulting in a luscious and aromatic stew. While beef is the most common protein used, other variations of Caldereta exist, such as goat meat or even chicken for those who prefer alternative options. Additionally, some regions in the Philippines incorporate other ingredients like coconut milk or peanut butter to give the dish a unique twist.
Filipino Stews with Tomato Sauce
Speaking of tomato sauce stews, Caldereta has always been a confusing dish as there are 3 more similar recipes: Mechado, Afritada and Menudo. I can try differentiating the 4 recipes, but I might receive a lot of flak from others who probably have different recipes and ideas of each.
But then again, they say that most are confused anyway about these similar but different recipes, so I know I’m not the only one. So, here goes (and this is based on what I grew up with):
Menudo is a hearty Filipino stew made with pork, liver, vegetables, and tomato sauce. It typically includes smaller cubed pork and pork liver, along with potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and peas.
Menudo is known for its tomato-based sauce that’s often seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, and onions. It’s a flavorful and comforting dish that’s commonly served during special occasions and gatherings.
It is easier to differentiate as the pork cut is smaller. (In the Philippines or in a Filipino meat shop, you can actually order menudo cut pork). In some recipes, menudo has garbanzos (chickpeas and/or green peas). The potatoes and carrots are also in smaller cubes. Then often, it is easier to spot a menudo dish because there is sliced hotdog in it.
Afritada is another tomato-based Filipino stew, often made with chicken or pork. The main ingredients are usually meat (chicken or pork), potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. The dish is simmered in a tomato sauce, similar to menudo, but it doesn’t include liver. Afritada has a slightly sweeter taste compared to menudo, and it’s often enriched with the natural sweetness of the vegetables.
The afritada sauce is also thinner. (Caldereta sauce is richer, creamier and thicker while menudo is a drier dish).
Mechado originally is a Filipino beef stew that’s distinctively known for the inclusion of beef chunks stuffed with slivers of pork fat. The beef is marinated, then seared and simmered in a tomato-based sauce along with onions, garlic, and various seasonings.
The dish is often cooked until the meat becomes tender and the flavors meld together. Unlike menudo and afritada, mechado doesn’t typically contain the variety of vegetables commonly found in those dishes.
In a way, mechado is the most misunderstood recipe. Many mechado recipes (usually beef and pork) are not the traditional one anymore. The way that many differentiate this recipe is by having vinegar or lemon in its ingredients (which are not in the other recipes).
Caldereta is a rich and savory Filipino stew that usually features tender meat, often goat or beef, though other meats like pork or chicken can also be used. The dish is cooked in a tomato-based sauce that’s flavored with liver spread or liver pâté, which gives it a distinct flavor.
Caldereta also includes a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. It can have a bit of heat from the addition of chili peppers. The combination of tomato, liver, and spices creates a unique taste that sets caldereta apart from the other stews mentioned.
What to serve with Beef Caldereta?
Beef Caldereta is a hearty and flavorful Filipino stew that’s often served as a main course. It is best enjoyed with steaming plain rice.
Having said that, it can also be served with other carbs that are preferably with simpler flavour. Just like a Beef Stew (which is actually what Beef Caldereta is), it can have a variety of sides ranging from bread, like dinner roll or French Baguette to fresh salad. Mashed potato or baked fingerling potatoes are also good sides as well as cauliflower mash or polenta cakes.
Here are some serving suggestions to enhance your Beef Caldereta dining experience:
Steamed Rice: Beef Caldereta is traditionally served with steamed white rice. The rich and savory sauce of the stew goes wonderfully with the plain rice.
Sliced Baguette or Crusty Bread: If you’re looking for an alternative to rice, serving Beef Caldereta with sliced baguette or crusty bread is a great option. The bread can be used to soak up the delicious sauce.
Pasta: For a unique twist, you can serve Beef Caldereta with cooked pasta like penne or rigatoni. The rich sauce of the stew can act as a pasta sauce, creating a fusion of Filipino and Italian flavors.
Side Salad: A simple side salad can provide a fresh and light contrast to the rich stew. Consider a green salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a vinaigrette dressing.
Sautéed Vegetables: Serve some sautéed or steamed vegetables on the side, like broccoli, green beans, or snap peas. These can add a nutritious element to the meal.
Fried Plantains (Saba): If you want to add a touch of sweetness, serve some fried plantains (saba) alongside the stew. The sweet and caramelized plantains complement the savory flavors of the Caldereta.
