Vaca Frita or Cuban Shredded Beef
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!
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.
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.
- Onions, lime, orange juice, garlic, and cumin flavor the beef as it slowly cooks.
- Next, the meat is shredded by pounding with a meat mallet, then fried till crispy.
- Once done, it’s served over rice. Consider adding a side of sauteed plantains and a green salad for a Cuban feast.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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
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
- 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.
- Combine garlic, oil, and cumin in a bowl. Mix together orange juice and lime zest and juice in another bowl.
- Remove lid, increase heat, and simmer until water evaporates and beef starts to fry, 5 minutes or so.
- Remove beef to rimmed baking sheet. Pour off and save the fat from the skillet. Wipe skillet dry with paper towels.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 569Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 188mgSodium: 296mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 56g
48 Comments on “Vaca Frita or Cuban Shredded Beef”
This sounds so delicious! I can’t wait to give it a try!
Bueno recipe! My Dad would LOVE this dish followed by a Cuban cigar =) You never cease to amaze, Liz. You have turned a simple dish and somehow elevated it to gourmet fare! Guess your sister should get some credit, too =)
I haven’t heard of vaca frita – thanks for bringing my attention to it! Sounds like a yummy dinnertime solution.
Never heard of vaca frita but love beef, so I’m willing to give this recipe a try!
I have been dying to see what goes in this recipe, it looks delicious, great combo of flavors!!
I love this recipe! It looks beautiful!
This looks so good! I should stop looking at food blogs RIGHT after I ate lunch. It makes what I just ate seem so lame.
I love Cuban food, but I haven’t tried cooking much at home (except for Cuban sandwiches, that is). Time to branch out! 🙂
Living in South Florida, I am able to enjoy some of the best Vaca Frita around. Making it at home makes even more sense…especially with a delicious recipe like yours.
I could definitely sink my teeth into this dish for sure.
I couldn’t wait to see what fried cow looked like, Liz. You have no idea of the things that went through my head so I am much relieved. This looks like a fabulously tender way to cook beef, especially with the citrus. Delicious!
Sounds delicious…I could certainly understand the words Vaca Frita, considering I live in a Spanish country. 🙂 Read the recipe with interest! Yum!
Hadn’t heard of this dish by that name. Thanks for the education this morning, and now it is on my meal list for this week!
This sounds really good, lots of big flavors:@)
What a beautiful and authentic looking dish! The flavors just pop out of your photos. I’m sure I’d be transported to Cuba just eating this!
This looks like the perfect hearty fall meal!
I haven’t ever tried this, but it sounds marvellous!! And I’m betting it would warm the bones on a cold fall day…
Liz, I bet this smelled amazing as it was cooking! It looks fabulous!
I would love to smell this cooking in my home! It looks so simple and sounds so delicious. Its a must try here!
I don’t know either the vaca frita but I learnt a lot with you! Happy Sunday