Machaca (Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Dehydrated)

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Machaca is a traditional Mexican dish made with seasoned dried and shredded beef that's used for tacos, eggs, burritos, and more. Today's beef machaca recipe includes options for making authentic dehydrated beef or using your slow cooker or Instant Pot to make a spin on traditional dehydrated machaca with all the same delicious flavors.

320 CAL 4g CARBS 24g FAT 20g PROTEIN 3

Today we are sharing three delicious ways to make Homemade Machaca including easy at-home versions using the slow cooker and Instant Pot, as well as the traditional version made with dehydrated seasoned shredded beef.   

Machaca traditionally was a dish popular with cowboys and ranchers made with dehydrated beef, fresh or dried chili peppers, and it was eaten with whatever was handy. Sometimes it was rolled into flour tortillas to make burritos, many times it was scrambled up with eggs (Machaca con Huevo), and sometimes it was fried into crispy little taquitos.

This homemade version skips the dehydrated beef since it can be hard to find but uses all the same traditional flavors. It can be eaten in so many different ways, so make sure to make extra. You can always freeze it if you don’t finish it. You can even make a version with chicken thighs, like in this Chicken Machaca recipe.

We also love this authentic Beef Birria if you are looking for a Mexican beef dish with spicy, smoky flavors from dried chile peppers.

What is Machaca?

Machaca, sometimes called "carne seca" is a traditional dish from Northern Mexico that is normally made by covering beef (or sometimes pork) with a blend of spices and dried chiles. The beef is pounded thin and dried in the sun until it is fully dehydrated. Once it is dried, the machaca is shredded into very thin pieces using a mortar and pestle. Think of it almost like Mexican beef jerky, but in very thin pieces that are almost fluffy. 

Traditionally, machaca was a way to preserve meat for ranchers and cowboys who didn't have access to refrigeration. It could be eaten dry on the road as jerky, rehydrated with water for tacos and burritos, or folded into eggs to make traditional Sonoran macahado con huevos.

Today with the advent of refrigeration, most people don't need the traditional dried machaca but it is still very popular due to its unique and intense beef flavor.  However, it can be hard to find outside of specialty Mexican markets. 

For that reason, many people also make slow-cooked shredded beef machaca using the same spices and chili peppers originally used to preserve machaca.

 Ingredients to make beef machaca including beef, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chile peppers, and spices.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Beef: Traditionally machaca is made with chuck roast or top sirloin since they are both affordable and easily accessible. You can also use brisket, top round, beef stewing meat, or any other cut of beef that stays tender when cooked low and slow. 
  • Onions, bell peppers, and garlic: To add flavor to the beef, it is best to cook it with aromatics like onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Any onions and peppers can be used.
  • Chile peppers: Machaca should have some spice. This recipe uses serrano peppers, which are pretty spicy. For less spice, swap in jalapeno or poblano peppers. For a smokier flavor, use chipotle peppers in adobo or dried chile peppers like ancho chiles or guajillo chiles. 
  • Beef broth: Since machaca was traditionally dried, it had a really strong, beefy flavor. To mimic that flavor, beef broth is the perfect option. It adds that rich, beef flavor. 
  • Oregano: Mexican oregano is typically used in machaca, but regular oregano can also be used.
  • Worcestershire or Maggi sauce: This adds the extra umami flavor the beef would get from drying in the sun. If you can find Maggi sauce, it will give a more authentic flavor, but Worcestershire sauce also works. 

How to Make Machaca

From traditional dried machaca to easier options using the slow cooker and Instant Pot, we have multiple options for making machaca at home.

Slow Cooker

Start by adding the beef, bell peppers, onions, serrano peppers, garlic, and tomatoes to the slow cooker.

In a small bowl, combine the Maggi sauce, lime juice, beef broth, and oregano. Pour this over the top of the beef and give everything a good stir.  Cook on low for 8 hours or until the beef is fork tender.

Shred the beef using two forks. Let it sit in the sauce for about 30 minutes for it to soak up more flavor. 

Crispy machaca: Drain the beef from the slow cooker and spread it out in a single layer on 1-2 baking sheets. Broil the beef for 4-8 minutes until it gets crispy and dried slightly. 

Instant Pot

Turn the Instant Pot to Saute. Once hot, add a thin layer of oil and sear the beef on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the beef and set aside. 

Add the onions, bell peppers, and serrano peppers to the Instant Pot. Cook for 4-6 minutes until beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. 

