How to Cook Thin Sliced Beef for Carne Picada: A Step-by-Step Guide

Carne picada is a versatile Mexican beef dish made with thinly sliced or shredded beef. The thin slices allow the beef to cook quickly while absorbing tons of flavor. Carne picada can be used to make tacos, burritos, tostadas, nachos, salads, and more. If you’ve never cooked with carne picada before, this step-by-step guide will teach you everything you need to know.

What is Carne Picada?

Carne picada literally translates to “minced meat” in Spanish. It refers to beef that has been sliced into thin pieces, somewhere between a ground beef consistency and thin steak strips. The slices are usually cut from flavorful roasts like chuck or round.

Carne picada offers several advantages over cooking with ground beef or stew meat:

  • The thin slices cook faster than chunks of stew meat.
  • There’s more surface area for seasonings to adhere to compared to ground beef.
  • It provides more texture than ground beef.
  • It’s inexpensive and easy to find.

When seasoned well, carne picada becomes wonderfully flavorful taco meat, salad topping, or filler for enchiladas The quick cooking time makes it perfect for weeknight meals.

How to Buy Carne Picada

Look for carne picada at Mexican markets or carnicerias. It may also be labeled as “thin sliced beef” or “beef for carne picada”. The slices should be around 1/8 inch thick.

If you can’t find pre-sliced carne picada, buy a chuck roast or round roast and ask your butcher to slice it thinly for you. You can also partially freeze the roast to make it easier to slice thin pieces at home.

Aim for 1-2 pounds of raw meat to make 4-6 servings Carne picada is relatively inexpensive, usually $5-8 per pound

Ingredients for Carne Picada Recipes

Carne picada recipes only require a few simple ingredients beyond the beef itself:

  • Aromatics like garlic, onions, jalapeño peppers
  • Spices and herbs such as cumin, oregano, chili powder
  • Acid from tomatoes, lime juice, vinegar
  • Fat like vegetable oil or lard for cooking

That’s it! By adding layers of flavor with aromatics, spices, and acid, you can turn the plain beef slices into something special.

How to Prepare Carne Picada

Follow these simple steps for foolproof carne picada every time

1. Make a Spice Rub

Create a flavorful spice rub to coat the raw beef. This builds a flavor base before cooking.

Good spice rub combinations include:

  • Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt
  • Ancho chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, oregano, salt
  • Chile-lime seasoning, garlic powder, cumin, salt

Rub the spice mix all over the beef slices and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

2. Cook Aromatics

Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook aromatic ingredients like chopped onions, garlic, and jalapeño until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Brown the Beef

Raise the heat to medium-high. Working in batches if needed, add the marinated beef in an even layer and cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes to brown.

Stir and continue cooking until the beef is browned on all sides, another 2-4 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

4. Simmer the Beef

Return the beef to the skillet along with any accumulated juices. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, or other liquid ingredients like broth or water.

Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5-15 minutes so the flavors meld.

5. Finish and Serve

Check seasoning and add salt/pepper as needed. Serve the carne picada in tortillas, over salad, with rice, or however you like!

Tips for the Best Carne Picada

  • Use a heavy skillet or Dutch oven to prevent burning. Cast iron works great.
  • Pat the beef dry before cooking to maximize browning.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan when browning. Cook in batches for even cooking.
  • Let the meat rest after browning. This helps it stay juicy.
  • Simmer low and slow once the tomatoes are added to prevent scorching.
  • Garnish with cilantro, lime, onions, queso fresco for extra flavor.

Carne Picada Recipe

This easy carne picada recipe uses chili powder, cumin, and oregano to make zesty Mexican taco meat. Serve in tacos, burritos, nachos, and more!


  • 2 lbs thinly sliced beef for carne picada
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained


  1. Combine chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt. Rub spice mix all over the raw beef. Let marinate 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeño and cook 5 minutes.
  3. Raise heat to medium-high. Working in batches, add beef and cook 3-4 minutes per side until browned. Remove from skillet.
  4. Return beef and juices to skillet. Stir in tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
  5. Serve carne picada in tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

What cut of beef is best for carne picada?

Chuck roast or round roast work well since they are flavorful and inexpensive. Have your butcher slice them 1/8 inch thick.

Can I use pre-ground beef instead?

You can, but the texture will be different. Cook ground beef in a similar way but be careful not to overcook or it will dry out.

What if my carne picada slices seem too thick?

Pound them with a meat mallet to make them thinner. Or partially freeze the beef to make slicing easier.

Why does my carne picada burn so easily?

Be sure to pat the beef dry so it browns properly. Use a heavy pan and don’t overcrowd it. Cook over medium heat instead of high.

How long does carne picada last in the fridge?

Store raw carne picada for 1-2 days. Cooked carne picada lasts 3-4 days refrigerated. Freeze for longer storage.

More Delicious Ways to Use Carne Picada

Carne picada is endlessly versatile. Try it in any of these delicious recipes:

  • Carne Picada Tacos – The classic! Serve in soft corn or flour tortillas.

  • Carne Picada Nachos – Pile high with all your favorite nacho toppings.

  • Carne Picada Burrito Bowls – Make burrito bowls with rice, beans, cheese, salsa, and more.

  • Carne Picada Salad – Toss with lettuce, peppers, onion, avocado, and a lime vinaigrette.

  • Carne Picada Enchiladas – Stuff tortillas with carne picada and cheese, then smother in enchilada sauce.

  • Carne Picada Tostadas – Load crispy tostada shells with refried beans, carne picada, lettuce, cheese, crema.

  • Carne Picada Fajitas – Make quick beef fajitas by cooking carne picada with bell peppers and onions.


With its quick cooking time and tons of flavor, carne picada is a great choice for flavorful, budget-friendly meals. Follow this guide for tips on buying, preparing, and cooking carne picada. A simple spice rub and simmer with tomatoes is all you need for delicious tacos, nachos, enchiladas, and more. The possibilities are endless with this versatile sliced beef.


Leave a Comment