Trinchado ~ Spicy South African Beef

Trinchado, a spicy South African braised beef dish, is brimming with flavor from onions, red chile peppers, garlic, beef stock, red wine, and olives. Serve with lot of bread and French fries.

A bowl of trinchado, or chunks of spicy South African braised beef, served with french fries and Portuguese rolls--papos secos

Some people request recipes, others demand them, but those who wrote me about trinchado pined for it. Many of them had recently been to South Africa on vacation and wanted to recapture the taste of this spicy beef dish.

As is common with peasant food, the origin of such a dish is hard to verify. It’s believed it’s popular in South Africa because of the Portuguese immigration from nearby Angola and Mozambique. The dish is traditionally served with a heap of chips, a.k.a. French fries. (I wonder if this was a holdover from colonial days?) The Portuguese serve trinchado with chips at their own cafés (small delicatessens) throughout the country. I still have my doubts whether this is a British influence, but it’s delicious either way.

Trinchado is meant to be spicy. But be extremely careful when preparing the hot peppers: Wear rubber gloves if you have sensitive skin and don’t touch your face or eyes. When finished, wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water.–David Leite

Trinchado | Spicy South African Beef

  • Quick Glance
  • (8)
  • 45 M
  • 3 H, 20 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 8 reviews
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Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter and oil. Once the butter is melted and sizzling, add the beef cubes in 4 or 5 batches and brown well on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan or rush this step; this is what gives the dish its flavor. Remove the cubes with a slotted spoon to a warm plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium, add the onions, chile peppers and their seeds, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until the flour’s fully cooked, about 2 minutes.

Tester tip: If you’re worried about the flour clumping, you can load the 2 tablespoons of flour into a mesh strainer and gently dust over the veggies instead of just dumping it in.

Pour in the stock and red wine (or brandy). Stir until the sauce thickens a bit, about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaf, olives, browned beef cubes and any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Check every 15 minutes or so until the meat is very tender. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, scoop the trinchado into a large bowl and top with fries, or serve them on the side. Have lots of bread on hand for dunking.

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Recipe Testers' Tips

This was delicious! I will be honest, there were a couple of points I was worried that I had messed the recipe up, but it turned out well. Right after I added the wine and up until 45 min into stewing, the pot smelt solely of wine, and I was worried that I had ruined the dish, but ultimately it worked well.
The dish was spicy, and it could have been the peppers I used, but I would use 2 next time if I did it again. The fries did help dilute the spice, but it was slightly overpowering. The prep was pretty minimal and other than checking/stirring, it was a pretty hands-off meal. It’s something that could be left on the stove for hours, and I imagine it’d only get better. The fries went delicious with it, and I would recommend serving it this like this!

This dish was absolutely delicious.  We really enjoyed the flavour and dipping french fries and buns while we ate. My dish ended up having more sauce than the picture indicated but that was fine with us, more to dip our fries and buns into.

The heat was just right and the olives are a must!  I didn't realize that my olives still had pits so it was a little bit of a pain to eat (my bad) so next time I will make sure there aren't any pits and I might add a few more olives as the salt from them really balanced out this dish.



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  1. As someone who is a big fan of South African cooking, I say thanks heaps for this gem. I always want to keep trying new recipes, and I had some beef steaks thawing in the sink. Perfectionism is something I strive for with every meal that I cook, and this was right up my alley. My housemate always likes South African food himself, and the first bite had him saying “bookmark this one”.

    Also, when it comes to fries – c’mon! Everybody knows it is a universal law that French fries go well with everything. I didn’t have any on me, nor did I think to Uber some in the meantime. Nevertheless, you can bet your house and the one next to it that I will be making this sucker again.

    And it was because of wanting to find a South African dish that uses beef that I came across this website. All worth it.

    1. Thanks Mikey! We’re so glad you found us and that you enjoyed the Trinchado so much. Can’t wait to hear what you try next.

    1. Ricky, actually, trinchado is a South African dish, but it has very strong Portuguese influences from Portuguese sailors and nearby Angola and Mozambique, former Portuguese colonies.

  2. David, this was absolutely wonderful. Omitted the chiles and used a teaspoon of hot, spicy curry powder instead. Deglazing with Old Brown Sherry is a good substitute for brandy. Thank you for a great experience.

      1. Patricia, there are a gazillion versions of the recipe. And don’t forget, the Portuguese were the kings of the spice trade and brought all types of spices to Portugal from around the world!

