Caçoila ~ Portuguese Stewed Beef

Caçoila, or Portuguese stewed beef, is a comforting braise of beef, red peppers, and aromatics, cooked very slowly in a red wine, tomato, and butter sauce.

A cast iron skillet with cacoila--or chucks of Portuguese stewed beef, bay leaf, and a fork

I hesitate to share this Portuguese stewed beef recipe because there are countless versions of caçoila [traditionally ka-soy-la although some folks say ka-sir-la]. They vary in the type of meat (some versions call for pork butt rather than an inexpensive cut of beef that needs to be slowly braised) and means of serving it, whether in a bowl or on a sandwich. So I’m fearful someone will take umbrage. But I couldn’t not share it.

The dish is named for a caçoila, a large clay pot in which this dish is often made. Traditionally the pot is soaked overnight. The next morning the ingredients are added, then the pot is covered and placed in a very slow oven [250°F (120°C)]  until the meat is tender. This is a stovetop version that my recipe testers quite literally devoured. This particular beef recipe comes from a friend on the island of São Miguel, a far neighbor of Pico in the Azorean archipelago. Originally published May 10, 2001.David Leite

*How To Make Your Own Crushed Red Peppers

And now, a word from the author on creating your own crushed red peppers. “Crushed red peppers are exactly that: red peppers that have been ground. Once processed, some Portuguese families, like mine, brine them, others prefer to add olive oil and salt to preserve them. If you can’t find bottled crushed red peppers, you can make your own: Remove the stems, but not the seeds, from 2 or 3 large medium-hot red peppers. Place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of salt. Whir until blended.” There you have it.

Caçoila | Portuguese Stewed Beef

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 4 H
  • Serves 8
5/5 - 5 reviews
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Ingredients

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  • One (4 1/2-pound) chuck roast, cut into 2- to 3-inch (5- to 8-cm) chunks
  • 1/2 cup crushed red peppers* (see LC Note above) or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large onion, cut into slices
  • 1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or lard (1 1/2 oz)
  • 2 cups hearty red table wine
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • For serving
  • Boiled white potatoes (optional)
  • Roasted red peppers (optional)
  • Cooked greens (optional)

Directions

  • 1. The day before cooking, in a large bowl, coat the beef with the crushed red pepper, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  • 2. About 4 hours before you intend to sit down at the table, scatter the onion slices, parsley, garlic, and bay leaves in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Tuck the allspice and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth tied together with kitchen twine or in a tea ball and toss them in the Dutch oven. Place the beef on top and dot with the butter or lard. In a measuring glass or bowl, stir together the wine, tomato paste, and cinnamon and pour it over the beef.
  • 3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the meat is very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours, turning the pieces occasionally. For a more concentrated, glaze-like reduction of the sauce, about halfway through cooking, remove the lid to let the liquid concentrate in consistency and flavor. Or, for a more stew-like version, keep the lid on for the duration of cooking.
  • 4. Remove the bay leaves and the cheesecloth pouch or teaball. If desired, serve the caçoila with boiled white potatoes, roasted red peppers, and cooked greens.

Portuguese Stewed Pork

  • You can use the same amount of pork butt cooked in the same manner.

Recipe Testers Reviews

I made this caçoila recipe in the crock pot and with pork in place of beef. It was a big hit! All that was left after the feeding frenzy were 2 bay leaves at the bottom of the pot.

I did have to double the recipe as I was cooking for a crowd. I trimmed the pork of any visible fat and cut it into 2-inch cubes. I didn't have enough hot peppers to double the recipe, so I used half sweet red peppers and half hot peppers. I followed the recipe as written, except for keeping the red wine to only 2 cups. I made the pork and pepper mixture the day before and let it marinate for about 12 hours. It all cooked in an 8 1/2-quart crock pot for about 8 hours. I skimmed any fat from the top and served this with the Olive Oil Potatoes.

I found that the mixture of sweet and hot peppers made for a very flavorful pork that was not overpowering with heat but with just a slight bite. I would do this again in a smaller slow cooker but decrease the wine to only 1 cup.

I cannot believe this caçoila was the very first recipe from the Azores that I’ve made. But after trying this, I will venture into other ones. Do you enjoy your food spicy and filled with taste? Then this dish is perfect for you.

My husband, our new Thai daughter (exchange student), and my teen all loved it. It was a tad too spicy for my toddler, who usually likes a little heat. The final taste with the tomato paste, wine, and garlic was just absolutely perfect and tasted wonderful. It’s easily enough for 8 people and can perhaps even be stretched to serve 10. We served it with white rice, which was a perfect combination. Extremely easy to prepare, but you must enjoy spicy food. The next day, I decided to warm up the caçoila again, but I served it as an appetizer with toothpicks and bread and our guests also enjoyed it quite a bit.

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! My Portuguese grandmother never made caçoila and I was anxious to try it! The recipe is to die for! I’ve made it now with beef and pork. The beef is my favorite! The flavor is rich and addictive. The recipe is simple and straight forward. It will be a staple recipe in my home forever.

  2. If you’re looking for an authentic Portuguese dish that is full of flavor and easy to make— look no further! This caçoila recipe is the real deal! I grew up in a town known as “Little Portugal” and when I moved to Atlanta, I immediately missed the cultural traditions and meals. David Leite’s recipes allow me to enjoy these Portuguese meals again, and share my traditions with family and friends. Sharing delicious meals like this with loved ones is good for my soul. Thank you, David, for this recipe and ALL of your delicious recipes. You’re my go-to for all things (food!) Portuguese. Cheers!

    1. Kristy, I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe. Many people use pork (shoulder) to make this, as you did, but the very same recipe works wonders with beef chuck. If you ever want a Portuguese recipe, you know where to come!! Obrigado, David.

      1. I’m marinating another 4 lbs now for a small gathering tomorrow, but using beef chuck this time. Can’t wait to share these flavors with some who have never had it! Thanks again!

  3. I make this once a month in the Crock-Pot. Thank you, David, for another easy to execute Portuguese favorite. I never learned to cook as a young person, but your recipes bring the food and flavors of my childhood back into my kitchen!!!

    1. José, yes indeed, some recipes do. This version is from a friend who is a native and lifelong resident of San Miguel, and this is the way her family has made it for years.

  4. Pico is in the central group of the Azores islands, while Sao Miguel is to the south east, neighbouring Santa Maria. Pico’s neighbours are Faial and Sao Jorge. Lovely recipe. Tastes like home. Thank you for posting it.

    1. Al, thanks for the more specific geography of the Azores. I was speaking generally, but I think this helps folks. My family is from São Miguel, which I’ve visited many times. I’ve yet to go to Pico. It’s on my list.

      1. Do visit the central group on your next trip to beautiful Sao Miguel. Each island has its own little cultural variations which are fascinating to observe in person. All the best to you.

        1. Al, I certainly hope to. There is such a charm and rugged beauty to the islands I’ve seen (São Miguel, Terceira, and São Jorge). I’m sure the rest are just as beautiful. Thanks.

        2. Al, I was just perusing these comments again. Since I last wrote, I had the distinct pleasure to teach aboard a National Geographic expedition through the Azores and visited the central islands. They are a national treasure. So beautiful.

          1. That’s amazing David. I would love to see pictures from The National Geographic Expedition through the Azores. Did you take any video? Pictures? The one above is beautiful, but I want more! Would love to hear about this lovely adventure.

            Do you feel Another memoir should be coming on!

            1. Thanks, Lorna. Alas, no other memoir coming. I have nothing else to say! The trip was wonderful. The Lindblad crew was fantastic. After I taught my classes, I just relaxed. It was a much-needed vacation.

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