What is the difference between Afritada, Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta?

Before you go on reading, click here to know what is the difference between Filipino dishes and Spanish dishes

If you are a Filipino and you haven’t asked yourself what the difference is between Mechado, Menudo, Afritada and Kaldereta, you are not eating good enough. If you have a Filipino food blog and you don’t know what the answer to that question, good luck to you too. I have been looking for a kitchen hermit that can answer this for me and I couldn’t find one. Maybe there isn’t one. Well, until I looked at the mirror and realized I really need a new razor and a very gay barber.

So, in order to know what the difference is between these dishes, let’s take a look at the similarities first.

They are classified as Cocidos or Spanish stews. To make the “broth even clearer”, Cocido is a stew of vegetables and meat, either beef,  pork, chicken, goat (or chevre if you wear a tie) or even fish. Mechado, Menudo, Afritada and Kalderata — these Filipino variations of Spanish Cocidos share the same stock that is blessed by the gods of Mexico which is tomato sauce. Any of these stews could be present on the Filipino table depending on the availability of the ingredients in the kitchen. You can be making an Afritada but if you don’t have sausages, that dish can take the direction of Mechado. You can be making Mechado but you decided to chop your meat or use ground meat which in turn classifies as Menudo. A neighbor dropped by and told you they just recently killed their pet chicken, Nancy and they gave you its liver, so you decided to make Kaldereta instead of Menudo. Here take a guess on which is which:

Although every family has its own version of these Cocidos, we’ll try to differentiate them generally. So get on with your gas mask and let’s infiltrate the heavy smoke of confusion in three, two, one, engage:


Generally, Afritada is a chicken stew in tomato sauce with potatoes, carrots and bell pepper. This is the basic of all the Filipino tomato-based stews. It is the gateway to learning. Once you learn how to cook Afritada, you are in for Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta. What makes this recipe so good is that it is so easy to make and the more you let that chicken simmer in your stew base, the more flavors it will give you back.


The traditional Mechado meat has a thick layer of fat slipped in the middle of the meat, hence the term Mechado which means larded in Spanish. Mechado also refers to the Spanish word mecha and the Filipino word mitsa which is the wick of a kerosene-lamp. The fat in the middle of the meat resembles a wick. Am I just repeating myself to get my message across? Your sauce will depend on the fat that you slip through the meat. Usually, we use pork loin fat or bacon fat to boost the flavor of the sauce. The different face of Mechado’s sauce is the Chinese and Malayan kick to it… soy sauce or fish sauce is used to flavor and give its tomato sauce a flying kick. And that is where the genius of  this Filipino dish; fusing Mediterranean and Oriental flavors. For a lazy man’s Mechado, you can get meat that has thick layers of fat in it and not worry about how to slip a cylindrical fat in a huge chunk of meat or roll fat with meat. Beef is the usual meat in Mechado and potatoes and carrots are the usual vegetables.


The meat in Menudo is usually pork – chopped to smaller pieces to the point of being ground or minced meat. Famous variations have pork liver in them, also in small cubes. The vegetables, again, potatoes and carrots are also sliced to small cubes and should be as big as the peas that come with it. Menudo has chickpeas and green peas. That is the one distinct character it has from the rest of the Filipino Cocido collection. Menudo is also much more sweeter than other stews because it has raisins. If you feel like having an explosion of textures in your mouth, this is the stew to make. Silly Filipino students who spend all their allowance on alcohol and other impulse purchases find a friend in Menudo because they can finish 3 cups of rice with just 3 tablespoons of Menudo. I myself wouldn’t have finished my major without Menudo.


To those who still insist on using beef, Kaldereta is strictly goat’s meat. If you use beef, you should call it Baka-reta (seriously, that’s how it is called). Kaldereta unofficially is the Philippines’ national stew. Everyone loves it, everyone makes it, we have it in cans, we can Tuna Kaldereta too and there is a Kaldereta baby food (alright i’m assuming on that one). Put simply, if there is a stew that every Filipino likes it would be Kaldereta. Although most people would prefer to eat Bakareta. The usual vegetables mixed in Kaldereta are potatoes, carrots, green peas and bell peppers (capsicums). What makes Kaldereta different from the four is it has the thickest sauce and its sauce is mixed with another ingredient in order to reach that consistency. Usually we use chicken liver to give body to the sauce but depending on the handover of the recipe from the family ghost to the haunted, the thickener can be flour, cheese, bread crumbs, Sky Flakes (Filipino crackers that are given to the sick and lonely) and even peanut butter.

I hope this post helped you out in clearing the differences between our Filipino stews Afritada, Mechado, Menudo and Kaldereta. If it’s not clear to you yet let me spell it out again.

What is Afritada – Afritada is the basic Filipino tomato based stew. That’s chicken in tomato sauce with potato, carrots and bell pepper.

What is Mechado – Mechado is usually a beef stew cooked with a thick layer of fat in the meat and has soy sauce in its tomato sauce.

What is Menudo – Menudo is usually a pork stew chopped to small pieces as big as the chickpeas, green peas and cubed potatoes and carrots. Its tomato sauce is usually sweet.

What is Kaldereta – Kaldereta is a goat meat stew and has a thick tomato sauce usually mixed with chicken liver, bread crumbs or cheese.

