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Vaca Frita Recipe



  • 1 pound of lean meat (beef, veal, pork)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 green onions
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

How Do You Make Vaca Frita?

The first step for making vaca frita is shredding the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Next, heat up your frying pan on medium heat.

Add 2 Tbsp.

of olive oil to the hot pan and add 3 cloves of minced garlic along with the meat.

Season it well with salt and pepper and cook until the meat has browned slightly.

Remove from heat and set aside.

In the meantime, combine the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the onion, chopped finely.

Cook over low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in half teaspoon of salt and mix thoroughly.

Then stir frequently so as not to burn the mixture.

Add the flour gradually while stirring constantly.

Mix together thoroughly and remove from heat.

When cool enough to handle, pour out onto a plate and let cool completely before proceeding to the next steps.

To assemble, line a baking sheet with wax paper.

Spread the cooled onion/flour paste evenly across the surface of the tray, leaving an inch between each layer.

Bake for 15 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 15 minutes, flip the layers around using a spatula.

Continue cooking another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

What Is In A Vaca Frita Recipe?

The basic ingredient list for this delicious dish includes salt, pepper, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin.

But there are many variations on the theme.

Some recipes call for paprika instead of the typical allspice, while others include tomatoes.

You’ll find a wide range of dishes using these same basic ingredients as well.

You can put them into tacos, burgers, burritos, salads, sandwiches, stews, soups, and more.

It’s up to your imagination when it comes to making any kind of food out of these versatile spices.

How Do You Cook Vaca Frita?

The preparation for this dish starts by cutting up your meat into bite sized pieces.

You want to cut it so that each piece will have the same thickness throughout.

Next, heat up some oil over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on top.

Add the meat pieces to the pan one at a time until there are no more drops left.

Season them with salt and pepper.

After seasoning the meat, add 3 cloves of minced garlic and 4 slices of fresh onion.

Cook everything together for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Then pour in 1 cup of flour.

Cook the mixture for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add ½ cup of warm water while cooking and continue to stir.

Once it’s thickened, remove from heat and set aside.

It should take about 15 minutes to thicken completely.

What Is The Best Way To Cook Vaca Frita?

The classic method for cooking vaca frita involves frying the shredded meat in hot oil until browned.

However, this traditional method requires lots of oil which could have an adverse effect on your waistline.

Instead, try one of these three alternative ways of cooking vaca frita:

How Long Does It Take To Cook Vaca Frita?

The length of time depends on how you prepare your meat.

If you are making this classic meal in a pressure cooker, then cooking time will likely only be about 20 minutes per batch.

However, if you want to make sure you get your vaca frita crispy as possible, then it’s important to let the meat marinate overnight before frying.

Soaking the meat in water works as well, but may cause some shrinkage during cooking.

That said, soaking for 12 hours should do the trick! If you’re using fresh ground beef, I recommend marinating it overnight so that it has plenty of time to absorb flavor from the spices and herbs.

You’ll need to cut up the meat into bite-sized pieces first, which takes longer than simply shredding the entire piece of meat.

But once you’ve got everything chopped up, the rest of the process goes much faster.

After washing out the pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Once the oil starts smoking, add the garlic and onion slices and sauté until they become tender.

Once the vegetables have cooked down slightly, sprinkle them with half of the flour.

Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping off any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Then pour in the remaining ½ cup of olive oil and continue stirring for another minute.

You don’t want the mixture to stick to the bottom of the pan, so keep scraping the bottom while adding more oil until there is no more sticking.

Add the meat to the pan and stir until combined.

Cook until the meat begins to turn color.

Pour the liquid from the meat shanks back into the pan, along with enough water to cover by an inch.

Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat.

Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and increase the flame to high.

Season the mixture again with salt and pepper and return to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Next, remove the meat from the liquid and set aside.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, drain away excess fat.

Return it to the saucepan and reheat to boiling.

Turn off heat and allow the meat to sit in the hot liquid until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.8 C).

Transfer the meat to a bowl and fold through the remaining flour.

Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, fry the meat according to your preference.

For example, if you like your fritas crispier, place the pot in the oven at 350 degrees F (177 C) for 15 minutes.

Alternatively, you could use a cast iron skillet instead of a pressure cooker.

What Is The Difference Between Vaca Frita And Other Frita Recipes?

The word “frito” comes from the Spanish language meaning fried.

Fritos are small corn chips like tortilla chips that have been deep fried in oil until they become crisp and golden brown.

Fritas come in many different shapes and sizes depending on where they were originally produced.

In Mexico, frita refers to any type of snack food popularized by street vendors selling Mexican hot dogs called chorizo tacos.

These snacks are usually served with refried beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and salsa.

In Cuba, fritas refer to small pieces of fried breaded ground beef.

Typically these are sold as street vendor fare and are often referred to as carne frita.

They are typically eaten with black coffee and may include some form of sauce such as picadillo or guiso.

In Puerto Rico, fritas refer to small pieces of fried beef.

Similar to the Cuban version, these fritas are commonly eaten with either picadillo or guiso.

While there are many variations of frita, each variation has one thing in common; they all involve frying.

How Do You Eat Vaca Frita?

The most traditional way to enjoy this dish is as an appetizer or snack.

Simply choose your meats and seasonings, then heat up a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.

Once hot add the oil, followed by the chopped vegetables.

Once the veggies have softened, it’s time for the next step — the key ingredient in the whole process: the flour.

Stirred into the fat, the flour helps create a crispy exterior on the fried food while retaining its moist interior.

