Jamaican Braised Oxtail Stew Recipe

Whether you're familiar with the dish or not, as the smells of this Jamaican braised oxtail stew begin to fill your kitchen, you will be immediately captivated. Food Republic recipe developer Kevin Chen brings us this hearty recipe, which he describes as "one of my favorite dishes — complex, sticky, rich, and comforting." A version of the recipe is common throughout countries in the Caribbean, and Chen draws from surrounding influences with his own rendition. He notes, "The neighborhood I live in — Crown Heights, Brooklyn — has a notable Jamaican and Trinidad community that I've loved getting to learn more about over the years." 

From cooking techniques to ingredient selection, this Jamaican braised oxtail tells a story. "In fact, some of the techniques included here in the recipe came from chatting with people in the neighborhood, namely the addition of the green seasoning," Chen comments. This vibrant herbal, salty, and tangy flavor-bomb really stands out in this delicious preparation. And if it's your first time trying oxtail, you've come to the right place; you're guaranteed to love it.

Gather the ingredients for this Jamaican braised oxtail stew

For the oxtail marinade, start by trimming the root ends off a couple of scallions and cutting the rest into 2-inch pieces. Get a few cloves of garlic, then peel and roughly chop a piece of ginger. Stem, seed, and roughly chop a few pimento peppers, and roughly chop some culantro leaves too. If you can't find culantro at your local grocery store, you can use cilantro, which is slightly less pungent. Roughly chop some flat-leaf parsley (leaves and the tender stems) and pick some fresh thyme leaves. As for the liquid content, you'll need soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and white vinegar, seasoned with Diamond Crystal kosher salt and ground black pepper. If desired, get some fish sauce or Maggi seasoning to amplify the marinade.

Pick up a few pounds of oxtail meat, ideally cut into 1 ½- to 2 inch-thick pieces, and rinse it to remove any bone fragments. To braise it, you'll need dark or light brown sugar, canola or vegetable oil, onion (finely chopped), garlic (finely chopped), ginger (peeled and finely chopped), tomato paste, chicken broth, allspice berries, ketchup, Scotch bonnet or Habanero peppers (pierced with a knife), thyme sprigs, and a can of butter beans (drained and rinsed).

Prep the marinade and coat the meat

Add the prepared scallion pieces, garlic cloves, ginger, peppers, culantro, parsley, thyme, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a food processor or blender. If you are using Maggi seasoning or fish sauce, add it in now. Blend the contents until thoroughly pureed. Chen explains, "Green seasoning, an aromatic base of herbs and vegetables, is the Caribbean version of sofrito, used here in the marinade and braised along with some additional umami-boosting ingredients such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fish sauce." Chen points out that green seasoning is typically stocked in grocery stores that carry Caribbean ingredients, but making it from scratch is an excellent option if you can't source it.

Add the rinsed oxtail pieces to a large bowl and dump the marinade on top. Mix the contents to properly coat the meat with the marinade, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for 4-24 hours. 

Roast the oxtail in the oven

When the meat has sufficiently marinated, preheat the oven to 500 F and place the oven rack in the center. Brush the extra marinade off the meat and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. Save the extra marinade for later. When the oven reaches temperature, roast the meat for around 30 minutes until it is deeply browned. Drain the excess fat off the baking sheet and lower the oven to 300 F. 

"The oxtails here are also roasted in the oven as opposed to browned in the pot to make the cooking process a bit more streamlined, render out some of the fat from the oxtail, and prevent any marinade from the beef from burning on the bottom of a pot," Chen explains.

Cook the onions, aromatics, and braising ingredients

Meanwhile, pour about 2 tablespoons of oil into a Dutch oven and add the brown sugar. Place the pot over medium-high heat and cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring, until the sugar melts. At this point, decrease the heat to medium and keep cooking the sugar as you stir for another 3-5 minutes, or until the color becomes very dark and almost black. Chen explains that this step is "used to add color and a bittersweet depth of flavor." He notes, "It also drew parallels in my head to a Chinese technique called tangshai, in which sugar is caramelized to add color and flavor in Chinese red braising dishes."

