Which Filipino tomato-based stews are which? (2024)

At any Filipino birthday, baptism or Christmas party, tomato-based meat stews in chafing dishes will undoubtedly make an appearance. These well-loved red stews I speak of are called kaldereta, menudo, mechado, afritada and pochero.

These one-pot dishes are popular in Filipino cuisine, but I have to be totally transparent and admit to this almost-blasphemous, uncomfortable secret: I have a hard time telling them apart. Even after I've been told which one is which, I have a tendency to forget.

They all look similar and they all go well with rice, but each dish has something that makes it unique. So for those who harbour the same secret I do, or who want to make sure they're identifying the stews correctly at their next Filipino party, here is what makes each dish special.


Rooted in the Spanish word 'caldera', meaning 'cauldron', this stew is made of beef, chicken, pork or goat meat and vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, bell peppers and green olives.


Which Filipino tomato-based stews are which? (1)

Lamb kaldareta

Kaldereta with goat meat signifies a special occasion since this meat isn't as common as chicken, pork or beef. Since this type of meat is rather gamy, it is first marinated in salt, pepper and vinegar for an hour before cooking.

The thick, tomato-based sauce is spicy and savoury because of the chilli peppers and liver spread. Some people even garnish the stew with cheese to deepen its umami flavour.


Menudo in Spanish means 'small' because each ingredient is cut into small pieces.

Pork and pork liver are the standard proteins of the stew.

The vegetables and other ingredients include potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, green peas and raisins. Menudo can also have Filipino hotdogs, chickpeasand quail eggs.

The raisins give the stew a whisper of sweetness to it compared to the kaldereta's, which is spicier.


Mechado derives its name from the Spanish word 'mechar', which means lard.

The traditional way to make mechado is to place pork fat in the middle of the beef, then roll and sear it. After this, cook the beef in a tomato-based sauce.

The beef is also marinated with soy sauce and an acid, such as calamansi or vinegar, for tang.

Over the years, some cooks have done away with the beef rolling for easier and quicker cooking.

This dish doesn't have too many vegetables, with carrots and potatoes being the two typical ones.


Afritada usually consists of chicken, although you may choose to use another meat such as pork.

The name of this dish is rooted in the Spanish word 'fritada', meaning 'fry'. The first step is to fry the meat alongside vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, bell peppers and green peas.

After frying, add these ingredients to a simple tomato sauce mixed with garlic and onions.

Which Filipino tomato-based stews are which? (2)

Chicken afritada. Source: Alan Benson


Pochero (or puchero) means stew pot and its ingredients are very similar to the other stews. It can be made of beef, chicken or pork. The dish can contain vegetables and legumes such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and chickpeas.

You can also add other greens to the mix such as string beans and bok choy.

However, pochero is distinguished from the other Filipino tomato-based stews with saba (plantain) bananas and chorizo.

The bananas give the dish a fruity sweetness while the chorizo gives it a smoky, salty punch.

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Which Filipino tomato-based stews are which? (2024)


What is the famous stew in the Philippines? ›

Adobo. Widely regarded as the national dish of the Philippines, adobo is a stew of meat simmered with soya sauce, vinegar, black peppercorns and bay leaves.

What is the difference between caldereta vs menudo vs afritada vs mechado? ›


Each dish uses a different choice of meat: Afritada features chicken, Menudo uses pork with chopped hotdogs, and both Kaldereta and Mechado use beef or goat meat. However, Mechado is recognized by its thicker sauce, while Kaldereta incorporates liver spread into the recipe.

What is the difference between beef mechado and beef afritada? ›

Afritada —derived from the Spanish word 'fritada' meaning to fry — features chicken in pure tomato sauce, and embellished by carrots, potatoes and bell pepper. Mechado meanwhile has either pork or beef in tomato sauce, plus vinegar, soy sauce, carrots and potatoes.

Is it afritada or afritada? ›

Afritada is a Philippine dish consisting of chicken, beef, or pork braised in tomato sauce with carrots, potatoes, and red and green bell peppers. It is served on white rice and is a common Filipino meal. It can also be cooked with seafood.

What are the four great stews? ›

The Four Great Stews refers to a very large number of stews, including chicken, duck, seafood, beef, and mutton. Tianjin also has several famous snack items. Goubuli (狗不理包子) is a classic steamed stuffed bun (baozi) that is well-known throughout China.

Is caldereta Filipino or Spanish? ›

Caldereta is a Filipino meat stew influenced by Spanish flavours. Its name comes from the Spanish word caldera, meaning cauldron. It is a classic Filipino stew of beef simmered in tomato sauce with lots of potatoes, carrots, capsic*ms and olives.

What is the difference between Kare Kare and caldereta? ›

Like kare kare, kaldereta is a stew of sorts and always served with white rice. But where kare kare is traditionally made with oxtail, kaldereta is usually made with beef or goat. And here's the interesting, nutty twist: In Cebu and Mindanao, peanut butter is also added to the sauce for an extra kick of flavor.

What is similar to kaldereta? ›

Kaldereta, menudo, mechado, afritada and pochero are all visually similar. Can you tell which is which? At any Filipino birthday, baptism or Christmas party, tomato-based meat stews in chafing dishes will undoubtedly make an appearance.

What cut of beef is used in Caldereta? ›

The best beef parts for caldereta include chuck, sirloin, and short ribs. They're tough, lean cuts with a bit of fat and lots of connective tissues. These work well for stewing because the proteins in their tissues turn into gelatin that makes the beef tender.

What is kenchi beef? ›

Beef kenchi is the boneless variety of bulalo or beef shank taken from either the front or back of the knee joints. This dark meat is not fatty and has a burst of flavor.

Is beef kenchi tender? ›

Kenchi is tough and lean at first sight. Stew or braise the cut, however, and you'll get tender meat for sumptuous soup or stew.

Is it Caldereta or Kaldereta? ›

Kaldereta's also known as Caldereta name is derived from the Spanish word caldera meaning cauldron. This dish is one of those dishes that was brought to the Philippines during the Spanish colonisation.

Where did Caldereta originated in the Philippines? ›

Caldereta's name was derived from the Spanish word caldera meaning cauldron. The dish is similar to meat stews from the Iberian Peninsula and was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards during their 333-year occupation of the Philippines.

Is 555 afritada ready to eat? ›


What is the best soup in the world Philippines? ›

According to the Taste Atlas Awards, the international food database, the Filipino favorite, Sinigang, is hailed as the best soup in the world.

What is Philippines national soup? ›

Sinigang is a traditional Filipino dish that is known for its sour and savory taste. It's a hearty soup made by cooking meat or seafood in a tamarind-based broth with vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and eggplant.

What is the national dish in the Philippines? ›

The unofficial national dish of the Philippines, adobo is a vinegary, garlicky, addictive dish that's worth celebrating every day.

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