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Vaca Frita Skirt Steak Recipe

Vaca Frita Skirt Steak Recipe

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Braised with an exotic blend of spices and then fried to a perfect crisp, this delicious shaved skirt steak is perfect for that special weekend dinner with friends or family.


For the braising liquid

  • 3 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 2 bunchs cilantro
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup oregano, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1/2 cup curly parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 quarts hot water

For the steaks

  • Six 8-ounce skirt steaks, trimmed
  • 2 red onions, julienned
  • 2 red bell peppers, julienned
  • Juice of 10 limes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Vaca Frita (Fried Shredded Flank Beef )

Cut the flank steak about 6 inches in length. Using a pressure cooker add the flank steak, the water, onions, the garlic and salt to taste.

Close the pressure cooker and at high heat, cook the meat until the pressure cooker starts to whistle. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 25 minutes.

Drain (you can save the broth to make a delicious soup) and with the help of two forks, shred the meat in strings.

In a sauce pan at high heat, using half of the oil, cook half of the meat until it browns. Remove the cooked meat into a bowl and repeat the procedure for the other half. Once the second half is browned, remove all of meat from the sauce pan and add to the bowl.

Using the same saucepan, heat the rest of the oil on high and sauté the onions until soft. Add the meat and stir well. Add the lime and continue cooking until the onions brown as well.

“I’ve got a cousin . . .” – from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen

I think it’s a given that if you’re Cuban, you’ve got a cousin (or twelve) somewhere. It’s absolutely normal, in a kind of abnormal way. I’ll go toe-to-toe with any of my American friends on this one. Name any place on the planet, I’ve got a cousin there. First cousin, second cousin once removed, primo-hermano. Got ‘em. Everywhere.
Puerto Rico? Check. Argentina? Claro. Chile? Como no. Cuba? Duh!
Don’t even get me started on U.S. cities. Particularly Miami. (Doesn’t everyone have a cousin in Miami??)

Along those same lines, there is no way you can mention “Ropa Vieja” without someone inevitably bringing up its first cousin, “Vaca Frita.”

See? We even do it with food. =D

Crockpot Vaca Frita

One 2 ½ lb. Flank steak, cut in thirds
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
2 cups beef broth
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 or two fresh limes
Olive oil (twice around the pan)
1 white onion, cut into slices
½ bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 Tbsp. Parsley (fresh is best)
1 tsp cumin

1) Season the meat with salt and pepper and place in the crockpot.
2) Add dry white wine and bay leaves
3) Add beef broth and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Or low for 6-8 hours.

This next part only takes about 15 minutes:

4) Remove the cooked meat from crockpot. It should shred easily at this point.
5) Add the garlic to the cooling meat.
6) Squeeze the lime onto the meat.

7) In a large skillet, sauté the sliced onion, sliced bell pepper and parsley in the olive oil until the onion gets a little limp, but not completely transluscent.
8) Add the meat, and the cumin, stir-frying until the meat is hot again and slightly crispy on the edges.

9) Add a bit more salt and pepper to taste.
10) Serve with lime wedges

Don’t forget to call a cousin and invite them for dinner. .

(And if you’re still hungry, come on over to my house. We’re making churros.)


In a large saucepan, combine the beef, quartered onion, bay leaf, and water. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the beef is tender, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let cool. To save the broth for another use, skim any fat and strain the broth, discarding the bay leaf. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat Add the sliced onion and cook, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very tender and begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, with two forks, shred the beef and transfer to a large bowl. Add the lime juice, garlic, remaining 1 tsp oil, salt, and pepper. Let stand 20 minutes.

Spray a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and heat over mediumhigh heat. Add the beef and caramelized onion and cook, turning occasionally, until the beef and onions are browned, about 8 minutes. Serve garnished with lime wedges and cilantro.

Product Description

1. Place the meat into a large pot and cover with the water. Add 1 teaspoon of
salt, about half of the minced garlic, and the chopped onion,.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce to medium-
low heat, and cook uncovered for 60 to 90 minutes until the meat is tender,
adding additional water as needed to make sure the meat doesn’t dry out.
3. Remove meat from pot and allow to cool. Cut the meat as necessary to yield
6 steaks. Using the spiked end of a meat mallet, carefully pound the cooked
meat to about ½ ” thickness. The flattened meat should have a shredded
appearance. Transfer the pounded steaks into a large baking dish, then add
the remaining garlic, oregano, bay leaf, lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt,
spreading evenly over the steaks. Refrigerate and marinate the meat for 2 to 3
hours. When you’re ready to cook, remove the steaks from marinade and pat
dry with paper towels, making sure no bits of garlic remain.
4. Lightly grease a large skillet with vegetable oil and heat over high heat. (Be
careful not to overheat ,:he oil, but the pan needs to be hot enough to allow
you to sear the meat.) Working in batches, take 1 or 2 of the steaks at a time
and sear about 1 to 2 minutes per side until the meat is browned and has a
crispy texture on the outside. Remove and set aside. (Using a paper towel,
carefully regrease the skillet between batches as necessary.)
5. Once all steaks are seared and set aside, wipe the skillet with a paper towel,
add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat.
Saute the onions in the pan for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the onions are
6. Pour the sauteed onions over the steaks and serve the steaks with lime wedges