Grilled Vegetables: Grilled vegetables, like zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers, can add a smoky and charred element to the meal.
Fresh Herbs: Garnish the Beef Caldereta with chopped fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro. This can add a burst of color and a refreshing aroma.
Coleslaw: A creamy coleslaw can provide a cooling and crunchy contrast to the warm and hearty stew.
Remember, the serving suggestions can be tailored to your personal preferences and the occasion. The goal is to balance the rich flavors of the Beef Caldereta with complementary textures and tastes.
My version of the Beef Caldereta Recipe
Beef Caldereta Ingredients
Typically, stewing beef cuts like chuck or brisket are used for caldereta.
The best or may I say the better cut to use for this dish or any beef stew for that matter is chuck or shoulder. Sometimes it is also called blade roast or shoulder roast or sometimes generally as pot roast. So, the easiest way to find this type of meat cut is to look pot roast meat.
As this cut has the good mix of tender and not so tender meat, it is best for recipes that require slow cooking, braising, stewing or pot roasting. Other beef cuts are beef brisket and shank. The former is from the chest area while the latter is near the legs, which because it is used for movement – is a tougher meat.
Alternately, you can also use beef ribs. My brother gave me ribs caldereta one time and we enjoyed them. Although I save my beef ribs for Beef Nilaga. I need to savour the goodness of the flavour of the bones going into the broth, yum!
The beef is cut into chunks or cubes.
The cook time of this beef caldereta recipe is for a 1” to 1 ½” cubes. If you choose to cut them smaller or in strips, you have to shorten the cooking time as they will tenderize sooner. Personally, I like to do them in cubes because even if the meat absorbs the flavour of the sauce, I can still savour the beef taste. They don’t get overpowered in a way. Having said that, there is really no best way to cut the meat for caldereta. You do you – because you’re the one going to eat and enjoy it, right?
Carrots and Potatoes
I hear you muttering “extenders…” LOL. That’s how I used to perceive them too when I was a kid (Ma, I can’t find meat? Only carrots and potatoes?”
It is especially true as beef is expensive back home, so in a way I feel that the meat is for flavour.
I have a funny memory when I was in university (and money is tight, as every university or college student knows). To make an inexpensive meal, potatoes is added to corned beef. Lots, and I mean lots of potatoes to one small can (175 grams) of corned beef.
When I started to enjoy cooking, I realized that it is not usually the case. These tomato-based dishes from the Philippines are so rich and tasty that you need the tomatoes and carrots to absorb (and break) the intense flavour. Try cooking caldereta or afritada with no vegetables and you’ll understand what I’m saying. That richness is also why they are best served with plain rice.
In general, potatoes are added to the stew for both flavor and texture while carrots provide sweetness and color to the dish.
Bell pepper is one of the ingredients that make caldereta, caldereta and not mechado (at least in my versions of these sibling recipes). If you see bell pepper, it’s caldereta; no bell pepper, mechado. But that’s my version. Others might say differently so don’t throw your bell peppers at me (or is it tomatoes that you throw?)
Both red and green bell peppers are commonly used for their flavor and vibrant color.
Of course, this dish will not be what it is without one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in Filipino cooking, tadaaa, the tomato sauce. Tomato sauce forms the base of the stew’s sauce, providing flavor and a rich color.
I actually have no idea why Filipinos use tomato sauce in many of its recipes, but my theory is because Filipino recipes always seek the balance of the different flavour profiles. Filipino dishes need to be a little sweet and a little sour; not too salty and sometimes spicy. These complex flavours are often achieved by mixing soy sauce, vinegar and a little sugar. Sometimes, it is through tomato sauce.
I have a secret though. I don’t use tomato sauce. I use Filipino spaghetti sauce. If you use tomato sauce and you find it a bit too sour or the flavour isn’t quite right; add sugar, preferably brown sugar. Start with adding just 1 teaspoon as you don’t want to make it too sweet. You might have to add more tomato sauce or even a little vinegar to find the balance.
I can’t remember the exact moment that I decided to actually use Filipino spaghetti sauce instead of tomato sauce. I know that it is not with the Beef Caldereta recipe. It was either Pork Giniling or Pork Menudo. I didn’t like that it was too sour for my taste, and I had to balance the flavour with sugar. So, the next time, I decided I’m going to use Filipino Spaghetti sauce instead. It already has that almost balanced sweet and sour taste. Plus, the added spices in it add to the burst of flavour.