Now as to the spiciness or how hot these dishes can get, it will be again, depending on an individual’s recipe. To put it simply, your dad wants his Kaldereta to be made from the deepest dungeons of hell, while your mom wants hers to be just on the lower end of the Scoville scale so the family can have dinner without dealing with the devil.

If it’s not clear to you yet, watch out for my next post as we go through these dishes in detail one by one.

*Scratching head*

Click this to go to the History of Filipino Food, Spanish Influence

If you want to know how to cook Afritada, click this

If you want to know how to cook Mechado, click this

If you want to know how to cook Menudo, click this

If you want to know how to cook Kaldereta, click this



Author: Ziggy

Ziggy grew up in the "dirty kitchen" of his grandmother. Literally. He would spend his pre-school days watching her cook crazy Filipino food. His love for food set him up in a journey through the kitchens of the Philippines to chef-swearing laden restaurants of Melbourne where he has worked mainly as a dishwasher, stockist, searcher of missing ingredients, deep frier of everything, arranger of antipasti on a supposed to be chopping board, kitchen cart surfer, emergency pastry chef, take-the-pans-we're-on-a-ciggy-break, chefs' cook of take home food, salad scientist and quite a number of mundane everyday things in the kitchen. Are you still reading this? He has quit that 1pm to 3am job now that he has learned to write. thus this site came to existence.

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  1. oh, another thing. You know it would be interesting to compare our versions of spanish-type dishes with those of South America. Menudo in Mexico is not quite the way we make it. And what they call champorado is especially different from ours. The south americans pretty much use all the same names for dishes but make them differently. I know this will require lots of research — but there’s another track for you.

    Thanks again. Wonderful discussing these things.

  2. Out of nowhere it came out to my sister’s idea that she will be cooking menudo for an typical Saturday lunch. Surprisingly, I got interested how it differs from mechado which leads to an argument.To verify one’s point of view, Dr. google pop out your blog and voila!, how informative and interesting we’ve got from you! The vivid clarifications made us appreciate one recipe from the other and lucky to find this! Thank you and more power! Keep it up man!

    now i can’t wait to have our lunch! :) next week, i hope she’ll try kaldereta!

  3. enlightened. great read. now to find some baka-reta

  4. Wow, it’s great to come across this distinction among the 4 dishes. You have answered something that I’ve wondered about recently, indeed, about how these dishes differ. You kinda know they ought to be different, but you can’t put a finger to it. It makes for a better world when you know where one dish ends and another begins, hehe. Thanks for coming up with this.

  5. What about pochero? And callos? They’re also stews that make use of tomato sauce/paste…..

  6. We’re just arguing here of the difference between mechado and afritada. thanks for this!

  7. Since you’re pushing for awareness on Filipino cooking, what sources (books, researches, etc?) made you aware of the distinctions between the dishes you enumerated and the traditions that go, with them? Just wondering, really. You seem so certain in saying Filipino caldereta should be this, and Filipino menudo should be that.

  8. Hmmm, I’m from Bulacan, and I define the above as follows:

    Afritada is chicken. Always chicken. In tomato sauce with potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and green peas. Sauce is moderately thick, only from the starch from the potatoes. Not a fan.

    Menudo is pork. Always pork. And pork liver. The pork is marinated in calamansi before it is cooked. The sauce is liver based, the tomatoes being a desirable component rather than essential. Vegetables include potatoes and carrots. Sausages and raisins are usually thrown in as well. (I personally opt out of the raisins when I make it myself and pick out the raisins when served menudo by someone else).

    Mechado is beef. Sometimes pork. The sauce is intensely tomato-ey and sweeter than the others. Vegetables include potaotoes, carrots, and bell peppers. (I love Mechado the most. I make it using fresh tomatoes and slowcook the shit out of it until no solid trace of the tomatoes is left).

    Kaldereta is goat, if you’re making it as pulutan. Else, either chicken or beef. In Bulacan, the sauce has some tomatoes in it and is thickened using coconut milk and is usually mildly to vey spicy, again depending on what you are making it for. But I realize that this isn’t the case eveywhere. I’ve had some wonderful Kaldereta in Manila with absolutely no trace of gata and have chorizo de bilbao in them. Vegetables include the usual potatoes, carrots, and bell pepperrs.


  10. The Christmas holiday foodfest is still around so it may not be that surprising that I’m posting a comment to a blog 4 years ago. To my palate, the stews all tasted very good, but my mind sought for answers to differentiate them from each other. You nailed it. Thank you.

  11. This is still alive and kicking Abby :) And it will be relaunching very soon :)

  12. Interesting to compare Filipino and Mexican food. So many similarities. But Filipinos don’t seem to favor the beans – refried or otherwise, served in the typical Mexican restaurant. They won’t touch them — the Hominy used in Mexican Posole is used differently in the Phils, and Mexican Menudo is soupier with beef tripe as the meat, as an example.

  13. Great read..
    I’m fr0m Zamboanga City and i grew up with menudo(tiny cubes,p0rk and the veggies-identical to the recipe y0u menti0ned); kaldereta ( kambing and its veggies- s0metimes beef); est0pao (chicken with the same veggies plus) pineapple and raisins) as the main attracti0n in our areas celebrati0ns. When these canned g0ods p0pped in the market i g0t a little c0nfused with the names and the taste. Since then I’ve been asking what’s the diffence between afritada and mechado.
    N0w i kn0w,thanks for the bl0g.


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