Vaca Frita

About: This is the best shredded beef I have ever tasted and is often called Cuban Shredded Beef. Vaca Frita is beef simmered until its shreds easily, then marinated in lime juice and olive oil. Special attention is given to make sure the beef is crisp, not steamed. What makes this dish trully amazing is the lingering citrus aftertaste leaving you craving for more.

However, if you’re tempted to order this from a restaurant in Cuba or southern Florida, because Vaca Frita literally means “fired cow” they might serve you a whole fried flank steak. Also, take note that the orange juice is a modern addition to this dish, but I believe it adds a memorable flavor.

If you’re looking for an appetizer to go with this dish, I suggest tostones which are green plantains fried in canola oil and served with mojo sauce. A possible dessert would be Cuban flan.

Vaca Frita

As I’ve said before, Alma de Cuba is one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia. I’ve shared my version of their Skirt Steak and today’s I’m sharing my version of another favorite – Vaca Frita! Vaca Frita means fried cow in Spanish. In the traditional recipe, flank steak or skirt steak are cooked twice creating a delectable dish. My recipe uses boneless chuck roast instead of skirt steak for two reasons – first, I’m serving four people and a chuck roast is just the perfect size for us and second, skirt and flank steaks are just so darn expensive for the smallest steak. I have to say that after shredding and frying the roast no one would have been able to tell the difference! This is another winner – the combined flavors of the fried shredded meat along with the onions & peppers was stupendous…and with the addition of a side of Spanish Red Rice and Goya Maduros…all I can say is WOW! Go ahead, give it a try…all of these flavors together are just incredible!

Vaca Frita
2 1/2 lbs boneless chuck roast
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 package Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (or Tropicana Pure Premium)
2 cups water
1 large Spanish onion, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 limes
canola oil (as needed)
sprinkling of cumin, garlic powder & salt

Place the oil and the roast in a large deep skillet. Turn the heat up to high. Sprinkle on the packet of Sazon and add the chopped onion. Add the bay leaf, red wine, orange juice and water. Bring to a boil reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 hours.

When the roast is almost done the first cooking, sauté the sliced onions & peppers until tender-crisp.

Meanwhile, shred the roast, discarding the fat. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime all over the shredded beef. In a skillet, heat canola oil and a batch of the shredded beef on high heat. Sprinkle with cumin, garlic powder and salt turning the beef to crisp up all sides (5-7 minutes). Fry the shredded beef in more than one batch so as not to overcrowd the skillet. This is the second cooking that is required to make this officially fried cow or Vaca Frita!

To serve: Top the crispy shredded beef with the sautéed onions & peppers and squeeze with additional lime juice. I recommend serving with a side of Spanish Red Rice and Goya Maduros to get the full flavor combination!

This recipe has been shared on Tickle My Tastebuds Tuesday, The Pin Junkie, Funtastic Friday, Weekend Potluck and Saucy Saturdays…go check it out and then go visit some other great sites!

We’ve created a Fabulous Fare Sisters Facebook page…Like us on Facebook. You can also check us out on Pinterest. Come join us in our food adventure!

Vaca Frita de Esther

On Sunday we set out to learn how to make “the best Vaca Frita in the world”, according to two very reliable sources – the “chef's” teen-aged grandsons. Who knows more about food than teen-aged boys? The teacher was Esther, our friend’s mother, who took over her daughter’s kitchen to teach us how to make this delicious Cuban staple.

We’re dividing the recipe into two parts – Part One is cooking the meat and Part Two is frying the meat.


Part One
½ head garlic – smash the cloves
3 Roma tomatoes – quartered
1 large onion – cut in large wedges
1 green bell pepper – cut in strips
1 teaspoon of Sazón or other Latin seasoning mixes
½ teaspoon salt
1½ lbs Beef Flank Steak
Water to cover the ingredients

Part 2
1 large onion – thinly sliced
3 heaping teaspoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon salt
Olive Oil to coat the pan

This recipe makes approximately 6 servings

  1. Cut the meat vertically, with the grain, in half or thirds (depending on its width).
  1. Add the meat, vegetables and seasoning to pot.
  1. Add the water to cover the ingredients.
  1. Set pressure cooker as usual. Cook on medium for 30 minutes until the meat is fork tender.