Liver Spread or Liver Pate
Another thing that contributes to the rich and complex flavour of this Beef Caldereta recipe is the liver spread or liver pate. This is an optional but traditional ingredient that adds depth and richness to the sauce.
If you don’t like liver, you can substitute with grated cheese, usually cheddar or Edam. I don’t use that in this recipe as I use liver spread. But both add creaminess to the sauce albeit in subtly different ways. Another option, to add richness and creaminess to the sauce, is coconut milk. If you don’t want any of them, you can thicken the sauce with cornstarch.
Message me if you need help experimenting with ingredients and I may be able to let you know how much to add, etc.
Beef Broth or Beef Bouillon
Beef broth enhances the overall flavor and helps to create a rich, savory sauce. If you are using bouillon, don’t forget to add water. I only use one stock cube or bouillon with the two cups water. The flavour was enough. Generally, the stock cube has a more intense flavour while the beef broth is usually lighter and more subtle.
You can also use granules or concentrated stock flavouring (liquid). Start with using one teaspoon of the granules per cup of water. If you need to add more, add in increments of half teaspoon each time. You can do the same with the liquid concentrated stock. Start with one teaspoon per cup of water.
I don’t suggest adding more than two teaspoons per cup of water though. Beef Caldereta is popular because of how complex flavours come together perfectly. Don’t ruin the balance by adding too much of one flavour profile.
This has the usual suspects when we talk about spices – garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Simple answer, they add flavour to the dish.
If you like spicy food, try spicy Beef Caldereta by adding 1 teaspoon Chili Flakes to the sauce.
Green Peas (optional): Some versions of Beef Caldereta include green peas for added texture and color.
Olives (optional): Sliced green olives can be added for a tangy and briny flavor.
The combination of these ingredients creates the unique and rich flavor of Beef Caldereta.
Remember though that recipes slightly vary from one cook to another. I will always have my own set of ingredients while another recipe will provide you with a slightly different one. What you need to remember are the core ingredients – beef and tomato sauce.
After that you can create your very own version by adding or removing your preferred ingredients. Have fun experimenting and if you’re stuck, message me.
How to make this Beef Caldereta
Preparing the Ingredients
1. Beef is cubed, about 1″x1″. Caldereta is known for bigger chunks of beef (and vegetables) especially relative to Menudo (smaller cuts).
2. Carrots and potatoes are also cubed almost the same size as the beef. The bell peppers are cut into 1-inch squares. The garlic cloves are minced while the onion is chopped (about 1/2-inch squares if you want to be precise).
3. If you are adding chili flakes, mix them with the tomato sauce prior to adding to the stew for better flavour.
Skye Tip: Especially for beginners (although it doesn’t hurt the seasoned cooks, it is best to ensure that all food prep is done before you start cooking. I know you see this a lot in recipe instructions but more so for Asian or Filipino dishes. Many cooking recipes start with sauteing garlic and onion or cooking in high heat.
Step by Step Cooking Instructions with Pro-Tips
1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat.
If you don’t have a Dutch Oven, any pot that has a cover will do.
2. Add the Carrots and Potatoes and stir fry until the edges start to brown. Remove and set aside.
Skye Tip: This is actually an optional step (or even unnecessary for some). You can add the carrots and potatoes when the beef is almost the desired tenderness.
However, doing this step provides the carrots and potatoes better texture and adds depth to the flavour. Plus, I am able to control the cook on them (and the other ingredients as well). So, if this is your first time to cook Beef Caldereta, I strongly suggest you follow this step. You’re still using the same pot/dutch oven without the need to wash in between, so why not?
3. In the same dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon of Oil. Turn down to low medium heat and add the minced Garlic (usually about 3 or 4 if your stove goes from 1-10) so as not to burn the garlic. Cook until golden brown, stirring frequently for even cooking.
4. Add Onions and cook until almost translucent. Turn back up the heat to medium.
5. Add the Beef cubes and stir fry until sides turn brown, about 5-8 minutes.
The same with the carrots and potatoes, searing the beef adds flavour.
6. When the beef cubes are slightly seared, add beef broth. Allow to simmer.
If you are using beef bouillon, add 2 cups of water. Else the dish will not have enough moisture to simmer – and will burn.
7. Add Tomato Sauce and Liver Spread/Pate. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and allowing the ingredients to incorporate.
