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Costillas – The Tender Tasty Mexican Short Ribs [with Recipe]

Picture yourself strolling through the bustling streets of Mexico City, where every neighborhood offers a unique blend of flavors, aromas, and cultural experiences. Amidst the lively street food scene, one dish stands out, showcasing the art of slow-cooking and the skillful use of spices: Costillas.

In this article, I invite you to explore the world of Mexican Costillas, a time-honored dish that has delighted countless generations. Whether it’s tender pork, juicy beef, or flavorful lamb, Costillas are a remarkable culinary creation, brought to life through a combination of marination, slow-roasting, and careful grilling. Dressed in a luscious mole sauce or paired with a tangy salsa verde, each bite of Costillas offers a delightful journey into the depths of Mexican cuisine.

As we delve into the history, regional variations, and cultural significance of this classic Mexican dish, ie will also reveal the techniques and tips that make for perfect Costillas. Along the way, i’ll uncover the stories that connect this dish to the rich culinary heritage of Mexico. Get ready to immerse yourself in the world of Costillas and discover the flavors that have made it an enduring favorite.



Costillas De Res

Costillas de Res is a Spanish phrase that translates to beef short ribs in English. This is a popular traditional dish across the northwestern side of Mexico. In the butcher’s language, beef short ribs are specific chunks. The cuts come from the end parts of the ribs that you find near the breastbone of an animal.

When buying, you will notice that they are narrow and shorter compared to the traditional ribs. These cuts do not make for good steak because the meat from the short ribs is not as tender as that of a steak. On the upside, the meat packs more flavor.

Speaking of flavors, the flavor of the short ribs tends to lie between that of rib cuts and the chuck. The beefy flavor coupled with the rich marbling makes them excellent comfort food. You can cut the ribs in two ways. The English-style cuts, divide the ribs into small pieces, each containing one bone; the cuts are made parallel to the bones.

In the “flanken” barbecue style, the cuts are made across the ribs, dividing them into strips with each having three bones and the meat tucked between ribs. The flanken cuts are popular with this recipe because they keep the meat juicy and flavorful. If you do not like bones in your dish, you can opt for boneless short ribs.

Short ribs require extended cooking time to break down the connective tissues in the meat and make it tender. They are quite versatile, meaning you can prepare them in various ways. You can grill, braise, or pressure-cook them. Sous vide is another great way of cooking short ribs. The ribs are cooked until the meat is easy to pull apart with a fork or starts to fall off the bones.



Costillas Mexicanas

There are various types of costillas depending on the meat and the type of salsa used to prepare the dish in Mexico, let’s discover them.


Costillas de Puerco Al Horno

This refers to pork ribs prepared by roasting in an oven. You can prepare this in any sauce of your liking. You first season the ribs with your preferred seasoning and then marinate in the sauce for some hours. Cook the marinated pork ribs until tender.


Costillas de cerdo con papas

Costillas de cerdo con papas translates to pork ribs and potatoes. This is another simple and easy pork rib dish for everyday meals. A serving of this finger-licking dish contains juicy pork ribs, potatoes and vegetables (onion and tomatoes, sometimes zucchini). Pickled jalapeños are added to heat up the dish. Other spices that flavor this dish include bay leaves, garlic, and pepper.


Costillas de cerdo

Costillas de cerdo is another meaty, sticky, smoky and delicious rib dish made from pork ribs. Like other costillas, the pork ribs are seasoned and marinated before cooking until tender. Unlike costillas de cerdo con, this dish is prepared with no tomatoes.


Costillas en Adobo

These are short ribs cooked in adobo sauce. Adobo sauce is typically prepared with dried Mexican chilies, tomato, onion, vinegar, garlic, and spices. The sauce is rubbed over the ribs and left for a few hours or overnight. The ribs are then cooked until tender.


Costillas en Salsa Verde

This refers to costillas cooked in a spicy tomatillo sauce. The tomatillo sauce is prepared using tomatillos and jalapeños. These are boiled in water until soft before draining the water. These are then transferred to a food processor and blended alongside cilantro, garlic and sugar.


Costillas Recipe

This recipe will guide you to prepare the costillas de res by braising. We will also prepare Salsa macha, the perfect condiment for costillas de res.



