Liam's Recipes

Vaca Frita



30 minutes

active time

2.5 hours

total time



2 lbs beef, cut into two or three pieces (flank steak is traditional, but chuck or other cheaper cuts work great too)

4 cups beef broth

1 onion, cut into rough chunks

2 bay leaves

6-8 sprigs of cilantro, tied with kitchen twine

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp whole peppercorns


¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup orange juice

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt


2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced thinly


Add the beef broth and beef to a large pot or dutch oven. Lay the beef as flat as possible along to the bottom so that nothing is poking above the liquid. Add the bay leaves, rough chopped onion, garlic, cilantro sprigs, and peppercorns. Bring it to a boil and then simmer on low heat uncovered for 1½ hours, or until the beef is fork tender and tears easily.

While the beef is simmering, prepare the marinade by combining the lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, salt, garlic, oregano, ground cumin, and pepper to a bowl and stir to combine.

Once the beef is finished simmering, remove it from the broth and shred with two forks, getting it into thin strips of meat separated along the grain. Save the broth from the large pot for later use. (You’ll also have leftovers for use in other recipes)

Combine the shredded beef with the marinade in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes, lightly covered with a towel.

To a wide pan with tall sides, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel (reserve the remaining marinade). Add the shredded beef to the pan in batches and spread it out. Leave the shredded beef in place until you get brown crispy edges on the bottom, then flip to the other side.

Once you’re finished browning all of your beef, or the pan looks like it’s about to burn, remove any remaining beef and add about 1 cup of the beef broth from earlier and the leftover marinade. Add the thinly sliced onion and scrape off the browned bits on the pan. Cook the onions in the broth over high heat until the broth has mostly reduced.

Serve the shredded beef with the onions on top, along with rice, Cuban-spiced black beans with pickled onions, and fried plantains.


Literally translating to ‘fried cow’, this Cuban beef dish is extremely flavorful and quite easy to make large quantities of (and easy to freeze if you have leftovers). A tough cut of beef is simmered in broth until tender, pulled apart, marinated in citrus, then pan fried for an addicting final product with a satisfying texture. It’s overall similar to Ropa Vieja, but has a distinct final texture. This is commonly served alongside rice and other Cuban side dishes, like black beans and fried plantains. Due to the large immigrant population, you can also find this dish quite easily in southern Florida.



30 minutes

active time

2.5 hours

total time
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