Hilachas (Guatemalan Shredded Beef in Tomato-Tomatillo Sauce)


Hilachas is a popular Guatemalan dish made of cooked and shredded beef that is simmered in a mildly spicy tomatillo-tomato sauce. Pair it with a side of rice and fresh corn tortillas for a full meal.


Hilachas (Guatemalan Shredded Beef in Tomato-Tomatillo Sauce)


Servings 6 to 8



  • 2 pounds beef, flank or skirt steak, cubed
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped tomatillos
  • 2 or 3 Guajillo chiles, warmed over a flame, deseeded and chopped
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 or 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped



Place the beef, water and a big pinch of salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the beef is very tender. Remove the beef to a bowl, reserving the broth, and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the beef with your fingers and set aside.

While the beef is simmering, place the onion, tomatoes, tomatillos and chiles in a food processor or blender and puree, adding a little water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add the onion-tomato puree and simmer until the puree is cooked down and darkens somewhat in color, about 10 minutes. Do not burn.

Add the shredded beef and about 3 cups of the broth to the onion-tomato puree and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, onions and a little more broth or water if necessary. Simmer until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce. Then stir in the chopped cilantro, adjust seasoning and serve hot with corn tortillas or rice.


Hilachas Variations

Use 1 or 2 shredded fresh corn tortillas to thicken the sauce instead of the breadcrumbs if you like. If the sauce has thickened enough while simmering, neither thickener may be necessary.

Add 2 teaspoon achiote seasoning to the onion-tomato puree for added flavor. Bricks of achiote seasoning can be found at many Latin markets.

The potatoes and carrots can be eliminated if you like.

Canned tomatoes and tomatillos work just fine in this recipe.

Two cups of chopped tomatoes can be used if you would like to eliminate the tomatillos.

If you can’t find guajillo chiles, use anchos or pasillas. Or substitute with 1 tablespoon of paprika and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Enjoy this Hilachas (Guatemalan Shredded Beef in Tomato-Tomatillo Sauce)!


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