For the Marinade

  • Cilantro
  • Garlic clove
  • Onion
  • Serrano peppers
  • Tomatillos


For the costillas

  • Beef short ribs
  • Garlic salt
  • vegetable oil


For the salsa macha

  • 8 dried ancho chilies – stems and seeds removed
  • 2 dried chilies de arbol – stems and seeds removed
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups grape seed oil
  • 4 dried morita chilies, seeds and stems removed
  • 2/3 cups roasted peanuts
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar will also do)

The salsa macha is the perfect condiment for all your Mexican dishes. It’s made with crispy bits of toasted chili peppers, sesame seeds, garlic, and peanuts in oil. If you love spicy foods, you will definitely fall in love with the salsa macha. While it does not pack that much heat, the macha compensates for this with it rich savory flavor, perfect for all dishes. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to match your preferred taste – try different seeds or nuts, various types of chilies. Salsa mach is easy to prepare and stores quite well.



For the Marinade

  1. Preheat your oven to 260degrees Celsius (500F).
  2. Line baking sheet with foil.
  3. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them to get rid of any sticky residue. Dry the tomatillos with paper towel. Wash and dry the serrano peppers.
  4. Place the clean serrano peppers and tomatillos on the baking sheet. Put them in the oven and roast for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the baking sheet and transfer the baked tomatillos, serrano peppers, and leaked juices into a blender.
  6. Now add onion, cilantro, chicken bouillon garlic and water into the blender.
  7. Blend until smooth and set the salsa aside. You will use this to marinate the ribs.


For the Salsa Macha

  1. Add the oil into a sizeable skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the ancho chilies, morita chilies, and chili de arbol into the skilled and turn reduce the heat low.  Fry the chilies while stirring until they are puffed all over. This should take around 8 minutes. Transfer the fried chilies using a slotted spoon into a bowl.
  2. Add the garlic to the skilled and cook over low heat. Stir continuously for about 4 minutes or until toasted, dry and the cloves develop a golden brown color. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the garlic into the bowl containing the chilies.
  3. Add the sesame seeds and peanuts into the oil and fry until they develop a very light gold color. This should take around 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar and vinegar. Allow the vinegar around a minute for it to completely evaporate before you turn off the heat.
  5. Add the garlic and chilies back to the skillet and stir well to combine. Let the mixture cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.
  6. Transfer the cooled mixture into a food processor. Blend the mixture until the chilies and nuts are finely chopped. Careful not to blend until the mixture develops into a paste.
  7. Season with salt to taste.
  8. Use immediately. You can keep the salsa in airtight jars for up to a month under refrigeration. This recipe will yield 3 cups of salsa macha.


For the ribs

  1. Score the beef ribs by cutting them at quarter inch intervals one way and the other way across like you are marking them with the hash (#) symbol.
  2. Season the beef ribs generously with the garlic salt and pepper. Ensure the coating is even on all sides of the ribs.
  3. Heat up the oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
  4. Once the oil is sufficiently hot, add about half of the ribs. Sear for 3 minutes, flip them and cook the other side for three more minutes. You want the meat to develop a deeply caramelized surface.
  5. Transfer the cooked ribs to a plate and then add the rest of the beef ribs to the skillet. Sear each side for three minutes before transferring to the bowl.
  6. Now add the salsa to the skillet, stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the cooked ribs back to the skillet.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet. Cook for 1½ hours.
  9. Once ready, let the ribs cool a bit before serving.
  10. Divide the ribs among serving plates and garnish with a sizzling of salsa macha.



How To Season Costillas

When shopping for tomatillos for your salsa, got for the ones that are firm, with husks that cling tightly to the tomatillo fruit. These will have the most juice and are hardly mealy inside. Smaller tomatillos are typically more flavorful than large ones.

You can marinate the ribs for a few hours in the salsa before searing them in oil. This allows the marinade flavors to infuse deep into the meat.

Salsa macha is not traditionally a hot and spicy salsa. If you love hot salsa, you feel free to increase the heat by using hotter pepper or spicy chili flakes. The amount of heat will vary with the type of peppers you include in the ingredients.
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