A Tex-Mex Feast of Shredded Beef and Melted Cheese
Sabana de res is a delicious Tex-Mex dish featuring layers of tender shredded beef, melted cheese, fresh avocado and more between crisp corn tortillas. This flavorful casserole is simple to assemble but looks impressive served up at dinner parties or potlucks.
With bold southwestern flavors and textures, sabana de res makes for a satisfying meal any night of the week. Unlike some casserole dishes which can become boring, sabana de res has something new in each bite thanks to the variety of ingredients. The key is starting with ultra-tender shredded beef brisket or chuck roast which literally melts in your mouth.
Ooey-gooey Oaxaca cheese binds everything together, while cool and creamy slices of avocado contrast the warm beef and other fillings. Salty refried beans and fresh diced tomatoes lend their own flavors to the layered tortilla stacks. Feel free to customize your sabana de res with extras like shredded lettuce, pickled jalapeños, cilantro and more.
While the end result looks fancy, putting together sabana de res is easier than you think. This step-by-step guide will walk you through making flavorful shredded beef, assembling the tortilla stacks, storage tips and how to modify the recipe to your tastes. Read on to learn all about whipping up this incredible south-of-the-border casserole at home. ¡Buen provecho!
Shop Smart: Gathering the Sabana De Res Ingredients
Before cooking up this amazing dish, you’ll need to stock up on a few key ingredients at the grocery store. Having the right components ready to go will make the assembly process smoother. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to make sabana de res:
Chuck roast or beef brisket are the best cuts to use for sabana de res as they become succulently tender when braised then shredded. Look for a 2-3 pound chuck roast and trim off any excess fat before cooking. Other steak options like round or sirloin can also be shredded but may end up a bit drier.
Oaxaca, also called quesillo, is the quintessential Mexican melting cheese perfect for sabana de res. This stringy cheese becomes beautifully gooey when baked between the tortilla layers. If you can’t find Oaxaca, mozzarella or even Monterrey Jack make fine substitutes. Whatever cheese you use should be finely grated for even melting and coverage.
Buttery Hass avocados are preferred for their rich flavor and creamy texture when ripe. Look for avocados that yield slightly when squeezed but aren’t mushy. The smooth green flesh beautifully complements the beef and cheese when sliced or diced.
For fresh flavor and texture contrast, diced tomatoes are layered into the sabana de res. Look for firm but ripe Roma or vine tomatoes. Canned diced work too but will result in more liquid released during cooking.
Traditional sabana de res calls for refried pinto beans spread between the layers. Canned refried beans are an easy shortcut but you can also quickly make your own by mashing cooked pinto beans with oil.
You’ll need a package of 6 or 8-inch corn tortillas which form the base of the dish. Look for thin, pliable yellow corn tortillas rather than thicker chips. Soft corn tortillas can be folded or rolled around the fillings.
Seasonings and Extras
Basic seasonings like garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper are used to flavor the beef. Cilantro, salsa, crema and shredded lettuce make tasty garnishes after baking.
With all the ingredients assembled, it’s time to start cooking! We’ll begin with the star of the show – flavorful, fall apart tender shredded beef.
Cooking Tender Shredded Beef 3 Ways
To nail this dish you need ultra-tender shredded beef as the base. There are a few methods for turning a beef chuck roast into perfect shred-worthy bite-size pieces.
Slow cooking and braising are ideal techniques for breaking down the collagen in tougher beef cuts until fork tender. Here are 3 different ways to cook up beef ready for shredding and sabana making.
Slow Cooker Shredded Beef
Set it and forget it! Let your slow cooker or crockpot do the work of gently braising the beef for 6-8 hours until tender.
- Trim fat from a 2-3 lb chuck roast
- Place roast in slow cooker and add 1 cup broth or water
- Season with chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours until falling apart tender
- Remove roast and shred beef using two forks
Instant Pot Shredded Beef
Speed up the braising process in a multicooker like the Instant Pot. The pressurized environment tenderizes the beef in under an hour.
- Cut 2-3 lb chuck roast into large chunks
- Place in Instant Pot or multicooker
- Add 1 cup broth and seasonings
- Pressure cook for 45-60 minutes until very tender
- Use natural release then shred beef
Oven Braised Shredded Beef
You can also braise the beef right in the oven with a quick sear followed by low steady cooking.
- Heat oil in pan and brown roast on all sides
- Transfer to Dutch oven or oven safe pot
- Add 1 cup broth and seasonings
- Cover and braise at 300°F for 2-3 hours
- Remove roast and shred
Once cooked, use two forks to pull the beef into shreds, or for quicker shredding drop it in a stand mixer on low speed with the paddle attachment.
