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 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 3


  • 1.25 lb brisket or skirt steak
  • 1 green bell pepper quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper halved & sliced
  • 1 large onion quartered
  • 1 large onion halved & sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic or more to taste
  • 2 limes or lemons for juice
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Vaca Frita Culinary Spice Kit

  • Cumin, orange peel, ancho chili, oregano

Suggested Sides

  • cooked rice
  • a fresh salad
  • black beans recipe in the notes
  • fried plantains recipe in the notes


Step 1: Cooking & Shredding the Meat

  • In a POT, add meat, the quartered bell pepper & onion, 2 cloves 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.
  • Take the meat out. Shred it into 1/2-inch thick chunks. Keep the broth. Set aside.

Step 2: Frying the Vegetables

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

Step 3: Frying the Meat

  • In the same PAN, add meat, 3 cloves chopped garlic, and Vaca Frita spices.
  • Fry over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until the meat is golden brown but not crisp.

Step 4: Finale

  • Return the vegetables to the PAN to reheat.
  • Turn off. Add 2-3 tbsp lime juice and salt & pepper to taste.


  • Serve with your preferred sides.
  • Optionally, add more lime juice.
  • Enjoy!


  • Substitute beef with chicken thighs. 
  • Optionally, add up to 1 cup of the broth in step 4).

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

  • (Step 2) Fry onions and bell peppers separately.
  • (Step 4) Return only the bell peppers to the PAN and don't use lime juice.
  • New Step: To mix the Mojo sauce, place fried onions in a BOWL and season with lime juice and optionally chili or chipotle to taste.
  • (Serve) Top with Mojo sauce.

Recipe for fried plantains as a typical 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.

Recipe for black beans as another typical 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 from step 1 (cooking the meat).
  • Cover the POT and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.