Mexican Spanish style beef and vegetable stew: Chambarete español

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Karen Hursh Graber

Although classified under “soups,” Chambarete español is really a stew, served as a main course. A reflection of the European heritage of Aguascalientes, it is similar to the Spanish caldo gallego, which is also meat-based and loaded with vegetables such as garbanzos, cabbage and carrots. What makes this version typically Mexican is the addition of xoconostles, the sour nopal cactus fruit. Nopales are abundant in the region, and both the sweet tuna and the sourxoconostle are fruits of this plant. It is important to use bone-in beef shanks, since the marrow (called tuétano in Mexico) gives the broth a deep, rich flavor.

This recipe is adapted from CONACULTA’s Cocina Familiar en el Estado de Aguascalientes. Xoconostles, a key ingredient in mole de olla, are available year round in Mexico and, according to Diana Kennedy’s My Mexican Kitchen, they are increasingly available in the United States. The vegetables vary from household to household, but beans and cabbage are always included.


    • 2 ½ pounds crosscut, bone-in beef shanks (called chambarete or oso buco in Mexico)
    • ½ medium white onion, coarsely chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
    • 2 bay leaves
    • ½ pound garbanzos, soaked overnight and drained
    • salt to taste
    • ½ pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • ½ pound carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
    • ½ pound cabbage, shredded cabbage
    • ½ pound zucchini, cut into cubes
    • xoconostles (sour tuna fruit, sometimes called tuna agria) peeled and cubed
    • 1 ½ cups cooked rice
    • salt to taste

Place the meat, onion, garlic, bay leaves and beans in a large stockpot with water to cover and salt to taste. Cover and cook until the meat and beans are tender.

Add the potatoes and carrots and cook until they are just fork tender.

Add the cabbage, zucchini and xoconostle and cook until tender. Stir in the cooked rice. Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve in soup bowls, accompanied by fresh bolillos (French-style bread). Serves 6.

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Published or Updated on: April 1, 2008 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2008
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