Note: If you are using tomato paste, use ½ cup tomato paste and dilute in ½ cup of water.
The liver spread or liver pate provides richness to the sauce. If you want to skip liver spread, use cornstarch (1 tbsp cornstarch to 1/4 water) and add before adding the bell pepper.
If you are adding chili flakes to make it spicy, add together with the tomato sauce. This will ensure that the beef cubes absorb the flavour of the sauce as it cooked.
Skye Tip: As mentioned above, I actually use Filipino Spaghetti sauce. You don’t have to if you want the tomato sauce sourness. I prefer my caldereta sauce with a bit of sweetness to it. IMHO, the complex balance of flavours makes the beef caldereta recipe special.
If you don’t have Filipino spaghetti sauce, you can add sugar to your ingredients. Start with just 1 teaspoon to find your desired balance of flavours. Make sure to adjust the salt to taste.
8. Turn down the heat to low-medium (about 2 or 3 in your stove). Add the bay leaves and cover. Allow to simmer for an hour.
9. Open the lid and check if beef cubes are desired tenderness. If you want it softer, close the lid and simmer for another 15-30 minutes checking every 10 minutes.
10. If beef is desired tenderness, add the potatoes and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are soft and cooked.
11. Add the Bell peppers and stir to incorporate all ingredients together.
Note: Be ready to take it off the heat after adding the bell peppers as they can get to cook to overcooked very quickly.
12. Add salt and cracked pepper and adjust to desired taste.
Note: If you opt to add grated cheese to make the sauce creamy:
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top after turning off the heat. Let the cheese melt slightly before stirring it into the stew.
13. Serve immediately with steaming rice.
Fridge: Allow the beef caledereta to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days.
Freeze: Allow the stew to cool to room temperature, then store in a freezer-safe airtight container in the freezer for up to two months.
Final Note: Remember, Beef Caldereta is a versatile dish, and you can adjust the ingredients and seasonings to suit your taste. Enjoy your delicious Filipino Beef Caldereta!
Looking for other Filipino recipes?
Expert Tips and FAQ’s
What part of beef is best for Caldereta?
The best cuts of beef for Caldereta are those that are well-suited for slow cooking and stewing, as this cooking method helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat while allowing their flavors to meld with the other ingredients. Here are a few recommended cuts:
Chuck Roast or Stewing Beef from the chuck area is a popular choice for Caldereta. It has a good balance of meat and fat, which contributes to flavor and tenderness.
Brisket is another excellent option for Caldereta. It’s known for its rich flavor and, when cooked slowly, becomes incredibly tender.
Beef Short Ribs are often used in stews due to their flavorful meat and connective tissue that breaks down during slow cooking, making the meat tender.
Beef Shank is a well-marbled cut that works well in stews. It has a lot of connective tissue that, when cooked low and slow, results in a gelatinous and flavorful sauce.
Round or Bottom Round cuts can also be used for Caldereta. While they are leaner, they can still work well if properly cooked to avoid toughness.
When making Caldereta, it’s generally a good idea to choose cuts that have some fat and connective tissue, as this will contribute to the richness of the stew and prevent the meat from becoming dry during the extended cooking process. Also, since Caldereta is a dish with bold flavors, the meat’s richness pairs well with the other ingredients like the tomato sauce, spices, and vegetables.
Keep in mind that personal preferences can play a role in choosing the cut of beef. Some may prefer a fattier cut for extra flavor, while others might opt for leaner cuts for a slightly lighter result. It’s recommended to consult with your local butcher or meat supplier to find the best cuts available for your specific cooking needs.
If you want to learn more about different cuts of beef, check this out by clicking the link.
What is Beef Caldereta made of?
This Beef Caldereta recipe has contains beef cubes, potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, tomato sauce, liver spread and spices and seasonings. Some recipes include grated cheese or coco milk.
What can I substitute for liver spread?
Liver spread not only thickens the sauce but also provides a distinct flavour in the caldereta recipe. If you don’t have or you don’t like liver spread, you can add potted meat or grated cheese instead. If you just want to make the sauce thicker, add cornstarch (dissolved in water).
How do you thicken Caldereta sauce?
If the sauce is thin, simmer without lid to allow some of the liquid to evaporate (thereby thickening the sauce). Adding liver spread helps thicken the sauce as well. Some add grated cheese.
