Beef Tapa

Beef Tapa

Beef Tapa is a traditional Filipino dish that is similar to beef jerky. Marinated in a mixture of tangy Calamansi juice and soy sauce, the meat is then grilled to perfection. Savour the garlicky taste with a perfect balance of sweet, salty and zesty flavours.

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Preparation 720 mins
Cooking 3 mins

Side, Main


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Nutrition per Serving

378 kcal
6 g
27 g
29 g

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The best beef tapa recipe lays in its marinade. It has a balance of flavours which Filipinos love which is sweet, salty, garlicky and tangy. Described as the Filipino beef jerky, this dish is extremely simple as the cooking instructions only require the meat to be marinated with common ingredients and then grilling them.

Only six ingredients needed
Only six ingredients needed

Traditionally, beef tapa was prepared using the slow method. Curing the meat with sea salt and then allowing it to dry under the sun to preserve the meat. Today, the process is made easier by ensuring the meat is infused with the same flavours without the need to dry them.

In English, the term tapa refers to cured meat of any type. Depending on the selection of meat, it will be called accordingly, for example pork tapa or carabao (water buffalo).

What is Tapsilog?

Beef tapa is commonly served with garlic fried rice or also known as sinangag. The combination together with itlog (egg) is what the locals refer to as Tapsilog, a favourite all-day breakfast meal. Tapsilog is a word based on the abbreviation for tapa, sinangag and itlog. Tapsilog is so loved that Jolibee, Filipino's most popular fast food chain has it on its menu.

As a matter of fact, there is a collection of ‘silog’ type breakfast meals such as tocilog with tocico (sweet cured pork) and bangsilog with bangus (milkfish). Eateries selling these meals are called tapsihan or gotohan. Tapsihan is where they sell tapsi (tapa and sinangag/fried rice) or tapsilog. Tapsihan is the tagalog term and we can call it Tapa house in English.

Gotohan is where they sell goto or beef tripe. Can be called Goto house in english. Goto house doesn‘t necessarily just sell goto and serve a variety of dishes.

Tips to avoid tough beef tapa

The texture of beef can be rather tough if the wrong cut of beef is chosen or if it is cooked with the wrong method. I always recommend using sirloin as it is the most tender and the easiest to cook. If you use other tougher cuts such as bottom round which is located at the rear leg of a cow, add about 1 cup of water to the recipe and simmer the dish until the meat is tender before grilling it with some oil (step 3).

Another important tip is to use thinly sliced beef (ca. 1 cm) for it to be more tender and also to speed up the cooking process. Pounding the beef will also help in softening the texture of the meat.

1 cm beef slices
1 cm beef slices

Substitute for calamansi

Calamansi is a citrus fruit that is commonly found in a Filipino kitchen. Not only does it gives a fantastic flavour, the acid in the fruit will also helps to tenderize the meat. If you are not able to find it, simply use a lemon as a 1:1 substitute.

Taste the marinade

The marinade is very important in this dish. It is best to taste it first before adding the meat. The marinade can be customized to your preference. Add more sugar for sweetness or citrus juice for sourness. For an extra kick of spice, simply add another dash of pepper.

How long to marinate beef tapa?

Since we are forgoing the slow meat curing process, I do suggest spending a little longer time to marinate the meat in a food container with the lid on. It should take at least 4 hours or overnight for the best results. This guarantees a beautiful infusion of tanginess and sweetness to crave for when thinking about tapa.

Beef marinating
Beef marinating

The beef can be kept marinated in the refrigerator for up to a week. Any longer period will cause the meat to turn mushy as the acid breaks down the protein fibers.

Beef tapa dipping sauce and sides

The special sauce used is a vinegar based dipping sauce which has a simple mixture of vinegar, garlic, pepper and fresh chillies for the extra heat. On the side, it is served with freshly cut tomatoes, cucumber and sometimes atchara. Atchara is pickle made with grated unripe papaya.

Freeze and reheat beef tapa

Beef tapa tastes best when eaten fresh. It is not advisable to freeze it and be reheated later. If you do not plan to consume the dish anytime soon, freeze the marinated beef instead. Thaw it before cooking.


garlic clove(s)
500 g
1⁄8 cup
calamansi juice
1⁄3 cup
light soy sauce
2 tsp
1⁄2 tsp
1 tsp
black pepper
6 tbsp

Steps to Prepare

Beef Tapa Step 1

Step 1 of 3

    • 7 garlic clove(s)
    • 500 g beef
    • 1⁄8 cup calamansi juice

Mince garlic. Set aside. Squeeze calamansi for its juice. Cut the beef into 1cm slices.

Beef Tapa Step 2

Step 2 of 3

Prepare marinade by mixing soy sauce, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Coat beef slices with the mixture. Cover the container with the lid and allow the beef to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours. Best to marinate for 8 to 12 hours.

Beef Tapa Step 3

Step 3 of 3

    • 6 tbsp oil

Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium heat. Once oil is heated, carefully add marinated beef (without the marinade) onto the pan. Cook meat for 1.5 minutes on each side. Add more oil if the pan is drying up. Repeat until all beef slices are cooked. Discard leftover marinade. Serve warm.

Published: September 25, 2020

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