  3. This is a great dish. Begin with beef, garlic, and red wine–and it’s hard to go wrong. I use beef shank or chuck, which I think are superior stew meats. The olives are what put this dish over the top. I like mixing up the oil-cured olives with some brined or marinated kalamatas, which I add at the end to retain their piquant flavor. I serve this with a nice crusty bread, but french fries would be great, too. I don’t know how recent an introduction it is, but every Portuguese restaurant I’ve been to (in Massachussetts and the Azores) serves some type of fried potato (usually the round-sliced type) with Portuguese steaks and pork stews, both of which always have a garlicky gravy that demands to be soaked up and consumed.

  4. I am a South African living in Mozambique for the past five years. I saw this recipe and knew that it was the one; I have been looking for ages. We have the best pão (bread)…the recipe for it I have yet to find. We still use potatoes, so the dish will be a winner. Thank you!

  5. David,

    I was thrilled to find your trinchado recipe for braised beef, as I have had it at many Portuguese/South African/Mozambique eateries. Your featured recipe gets four forks from me. However, I tried a few variations and would like to share these with you.

    Firstly, on the stock. I believe it is important to go beyond the canned stock because the stock is where you can add a lot more flavour. I use:

    1.5kg of veal trimmings, chopped
    100ml of oil
    I medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
    I garlic glove, peeled and crushed
    100g mushrooms, wiped and chopped
    I tablespoon tomato purée
    6 black peppercorns, crushed
    I bay leaf
    I sprig of thyme
    900ml water
    10g arrowroot, diluted in water

    Heat the oil until smoking, in a roasting pan, then brown the veal trimmings for 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms, and cook for another 5 minutes. Cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes 450°F. Spoon out excess fat. Add purée, peppercorns, bay leaf, and thyme and stir. Deglaze pan with 200ml of water, scraping all the bits from the bottom. Whisk the arrowroot and water into the stock and bring to the boil. Cool, then refrigerate and freeze. This is a lot of work, but you can keep the stock frozen and use it often.

    I also used whisky instead of brandy in your recipe, and this was great. Also you can have the meal with the Mozambique favourite tipple — Catembe. This is rough red wine topped with Coke. Wonderful stuff. Cheers. Chris Day, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Chris Day

  6. Trinchado, as we know it via one of the best restaurants for Portuguese food, is liberally loaded with garlic — at least a whole bulb, not just four cloves. The gravy is part of the dish, because Portuguese rolls are traditionally served with it. Chips are the diner’s option, but they are not the customary side order for trinchado. In Mozambique in the ’50s, you couldn’t get anything, not even fried eggs for breakfast, that wasn’t liberally flavoured with garlic. Peri-peri [spelled piri-piri in Portugal] was the other ubiquitous flavour, and I hope you can get this particular brand Maçarico, it is outstanding stuff and will probably outsell Tabasco! It is made from chiles with outstanding flavour, and it’s not so hot that it will take the lining out of your hat!

  7. I will definitely make it again! I would add more garlic next time, though. For bread, I used a very fresh French loaf. Worked out great!

  8. I remember something very similar to this in the early ’70s when on holiday in Mozambique — Beira in particular. The dish was served as a free “snack” at most bars in the area when you ordered your first drink. Generally speaking, it was almost like a ladle of stock from the kitchen’s trimmings pot that was spiced up a bit, thickened, and served with a crusty (yesterday’s) roll, which you broke up and dunked as you drank. Being from the stock pot, it was never the same. For example, in a seafood restaurant, you would get the odd crab or lobster leg, prawn or fish tail; from a steak house, it would be closer to what you have in your trinchado recipe, with the meat trimmings forming the base.

    As for the South African connection, my theory is Portuguese-style cooking became popular here several years ago. As Patrick Fish so rightly says, we have many immigrants from Mozambique and Angola now living here, and it stands to reason that some have started Portuguese-style restaurants. With many South Africans having visited Mozambique, I’m sure many remember this dish as well as I do, and have requested it at local Portuguese restaurants.

    Anyway, a few friends and I have been making this type of dish for many years to serve at parties with drinks before the main meal. I’ve made it with chicken necks, gizzards, and livers, but the most popular version is beef. I use chuck, brisket, or whatever is cheap at the time, and cut it into small 1/4- 1/2-inch cubes, discarding the fat and sinew but retaining the bones to add body to the sauce. I also use more onions and garlic than your recipe suggests, as well as the addition of finely diced green peppers and, occasionally, potatoes cut into small cubes for bulk. As I use the tougher cuts, I use a bit more wine or sherry to soften the meat. The sauce must be coating thickness to cling to the bread roll, and the consistency is adjusted with corn flour before serving. Everything else appears almost exactly the same as in your rendition, with the exception of the olives — I’ll try that next time.

    Having said that, I do agree that the French fries are not authentic, although they were popular in the holiday resorts of Mozambique that foreigners frequented, and are still readily available today in the few remaining places worth visiting. I therefore concur that French fries are most likely a colonial/tourist-requested addition.

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