Recipes · Cooking tips · Techniques

Vaca Frita

Vaca Frita

Vaca Frita is shredded beef that’s quickly fried in a little bit of oil to create a crispy crust. It’s a popular Cuban dish that’s really easy to make and absolutely delicious.

 

Try the chicken version of this dish, called vaca frita de pollo, it’s crispy shredded chicken and just as amazing!

 

There’s a another great Cuban recipe made with shredded beef. It’s actually the national dish of Cuba and it’s called ropa vieja. In this classic recipe, the shredded beef is added to a flavorful tomato sauce.

 

What kind of beef should I use for vaca frita?

You can use brisket or flank steak. I have used both with success. That said, I prefer (and recommend) using flank steak. I found that it shreds easier than the brisket. The brisket is a little drier too.

 

Now, the flank steak is a little pricier than the brisket, at least in my neck of the woods. So keep that in mind. 

 

To make this vaca frita you will need

1½ pounds Flank Steak

3 cups Beef Broth

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder

¼ teaspoon Black Pepper

2 tablespoons Lime Juice (about 1 lime, depending on the size and how juicy it is)

2 tablespoons Canola Oil

1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced

Lime Wedges, for serving

 

Prep Work

The prep for this vaca frita recipe is really easy. This dish only requires a handful of ingredients and the only slicing required is for the onions.

 

  • Add the salt, garlic powder and pepper to a small bowl.
  • Juice the lime and slice some lime wedges for serving.
  • Cut the onion into thin slices
  • Measure out the broth and oil
  • If your flank steak has any fat on it, you can trim it, if desired. We leave the fat on the steak for flavor while it cooks in the broth. Then, while shredding we’ll get rid of any fatty pieces.

 

The ingredients for vaca frita arranged on a cutting board.

 

First, cook the flank steak

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.

 

Shredding flank steak using two forks on a black cutting board.

 

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

 

Shredding flank steak using two forks on a black cutting board.

 

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.

 

Shredded beef arranged in a skillet

 

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.

 

Shredded beef arranged in a skillet with the crispy 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.

 

Cook the onions

When the vaca frita is done, remove the skillet from the heat and place the beef on a plate or pan. Add the sliced onions to the skillet and place it back over the hot burner (with the heat off). Let the residual heat in the skillet cook the onions just a bit, stir frequently.

 

Serve the vaca frita with the onions and extra lime wedges, white rice, black beans, red beans, fried sweet plantains, tostones or your favorite side dishes.

 

Vaca Frita served on a white platter and garnished with cooked onions and lime wedges on the side.

 

Serves 4

 

Vaca Frita served on a white platter and garnished with cooked onions and lime wedges on the side.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Vaca Frita

Vaca Frita is shredded beef that’s quickly fried until crispy. It's a popular Cuban dish that absolutely delicious!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cuban
Keyword: beef, crispy shredded beef, cuban food, cuban shredded beef, shredded beef
Servings: 4
Calories: 321

Ingredients

  • pounds Flank Steak
  • 3 cups Beef Broth
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Lime Juice about 1 lime, depending how large and juicy it is
  • 2 tablespoons Canola
  • 1 Medium Onion thinly sliced
  • Lime Wedges for serving

Instructions

  • Add the steak and beef broth to a large pot. If it’s a large piece 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 30 minutes. Turn the steaks again about halfway through the cooking time.
  • Remove the pot from the heat; place the flank steak on a cutting board or a pan. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the steak to resemble thin strings.
  • Add the meat back into the broth. Sprinkle with the salt, garlic powder, black pepper and lime juice. Stir well to combine.
  • 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. 
  • Cook the beef for 3-5 minutes, do not stir. Let the liquid cook out and allow the bottom become browned and crispy.
  • Using a large spatula, get under a section of the beef and flip (don’t stir). Pick another section and flip, repeat until all of the shredded beef is browned side up.
  • Cook the beef for another 1-2 minutes. This side will brown a lot faster since the liquid has cooked out already. 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 and crispy on the outer layer.
  • When the vaca frita is done, remove the skillet from the heat and place the beef on a plate or pan.
  • Add the sliced onions to the skillet; place it back over the hot burner (with the heat off). Let the residual heat cook the onions, stir frequently.
  • Serve the vaca frita with the onions and extra lime wedges, white rice, black beans or your favorite side dishes.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 321kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 1051mg | Potassium: 717mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 4.3mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 3mg
The nutritional information above is computer generated and is only an estimate. There is no guarantee that it is accurate.This data is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only.

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