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Rabo Encendido Recipe

If you’re looking for something hearty that will warm your soul on a cold night or if you just want a tasty meal, then you should definitely try out a classic rabo encendido.

What Is A Rabo Encendido Recipe?

Rabo encendido means “lit up ox tail” in Spanish.

It was originally served as an after-dinner treat to guests at restaurants in Santo Domingo during the 19th century.

The dish has been adapted over time to be more of a stew than a soup and contains ingredients like plantain, yucca, oxtail, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and spices.

You can find it all across the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

The name comes from how the dish is cooked since it uses different cuts of meat including the oxtails, which are roasted until they become crispy.

When it’s finished cooking, the pieces of meat fall apart and create a delicious aroma while simmering in the sauce.

Traditional recipes call for using only one type of cut of meat, but modern chefs use several types to give their version a bit more flavor.

Recipes for making rabo encendido

There are many variations of this traditional dish depending on what region you live in.

In Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, people add coconut milk instead of water to help thicken the sauce.

Some versions include peas, rice, and even beans.

Other regions may substitute chicken for the beef and vegetables such as carrots and potatoes for the plantains.

Here are some popular recipes for rabo encendido that you might enjoy trying:

  • Paprika with Beef Rabo Encendido Recipe – This recipe calls for paprika, bell pepper, onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, olive oil, and water. Cook these items together in a pot before adding the oxtail and letting them cook for about four hours.
  • Oxtail Stew With Vegetables And Peas Recipe – A basic recipe for oxtail stew includes beef bones, oxtail, onion, green bell pepper, carrot, celery, parsley, tomato paste, tomato puree, and water. Let these things simmer for six hours before adding corn, peas, and sweet potato and continuing to boil for another hour.
  • Coconut Oxtail Stew With Yuca Recipe – Another great option for those who love coconut! To start off, you need to get rid of any excess fat from the oxtail by rubbing it against paper towels. Then, chop up the oxtail into small chunks and place everything in a large stockpot. Add onions, garlic, ginger root, lemongrass, lime leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, nutmeg, and water to cover. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for two hours before adding the coconut milk and yucca, along with salt, pepper, and sugar.

How Do You Make Rabo Encendido?

A rabo encendido is a stew made with oxtails, plantains, yuca (also known as cassava), and sofrito.

Sofrito is a mixture of peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and other spices.

The main ingredient in this particular type of stew is plantain – it gives the soup its distinct taste and texture.

This popular Latin American stew has been around since 1836 when it was first introduced to Cuba by Spanish colonizers.

It has since become an important part of Cuban cuisine, and today almost any restaurant serving Cuban food offers at least one version of rabo encendido.

In addition to being delicious, rabo encendidos can be quite simple to prepare.

You don’t have to go through all the steps required to cook a whole animal.

All you need is some oxtail, potatoes, plantains, and a little bit of onion and pepper.

That’s it!

There are two methods used to create a rabo encendido.

One method uses fresh ingredients while the other requires dried ones.

In either case, these are the basic cooking instructions.

  • First off, rinse the meat thoroughly to remove any blood or dirt. Cut it into pieces about 1 inch thick and set aside.
  • To start preparing the sofrito, peel and roughly chop the vegetables. Then add them to a large pot along with chopped onion, green bell pepper, and jalapeño pepper. Sautee until soft but not browned.
  • Next, pour in 2 cups of water and bring everything to a boil over medium heat. Once hot, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered until the meat is tender enough to pull apart easily with a fork. If using fresh ingredients, check every 20 minutes or so to ensure they aren’t overcooking.
  • Once cooked, drain the liquid from the pot and discard it. Add the remaining ingredients, including the oil, to the pot and stir well. Bring to a boil again, lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for another 30 minutes. Check occasionally and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
  • Finally, serve the rabo encendido with white rice and beans.

What Are The Ingredients In Rabo Encendido?

Rabo encendido is an authentic Latin American stew made of meaty beef bones (usually oxtails) simmered with plantain leaves, garlic, onions, and spices like cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and bay leaf.

It can also be flavored with other herbs such as parsley, thyme, and rosemary.

The main ingredient in this stew is usually oxtail but many people substitute pork shoulder, veal shanks, chicken thighs, lamb neck, or even goat legs.

Other common additions include tomatoes, black beans, corn, potatoes, and yucca roots.

You may also add fresh vegetables like green peppers, carrots, or zucchini to boost flavor.

This stew is traditionally served over white rice, but some restaurants serve it over pasta instead.

How Long Does It Take To Make Rabo Encendido?

Rabo encendido typically takes around three hours to prepare depending on how many people are eating at once.

The most time-consuming part of this recipe is making the sofrito which can take up to two hours to cook down.

The rest of the preparation only takes about 30 minutes.

