Want an easy student dinner? Try this slow-cooked Mexican beef

When we asked Simple Home Edit’s Nicole Maguire for a time-saving study night recipe, she was happy to oblige. This versatile dish only requires 15 minutes of prep—then you can just set and forget. 

Slow cooked Mexican beef garnished with rice, coriander, jalapenos, lime, avocado and salsa
Nicole Maguire's slow-cooked fall-apart Mexican beef can be made with an affordable cut of meat and some pantry staples. Image: Supplied.  

Nicole Maguire knows what it’s like to be a busy student under pressure. When the founder of the popular Simple Home Edit website was studying, she never had much time for cooking. She would often simply “glam up a packet of noodles with soy sauce, sesame oil and fresh ginger”.

Since graduating from her business management degree majoring in hospitality, she’s mastered the art of preparing meals ahead of time to save money while “eating the foods I want to be eating”. 

Nicole taught herself to cook using the recipes on the back of pasta packets and jars. She says, “Simple recipes with minimal ingredients are best” for beginners.

“Ground pork or beef and chicken thigh fillets are forgiving proteins to work with as they are difficult to overcook,” she says. “I also recommend anyone new to cooking learn how to handle a knife safely. It's important to use a stable cutting surface and keep fingers tucked away!”

Nicole understands the demands of studying and working, especially when on a budget. She recommends planning ahead as much as you can.


Nicole Maguire smiling in front of a grey backdrop
Nicole knows what it's like to be short for time as a student, and recommends this as the perfect make-ahead recipe. Image: Supplied.  


“Planning what you are eating and when will eliminate impulse purchases, reduce waste (you'll only be buying what you need) and remove the pressure of wondering what to cook. Check your fridge, freezer and pantry before grocery shopping and plan meals based on what you already have at home. Keep a list of staples as they run out (to avoid duplicate purchases), and don't head to the shops without a shopping list.”

She also recommends buying good quality, locally sourced extra virgin olive oil that can be used in a wide range of cooking methods and recipes. 

Her slow-cooked, fall-apart Mexican beef recipe perfectly fits these criteria. It’s versatile, can be frozen in portions, and uses the most affordable cuts, which become melt-in-the-mouth tender with slow cooking.  

The prep for this recipe is simple and uses common pantry ingredients that you’ll use again and again, so they won’t be wasted. Slow cooking ahead of time (pop it on the stove when you’re writing an essay or revising for an exam perhaps?) means you’ll have weeknight dinners ready to go in minutes when you’re pressed for time.

Nicole likes this recipe because it’s easy to adapt to different uses and tastes. “The fall-apart beef in rich, flavour-packed tomato sauce can be served with just about anything—stuffed in burritos or crunchy tacos, piled on corn chips or, my favourite, loaded onto Mexican red rice.”

Slow-cooked fall-apart Mexican beef

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Serves: 6–8


  • 1.5 kg chuck steak, gravy beef or oyster blade steak (any beef suitable for slow cooking, no need to dice)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 400 g can crushed tomatoes
  • 500 ml (2 cups) beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of 1 lime


  1. Place the beef in a bowl. Add the cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and olive oil, and use your hands to coat the meat evenly. 
  2. Heat a large, deep frying pan over medium heat and cook the beef in batches for 3–6 minutes until browned. Use 3 tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan as needed (if it starts getting sticky). Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. 
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the same pan and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir it through before adding the crushed tomatoes, beef stock, sugar and lime juice. Return the beef to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. 
  4. Cook, covered, for 2 hours. Uncover and cook for another hour or until the beef can easily be shredded with two forks. If it can’t be shredded easily and is still tough, continue cooking in 30-minute intervals. Add 125 ml (1/2 cup) water if the sauce begins to thicken and catch on the base of the pan. 
  5. Remove the beef from the pan, transfer it to a large dish and shred it with two forks.
  6. Increase the heat to medium-high and allow the sauce to continue cooking on the stove to thicken, if desired, for 10–15 minutes. Drizzle the beef with the sauce and serve with your favourite sides.

Serving suggestions

  • 1 x 250 g Mexican-style microwave rice packet
  • coriander, tomato and red onion salsa
  • freshly grated tasty cheese
  • sour cream
  • lime wedges
  • sriracha mayonnaise
  • diced avocado

More ideas

Slow cooker: Follow the recipe until the beef is browned and the onion and garlic are cooked. Add the cooked beef, onion, and garlic to the slow cooker along with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 10 hours or until the beef is falling apart. 

Optional: Remove the beef from the slow cooker and return the sauce to the stovetop to thicken for 15 minutes over high heat. Shred the meat using two forks and return to the sauce.

Leftovers: Refrigerate the cooked beef for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Make ahead: This is the perfect recipe to make ahead of time. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Cook once, eat twice. Repurpose the leftovers and make cheese and rice–filled burritos, tacos or nachos.


For more recipes like this, check out The Simple Dinner Edit: Simplify Your Cooking With 80+ Fast, Low-Cost Dinner Ideas by Nicole Maguire, Macmillan, RRP $39.99 or visit The Simple Home Edit website.


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Want an easy student dinner? Try this slow-cooked Mexican beef

When we asked Simple Home Edit’s Nicole Maguire for a time-saving study night recipe, she was happy to oblige. This versatile dish only requires 15 minutes of prep—then you can just set and forget. 

Help me studyTime and stress management