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Rabo Encendido (Cuban Oxtail Stew)

Oxtail goes by different names in different Latin countries. For example, in Colombia, oxtail is called cola. In the Dominican Republic, it’s also called rabo; in Spain, it’s called rabo de toro. The oxtail stew is known for its bold, hearty flavor and is a staple in Latin cuisine.

Cuban Oxtail Stew with Rice on a plate.

What Is Oxtail?

Oxtail (cola or rabo) is a cut of beef taken from a cow’s tail. It’s known for its rich flavor and tender meat when slow-cooked.

What Can I Serve With Rabo Encendido (Oxtail Stew)?

Rabo encendido with freshly cooked white basmati rice and maduros is a true delicacy. Oxtail stew also goes well with crunchy tostones with a pinch of salt.

Tender oxtail with white rice
Tender Cuban Oxtail Stew

Top Tips

  1. Skim the fat as you cook the oxtail. Oxtail has incredible flavor, and a lot of it comes from fat. While delicious, it can end up too greasy.
  2. Sear the oxtail without additional oil, remove the oxtail after searing, and sauté the sofrito mix (onions, garlic, and pepper).
  3. Initially, this recipe will feel like it requires too much liquid, but the water and broth will help cook the oxtail and break down the collagen and connective tissues without drying and evaporating too quickly.
  4. Add the potatoes to the stew in the last few minutes of cooking the rabo encendido.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Sazon

Sazon is an incredible spice blend. However, if you don’t have any in the pantry, you can make your mix, perhaps not identical. However, you can get close with cumin, garlic powder, and dried oregano. Sazon also has achiote; if you don’t, that’s ok. 

Oxtail

Oxtail can be purchased at a local supermarket, butcher, or directly from a farm that raises pastured cows. Oxtail from the butcher or a local farm is well worth the investment. I occasionally buy from a farm that will ship directly to our doorstep. 

Bone Broth or Water

You can make the oxtail stew recipe with a combination of beef broth and water or all water or all beef broth. For example, I cooked the rabo encendido with beef broth and water in this recipe.

The oxtail is incredible for making broths because of its high collagen content and bone marrow, so cooking with water instead of broth works.

Potatoes

I prefer a less starchy potato for this recipe because it holds its texture. Yellow potatoes are starchier than Yukon gold potatoes. Yukon gold potatoes are waxier and perfect for stews and roasts. 

If you prefer a starchy potato, similar to a potato used for mashed potatoes, then a yellow or russet potato would be ideal!


FAQs

Why is my oxtail so tough?

Oxtail, also known as cola or rabo, has a lot of connective tissue and an incredible amount of collagen that takes time to break down. Unlike a cut of steak ideal for grilling, the oxtail will need heat over a long period to cook and break down the connective tissue and collagen.

How do you know when Oxtails are done?

Overcooking oxtail is a difficult feat.

You will know when your oxtail is done when you put a fork through it, and it falls off the bone without effort. If the oxtail is still not tender after cooking for a few hours, you may need to add water or increase the heat. It takes both heat and liquid to break down the collagen.


Storage and Reheating

Storage

Rabo encendido or oxtail stew can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. If you want to save for the following week, you can freeze it for a week or two.

Stocks or stews with high collagen content coagulate when refrigerated. It’s normal if the liquid is thick after leaving it in the refrigerator overnight.

Reheating

Warm a serving in a pot for a few minutes until thoroughly reheated, and serve with warm rice. If the stew is too thick, add a little water or broth to reheat.

Note: See detailed quantities and instructions below.

Instructions

Step 1:

Brown the oxtail on medium heat. Allow the fat the render just slightly before removing it from the pot.

Oxtail in a Pot
Oxtail in a Pot

Step 2

Remove the oxtail, and quickly saute the sofrito (onion mix) with the spices, then return the oxtail to the pot, and add the tomato sauce.

Oxtails with sofrito and tomato sauce
Cuban Oxtail Stew Tomato Sauce

Step 3

Cook the oxtail in the sofrito and sauce before adding the beef stock and water.

Tip #1: Use a large spoon to skim any excess fat in the oxtail stew.

Tip #2: Add the potatoes last – potatoes will cook relatively quickly.

Tip #3: Quickly chop cilantro and add right before serving.

Rabo Encendido Pot
Rabo Encendido Pot
Cuban Oxtail Stew with Rice on a plate.

Rabo Encendido

Olga Muñoz
This Cuban oxtail stew is served on fluffy white rice and cooked in rich spices until it's fork-tender.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Cuban
Servings 6 people
Calories 528 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Stockpot
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Large Spoon

Ingredients
  

  • 2.5 lbs Oxtail
  • 2 large Yellow Potatoes
  • 1 Whole Sweet Onion
  • 1 Whole Bell Pepper
  • 1 Head Garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp Sazon With Salt or Salt Free
  • 8 oz Tomato sauce
  • 2 leaves Bay Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 32 oz Beef Broth
  • 4 cups Water

Instructions
 

  • Step 1:
    Prep: In a food processor, chop the onion, garlic, and bell pepper.
    Step 2:
    Place the stockpot on the stovetop and set the heat to medium heat – once hot, place the oxtail in the pot, brown all sides, and render some of the fat.
    Step 3:
    Remove the oxtail, pour the chopped onion and garlic mixture, sazon, cumin, bay leaves, and salt into the pot, and quickly sauté. After 5-10 minutes, add the oxtail back in.
    Then add the tomato sauce and coat the oxtail in the sauce and onion mixture. Allow that to cook for 10 – 15 minutes. Then, reduce to low to medium heat – adjust based on your stovetop.
    Once the onion and garlic mixture is slightly caramelized, add the bone broth and water, stir, and cover.
    Step 4:
    Monitor and adjust the heat if needed. Make sure the mixture is cooking without burning and stir. Cover and continue cooking until the oxtail is fork tender and slightly falling off the bone.
    Step 5:
    Peel and chop the potatoes and add to the stew to finish cooking for 10 minutes.
    Finish off with cilantro (optional).
    Serve with freshly cooked white rice, and enjoy!
    Buen Provecho!

Nutrition

Calories: 528kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 60gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 208mgSodium: 888mgPotassium: 375mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 193IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 67mgIron: 9mg
Keyword Cola Guisada, Cuban Oxtail Stew, Oxtail Stew, Rabo Encendido
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious recipe. It did take a few hours to prepare, but the oxtail was falling off the bone. We enjoyed it so much. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this recipe, and the oxtail was so tender. It was my husband’s first time eating oxtail, his new favorite dish.

  3. 5 stars
    Oxtail has been daunting, but this recipe reminded me of my mom’s oxtail. It turned out so delicious and yummy.

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