This mind-blowing Vaca Frita AKA Cuban Shredded Beef was made with an inexpensive cut of beef and stock items from my kitchen!

Cuban food isn’t as common on our table as Mexican or Italian cuisine, but it’s just as flavorful and tasty. There are layers of flavor in this Shredded Beef and it makes for marvelous comfort food!

Vaca Frita in a white bowl over rice and garnished with tomatoes and orange and lime slices.

Why You Must Make

  • You may have most of the ingredients to make this in your kitchen! Plus, despite being a bit exotic, it’s a budget-friendly recipe.
  • The recipe transforms an ordinary chuck roast into an extraordinary entree.
  • This vaca frita recipe is made in a skillet! No fancy equipment is needed.

My sister was in town for a visit from Denver. As per usual, we did a lot of yakking about food and she brought up a Cuban dish she had made recently. I only had to pick up a chuck roast as all the rest of the ingredients for this vaca frita, AKA, Cuban shredded beef, were staples in my kitchen.

Overhead view of shredded Cuban beef

How to Make

Between the intoxicating aromas of the garlic, orange juice, and lime concoction sitting on the counter and the browning beef, my stomach did flip flops waiting for this dish to become a fait accompli.

  1. Onions, lime, orange juice, garlic, and cumin flavor the beef as it slowly cooks.
  2. Next, the meat is shredded by pounding with a meat mallet, then fried till crispy.
  3. Once done, it’s served over rice. Consider adding a side of sauteed plantains and a green salad for a Cuban feast.
 Scrumptious Cuban Shredded Beef 45 degree angle view in a white bowl with a sprig of cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Vaca Frita?

The name vaca frita translates to “fried cow,” and that says it all. The dish is composed of fried and shredded beef, typically skirt or flank steak. My version is made with chuck roast which has an amazing flavor but requires some extra cooking time to tenderize the meat.
Often referred to as the cousin of ropa vieja, which is shredded beef stewed with tomatoes. This vaca frita contains beer, onions, sometimes a green pepper, garlic, cumin, a bay leaf, plus lime and orange juice and lime zest.

What Do You Eat with Vaca Frita?

If making for dinner guests, definitely break out the tequila and make these Blood Orange Margaritas for cocktail hour. A refreshing Hearts of Palm Salad, black beans, and simple white or brown rice round out the meal perfectly.

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To make a budget-friendly meal, make sure to stock up on sale meat when you’re at the market. The chuck roast was $6.99 per pound at Whole Foods, but I know it could be found for less by a well-seasoned bargain hunter. The rest of the ingredients for this shredded beef were already in my fridge and pantry. Having a supply of basics on your shelves helps to make dinner prep a breeze. 

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Vaca Frita or Cuban Shredded Beef

Vaca Frita or Cuban Shredded Beef

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Yield 4 servings

Scrumptious Cuban Shredded Beef adapted from America's Test Kitchen


  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry


  1. Bring beef, 2 cups water, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to boil in a large skillet over medium-high. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes.
  2. Combine garlic, oil, and cumin in a bowl. Mix together orange juice and lime zest and juice in another bowl.
  3. Remove lid, increase heat, and simmer until water evaporates and beef starts to fry, 5 minutes or so.
  4. Remove beef to rimmed baking sheet. Pour off and save the fat from the skillet. Wipe skillet dry with paper towels.
  5. Place sheet of aluminum foil over beef and, using meat pounder flatten beef into 1/8-inch-thick pieces, removing any large pieces of fat or gristle.
  6. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons reserved fat in the skillet over high heat. Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion nicely browned. Add sherry and 1/4 cup water and cook until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer onion to bowl. Return skillet to high heat, add 1 1/2 teaspoons reserved fat, then add beef and cook, stirring frequently, until dark golden brown and crusty, 2 to 4 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to low and push beef to sides of skillet. Add garlic mixture to center and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat, add orange juice mixture and onion, and mix well. Season with pepper to taste. Serve over rice with lime wedges.


Serve over white or brown rice with a crisp green salad.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 569Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 188mgSodium: 296mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 56g


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