Return the beef to the Instant Pot. Add the tomatoes, beef broth, Maggi sauce, lime juice, and oregano. Cook the beef for 60 minutes and then let naturally release. Shred the beef using two forks.

Crispy machaca: Drain the beef from the slow cooker and spread it out in a single layer on 1-2 baking sheets. Broil the beef for 4-8 minutes until it gets crispy and dried slightly. 

Authentic Machaca with a Dehydrator or Oven

If you want to make homemade machaca, here's how to make it. 

Start by freezing the raw beef (chuck roast or brisket) for about one hour until it is hard. This makes it easier to slice.  Slice the beef into the thinnest pieces you can, about 1/8 inch thick is ideal. 

Season the sliced beef with salt, pepper, and any combination of spices you like. Normally I like to add the beef to a bowl with lightly coat it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ancho chile powder, and a touch of oregano. 

Set your oven to 150-160 degrees (or the warm setting). Lay the beef out on 1-2 baking sheets on a wire rack. Make sure the beef slices aren't touching. Bake for 3-4 hours, flipping the beef every 30 minutes until it is dried and has a texture similar to beef jerky. You can also do this in a dehydrator. 

Let the dried beef fully cool. Then you can use a food processor to "chop" it into very thin, almost fluffy pieces. Or slice it into very small pieces and use a mortar and pestle to further break down. 

Slow cooker beef machaca with peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

How to Serve Machaca

There are so many different uses for beef machaca and so many delicious ways to enjoy it. You definitely want to make a double or triple batch, 

  • Machaca and eggs: Saute some onion, tomato, and jalapeno in a skillet. Add the machaca and push everything to the side of the skillet. Add your eggs and scramble. Once they are almost cooked, mix in the machaca and veggies. Serve with corn tortillas. This is seriously so delicious and also makes an amazing breakfast burrito.
  • Machaca tacos: Needless to say, this beef makes some amazing tacos. Warm up some corn tortillas, add the machaca meat, and top with cilantro, diced onion, and avocado.
  • Burritos and burrito bowls: This filling has so much flavor it is a great option to pair with beans, rice, and veggies for machaca burritos or bowls.
  • Quesadillas: This makes a great quesadilla filling, just make sure to drain any extra liquid so that the tortilla doesn't get soggy.
  • Enchiladas: This is the perfect shredded beef filling for enchiladas. I like to make them with red enchilada sauce and melted cheese on top.
  • Baked taquitos: Roll up the beef in some warm corn tortillas. Brush them with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until they are nice and crispy on the outside. 

Tips and Recipe Ideas

Follow these tips and ideas when making this delicious machaca. 

  • Spice level: Most of the spice in the dish comes from the serrano peppers. These can be very spicy but tend to mellow out a bit when they are cooked for a long time. If you are worried about the spice, you can use jalapenos or poblano peppers instead. You could also use canned chipotle peppers if you want to add a smoky flavor.
  • Change the protein: Although traditionally made with beef, this recipe is also really delicious with chicken. I prefer using chicken thighs since they stay nice and tender when cooked but chicken breast would also work as well. And although I haven't tried it, I imagine that pork would work really well too.
  • Maggi sauce: If you can find Maggi sauce, it will give it more of a traditional flavor. Maggi is a seasoning sauce that is used in a lot of Mexican, Latin, and Asian cooking. It's a salty sauce, kind of like soy, but it does contain MSG so depending on your dietary needs you may want to use soy or Worcestershire sauce instead. There are also many versions depending on the country it's intended for. I prefer the Mexican Maggi Jugo if you can find it.
  • Crispy texture: For a more traditional Machaca, add the shredded and drained beef to a hot skillet with some oil after cooking it.  Cook it until it gets browned and crispy, and even a touch dry, Then blend the cooking sauce in a blender to create a salsa to serve on the side.
  • Use different chile peppers: For a smokier Machaca, you can substitute chipotle peppers in adobo for the serrano peppers or use dried ancho chili peppers.

Beef machaca with scrambled eggs served in corn tortillas with cilantro.

Side Dish Ideas

There are so many options for side dishes to serve Machaca. Here are some favorite traditional options and options that think outside the box.