Now it’s time to get cooking! Add the sliced meat to the pan and cook until browned on each side.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

If you want to make more than one serving, simply increase the amount of meat used per batch.

Just remember not to overcrowd the skillet when frying.

This recipe makes enough for two servings, but if you’re planning on sharing, consider doubling or tripling the amounts listed here.

What Are Some Other Ways To Eat Vaca Frita?

You’ll find many variations on the classic vaca frita recipe.

Some versions use more or less meat depending upon what your family prefers.

You may even find it in different forms such as tacos.

The most common way people enjoy this traditional Cuban dish is by frying chunks of beef, pork, chicken, or any combination of these meats until they get crispy.

It’s then served over rice and beans for an easy meal.

If you like your food spicy, you might want to give this one a try!

There are plenty of ways to improve on the original version of vaca frita.

For example, if you don’t have access to a cast iron pan or fryer, consider using a large skillet instead.

Just make sure to add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan so the meat doesn’t stick.

Also, remember to season your meat before cooking to avoid too much salt from overpowering the flavors of your dish.

Another popular variation of vaca frita is called “chicharrón.” Chicharron literally means fried pig skin.

To make chicharrón, simply take 1/8th of a pig skin and cut into strips about ¼ inch wide.

Then, dip each strip into seasoned cornmeal batter and deep fry them until golden brown.

Serve hot with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

A great alternative to chicharrón is to try out another type of fried pig skin known as “cochinita pibil.” Cochinita refers to the fact that the pig was roasted whole prior to being cooked.

Pibil loosely translates to “cooked inside out” and refers to the fact that the pig was boiled first before roasting.

Either way, both dishes work well as a side dish alongside rice and beans.

Here are a couple of other interesting ways you can cook up some vaca frita:

What Are Some Other Recipes Similar To Vaca Frita?

If you’re looking for another way to enjoy this classic Cuban dish, here are several more delicious options.

Pork Vaca Frita

This version features ground pork in place of the traditional beef used in the original recipe.

You will need to use your own judgment when it comes to choosing whether or not you want to add additional seasonings such as paprika or cumin.

Pork has its own unique flavor profile, so feel free to experiment with different spices to suit your personal tastes!

Chicken Vaca Frita

There’s no reason why you can’t make this recipe using any type of cut of meat.

If you decide to try this out, don’t forget to check out our list of easy chicken recipes on how to cook chicken properly.

Beef Vaca Frita

The key difference between these two versions of the recipe is the amount of salt added to the cooking liquid.

In the Beef Vaca Frita, we recommend adding about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per quart of water.

For the Chicken Vaca Frita, we suggest only using ½ teaspoon of salt per quart of water.

What Are Some Other Dishes That Can Be Made With Vaca Frita?

VACA FRITA is the Spanish name for “shredded beef” and is usually served as an appetizer in Cuba.

You can find this dish in restaurants throughout the island where it is known by different names like bistec relleno de papas (stuffed steak), bocadillo criollo (Cuban sandwich) and churrasco cubano (Cuban steak).

In fact, many Cubans will often refer to any type of grilled or fried food as a ‘churrascada’ — which translates into “grilled steak.”

The original version of VACA FRITA was created when a group of Cuban immigrants settled in Tampa, Florida, back in the early 1900s.

They were looking for work after being displaced from their homeland due to political unrest.

As they worked hard on farms, they started making a traditional dish called BACONED EGGS AND CHEESE that was eaten as breakfast.

When they came across a local butcher shop selling beef scraps, they decided to use those instead of bacon in order to make their eggs more palatable! Over time, the dish evolved to include the addition of peppers to give it a little kick, and it became popular enough to earn its own restaurant named “Casa Vacia.”

Fast forward over 100 years later, and you now have a delicious recipe perfect for entertaining friends and family during the holidays!

Vaca Frita Recipe

VACA FRITA is the Spanish name for “shredded beef” and is usually served as an appetizer in Cuba.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: CUBAN
Keyword: Vaca Frita Recipe
Servings: 3
Calories: 415kcal


  • pounds Flank Steak
  • 3 cups Beef Broth
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Lime Juice
  • 2 tablespoons Canola
  • 1 Medium Onion thinly sliced
  • Lime Wedges


  • Large pot with the meat and beef broth added. To fit in the pot without folding or overlapping, cut a large piece in half.
  • Heat the pot on a high setting. Reduce the heat to medium once the broth has boiled for 15 minutes.
  • Cook for 30 minutes after turning the steak and lowering the heat to medium-low. About halfway through the cooking period, turn the steaks again.
  • Place the flank steak on a chopping board or a pan after turning off the heat in the cooker. When the steak is cold enough to handle, shred it into thin strings.
  • Reintroduce the meat to the broth. Add a generous amount of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and lime juice. To blend, thoroughly stir.
  • 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.
  • Get beneath a piece of the meat with a large spatula and flip it over, but don’t stir. Repeat the process with a different part of the steak until it is all browned side up.
  • The beef needs another 1–2 minutes of cooking. Since the liquid has already been boiled out, this side will brown much more quickly. After one minute, check a section to make sure it isn’t burning.
  • Any areas that require a bit additional browning should be turned over. As soon as the beef’s outer layer turns brown and crispy, continue monitoring and flipping it.
  • Once the vaca frita is cooked, turn off the heat and transfer the beef to a dish 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.



Calories: 415kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 51g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 1401mg | Potassium: 923mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 6IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 4mg
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