Caldo de res, also known as beef soup or beef stew, is a hearty Mexican soup made with beef, vegetables and spices. It’s a flavorful one-pot meal that’s perfect for cold weather and big appetites. The key ingredients that give caldo de res its signature taste and texture are:
Caldo de res is named after and centered around beef. It’s traditionally made with a chuck roast or other fatty cut of beef that becomes fall-apart tender when slowly simmered. Beef shank, brisket, short ribs or oxtails also work well. The type of beef brings big, beefy flavor to the broth.
Onion, garlic, tomatoes
An aromatic base of onion, garlic and tomatoes adds layers of flavor. Cooked down, they help create a rich, savory broth. Diced onion and garlic are cooked with the beef to start building flavor. Canned diced tomatoes are added later to finish the broth.
Chiles add mild heat and smokiness. Guajillo and ancho chile peppers are commonly used. They bring a rich red chili flavor without being too spicy. The tough dried chiles are simmered with the beef to infuse the broth. Some recipes also add chipotle chiles in adobo sauce for more heat and smokiness.
Hearty vegetables like potatoes, carrots and green beans bulk up caldo de res and add vitamins. The vegetables are hardy enough to withstand the long cooking time while lending their flavors to the broth. A simple blend of carrots, potatoes and green beans is typical, but caldo can feature any combination of sturdy veggies.
Herbs and seasonings
Traditional herbs like oregano, cilantro and bay leaves enhance the flavor depth. Seasonings like cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper balance out the tastes. Cilantro adds freshness and is usually sprinkled on top when serving. The other herbs and seasonings simmer with the soup to blend the flavors.
A squeeze of lime juice right before serving helps brighten all the ingredients. The citrus cuts through the richness and ties everything together.
Warm tortillas are served alongside the soup to soak up the tasty broth. Corn tortillas are traditional, flour tortillas are common too. Either type pairs perfectly.
While beef, vegetables and broth are at the core of caldo de res, cooks often add extras for even more substance and flavor. Here are some common additions:
Hominy is made from dried corn kernels. When added to caldo de res, it contributes corn flavor and thickens the broth slightly.
For extra vegetable heft, shredded cabbage is sometimes added near the end. It cooks briefly to retain some crunch.
A handful of rice simmered into the soup absorbs broth and gives it more body. Long grain white rice is commonly used.
Diced avocado makes a rich, creamy garnish. It balances the heartiness of the broth when spooned on top.
Serving caldo de res with fresh lime wedges lets everyone squeeze on the brightness to their liking.
Thinly sliced radishes add pleasant crunch and peppery bite as a soup garnish.
Chopped serrano peppers can be added for extra heat. They bring smoky, spicy flavor to balance the richness.
Chopped cilantro leaves give fresh herb flavor and color when sprinkled on top.
Strips of fried corn tortillas add crunchy texture on top.
Caldo de Res Ingredients
To summarize, caldo de res is made up of these main categories of ingredients:
- Beef chuck roast, brisket, short ribs, shank or oxtails
- Chipotle in adobo
- Green beans
- Cabbage (optional)
- Bay leaves
- Chili powder
- Hominy (optional)
- Rice (optional)
- Lime wedges
- Serrano chiles
- Tortilla strips
Caldo de Res Recipes Vary
While the list of ingredients covers the basics, it’s important to note that caldo de res recipes can vary greatly. Exact ingredients and proportions differ between recipes and regions. Things like:
- Cut of beef used
- Type and amount of vegetables
- Quantity and variety of chiles
- Herbs and spices included
- Additions like hominy or rice
- Garnishes on top
So while there is a general guideline of ingredients, part of the appeal of caldo de res is how it can be adapted based on preferences. The soup takes well to recipe customization based on what ingredients are on hand. As long as the key components of beef, vegetables and broth are there, the other flavorings can be adjusted as desired.
Key Steps to Making Caldo de Res
Now that we’ve covered the main ingredients, let’s look at the basic steps for putting them all together into a pot of hearty, warming caldo de res:
1. Sear the beef
First, the beef is seared to enhance its flavor. The pieces of meat are seasoned with salt and browned well on all sides in a pot or dutch oven.