  • NOTE: If you’re not using a pressure cooker, just follow the recipe as indicated, except let the meat and other ingredients slow boil for at least an hour until the meat is fork tender.
  • NOTE: You can also use a slow-cooker setting it on Low for about 8 hours.

  1. Turn the heat off and take pot off heat source. Let the pressure release completely.
  2. Remove meat and set aside.

  • NOTE: The broth and vegetables make a great base for soup.
  1. Shred the meat using your hands and/or a fork.

  1. Add salt, garlic, half of the sliced onions, and the lime juice.
  2. Coat a frying pan with olive oil and add mixture to the cold pan without heating the oil.

  1. On medium heat stir the meat constantly, adding additional onions and more oil gradually as needed.

  1. Once the onions are soft and the meat cooked, raise the heat and sear the meat until it’s slightly brown and crispy.


Dear Esther, Hilda and Cristina,

My husband and I LOVE vaca frita, and we tried out Esther's recipe today. It was so delicious that I had to come and thank you all right away! I am from Miami (born to Cuban parents) and he is Dominican, and we both agree with Esther's grandsons! Very delicious! Thank you for sharing!

I would love to see how the traditional Cuban Tamales are made. Mom is Cuban and Dad is Italian and I remember Mom cutting down the corn off the husks and running the kernels through the blender. She would add pieces of puerco from the pork chop and corn meal (Im guessing)and other things like achote etc then she would lay out the corn leaves (dont remember if they were green or yellow) and with a big spoon lay the mixture, wrap the leaves and tie with string. After popping in the boiling water for a while they would come out ready to eat. She'd would make care packages for my uncle and aunt and freeze some for us if the lasted that long!

Will def give this a shot! Thank you so much for this recipe. I love the way pictures describe every step. You are very much appreciated! Thank you.

Hi thank you for the recipe! How long does it take to cook the meat and onions down at the end? Mine takes FOREVER to cook and get crispy (45 min- 1hr). It's like caramelizing onions. The end result tastes very good but I wish it were faster! I tried cooking in small batches and I could get it to brown faster, but putting all the meat in at once took forever. Thank you again :)

Hi Anonymous,
We asked Esther how long it takes to cook and she didn't specify a time. Her daughter thinks it is at least 1/2 hour and I agree.
The times I have made it, I split it into two frying pans to spread the shredded meat and onions out over more surface. I've never timed it but I would venture to say depending on the amount of meat a good 30-40 minutes sounds about right to get it crispy.
In my humble opinion, well worth the wait.
Thanks for asking. Hope this helps.

I come from a Cuban family and my mother always made the best vaca frita. Unfortunately she passed when I was in my late teens and I never had the chance to ask her the specifics as I didn't cook much then. It's been well over 10 years and this is the best recipe for vaca frita ever! Tastes like I'm home every time. Thank you Esther for comforting my soul.

Living in Miami we have quite a few good Cuban restaurants to eat Vaca Frita at - but with this great and easy recipe I can feed the family and spend only half (or less) than what it costs to eat out ! Have used this recipe many times and it is always a hit ! Thanks for sharing Esther !

I'm Cuban and this recipes sounds like and (the pictures) looks like what a traditional Cuban abuela would cook. My mother had all the recipes and she died about 5 years ago (grandparents are all gone too), before I could get a chance to write it down. I hope this is close to hers, because if it's even remotely close, I can guarantee this recipe is going to be a hit with my friends and family. :)

Healthy Recipes Tips

Hi, thanks for stopping by. My name is Marta Tome, I am a mother of two, and a grandmother. I have been a fan of cooking since I was a child, I always look for the best and healthiest Paleo and sometimes Keto recipes to delight my family and friends. I am very happy that they like what I offer them with love and at the same time know that they are feeding correctly. Hoping to be here for you and be able to share recipes, tips to be healthy inside and out. Let´s cook with love!.


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Cuban Vaca Frita with a Twist (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Keto, Soy-Free)

Cuban Vaca Frita with a Twist (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Keto, Soy-Free)

This is the traditional dish in my coun try Cuba, it´s very rich in the palate, easy to make, and brings all the memories of my life there. It´s also a well-known dish internationally.

It´s usually served with white rice and fried ripe plantains or tostones (fried green plantains).

The skirt meat is very tasty for its own, even if it is boiled with water and salt, I really like it, so, when you add some simple ingredients into it, it will become in a savory dish for all the family!

  1. 2 pounds of grass-fed skirt meat
  2. 2 tablespoons of coconut aminos
  3. salt to taste
  4. black pepper to taste
  5. 1 large onion sliced divided
  6. 5 large garlic cloves minced
  7. 1 large sweet bell pepper sliced (any will work)
  8. 2 tablespoons of oregano, fresh or dried
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  10. 2 bay leaves
  11. 1/2-1 teaspoon of paprika
  12. 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  13. 1/3 cup of lemon juice
  14. 1/3 cup of dry red wine or white
  15. 2-3 drops of gluten-free sriracha (optional)
  16. 2-3 celery stalks (depends on the size)
  17. 1/3 cup of green olives (whole or halved)
  18. 1/2 cup coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil
  19. 1/4 cup of parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

The original recipe leaves the strips very long, I cut de meat in chunks before putting them to cook, so that it is easier to eat it, but choose which way you want it. Set aside.

