Mexican Istmo-Style Beef Stew Recipe

Istmo, or Isthmus, style stew is a unique Mexican dish. It gets its name from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the narrowest part of Mexico. Before the Panama Canal opened, this was one of the major trade routes between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. As such, this part of the country saw a greater variety of ingredients than the rest of Mexico. The diverse ingredients and long cooking time meant that this stew was often only cooked for weddings – in fact, another name for this dish is ‘wedding stew’.

Ingredients Serves: 4


  1. First prepare your spices. Mix together ancho chilli powder, pasilla chilli powder and de Arbol chilli powder. Place in a dry frying pan over a low to medium heat, and toast for several minutes.
  2. Heat your oven to 140°C / 120°C fan.
  3. Cut the following fruits and vegetables into a fine dice and tip into a medium-sized oven-proof lidded casserole dish or Dutch oven: onion, ripe banana, a 1 cm thick ring of pineapple and ½ tin tomatoes.
  4. Add 45g raisins, the toasted ancho/pasilla/de arbol spice blend from above, 1 tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp salt and 250ml boiling water.
  5. Cut 750g stewing beef or beef chuck into 1½ inch cubes and add to the pan. Stir to mix. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 6 hours until the meat falls apart easily.
  6. Shred the meat into the rich sauce and stir in 1 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1 tsp dark brown sugar. Serve with any or all of rice, cooked beans and tortillas.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2022


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1 comment

  • Are you sure you mean 6 hours as recipe says 120 minutes at the top? Thank you

    Victoria Sheehy on

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