Adventures in Food... Cuba: Vaca Frita | Cuba Unbound

Are you ready for a taste of Cuba? As travel to Cuba opens up for Americans, there is no better way to get in the mood for exploring a place than to enjoy some delicious native dishes. Vaca frita, or "fried cow," is a classic Cuban dish made with beef slow-cooked in herbs, spices, citrus and vinegar. When the meat is done, it will easily fall apart into juicy, tender pieces. Last, you pan-fry the beef with citrus-marinated onion and peppers to compliment the rich meaty flavors. This last step is important because it creates a tasty crust that provides texture and contrasts nicely with the tender meat. This bright and flavorful dish is great served alongside cilantro rice.

Tip: The first part of this dish can be done in a slow cooker!

This recipe is from The Latin Kitchen, one of my favorite websites for all things culture, food and drink in Latin America. I hope it gets you in the mood for some Cuban adventures to come.

¡Buen provecho!

Servings: 8


  • 4 pounds skirt steak

For the Marinade

  • 2 bunches cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
  • 3 tbsp pickling spice
  • 2 tbsp ground oregano
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sticks cinnamon
  • 5 star anise
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Vegetables

  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 red onions, halved and thinly slices
  • 10 limes, juiced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place steaks in a single layer in a large, non-reactive roasting pan.
  2. Combine cilantro, parsley, fresh oregano, pickling spice, ground oregano, Worcestershire, pepper, mustard, salt, garlic, cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves in a large bowl.
  3. Add vinegar, oil and 4 quarts of hot water. Mix well and pour over meat.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, place in oven and bake for 2 hours (Alternatively, place all of this in a slow cooker for 8 hours!). Uncover pan and allow meat to cool in liquid for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  5. When ready, use two forks to pull meat into 1/2-inch pieces.
  6. Combine onion and bell pepper in bowl. Pour in lime juice and season to taste with salt. Mix well, and set aside.
  7. Heat large, heavy skillet over high heat until blazing hot. Add vegetable oil and half of the meat. Let sizzle until crust forms, about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, taking care to avoid splatters. Repeat with remaining meat.
  8. Toss meat with onion and pepper mixture and serve.


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