Prepare part of the sauce, in the pot or skillet melt 1/4 cup of oil, at medium-low temperature.

Throw the 2 bay leaves and the 3/4 parts of the onion slices , then add the minced garlic until fragrant.

Add to the skillet the meat, oregano, cumin, coconut aminos, lemon juice, black and cayenne peppers, paprika, and stir well.

Then raise the temperature at medium-high frying the meat, pour a little by little oil and stir again until the meat starts to brown.

Add the sweet bell pepper slices, chopped celery stalks , and the green olives halved.

Stir, don´t let the meat burn, but you will want it caramelized and toasted.

Enjoy with salad, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, rice, cauliflower rice, raw salad, steamed salad, bread, etc

Note: I divided the onion slices because, in the end, I like my vegetables crisp, also the sweet bell pepper, but you can put them all at the beginning, how I said in the instructions.

You can take advantage of cooking your meat before work, at night, etc, and then fried it.

  1. 2 pounds of skirt tawed
  2. Salt to taste
  3. Black pepper to taste
  4. 1 large onion sliced divided
  5. 1 large green bell pepper sliced, (red, yellow and orange will work)
  6. 2 tablespoons of oregano
  7. 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  8. 1/2 cup of olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil
  9. 1/4 cup chives chopped for garnish (optional)

Repeat the first 5 steps.

Throw 3/4 parts of the onion slices, stir, then add the minced onion until fragrant.

Add to the skillet the shredded meat, oregano, and lemon juice.

Then raise the temperature at medium-high frying the meat, pour a little by little oil and stir again until the meat begins to toast and brown spots appear.

Add the green bell pepper and a quarter of the onions sliced.

Continue stirring until the meat is crunchy and the green pepper and onions are tender.


Note: This recipe could be good for the AIP diet too if you omit the green bell pepper and black pepper.

If you like to use it as a party treat or, let it be more toast and serve it onto crackers with a little hot sauce in it.

If you like this, maybe you want to know another Cuban recipe with a twist.


How to make vaca frita

We start this dish by cooking the flank steak in simmering beef broth. We have to cook the steak first to be able to shred it.

  • Add the steak and beef broth to a large pot. If it’s a large piece of meat, cut it in half so it fits in the pot without folding or overlapping.
  • Set the pot over high heat. When the broth comes to a boil lower the heat to medium and cook 15 minutes. Turn the steak, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Keep the broth at a simmer, if it’s boiling too vigorously too much of it will cook away. We want to keep some of that delicious stock to flavor the shredded beef. Turn the steaks again about halfway through the cooking time.

Shred the beef

  • Remove the pot from the heat then place the flank steak on a cutting board or a pan. Keep the broth on low heat.
  • When the steak is cool enough to handle shred it to resemble thin strings.
  • You can do this by either using two forks or your hands. My husband uses his hands. I like using the forks. Hold down the meat with one fork and rip out thin strips with the other.

If the strips are not thin enough, use the forks to pull and make them thinner.

Add the shredded meat to the broth. Sprinkle with the prepared seasoning mix (salt, garlic powder, black pepper) and add the lime juice. Stir well to combine.

Fry the shredded beef

Heat the oil in a large, skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, almost smoking, add the shredded beef and arrange it so it covers the entire skillet in one layer.

Use tongs to remove the beef from the pot to the skillet, to avoid transferring too much liquid.

Cook the beef for 3-5 minutes, do not stir. Let the liquid cook out and allow the bottom to become browned and crispy.

Using a large spatula, get under a section of the beef and flip. Do not stir. If you do, you won’t get that nice crispy caramelized beef. Pick another section and flip, repeat until all of the shredded beef is browned side up.

Cook the beef for another 1-2 minutes. Keep in mind that the second side will brown a lot faster since the liquid has cooked out already.

Keep your eye on the vaca frita. Check a section after 1 minute to make sure it’s not burning. Flip over any sections that need to brown a little more. Keep checking and flipping until the beef is golden brown and crispy on the outer layer.

Watch the video: Vaca frita (July 2022).


  1. Nicanor

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  2. Mezigal

    And who has a crack from all this happiness? Or have I not caught up with something at all?

  3. Domhnall

    It is an excellent variant

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  5. Tamouz

    ha, cool!

  6. Wyne

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  7. Lanny

    Unfortunately! Unfortunately!

  8. Zulkizuru

    Quite right! The idea is good, you agree.

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