Authentic Jamaican Oxtail Stew With Butterbeans

If you are looking for a show-stopper of a dish, then this authentic Jamaican oxtail stew with butterbeans is one you need to make. Packed with authentic Jamaican flavors and spices, this dish is cooked low and slow, bringing out the best of these fresh ingredients.

A large bowl full of Jamaican oxtail stew with butterbeans. Rice is served on the side and green onions are used as a garnish.

Why You Will Love My Jamaican Oxtail Stew

  • Authentic Jamaican recipe – this traditional recipe uses authentic ingredients and techniques. See my ingredients notes for all the details, variations, and substitutions you can make to keep this stew traditional.
  • Simple to make – While it may be time-consuming, this stew is simple. You need to let the cooking time do the actual work of breaking down the oxtail into something incredibly tender.
  • Fresh ingredients cooked well – This oxtail stew takes fresh ingredients and brings all the flavors together in a delicious way.
  • Pressure cooker – In the recipe card below, I’ve added tips and tricks to using an Instant Pot to speed up the process.
  • Slow Cooker – I’ve also added instructions for your Crock Pot in the recipe card.

I grew up in Rexdale. And despite its rather colorful reputation, it was a place full of character and full of immigrants just like us: Balkan and Eastern European, Italian, Latin American, African — and Jamaican and Caribbean.

We had some great restaurants that went ignored by the rest of Toronto.

My first taste of oxtail was my mother’s traditional European oxtail soup; my second was Jamaican oxtail stew. And it was incredible.

This recipe is very dear to me and I’ve made it countless times — I know you will love it too.

If you love hearty recipes like this Jamaican oxtail stew, try my gochujang beef short ribs, Bosnian grah, Croatian grah, or liver dumpling soup recipes.

Equipment

  • Heavy-bottomed pot
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board

Ingredients

Every Jamaican cook will have their own ingredient combinations, amounts, and techniques. See the recipe notes for clarification.

All of the ingredients needed to make an authentic and traditional Jamaican oxtail stew.
  • Whole oxtail | Cut up into small pieces.
  • Butterbeans – also known as lima beans. They have a smooth, buttery flavor. If you can’t find them, the best alternatives are navy beans, cannellini beans, or great northern beans. You can use canned beans or dried beans that have been soaked in water for 8-10 hours and then rinsed.
  • Lard or oil/fat of choice | We prefer to use lard, tallow, or ghee.
  • Carrots – Carrots add a touch of sweetness and earthiness. You can also leave carrots out.
  • Yellow onion
  • Green onion | The onions will add a depth of flavor to the dish. It is also used as a garnish at the end.
  • Ripe red tomato | You can use canned tomato too
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper or habanero pepper – Remove the seeds and membrane to control the heat and spice in this dish. You can adjust the amount to your personal preferences.
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh thyme – You can use dried thyme if you wish.
  • Allspice | also called pimento, this is a must.
  • Garlic – Fresh garlic is preferred, but you can use dried instead.
  • Brown sugar – This will help brown the oxtail and balance out the savory flavors.

Other Authentic Ingredients

I’m not using the following traditional ingredients in my recipe, but you can use them as described below and you can use all of them together:

  • Ketchup | Add a 1/4 cup of ketchup towards the end of cooking.
  • Green bell pepper | 1 whole green bell pepper, diced, added along with the carrot or instead of the carrot.
  • Dry oxtail seasoning | This all-purpose meat seasoning mix contains salt, red pepper, sugar, thyme, celery, paprika, garlic, onion, and other spices. You can buy it online. If you want to use this, sprinkle it onto the oxtail with the other ingredients before the browning/searing cooking stage. About 1 teaspoon.
  • Oxtail browning sauce | You can use this instead of the brown sugar to sear the oxtail or use it with the brown sugar. It makes food darker and adds more flavor. You can buy browning online. It’s basically a combination of sugar and water with citric acid and has a unique bitter-sweet flavor. Add this to the oxtail before the browning/searing stage if you want to use it. About 1 tablespoon.
  • Beef bouillon cubes | 1-2 cubes of beef stock can be added to the stew for even more depth of flavor. Add it with the water.

❁ You’ll find the exact amount of each ingredient below in the printable recipe card. Make sure to select ‘cook mode’ to keep your screen from turning off as you make it.

Jamaican Oxtail Stew Instructions (Step-by-Step With Photos)

How To Cut Up An Oxtail

Oxtail is the tail of a cow and was once considered a cheap poor man’s cut of meat. Today its popularity has made it rather expensive. Oxtail is a tough cut of meat full of collagen, and it needs a long cooking time.

The trick is to cut between each vertebrae with a sharp chef’s knife. See this 60-second video below.

Raw oxtail pieces coated in brown sugar, salt, and spices.

Step 1: Start with dry oxtail, add a liberal coating of kosher salt and black pepper, and then add a generous coating of dark brown sugar.

Get your seasonings, herbs, and spices in order.

