Jamaican oxtail stew is an elaborate dish that tastes best when shared! Oxtail is stewed on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot, in a mix of broth, veggies, spices, and sauces, to give you a deliciously nourishing and warm stew.
One of my favourite midwinter recipes to cook up is Jamaican oxtail stew. Mouthwateringly fragrant and with a heat that doesn’t die down soon, this stew is the perfect (and literal) solution to cut through winter’s cold—though it’s just as great any other time of the year, too!
Excellent for family dinners and social gatherings, a steaming, pungent bowl of oxtail stew is all you need when you’re craving the Caribbean sun’s kiss on your shoulders and warmth in your heart and belly.
Here’s everything you need to know to whip up this sunshine in a bowl!
You can Jamaican oxtail stew in an instant pot, slow cooker, or on the stovetop, too. I find that though a slow cooker and instant pot majorly cut down the amount of monitoring I need to do, there’s something gloriously old-fashioned and delicious about an oxtail stew cooked on the stove.
That said, if you find yourself too busy to actively engage in the cooking process and also want to cut down on the amount of washing up you need to do (I totally get it), the slow cooker and instant pot versions of this recipe will give you results that are just as delicious (even if it takes considerably longer).
Jamaican Oxtail Stew Recipe
- 1.2 kilograms Oxtail cut into small chunks (best to get your butcher to do this)
- 3 tablespoons Light brown sugar
- A All-purpose seasoning blend
- 2 tablespoons Plain flour
- 2 Carrots, finely diced
- Onion, diced
- 3 Garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 Celery stalks, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons Root ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons Ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons Tomato puree
- 4 Spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 Red peppers, roughly chopped
- 400 grams Tin butter beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 Sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- A Scotch bonnet chilli pepper, you can also substitute with a habanero pepper or use a teaspoon or two of any Scotch bonnet pepper sauce
- A tablespoon Vegetable oil
- 600 millilitres Beef stock you can use 2 cubes or stock pots
- A tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Dark soy sauce
- Lemon juice, just a splash
- A handful of finely chopped parsley
Method – Stove
- Start by seasoning the oxtail with pepper, salt, and all-purpose seasoning. Mix well and let this marinate for an hour, at least.
- In a large Dutch oven or casserole, melt the brown sugar over medium heat. Keep swirling so that the sugar doesn’t burn.
- In about five or six minutes, you’ll see the sugar start to darken. Add two tablespoons of water at this point—there’ll be quite a bit of spluttering, so be extremely careful and don’t get burnt!
- Stir the mixture until the sugar and water are combined well. If you see the mixture clumping, decrease the heat to a low flame and stir till it melts.
- Bring out your marinating oxtail and dust it with flour, lightly mixing with your hands to get an even coat.
- Add the oxtail to the caramel and stir well to ensure that the meat is evenly coated.
- Fry the meat till it browns well (this should take no more than two or three minutes) and is caramelised. Once done, set the meat aside.
- Deglaze the pan with a bit of water. If any bits of meat are caramelised and stuck to the pan, make sure you scrape them up. Leaving them there will accelerate burning—not to mention that they’re a nightmare to clean off when you finally have to wash up!
- Throw out the water once the pan’s deglazed and add the oil.
- Add in the onion, celery, carrots, ginger, garlic, and half the chopped spring onions. Cook these till they’re softened, which should take about five minutes.
- Once your veggies are cooked, add the allspice and tomato puree, cooking for a minute or until the mixture darkens and thickens.
- It’s now time to reintroduce the oxtail (don’t forget the juices!) to the equation! Add the cooked oxtail bits to the pot, along with thyme, the Scotch bonnet pepper, your other peppers, bay leaves, soy sauce, stock, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Give it a gentle stir to combine all of the ingredients. At this point, your meat should be nearly submerged.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook the whole thing for 1.5 hours, making sure you stir occasionally.
- Once cooked, add the remaining chopped spring onions. Replace the lid, with a small gap for the steam to vent, and let this cook for another 40 minutes.
- At the end of 40 minutes, your gravy should be rich, glossy, and thick and your meat tenderly falling apart. You can now add the butter beans, cooking for another five minutes.
- Once cooked, take out the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and Scotch bonnet and stir in your lemon juice. If there’s any adjusting to be done with the seasoning, now’s the time.
- When the flavours hit all the right notes, garnish with parsley and dig in!
Method – Slow Cooker
- When using a slow cooker, follow the instructions listed above until you reach the point when you need to let the stew simmer for 1.5 hours on the stove. Instead of simmering, transfer the stew to a slow cooker.
- If you’re cooking in the high setting, cook for 7-8 hours, and if you’re cooking in the low setting, cook for 12-14 hours. The beans need to be stirred in right at the end and the whole mixture simmered for another ten minutes before taking it off the heat.
Method – Instant Pot
- Follow the same instructions for sautéing the veggies and meat listed in the stovetop method. Again, instead of simmering for 1.5 hours, pressure cook the stew on high for 40 minutes.
- Add the beans at the end and let the stew simmer for another ten minutes before taking it off the heat.
- Whenever I cook Jamaican oxtail stew, I cook it during the weekend; this lasts me till the middle of the week. Covering the stew and refrigerating it will prolong its life by 2-3 days, whereas freezing it will prolong its life by 3 months.
- In the case of the latter, use a lidded pan on the hop to gently reheat until the stew is hot. You can add a bit of water to the stew to accelerate the reheating process.
- If you find that the sauce is too watery (it happens to the best of us, so don’t worry!), add a tablespoon of cornstarch to the sauce right at the end, when you add in your butter beans, and continue to simmer as mentioned.
Jamaican Oxtail Stew Recipe: FAQ
Do You Have To Soak Oxtails Before Cooking?
Many people recommend soaking and blanching oxtail before cooking it to remove any impurities. If you’d like to do so as well, simply soak the oxtail in cold water for an hour and follow it up by putting the meat in boiling fresh water and letting it simmer for 10 minutes.
If you’re soaking and blanching the oxtail (I stick to just thoroughly washing the meat), ensure that you pat it dry before marinating it.
Do I Have to Brown My Oxtails Before Cooking?
If you’re worried that your meat may not cook or tenderize enough, you can brown it on both sides on high heat after it has marinated, and then add it to the stew.
Jamaican Oxtail Stew Recipe: Conclusion
Jamaican oxtail stew is a must-try if you’re a fan of the rich, vibrant, classic flavours of the Caribbean and tender meat that melts in the mouth. Enjoy your stew as the Jamaicans do—with coconut-scented white rice, peas, and the sunshine that friends and family bring!