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Vaca Frita


This is a classic Cuban dish which translates from Spanish as "fried cow" due to its crispy texture. It's an easy dish to prepare if you already have leftover roast in the fridge, although the recipe below doesn't require you to watch the beef during the simmering stage.

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  • Main Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds flank steak
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 small limes, cut into wedges
  • juice from one lime (or two tablespoons lime juice)
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, sliced
  • Seasoning Ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoon salt


Preparation time 10mins
Cooking time 60mins
Adapted from


Step 1


Place the steak in a pot or deep pan, and just enough water until the beef is covered. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns. Cover the pot, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1 ½ hours. Remove pot from heat, and allow the contents to cool down.

When the steak is still warm but not especially hot, remove it from the pot. On a plate or in a nonreactive container, shred the beef using two forks, or pull the beef apart using your fingers. Add the seasonings, sherry and lime juice, and mix them into the beef using your hands. Set aside.

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and sautee until the onions are tender (about 5-8 minutes). Turn the heat up to medium-high, then add the shredded beef. Cook the beef for 5-15 minutes, until it is crispy.

Remove from heat and serve with lime wedges. It can be served by itself, with white rice on the side, or with moros y cristianos. Serves 4-6.

Cooking Variations
For some, it is common to place the cooled pot in the fridge after the meat has simmered, and let it marinate overnight before frying the following day. The leftover beef broth can also be used for soups or other recipes.

Rather than shred the beef, some Cubans will simply cut the meat (with the grain) into small strips after simmering. In that case, after cutting the beef you will want to pound it with a mallet until the pieces are about half as thick as before.

Not everyone cooks vaca frita with bell peppers, so it's not uncommon to leave them out. And although some cooks will add a splash of lime juice to the beef immediately after cooking, adding lime wedges means people can squeeze juice on as they see fit.

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