Now that the flavorful shredded beef is ready, it’s time to assemble the sabana de res!
Assembling Sabana De Res Tortilla Stacks
Constructing the sabana de res “lasagna” is simple once you have all the key ingredients prepared. There are a few different ways you can stack up the tortillas depending on how neat or rustic you want the final result to look.
Order of Layers
In general, you’ll want to layer the ingredients in the following order, but feel free to customize:
- Corn tortilla
- Shredded beef
- Refried beans
- Oaxaca cheese
- Avocado slices
- Diced tomato
Keep layering additional tortillas and fillings until you’ve used everything up, ending with cheese on top.
For a tidy presentation:
- Place all fillings just slightly off center of tortilla
- Fold sides of tortilla over fillings
- Fold over ends to make a rectangular packet
Arrange packets in rows or overlapping in a baking dish.
For a more rustic homemade look:
- Place fillings across lower third of each tortilla
- Tightly roll up tortilla around fillings
- Arrange rolled tortillas seam side down in dish
Once assembled, sabana de res bakes up beautifully:
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- Cover dish loosely with foil and bake 30 minutes
- Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more to lightly brown cheese
- Let rest 5 minutes before serving
The cheese will become perfectly melted and ooey-gooey binding everything together. Now let’s dig into this amazing southwestern beef and cheese casserole!
Sensational Serving Suggestions
Fresh out of the oven, sabana de res makes a gorgeous centerpiece for dinner accompanied by traditional sides and garnishes. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Rice and beans
- Salad or roasted vegetables
- Guacamole and chips
- Salsa, crema and cilantro for topping
- Lime wedges for squeezing over
For a more casual meal, sabana de res is also delicious wrapped up burrito style in flour tortillas or served taco style in crunchy shells.
Leftover slices can even be enjoyed the next day served on top of nachos or a salad for a Tex-Mex protein boost. No matter how you serve it up, sabana de res always satisfies!
Storage and Reheating
One of the bonuses of sabana de res is that it yields multiple meals! Here are some tips for storing and reheating your leftovers:
- Allow baked sabana de res to cool completely before storing
- Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 4 days
- Slice portions as needed for quick reheating
- Reheat wrapped servings in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes
- Can also reheat individual slices in the microwave
For longer term storage, this dish also freezes well:
- Let cooled sabana de res freeze in container overnight
- Transfer to freezer bags and store frozen up to 3 months
- Thaw overnight in fridge before reheating
With some simple storage steps, you can enjoy this incredible dish all week long!
Customizing Your Own Sabana De Res
The great thing about sabana de res is how customizable it is to your personal preferences. Swap out fillings, vessels and seasoning to make it your own. Here are some easy ways to put a unique spin on this classic:
- Shredded chicken or pork instead of beef
- Chorizo, shredded chipotle chicken or spiced meats
- Extra veggies like sautéed peppers, spinach or onions
- Hot sauce or enchilada sauce for spicy kick
- Flour tortillas instead of corn
- Tostadas or crispy shells for crunch
- Lettuce wraps or taco salad bowls
- Fajita or taco seasoning on beef
- Cilantro, cumin, chili powder etc. to taste
- Lime juice and zest for tangy flavor
The possibilities are endless for crafting your own perfect sabana de res creation.
Have more questions about making this amazing Tex-Mex dish? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What’s the best cut of beef to use for shredding?
Chuck roast or brisket work best as they become succulently tender when braised. Other economical roasts like round or sirloin can also be shredded but may end up drier.
Is Oaxaca cheese required or can I sub something else?
While Oaxaca is traditional, mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, Colby or cheddar will also melt beautifully between the layers. Just be sure to grate any cheese you use.
How can I speed up the cooking time for the beef?
Using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot cuts down the hands-off braising time to under an hour versus 8+ hours for slow cooking. Just adjust seasonings as Instant Pot flavor can be more concentrated.
Can I prep and assemble sabana de res ahead of time?
Yes! You can cook the beef, shred it, then assemble the entire casserole a day ahead. Refrigerate overnight which allows flavors to meld, then bake just before serving.
What’s the best way to reheat leftover slices?
Reheating in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes crisps the tortillas best without drying out. You can also zap individual slices in the microwave for quick meals.
Now you’re ready to tackle this amazing shredded beef and melted cheese casserole at home. From prepping the key ingredients to assembling the tortilla stacks, this guide covers all the steps for sabana de res success. Adjust the fillings and garnishes to your taste then enjoy this southwestern feast any night of the week. ¡Buen provecho!