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Smoked Carne Seca: Mexican Jerky. Snack Away!

carne seca mexican jerky

Simple, bold jerky you can cook with

Smoked carne seca is probably not a type of food you’ve heard of, but hopefully you’ll give it a shot at the end of this post. Each bite is packed with flavors of spicy, salty, and savory. Smoking jerky is a constant struggle to keep up with, as we’re crushing through bags of it. This smoked carne seca is my interpretation on a classic Mexican jerky you can find down here in Arizona and Sonora.

Carne Seca: Regional jerky recipe

Carne seca is a Mexican dried meat, typically dried in the sun. Don’t forget that it gets up to 120 degrees here! In Tucson there are a few restaurants that prepare it, you can see the meat hanging high in the air contained within nets. They will hang the meat for 3-4 days depending to fully dry it out. There are a lot of variations on spices and styles of preparing it. I learned this version from a family that lives in Brownsville, TX.

Check out this quick video from a famous Tucson restaurant for their version – very different than what I’ll share – but this gives you an idea of the process: Extra Serving: Carne Seca.

carne seca prep

Quick Recipe for Success

Don’t worry – my recipe won’t take you 5 days as mentioned in the video.  This takes about 3 hours max, and it’s packed with flavor.  You’ll have a few pounds of jerky that can also double as a second delicious recipe… machaca. You can definitely use a dehydrator or an oven for my version of carne seca, but it won’t have the same depth of flavor.

The machaca, which I will share a few recipes to use this with, is a shredded version of the carne seca.  It’s ground very fine with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) but you can also use a food processor if you need.  The machaca is a super star ingredient, typically sprinkled in to a cooked salsa, eggs, or beans, and mixed thoroughly as a filling for burritos.  Smoking the carne seca ensures that you have a great bbq smoke flavor throughout whatever you use the machaca in.  You’ll be disappointed – it runs out incredibly fast.

smoked carne seca

Which beef for jerky?

I like to use eye of round for this jerky.  You don’t want much fat in general when you’re making jerky, and a 2-3 pound piece of beef is generally a perfect amount for the average person to cook.  I’ve seen it used with brisket flat as well, which has a nice pull-apart feel, but most people don’t want to sacrifice a brisket for jerky due to the higher cost.  If you do choose to use brisket, or any other fattier meat, make sure that you trim as much excess fat as possible.

Best options, least amount of fat and easy to slice:

  • Eye of Round
  • Top Round
  • Brisket (flat, lean)

The recipe below calls for guajillo chile.  You literally only will need 1 chile for the entire recipe.  Guajillo is a long, dried red chile that generally had a medium heat and fruitiness to it.  I feel it’s one of the most versatile since it can be spicy & sweet.  If you have access to different dried chiles that’s fine, try it.

After you make this recipe, try making a Machaca Breakfast Burrito next using the carne seca!

carne seca machaca
Ground for making machaca
machaca breakfast burrito
Burrito time!
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carne seca mexican jerky

Smoked Carne Seca: Mexican Jerky

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Smoked carne seca is my interpretation on a classic Mexican jerky you can find down here in Arizona and Sonora. It’s spicy and salty with a touch of lime and chile. You might need to make double!

  • Total Time: 160 minutes
  • Yield: 810 1x


  • 2 lbs well-trimmed eye of round roast, sliced 1/8 to 1/4″ thick against the grain
  • 1 dried guajillo chile
  • 1 ½ tbsp fine sea salt
  • 1 lime, halved


  1. Toast the dried chile in a hot skillet for about 30-40 seconds on each side to lightly toast it. Remove it from the pan and allow it to cool to room temp. Remove the stalk and seeds, and break it into manageable pieces. Place into a spice grinder and pulverize into powder. Mix this chile powder with the salt well and set aside.
  2. Place the meat in a large container with a lid. Season the meat liberally on both sides with the spice mix. Squeeze both halves of the lime all over the meat, and mix well to make sure everything is coated. Place the lid on the container and allow the meat to marinade in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the smoker to a low temperature, aim for 160-180˚F. Arrange the meat on racks or mats, making sure that the meat has space between each slice. Smoke the meat for 2 hours and check them, until they are pliable and firm. Some pieces will be ready sooner than others.
  4. Allow meat to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a paper bag and store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks.


You might have to take off pieces earlier than others. After the 2 hour mark, you better go check the pieces and move them around as needed. Just make sure you don’t overcook! They should still have a little bend to them, not shatter.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 150 minutes
  • Category: Beef
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Snacks
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