If nothing helps, thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Start with a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in an equal amount of water.
Can I use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce?
Tomato paste is an excellent choice to replace tomato sauce in most recipes as it is essentially a concentrated tomato sauce. Add equal amount of water to the tomato paste and mix until well-blended. Thus, for a recipe that requires one cup tomato sauce, use half cup tomato paste in half cup of water.
What is Caldereta sauce made of?
Caldereta sauce has tomato sauce, liver spread and (beef) broth. Although technically, it also has the spices and seasonings and not to mention the flavour contributed by the beef and vegetables.
How do you thicken Caldereta?
As with other meat stews, the sauce thickens with the low simmering. Additionally, liver spread helps thicken the sauce. Others add grated cheese or cornstarch slurry to thicken the caldereta sauce.
Is it okay not to put liver spread in Caldereta?
Yes, although your dish will miss out the layer of flavour that the liver spread provides that’s distinct to caldereta.
Is Caldereta supposed to be spicy?
Traditionally, Caldereta is spicy especially if using goat meat. However, it doesn’t need to be. As with many dishes, it depends on personal tastes and preferences. Ultimately you want to enjoy your food.
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Beef Caldereta is a hearty and delicious Filipino stew made of tender beef chunks, carrots, potatoes and bell pepper, and a rich and creamy tomato-based sauce.
Preparation of ingredients
Beef is cubed, about 1″x1″. Caldereta is known for bigger chunks of beef (and vegetables) especially relative to Menudo (smaller cuts).
Carrots and potatoes are also cubed almost the same size as the beef. The bell peppers are cut into 1-inch squares. The garlic cloves are minced while the onion is chopped (about 1/2-inch squares if you want to be precise).
If you are adding chili flakes, mix them with the tomato sauce prior to adding to the stew for better flavour.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat.
Add the Carrots and Potatoes and stir fry until the edges start to brown. Remove and set aside.
In the same Dutch Oven, add 1 tablespoon of Oil. Turn down to low medium heat and add the minced Garlic (usually about 3 or 4 if your stove goes from 1-10) so as not to burn the garlic. Cook until golden brown, stirring frequently for even cooking.
Add Onions and cook until almost translucent. Turn back up the heat to medium.
Add the Beef cubes and stir fry until sides turn brown, about 5-8 minutes
When the beef cubes are slightly seared, add beef broth. Allow to simmer.
Add Tomato Paste and Liver Spread/Pate. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and allowing the ingredients to incorporate.
Turn down the heat to low-medium (about 2 or 3). Add the bay leaves and cover. Allow to simmer for an hour.
Open the lid and check if beef cubes are desired tenderness. If you want it softer, close the lid and simmer for another 15-30 minutes checking every 10 minutes.
If beef is desired tenderness, add the potatoes and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked.
Add the Bell peppers and stir to incorporate all ingredients together.
Add salt and cracked pepper and adjust to desired taste.
Serve immediately with steamed rice (or with preferred sides).
Serving Size 341
- Amount Per Serving
- Calories 344kcal
- Calories from Fat 137.7kcal
- % Daily Value *
- Total Fat 15.3g24%
- Saturated Fat 5.4g27%
- Trans Fat 0.4g
- Cholesterol 122.9mg41%
- Sodium 474.8mg20%
- Total Carbohydrate 15.6g6%
- Dietary Fiber 2.2g9%
- Sugars 3.1g
- Protein 36.3g73%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption. source: https://nutritiondata.self.com
- For types of beef cuts to use, see blog above for options under ingredients and under FAQs.
- Beef Caldereta is known for bigger cubes of both beef and vegetables. Try to cut them almost the same size as the beef.
- The same with the carrots and potatoes, bell pepper are in bigger squares, closer to the size of the other ingredients.
- You can use tomato paste but don’t forget to dilute using ½ cup tomato paste and ½ cup water. For a secret substitution to tomato sauce/paste, read blog above.
- If using beef bouillon, dissolve one cube or 1 teaspoon of granules into 2 cups of water.
- For those who don’t want to use liver spread or liver pate, there are options to make the sauce creamier and/or thicker. Some use coco milk or grated cheese. Another option is adding cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Read more about this in the blog.
- Chili flakes is optional. For those who want their beef caldereta spicy, one good tip is to add the chili flakes to the tomato sauce first. This way, the chili flavour incorporates into the tomato sauce providing more zing and depth of flavour.