Vaca frita is a traditional Cuban dish that literally translates to “fried cow”.
It is a staple of Cuban cuisine and is known as the ultimate comfort food!
This flavorful dish is a crispy delight topped with sauteed onions and seasoned with lime, garlic, and salt.
While it tastes incredible on its own, it can be made even better with some delicious side dishes.
This article will teach you exactly how to make vaca frita and the best sides to pair with it for a fully rounded meal.
How To Make Vaca Frita
- 1 ½ lbs of flank steak
- 3 cups of beef broth
- ½ tsp of salt
- ½ tsp of garlic powder
- ¼ tsp of black pepper
- 2 tbsp of lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 tbsp of canola oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- Lime wedges to garnish
- To a large pot, add the steak and beef broth. If the piece is large, cut it in half so that it will fit within the pot without folding or overlapping.
- Heat the pot on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium once the broth has boiled for 15 minutes.
- About halfway through the cooking time, turn the steaks again.
- Place the flank steak on a chopping board or in a pan after turning off the heat in the cooker. When the steak is cooled 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. Then stir thoroughly to combine.
- In a big skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. The shredded beef should be added to the hot, nearly smoking oil and arranged in a single layer to fill the entire skillet.
- Without stirring, cook the meat for 3 to 5 minutes. Allow the liquid to evaporate while allowing the bottom to brown and crisp up.
- 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 of additional browning should be turned over. As soon as the beef’s outer layer turns brown and crispy, continue checking and flipping it.
- Once the vaca frita is cooked, turn off the heat and transfer the beef to a dish or pan.
- Place the skillet back over the hot burner and add the cut onions (with the heat off). Stir the onions regularly while they cook in the residual heat.
- Serve with the onions and lime wedges.
Now that you know how to make the perfect vaca frita.
You can now move on to making your favorite side to create a complete, authentic Cuban meal.
These recipes for delicious side dishes are sure to complement your vaca frita perfectly.
And there’s no stopping you from having more than one!
You can pair your vaca frita with a simple side of fluffy white rice.
White rice is incredibly versatile and goes well with almost any dish! It’s cheap, filling, and delicious if done right.
All you need is water, long-grain white rice, and salt to cook this classic side dish.
Classic mashed potatoes are a great comfort food and work perfectly with vaca frita!
Nothing compares to the creaminess and fluffiness of a well-made dish of mashed potatoes.
You can make them however you like, or just let them speak for themselves as the main dish adds to their flavor.
For this recipe, you can raid your pantry for ingredients you probably already have!
Get some potatoes, milk, salt, pepper, and butter, and you’re ready to go.
When it comes to Cuban cuisine, red beans are almost always on the menu!
That’s why they’ll work brilliantly with a plate of vaca frita.
Red beans packed full of herbs and spices really bring out the flavors of your vaca frita, making it taste even better.
They also work well with pork, so give them a try with other Cuban dishes!
Fried Sweet Plantains
In Cuba, fried sweet plantains are one of the most popular side dishes, so why not try them with your authentic vaca frita?
These ripened plantains have a deliciously sweet flavor that creates a perfect balance in your meal.
Tender in the middle and crisp around the edges, fried sweet plantains are sure to become your next favorite side.
Malanga is a vegetable that is cultivated in many tropical regions and is very popular as a side dish in Cuba.
This delicious side dish is similar to mashed potatoes but with a distinctive earthy flavor that tastes incredible with a plate of tasty vaca frita.
This versatile dish can be made completely your own, so give it a try with your next Cuban meal!
Tostones are described as classically Cuban by all those who are fans of the cuisine.
And they are fantastic accompaniments to vaca frita!
These little treats are twice fried green plantains with a similar texture to bananas but with a savory taste.
They work incredibly well with any Cuban dish, so you won’t regret including them in your meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Vaca Frita The Same As Ropa Vieja?
With one major exception, ropa vieja and vaca frita are closely related.
While vaca frita is cooked twice – once while the meat is stewed and again while being pan-fried – ropa vieja is simply cooked once.
What Kind Of Beef Should I Use For Vaca Frita?
You can use brisket or flank steak for vaca frita.
Both can be used successfully. However, flank steak shreds easier than brisket, which can also be slightly drier.
What Prep Should I Do Before Cooking Vaca Frita?
The prep work for making vaca frita is very simple and only requires a few ingredients.
Here is everything you need to do before you start cooking:
- Cut onions into thin slices.
- Measure out the broth and oil.
- Add the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a small bowl.
- Juice the lime and slice some wedges.
- Trim any fat from the flank steak if you wish. You can leave it on and trim after cooking if you want to use the steak’s fat to add to the flavor of the vaca frita.
With this recipe and our side recommendations, you can create an absolutely delicious and authentic Cuban dish!
Vaca frita is easy to make with minimal ingredients and could easily be your next favorite meal, along with the best classic Cuban side dishes.