Cuban Vaca Frita


December 4, 2015

My number one choice was always Vaca Frita. This delicious crispy shredded beef dish literally translates to “fried cow.” Since we received both canned beef and pork, my mother used both meats to make the Vaca Frita, which turned the whole thing into a joke. You’ve heard of Chicken-Fried Steak, well my mom created Cow-Fried Pork, or Vaca Frita de Puerco. As soon as we could afford to buy our meat at the carniceria, the butcher shop, she began making my beloved dish from beef. This is her original recipe.

  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 1 hr 30 mins
  • 10 mins

    1 hr 30 mins

    1 hr 40 mins

  • Yields: Serves 4 - 6


2 pounds flank steak

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

6 garlic cloves, chopped

Juice from 1 lime

2 limes cut into wedges

2 whole bay leaves

1-teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon black pepper

1-teaspoon ground cumin

1-teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons salt


1Place the flank steak in a deep pot and fill with water until it’s covered. Add the bay leaves and cover. Let it simmer for an hour. If you’re using a pressure cooker, follow the appliance directions and cook approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat, take the meat out and let it rest and cool. While the steak is still warm, shred the beef using two forks, or your fingers if it’s cool enough to handle. Set it aside while you make the sofrito.


1Place two tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan over medium heat. Add onions and half the garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add the spices. Sauté for another 5 minutes.

2Turn the heat up to medium high and add the beef. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until crispy. Remove from heat.

3Add the rest of the raw garlic to the beef along with the lime juice and mix it in. Top with parsley and lime wedges and serve with a spatula. This dish can be served by itself, or with white rice and black beans for a truly Cuban experience.