Indio Viejo Recipe

The name Indio Viejo literary means “old Indian” in Spanish and is a dish that date backs to pre-Columbian Nicaragua. Except for the onion which is a later addition, it only contains ingredients that are native to the region, although my particular recipe below uses beef since that is what most Nicaraguans put in their Indio Viejo nowadays. In the olden days Central American animals were used, but today many of them are endangered and shouldn’t be put on our plates.

The consistency of Indio Viejo is somewhere between stew and thick soup, and the orange and achiote gives it a beautiful color.


  • 2 onions
  • Oil or grease for sautéing
  • 2 lbs of beef, such as flank or skirt steak
  • 4 sour oranges. This is a special type of orange commonly used in Latin America, go to the recipe page for nacatamales for more info.
  • 1 cup masa or ½ cup of masa the harina. For more info about masa and masa de harina, visit the recipe page for nacatamales.
  • 4 medium large tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tea spoon of achiote paste (see below for more info)
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint; preferably one of the so called bushmints from the genus Hyptis but any mint will do
  • Salt to taste

How to make Indio Viejo

  • Dice one of the onions.
  • Squeeze the juice out of 3 oranges and save it.
  • Preheat a saucepan, add some oil and sauté the onion until it’s soft.
  • Add orange juice and meat to the saucepan, and fill up with enough water to cover the meat.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer until the meat is tender. This will normally take around two hours. Add more water if necessary to prevent dry boiling.
  • Remove the meat from the saucepan and leave to cool. Don’t throw away the onion broth!
  • Chop the other onion.
  • Slice tomatoes and peppers.
  • Blend the masa with a few cups of water until there are no lumps. If you use masa the harina you can skip this step.
  • Add onion, tomatoes, peppers, achiote, and masa mixture or masa the harina to the simmering broth. The maize will serve to make the broth really thick. It is important to stir continuously to prevent lumping.
  • Shred the meat using your hands or a fork and add to the saucepan. Traditionally, this dish is always made using long strips of meat.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Finely mince the mint.
  • Just before you are ready to serve, squeeze the juice of the last orange into the stew to spice up the colour and add the minced mint.


Some people like to add some extra fat to the dish to bring out the flavours. You can use virtually any type of fat, e.g. vegetable oil, butter or lard.

What is anchiote?

Achiote (Bixa orellana) is a plant native to tropical parts of the Americas. The name achiote is borrowed from the Nahuatl language where the plant is called achiotl. The seeds and their surrounding pulp are harvested to make a paste or powder for culinary use, and are a main ingredient in the spice mixture commonly sold as recado rojo.

If you can’t find achiote paste, substitute with dried achiote powder or paprika powder.