Once the sugar is browned, toss the onions into the pot and cook them for 2-3 minutes while frequently stirring. Let the onions release their liquids and deglaze the pot in the process. Continue cooking them for another 3-4 minutes until they are soft and about half the liquid has cooked off. Now, toss in the finely chopped garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook it for 1 minute, then add the stock, allspice, ketchup, Scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme sprigs. Raise the heat to high and bring the contents to a simmer, then add the roasted oxtails to the liquid.

Braise the oxtail, then add the beans

Ladle about ½ cup of the hot braising liquid onto the baking sheet used to roast the oxtails, then add it and any browned bits back to the pot. Chen explains this step helps deglaze the browned bits on the sheet pan before incorporating them back into the braise. Cover the Dutch oven, place it in the oven, and cook the oxtails for 2 ½-3 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and starting to fall off the bones. Remove the pot from the oven and stir the butter beans into the stew. Place the lid back on the pot and transfer it to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Adjust the sauce if needed, then serve

Remove the pot from the oven and discard the pepper and thyme sprigs. Skim off any fat from the surface and check the consistency of the braising liquid. If it is too thin, place the pot on the burner over medium heat and simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes until the contents thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. 

Serve this deliciously spiced Jamaican braised oxtail stew immediately. Chen recommends, "Classic accompaniments to oxtail are rice and peas (Jamaican coconut rice and beans), fried sweet plantains, or any sides such as callaloo, steamed cabbage, or okra." As for extras, he says, "Oxtail makes great leftovers and only tends to get better with time." For example, "It makes a great filling for Jamaican patties and makes a pretty killer grilled cheese sandwich as well, preferably with some Scotch bonnet sauce in there." Store the meat with the braising liquid in an airtight container. If desired, freeze leftovers for 1-2 months.

Jamaican Braised Oxtail Stew Recipe
5 from 39 ratings
A labor of love, this Jamaican braised oxtail is both hearty and zingy, thanks to a classic green seasoning marinade with ginger and fresh herbs.
Prep Time
4.25
hours
Cook Time
3.5
hours
Servings
4
servings
Jamaican oxtail stew on plate
Total time: 7 hours, 45 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 scallions, root ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
  • 3 large cloves garlic + 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, divided
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 pimento peppers, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped culantro
  • ½ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley (leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme leaves + 5 fresh thyme sprigs, divded
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds oxtail, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces and rinsed of any bone fragments
  • ¼ cup dark or light brown sugar
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for browning
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, pierced with a paring knife
  • 1 (15 ½-ounce) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
Optional Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce or Maggi seasoning
Directions
  1. To make the marinade, combine the scallions, 3 whole cloves garlic, ginger, peppers, culantro, parsley, 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce or Maggi seasoning (if using), vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. Blend until thoroughly pureed.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oxtail and prepared marinade; mix well to coat.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500 F with a rack in the center position.
  5. Brush the excess marinade off the oxtail and transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet; reserve marinade for later use.
  6. Roast the oxtail for about 30 minutes until deeply browned. Once done, remove from the oven, drain the excess fat off the baking sheet, and lower the oven temperature to 300 F.
  7. Meanwhile, add sugar to a large Dutch oven with enough oil to coat the bottom (about 2 tablespoons). Place on the stove over medium-high heat.
  8. Cook the sugar for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it begins to melt.
  9. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sugar is very dark and nearly black.
  10. Immediately add the onions to the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions have released their liquid and deglazed the pot. Continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, until onions are softened and the liquid has reduced by half.
  11. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  12. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  13. Add stock, allspice, ketchup, Scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then add the oxtails to the braising liquid.
  14. Ladle ½ cup of hot braising liquid onto the baking sheet used to roast the oxtails and scrape up any browned bits. Add the sheet pan contents back to the braising liquid.
  15. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and cook for 2 ½-3 hours, until oxtails are fork-tender and the meat begins to fall easily off the bone.
  16. Stir the butter beans into the braise, then return it to the oven, covered, and continue cooking for about 30 minutes.
  17. Remove from the oven, discard the pepper and thyme sprigs from the braise, and skim off any excess fat from the surface. If the braising liquid is too thin, place the pot on the stove over medium heat and simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  18. Serve immediately.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 1,185
Total Fat 68.0 g
Saturated Fat 23.7 g
Trans Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 250.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 59.2 g
Dietary Fiber 9.8 g
Total Sugars 22.1 g
Sodium 2,041.2 mg
Protein 83.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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