1 Hour Preparation Time

  • Cut all vegetables into 1 inch pieces
  • Wash meat thoroughly and remove any excess fat
  • Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, cumin, coriander, and bay leaves to the pot
  • Cook until onions soften and become translucent (about 10-15 minutes)
  • Put meat back in the pot and cover with water
  • Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low
  • Simmer uncovered for 2-4 hours until meat becomes tender
  • Stir occasionally
  • Once cooked, add the remaining ingredients and stir well
  • Serve immediately

30 Minutes Cooking Time

  • Chop beef into bite sized chunks
  • Heat oil over medium high heat
  • Sautee the chopped meat until browned
  • Reduce heat to medium
  • Place half of the meat in a crockpot along with the other ingredients
  • Cover with water
  • Cook on low for 4-5 hours
  • Remove meat from the liquid and set aside to cool slightly before serving
  • Discard any leftover cooking liquid from the slow cooker

What Is The History Of Rabo Encendido?

Rabo Encendido is a traditional dish from the Dominican Republic where beef (usually oxtails) are cooked in a rich soffrito sauce made with onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and spices.

The meat is served over plantain leaves.

The word “encendedor” literally means “the one who lights up fire.” This term has been used since ancient times as an expression that means someone who starts a fire.

In this case, the person who lit the fire is the cook that started the process of cooking the meat.

Today, there are many different ways to prepare rabo encendido.

However, most recipes include some type of sofrito which is essentially a mixture of aromatic vegetables such as onion, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, and oregano that is used to flavor the meat.

Some versions also add other ingredients like ground pork or chicken, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, and black pepper.

Where Does Rabo Encendido Come From?

Rabo encendido is one of many dishes in Latin America inspired by African food brought over as slaves to Cuba during its colonial period (1511-1898).

The word “encendedor” means someone who lights fires with flint stones.

The original name of this dish was “cocina negra” which roughly translates into black kitchen.

This comes from the fact that it was originally prepared using only ingredients found in the Caribbean region of Africa (i.e., Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, etc.).

It wasn’t until after World War II that another version of rabo encendido appeared on menus across the country when Cuban chefs began adding other meats such as pork shoulder and chicken thighs.

This led some people to believe they were eating an authentic form of African cuisine, but there are no records showing this ever occurred before 1940.

Since then, various versions of rabo encendido have been created around the world including Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, China, Japan, Korea, and even Vietnam! Each variation has their own unique flavor profile and cooking method depending on what region they hail from.


  • 1 pound beef oxtail
  • 4 large white potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 small bunch scallions, sliced thinly
  • Optional Garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, parsley sprigs, lime wedges


First, season the oxtails liberally with salt and pepper.

Then, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan over high heat.

When hot enough, sear the oxtails on all sides until browned.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Turn off the heat and pour the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan.

Add the onions and saute until translucent.

Next add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Once the onions turn golden, add the beef back to the pan along with the rest of the spices.

Reduce the heat slightly and let simmer while you prepare the vegetables.

Place the potatoes, sweet potato, and green peppers in a pot filled with water and bring to a boil.

Boil until tender, about 15 minutes.

Drain and return them to the same pot.

Mix in the reserved oxtails and broth, cover, and reduce heat to low.

Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the oxtails simmer, chop up the scallion greens and dice the red pepper.

Heat the last two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Fry the scallion greens and red pepper together until crisp, about 5 minutes.

Set aside.

After the oxtails have simmered for 30 minutes, remove the bay leaves.

Carefully lift the lid off the pan to allow steam to escape.

Increase the temperature to medium-high and stir in the cooked vegetables.

Return the oxtails to the pan and continue to cook until heated through.

If desired, garnish each serving with a sprinkling of shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh herbs, and lime wedges.

How Popular Is Rabo Encendido?

Rabo encendido has been around since the 16th century.

It was originally created in Santo Domingo by enslaved Africans who cooked it over an open fire to provide food for their owners in exchange for working on plantations.

Later, slaves brought this recipe with them when they were forced into exile during the Spanish colonial period.

The dish didn’t become known as “encendedro” (meaning ‘on fire’) until after emancipation, which took place in 1865.

Nowadays, many Dominicans enjoy eating this comforting stew at least once per week.

However, due to its labor-intensive preparation process, not every household owns a pot large enough to make rabo encendido.

As such, many restaurants cater to customers with specific dietary needs, like vegans and vegetarians, offering vegan versions of the dish.

In addition to being delicious, rabo encendido also offers several health benefits.

For example, it contains high amounts of iron and protein, while providing low levels of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

Plus, it provides plenty of fiber, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamins C and K, and folic acid.

In other words, rabo encendido can be considered a complete source of nutrition.

It may sound weird, but there is actually a vegetarian version of this stew called rabo santo.

This particular variation uses only vegetables instead of meat.

If you’re interested in trying out either version, here’s how to make both.

What Are Some Variations Of Rabo Encendido?

Rabo encendido has been around since at least 1868 when it was first mentioned in an account by American journalist Henry C.