2. Cook aromatics and chiles
Next, onion, garlic, tomatoes, guajillo chiles, ancho chiles and any other aromatics are added to the same pot. They are cooked briefly until the onions soften and tomatoes break down.
3. Simmer with broth
Then broth is poured in along with herbs and spices like oregano, cumin and bay leaves. The pot is brought to a simmer and the beef cooks at a low boil until it becomes very tender, usually 1-2 hours.
4. Add vegetables
When the beef is nearly done, potatoes, carrots and other hardy vegetables are added to the pot. They simmer until al dente, 15-20 minutes.
5. Finish with lime juice and garnish
At the very end, lime juice is stirred in to brighten the flavors. The soup is ready to serve in bowls topped with desired garnishes like avocado, cilantro and tortilla strips.
Tips for the Best Caldo de Res
Here are some top tips for making the most flavorful, authentic caldo de res at home:
- Use a flavorful cut of beef like chuck roast or shank for rich broth.
- Sear the beef well to caramelize the exterior and enhance flavor.
- Simmer slowly so the beef becomes very tender and infuses the broth.
- Use fresh herbs like oregano and bay leaves rather than dry.
- Add tomatoes and chiles towards the end instead of at the beginning so they don’t lose flavor.
- Cut vegetables into similar sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- Add tender vegetables like cabbage right at the end so they don’t get overcooked.
- Always finish with a generous squeeze of lime juice for brightness.
- Let the soup sit for a bit before serving so the flavors blend.
- Garnish with any combination of avocado, cilantro, radishes, lime wedges, etc.
What kind of beef is best for caldo de res?
Chuck roast or beef shank work very well since they become tender and add rich flavor. Brisket, short ribs and oxtails are also excellent choices.
Is caldo de res spicy?
It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Adding a couple of dried Guajillo or ancho chiles gives nice mild heat. Use more chiles, or spicier varieties like chipotle or serranos to amp up the spice level.
What sides go with caldo de res?
Warm corn or flour tortillas are the perfect accompaniment. Lime wedges, diced onion, cilantro and hot sauce can be provided as complements.
Can I prepare caldo de res in a slow cooker?
Yes, caldo can definitely be adapted for the slow cooker. Just sear the meat first for flavor, then combine with ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours until beef is very tender.
Can I make caldo de res ahead of time?
You can prepare the soup 1-2 days in advance. Let it cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to reheat and serve. When reheating, add extra broth or water if the soup is too thick.
Can I freeze caldo de res?
Certainly. Allow the soup to cool completely, then transfer to freezer bags or containers. It will keep well in the freezer for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Is caldo de res healthy?
Made with lean beef, lots of vegetables and herbs, caldo de res can be a relatively healthy soup option. Go easy on high sodium add-ins like canned broths. Use low sodium versions when possible.
Caldo de Res vs Menudo
Caldo de res is often confused with another Mexican beef soup called menudo. While the soups have some similarities, here are the key differences between caldo and menudo:
Caldo de res is named for and focused on beef. Menudo highlights tripe as the star ingredient.
Caldo de res uses large pieces of beef that become tender. Menudo is often chunky with gelatinous tripe pieces.
Caldo de res is rich, hearty and mild. Menudo is brothy with a bright, acidic taste.
Caldo de res typically has mild heat from guajillo chiles. Menudo often gets spice from hotter chiles like arbol.
Caldo highlights veggies like carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Menudo uses hominy as the main vegetable.
Enjoy Authentic Caldo de Res!
Caldo de res is the ultimate comforting Mexican soup. Simmering beef and vegetables in a seasoned broth results in a dish that’s loaded with warm, delicious flavor. The variations are endless, so have fun trying different ingredient combinations. With fully cooked fall-apart beef and tender veggies in a spoon-coating broth, caldo de res satisfies any craving for a hearty, soul-warming meal. Now that you know the key ingredients and easy steps for making this traditional favorite at home, get ready to enjoy authentic tasty bowls of caldo de res.