Shredded Beef Salad Tostadas (Salpicon de Res Tostadas)

This make ahead shredded beef salad called salpicon de res is perfect to serve on tostadas for a cool meal on a hot day.

When the weather heats up, I crave lighter, easy to put together food. Today we're making beef salpicon (salpicon de res) salad and we're serving it on freshly made tostadas. Don't worry though, if you're not up for making fresh tortillas to bake off and toast, you can buy commercial tostadas to make it even easier or you can toast some corn tortillas you already have on had.

This dish can be made with leftover roast beef but today, I'm showing you how to make it with a cut labeled carne para deshebrar that I picked up at my local little Walmart Neighborhood store that is chalk full of cuts specifically for Mexican cooking of all sorts. Carne para deshebrar means beef for shredding. If you shop at regular butcher shops, you're going to look for flank steak.

What is salpicon?

Salpicon is a Mexican salad based on the English salad, salmagundi. Salmagundi dates back to the 17th century and is a composed salad made from leftover meats, roasted vegetables, seafood, cheese, leaves, fruit and nuts drizzled with a dressing of oil, vinegar and spices. The two main differences is that the Mexican version tends to use fresh, raw vegetables over roasted ones and it's not composed but rather tossed together and often served atop tostadas.

What kind of meat can I use for salpicon?

Any leftover meat will work or you can make meat specifically for this dish. Try this dish with any of the following meats shredded or chopped:

  • beef (leftover roast, chopped steak)
  • shredded chicken (make it easy on yourself and use the rest of the rotisserie chicken sitting in your fridge)
  • leftover roast turkey
  • canned tuna
  • shrimp

What kind of vegetables go into a salpicon salad?

Here are some typical additions:
  • radish
  • pickled onions
  • tomato
  • shredded carrots
  • lettuce
  • shredded cabbage
  • avocado
  • olives
  • nopales (cooked cactus)
Though roasted veg isn't traditional, feel free to add. 

Now that you have the background. Let's get cooking:

Add the meat, half a white onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, a couple whole cloves, and a piece of Mexican cinnamon to a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with water by two inches. Bring water to a boil, skimming off and discarding any foam that forms. Reduce heat to maintain a light simmer, cover and cook for 1½ hours – it's about low and slow here so don't be tempted to rush it.

The punch of flavor in this dish is a simplified version of Mexican quick pickled red onions called cebollas morada en escabeche. Thinly slice a small red onion across the grain. Spread them in a shallow plate or bowl. Add lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Then just let them hangout covered in the fridge while the meat is cooking.

If you're feeling ambitious, you can make fresh tortillas then bake them off to make your own homemade tostadas like I did. You can use my recipe for these delicious homemade blue corn tortillas from a post earlier this summer. If not, bake tortillas you already have on hand or buy some commercially made tostadas. Most big name grocery stores carry some.

Once the meat is tender enough to easily pull apart with a fork, take it off the heat and let it cool in the broth–this is the secret to keeping the meat from drying out.

After about 30 minutes or so, when the meat is easier to handle, shred it and set aside.

To make the dressing, we're using some coarse sea salt, coarse black pepper, whole Mexican oregano, some lemon juice, cider vinegar and extra virgin organic California olive oil.

Normally, lettuce is used in this salad but I find that with any leftovers you're stuck with soggy lettuce so I prefer the heartiness of cabbage. Another typical ingredient is plenty of sliced radish.

The finishing touch is a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro (use parsley if you've an aversion to parsley). This salad is most often served on tostadas but you can make it even easier on yourself and serve it straight out of a bowl and use chips to dig into the salad or you can serve it in warm corn tortillas.

Salpicon de Res Tostadas (Beef Salad Tostadas)

Serves 6 


To cook the meat:
1 pound carne para deshebrar (this Mexican cut is actually a flank steak)
coarse sea salt
½ white onion, peeled
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled
2 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
3 whole cloves
2-inch piece Mexican cinnamon (canela, aka ceylon cinnamon)
water to cover

For the pickled onions:
1 small red onion
juice of half a large lemon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon whole Mexican oregano
pinch of sea salt

For the salad:
1 cup sliced radishes (2-3 large radish)
1 cup shredded cabbage
¼ cup chopped cilantro, tender stems included

Optional additions: 
1 large tomato, diced
½ cup peeled and diced jicama
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded then diced

For the salad dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup organic extra virgin olive oil (preferably California grown)
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper, or to taste
1½ teaspoon whole Mexican oregano, crushed between the palms of your hands

To serve:
12 tostadas
sliced avocado


Generously season all sides of the meat with salt then place in a 5-quart dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon to the pot. Add water to cover by 2-inches. Bring to a boil, skimming and discarding any foam that forms. After about 10 minutes, lower heat to just a simmer and cook for 1½ hours or until the meat is fork tender. Add additional boiling water if the water level gets below the meat. Once tender, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pickle the onions by adding them to a bowl and cover with the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Mix in the sugar; crush the oregano between the palms of your hands over the bowl and stir to incorporate. Add a pinch of salt, stir, cover with cling-wrap and place in refrigerator to marinate until ready to assemble the salad.

Also while the meat is cooking, prepare all the vegetables, slicing, dicing, chopping and set them aside covered in refrigerator until ready to use.

Once the meat has cooked and cooled in its broth, remove it to a work surface and either with your fingers or two forks, shred the meat. Transfer the meat to a large bowl, add the pickled onions and their marinade, add the prepared vegetables and the cilantro; toss to combine. Strain and refrigerate or freeze the broth for another use (makes a great base for soup or to cook grains in).

Make the salad dressing by adding the ingredients to a jar and giving it a good shake. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Taste the salad, adding salt to taste if needed. Chill salad in the refrigerator for an hour or up to one day ahead before serving. Serve on tostadas, garnishing them with avocado and extra fresh cilantro.

Until next time, friends, stay cool and … ¡Buen Provecho!
xo, ani