  • Beans and rice: Go traditional and serve the machaca with refried beans and rice. Or make frijoles charros or black beans.
  • Salad: For a lighter option, consider making a Mexican Street Corn Salad or Mexican Chopped Salad.
  • Tortillas and wraps: Although machaca is traditionally served with corn tortillas, you could use lettuce wraps for something lighter.
  • Potatoes: During cooler months, this is pretty delicious with mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, or polenta. 

Storage, Leftovers, and Freezing

Machaca keeps well in the fridge and freezer.

  • Let the machaca fully cool and store in the fridge for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • For authentic dried machaca, store it in an airtight bag. If you live in a dry environment and the meat is fully dehydrated, it can be stored in a cool pantry. Otherwise, store it in the fridge or freezer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about machaca.

Machaca is typically made with beef, usually chuck roast or top sirloin. Rarely machaca is made with cooked pork or chicken. 

Machaca and carne seca are both Mexican dried meats and are extremely similar. Traditionally machaca is marinated, thinly sliced beef that is air-dried in the desert and then shredded into very thin, almost fluffy strips.

On the other hand, carne seca can refer to any type of dried meat, including machaca. Carne seca may be larger pieces of dried beef, like beef jerky, or smaller pieces of dried meat. 

Shredded beef machaca served in a bowl with white rice, avocado, lime, and cilantro.
The Recipe
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Machaca (Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Dehydrated)

320 CAL 4g CARBS 24g FAT 20g PROTEIN 3
COOK TIME: 8 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 8 Hours, 10 Min
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  • 3 lbs. lean beef chuck roast (or round roast)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or Maggi sauce)
  • 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced (or other chile peppers)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, beef broth, and Maggi. Season the beef with salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker. Pour the lime and maggi mixture over the beef.


Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano, and diced tomatoes to the slow cooker. Stir together.


Cook on low in the slow cooker for 8 hours. Then shred the beef using two forks and serve. I usually like to let the shredded beef hang out in all the cooking liquid/sauce for about 30 minutes before serving. Just keep the slow cooker on low.


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Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 320
Calories from Fat 218
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 24g
Saturated Fat 10g
Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 82mg
Sodium 147mg
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 2g
Protein 20g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


For a more traditional, crispy, and dried texture: Drain the beef after cooking and shredding. Chop into very small pieces. Place on 2 baking sheets in a single layer. Broil until the beef gets crispy and slightly dry.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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On Machaca (Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Dehydrated)
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January 24, 2023 - 14:28
Add a Rating:
Making this again for probably the 10th time tonight! Such a simple yet flavorful machaca. I love to add these to burrito sized flour tortillas with rice and cheese then roll them up, spray with non stick spray and oven back to make Machaca chimichangas with no frying!

Also great for tacos, omlettes and my other favorite with this - chiliquilas.
Thank you for the great recipe!
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January 25, 2023 - 10:53
I am so happy to hear you are enjoying this recipe! Love the idea of making Machaca chimichangas - yum!! That's one we haven't tried yet.
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November 2, 2022 - 18:56
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I make mine with pork and I just finished a plate of it with eggs scrambled-- so delicous. I add a step to it though. I drain all the juice out and set it aside. Then I shred the meat and place it all on some big cast iron pans --lay it out thin and very well shredded. then i put it in the oven set at 180-200 degrees for three or so hours. Basically drying it out so it is like the dried meat you described. Take it out when it is dry enough and then add the juice back to it. More like the Carne Seca dishes that you can get down on the border. The taste basically explodes in your mouth.
You have a great recipe the way it is though. I have made it that way many a time
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Sam Bloom
June 6, 2022 - 18:20
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Perfect for rolled beef taquitos. Baked! Definitely would make again. Thank you Kristen!
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Renee Hood
June 23, 2018 - 18:33
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Very tender and tasty! Will definitely fix this one again.
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Debbie Hosaflook
May 30, 2017 - 14:49
This recipe sounds amazing and I would love to make it for this weekend. My sister-in-law is coming to visit and she is on Weight Watchers right now. My brother and my husband are meat and potato guys so I know they will love this dish. Could you tell me what else you serve along with it usually to round out the meal? I see rice in the photo but am not sure my SIL would prefer that unless perhaps I made brown rice instead. I would love any suggestions you have for side dishes etc. Thanks so much!!!Debbie
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November 7, 2018 - 09:15
Great question! I actually love to serve this as tacos with rice and beans on the side. Your sister in law could use low carb tortillas. And most beans are zero points, so that would be a good option for her. You could also use cauliflower rice or make a Mexican inspired salad with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and cilantro.
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