Olluco con Carne

Savor the traditional flavors of the Peruvian Andes with this Olluco con Carne recipe (best translation is tubers with beef). This hearty dish features olluco, beef, onions, garlic, Peruvian peppers and spices. A delicious meal in 30 to 40 minutes!

A cast iron skillet with Olluco con Carne, copper spoon, and cloth napkin.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – What is Olluco?

Many Peruvian tubers, including oka and olluco, on a wood table at MIL in Maras, Peru.
Peru has over 4,000 varieties of potatoes and tubers. These are just a small representation on display at MIL Restaurant!

Olluco, also known as “Ulluco” or “Ullucus tuberosus,” is a tuberous root vegetable that is native to the Andean region of South America, particularly Peru and Bolivia. It belongs to the same botanical family as the potato. Olluco comes in many colors, including yellow, pink, red, and purple, and it is characterized by its knobby shape and thin, waxy skin. Olluco is similar in appearance to a small potato but has a unique texture and flavor.

Peru has over 4,000 varieties of potatoes/tubers. In 2019, we had the pleasure of having a tasting menu meal at one of the world’s best restaurants – Virgilio Martinez’ MIL. The image on the right is just a few of the many varieties that are harvested in the adjoining community garden.

A traditional Quechua Pachamanca feast in the village of Huilloc, Cuzco, Peru.

Our very first experience with olluco was at a Pachamanca feast – a traditional Quechua celebratory pit-cooked meal – on our first studies abroad trip to Peru in 2017. Pachamanca is a traditional Peruvian cooking method and dish that dates back to pre-Columbian times. The word “Pachamanca” comes from the Quechua language, where “Pacha” means earth and “manca” means pot or cooking pit. Essentially, Pachamanca involves cooking food underground using hot stones as a heat source. Our university students got to harvest the olluca for the feast (along with other vegetables).

Olluco has a slightly crunchy texture when cooked and a mildly sweet flavor, often likened to that of a radish or a turnip. It is a versatile ingredient used in a variety of traditional dishes in Andean cuisine, such as soups, stews, and stir-fries. Olluco is also valued for its nutritional content, as it is a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and certain vitamins and minerals.

My version of Olluco con Carne starts out as a stir-fry like saltado, but finishes more like a stew. The moisture content in olluco is quite high, resulting in a stew consistency.

📋 Ingredients Notes

Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.

Ingredients for olluco con carne: Olluco, onion, beef, spices, and Peruvian peppers.
  • olluco – Fresh olluco is not currently available outside of its native regions in South America (to my knowledge). I find Goya frozen olluco is a good substitute, and is always in stock at our Latin foods market. The texture is not crisp like fresh olluco. You can substitute other root vegetables (i.e. potatoes or sweet potatoes).
  • beef – You’ll want a tender, boneless cut of beef. I like NY strip steak. Opt for cuts of beef that are tender and suitable for quick cooking, such as sirloin, flank steak, or tenderloin. These cuts are ideal for stir-frying because they cook quickly and remain tender. NOTE: Overcooking these cuts will make them tough.
  • red onion
  • ají panca paste – There is no substitute. It’s smoky heat is perfect with beef. You can find it at Latin markets or order ají panca paste online.
  • garlic
  • ground cumin
  • oregano – I prefer leaves rather than ground oregano. I sometimes use fresh oregano from my garden, but dried oregano leaves are fine. Mexican oregano will also work.
  • ají amarillo – I’m guessing you won’t find fresh ají amarillo peppers outside of Peru. If you can find ají amarillo peppers in a jar, or frozen, they’re a fine substitute. If you can’t you can substitute ají amarillo paste. I would suggest 1 tablespoon as it’s not typically very hot. If you’re uncertain, start with half that. Alternatively, you can use a Fresno, jalapeño, or serrano pepper as a substitute for the fresh pepper. The ají panca paste is a more important ingredient in this recipe.

🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1 - Thin-sliced beef is stir-fried in a cast iron skillet.
  • Stir-fry the beef – Add oil to a heavy skillet over high heat. When the skillet is very hot, add the thin-sliced beef. Stir-fry until you see some caramelized edges. Remove and set aside. NOTE: You don’t need to completely cook the beef as it will be added back into the olluco. Over-cooked beef becomes tough.
Step 2 - Onions are stir-fried until the start to soften.
  • Sauté the onions – Reduce heat slightly, then add chopped onion. Sauté until they begin to soften. NOTE: Add a drizzle of oil if the skillet is dry.
Step 3 - Garlic, cumin, oregano, and ají panca are added to the cast iron skillet.
  • Add the garlic, ground cumin, oregano, and ají panca paste to the skillet, and cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes). NOTE: If using ají amarillo paste instead of peppers, add it here as well.
Step 4 - Olluco and ají amarillo are added to the skillet.
  • Finish the dish – Add the olluco and thin-sliced peppers to the skillet. Cook until the olluco is tender. Add beef broth to the skillet if the mixture is dry. It will depend on the amount of moisture in your olluco. I add about 1/4 cup to finish. Lastly, add the cooked beef back into the skillet. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to combine the flavors.
  • Serve – We like simple Peruvian rice and a sweet potato chunk alongside. You can serve it with Peruvian potatoes or cilantro rice if you prefer. Peruvians typically have white rice and boiled potatoes. I’m not a fan of boiled vegetables. I peel and roast potatoes and sweet potatoes.
A cast iron dish with olluco con carne, Peruvian rice, and roasted sweet potatoes.
Serving suggestion: Olluco con Carne with Peruvian rice and roasted sweet potatoes. Dress it up
with a lime wedge and chopped cilantro.

❓ FAQ

What cut of beef is best for olluco con carne?

Since this recipe is essentially a quick-cooking stir-fry, choose what you usually use for stir-fry dishes. You’ll want a tender cut of beef like sirloin, tenderloin, flank steak, etc. NOTE: If you use flank steak, you need to cook it really hot and quick. It gets tough if it’s over-cooked.

💭 Tips

  • Chill the beef. For easier slicing, place the beef in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm it up slightly. This makes it easier to slice thinly and evenly.
  • Slice against the grain. Once the beef is chilled, place it on a cutting board and locate the direction of the grain (the lines of muscle fibers running through the meat). Using a sharp knife, slice the beef thinly against the grain, perpendicular to the muscle fibers. Cutting against the grain shortens the muscle fibers, resulting in more tender pieces of meat.

Unfortunately, some of my Peruvian recipes include ingredients that may be difficult (if not impossible) to find. I am available via comment box below, or at tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com. If you have questions, I am happy to help and/or offer suggestions. I am hopeful that eventually we will have access to some of the Peruvian fresh produce that we cannot currently get!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A cast iron skillet with olluco con carne, cloth napkin, copper spoon, and cilantro.

Olluco con Carne

Olluco tubers stir-fried with tender beef, Peruvian peppers, onions, and spices is a flavorful, quick, healthy weeknight Peruvian main dish!
5 from 1 vote

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Peruvian
Servings 2 servings
Calories 385 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces beef - sliced thin
  • 1 small onion - finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ají panca paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
  • 1 ají amarillo pepper - sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 pound olluco - julienned
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • lime wedges and chopped cilantro - to garnish

Instructions

  • Add oil to a heavy skillet over high heat. Add the thin-sliced beef, and stir-fry until you see some caramelized edges. Remove and set aside.
  • Reduce heat slightly, then add chopped onion. Sauté until they begin to soften, then add garlic, ground cumin, oregano, and ají panca paste. Sauté until fragrant.
  • Add the olluco and thin-sliced peppers (ají amarillo or other) to the skillet. Cook until the olluco is tender.
  • Add the beef back to the skillet. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with a squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro if desired.

Notes

Macronutrients are only a “ballpark figure” due to variations in ingredients, and do not include side dishes.

Nutrition

Calories: 385kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 19g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

🍛What to Serve with Olluco con Carne

A black stoneware bowl of roasted Peruvian potatoes, huancaina sauce, ají verde, and print napkin.

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The Peruvian style rice feature image in an oval cast iron skillet with grey napkin.

Simple Peruvian Rice

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A black stoneware bowl on a wood cutting board with healthy Peruvian sarsa salad and sliced avocado.

Healthy Peruvian Sarsa Salad

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