Havemeyer (1836-1915).

He wrote about his visit to Santo Domingo, where he ate “a very savory meat soup cooked Spanish fashion, which seems to be called Raboy Encendido.

The whole cow tail is put into this pot and boiled until it falls apart, then the fleshy part is cut off and served as a separate course.

It is accompanied by vegetables and rice, and is eaten with tortillas.”

The ingredients used in rabo encendido vary depending on what region of the country you live in.

In Puerto Rico, for example, they use rabbit instead of beef and often add more onions than other versions do.

Some people like to stir fry their oxtails before adding them to the pot while others prefer braising or slow cooking them.

In addition to these regional differences, there are also many different types of rabo encendido.

You can find recipes that call for tomatoes, potatoes, celery, carrots, peppers, and even garlic! One thing that all the different recipes have in common though is that they always include one ingredient that goes unmentioned in most recipes – paprika!

Paprika is a spice derived from dried red peppers that comes from Spain.

It is usually added to dishes either during cooking or toward the end of the process because its flavor intensifies over time.

However, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you add it early or late because the flavors still come through no matter how long you cook it.

What Are Some Tips For Making Rabo Encendido?

Rabo Encendido Recipe – Ingredients and Directions

  • 1 pound boneless beef (preferably short ribs)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, divided in half
  • 1 3/4 cup water, divided in half
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6-8 ripe plantains
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Sofrito Sauce: 2 green peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf


Step One: Soften onions in hot oil over medium heat until soft and translucent.

Add garlic, stir well, add remaining ingredients except plantains, and simmer 30 minutes.

Step Two: To prepare the sofrito sauce: In a Dutch oven, sautee onions and peppers in oil over medium heat until soft and translucent.

Stir frequently.

When softened, transfer mixture to food processor.

Blend thoroughly.

Pour back into pan, stirring constantly.

Season with salt and pepper.

Step Three: After thirty minutes, place meat and vegetables into slow cooker, cover, and cook 6 hours on low.

Turn off crock pot, remove lid, and allow to cool slightly before adding plantains.

Cut each into 8 wedges.

Fold slices of plantain into “sausage” along with raisin and pepper.

Cook an additional 15 minutes at high temperature.

Serve with rice and refried beans.

What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Making Rabo Encend

Rabo encendidos (literally “lit up oxtails”) are a popular dish in the Caribbean region of Latin America.

They consist of oxtail simmered in an onion-based sauce until it becomes tender.

The meat can be served as part of a main course, but more often than not, it’s usually eaten alongside rice to soak up all those delicious juices.

In most cases, this recipe calls for the use of whole pieces of oxtail, which makes it difficult to cut into smaller portions.

This means that even though it may seem like an intimidating task, cutting up the oxtail isn’t too complicated at all.

In fact, there are only three parts of the oxtail that need to be separated before cooking: the neck, the tail, and the shank.

After removing these sections of the oxtail, you’ll have four distinct components that you can either cook separately or mix together.

You can also choose to leave one section unpeeled (the neck), but we prefer to peel them because they add another layer of flavor to the final product.

  • The Neck – If you don’t peel the oxtail, this is where the majority of its nutrients reside.
  • The Tail – Most recipes call for leaving the tail intact while simmering the rest of the oxtail. However, many people recommend peeling the tail first to reduce any excess fat content.
  • The Shank – We suggest peeling the shank portion and adding it to the other ingredients after being cooked.

Rabo Encendido Recipe

If you’re looking for something hearty that will warm your soul on a cold night or if you just want a tasty meal, then you should definitely try out a classic rabo encendido.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: CUBAN
Keyword: Rabo Encendido Recipe
Servings: 3
Calories: 1988kcal


  • Pot
  • Pan


  • 1 ½ cups vino seco
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 pounds beef oxtails
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 2 potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup green olives pitted and halved
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ sazon seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken broth


  • In a sizable bowl, combine salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, and wine seco. Add the oxtails and coat thoroughly. Wrapped in plastic wrap, marinate the food for 12 hours in the fridge.
  • With the exception of 1/2 cup of the marinade, drain the oxtails.
  • Oxtails should be seared for 2 minutes on each side in a big pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place on a big plate. In the same saucepan, heat the last tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the potatoes, carrots, and onion for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are transparent.
  • In a mortar and pestle, grind garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a coarse pulp. Stir the garlic paste for around 30 seconds to release its fragrance into the saucepan. Add the bay leaves, spices, sazon seasoning, sazon completa, and green olives after stirring. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, and leftover marinade.
  • Put the oxtails back in the pot. Oxtails should be brought to a boil, then simmer, covered, for about 4 hours, or until they are very soft and coming from the bone.



Calories: 1988kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 110g | Fat: 151g | Saturated Fat: 51g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 74g | Trans Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 434mg | Sodium: 2903mg | Potassium: 2601mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 7193IU | Vitamin C: 40mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 14mg
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