Cuban Vaca Frita

Cuban Vaca Frita

This popular Cuban dish is fresh and juicy. It is very easy to cook, though it takes some patience. The key to vaca frita or "fried beef" is slow-cooked beef the Cuban way. You can prepare this step in advance. Quick frying is the second and last step in the preparation.
Hands-on Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 3



  • 1.25 lb brisket or skirt steak [1]

Fresh Produce - For Soup

  • 1 green bell pepper quartered
  • 1 large onion quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic halved

Fresh Produce - For Frying

  • 1 green bell pepper halved & sliced
  • 1 large onion halved & sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 limes or lemons for juice

Packaged Goods/Staples

  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Vaca Frita Culinary Spice Kit

  • Cumin, orange peel, ancho chili, oregano

Suggested Sides

  • cooked rice
  • a fresh salad
  • black beans see notes [4] for recipe
  • fried plantains see notes [5] for recipe


Soup - Cook Meat

  • In a POT, add meat, the quartered bell pepper, onion, garlic, and salt to taste.
  • Cover with water. Close and bring to a boil.
  • Turn heat to low. Cook at least for 2 hours until the meat starts to fall apart.

Prepare - Shred Meat

  • Take the meat out.
  • Tip: Keep the broth in the fridge and use within a week.
  • Shred the meat into 1/2-inch thick chunks. Set aside.

Fry - Fry Vegetables

  • If cooking variation [3]: Fry onions and bell peppers separately. 
  • In a PAN, heat 1/2 cup of oil over medium heat.
  • Fry sliced bell pepper and onion with a pinch of salt until the onions are translucent.
  • Scoop the vegetables out. Set aside.
  • Keep the remaining oil in the PAN.

Fry - Fry Meat

  • In the same PAN, add meat chunks, chopped garlic, and Vaca Frita spices.
  • Fry over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until the meat is golden brown but not crisp.

Finish - For Variations [4]

  • If cooking variation [3]: Return only the bell peppers to the PAN and don't use lime juice. 
  • Return the fried vegetables to the PAN to reheat. [2]
  • Turn off. Add 2-3 tbsp lime juice and salt & pepper to taste.

If Cooking Variation [3]: Mix the Mojo Sauce

  • In a BOWL, add fried onions and season with lime juice and (optionally) chili or chipotle to taste.


  • If cooking variation [3]: Top plated meat with Mojo sauce. 
  • Serve with your preferred sides.
  • Optionally, add more lime juice.
  • Enjoy!


[1] Substitute beef with chicken thighs. 
[2] Optionally, add up to 1 cup of the broth.

[3] Recipe changes for variation with Mojo Sauce (spiced fried onions):

  • [3.1] Fry onions and bell peppers separately.
  • [3.2] Return only the bell peppers to the PAN and don't use lime juice.
  • [3.3] Mix the Mojo Sauce: In a BOWL, add fried onions and season with lime juice and (optionally) chili or chipotle to taste.
  • [3.4] Top with Mojo sauce.

[4] Black Beans side

  • In a POT, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat.
  • Add 1 can black beans (rinsed).
  • Season to taste with salt, cumin, and black pepper.
  • Fry beans for a couple of minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the broth.
  • Cover the POT and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

[5] Fried Plantains side

  • Peel 2-3 plantains and cut them into 1/2 inch slices.
  • In a PAN, heat 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat.
  • Fry plantain slices until they turn golden on both sides.
  • Season with salt to taste.