Prep your vegetables as instructed while the oxtail is browning (use photos below for reference).

Oxtail pieces browning in hot fat in a heavy black cas iron pan.

Step 2: Start browning the oxtail in batches in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat with plenty of hot fat or oil.

Do not overcrowd the pot, or the meat will steam and not brown.

Crispy browned oxtail pieces on a blue plate.

Step 3: Get a crispy, brown coating on all sides, as shown. Set the meat aside in a bowl or plate as you continue to brown.

Diced and minced vegetables and aromatics on a wooden board.

Step 4: As the oxtail is browning, prep your carrots, scotch bonnet, and yellow onion by chopping and dicing them into small pieces as shown.

Diced and minced vegetables and aromatics on a wooden board.

Step 5: Prepare the green onion, ginger, and garlic as shown.

Vegetables and aromatics being browned in a heavy black cast iron pot.

Step 6: Once all the oxtail pieces have been browned, add the onion, carrots, and scotch bonnet pepper to the same pot and saute until light brown. Add more fat/oil as required.

If too much fond is sticking to the bottom and starting to burn, just deglaze the hot pot with a small amount of water, stirring briskly and scraping up the flavorful stuck bits with a wooden spoon, and then continue.

Vegetables and aromatics being browned in a heavy black cast iron pot. Fresh green onions are added to the veggies.

Step 7: Add green onions, ginger, garlic, allspice, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and cook for an additional 60 seconds, stirring the entire time.

Vegetables and aromatics being browned in a heavy black cast iron pot. The browned oxtail pieces are added into it and thyme is also thrown in on top.

Step 8: Add the oxtail back into the pot, and add the thyme. Cover with enough water to submerge the oxtail by about 1-2 inches. Let this come to a boil before
immediately turning the heat down to low, partially covering the pot.

If you’re using dried beans that have been soaked for 8-10 hours, you would rinse the beans and add them at this point.

Canned beans must be added towards the end.

The oxtail stew covered in water or stock.

Step 9: Let this simmer on for up to 2.5 hours, checking occasionally to see that the water has not evaporated and adding more as necessary.

After 2 hours, check the oxtail for doneness; it should still need about 30 minutes to an hour at that
point to be really done.

Large white butterbeans added to the oxtail stew.

Step 10: At the 2.5-hour mark of the cooking time, the oxtail should be falling off the bone and very tender. Add the canned butterbeans now.

Keep the lid off and let the mixture simmer on low until most of the water has evaporated and you have an extremely thick stew.

All of the notes for making this stew in a pressure cooker (Instant Pot) or slow cooking it in the Crock Pot are in the recipe card notes at the bottom of the page.

Hint: Taste for salt and adjust as you cook. Remember that as the water evaporates, the flavors will concentrate, so go slowly with adding salt.

A large bowl full of Jamaican oxtail stew with butterbeans. Rice is served on the side and green onions are used as a garnish.

Storage, Freezing, & Reheating

This stew is perfect to make ahead of time, as the longer it is left, the more depth of flavor it has.

Allow any leftovers to cool completely, and then transfer them to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

You can freeze this Jamaican stew for up to three months. Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container in the freezer.

To reheat any chilled leftovers, add them to a saucepan and heat up on the stove until piping hot. Add some water. Ensure frozen stew has entirely thawed in the refrigerator overnight before heating up.

Top Tips

  • Get your butcher to trim and wash your oxtail for you so it is ready to be added to your Jamaican stew. It saves time on preparation.
  • Dried beans are preferable, and I think they taste better.
  • Once dried beans are done soaking, you can boil them for 5 minutes and then rinse them once again before adding them to the stew. This removes impurities and unpleasant scum.

FAQ

Is it necessary to wash oxtails before cooking?

Washing meat before cooking is unnecessary — but Jamaican cooks typically will. If you wish to wash your oxtail, fill a bowl with cool water and a splash of vinegar, and then rinse the oxtails before patting them dry.

Do I need to brown the oxtail before adding to the stew?

Yes, it is best to brown the oxtail first. The Maillard reaction that occurs during this stage is a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids, which produces a wide array of new compounds, each with its own unique flavors. Meat that is browned tastes different from meat that is not. Browning also adds more flavor by creating fond. Even if you use a slow or pressure cooker, you should still brown the meat first.

What nationality eats oxtail?

All nationalities eat and love oxtail. Oxtail is as traditional in Europe and Asia as it is in Jamaica. There are many incredible oxtail stews, soups, and braises for you to try. Try them all.

Looking for other recipes like this oxtail stew? Try these:

What To Serve With Jamaica Oxtail Stew

  • Jamaican oxtail stew is traditionally served alongside hard food or rice and peas.
  • You can also serve it with plain rice cooked in water or bone broth.
  • Serve it with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, or sweet potatoes.
  • Serve it with sourdough bread.
A large bowl full of Jamaican oxtail stew with butterbeans. Rice is served on the side and green onions are used as a garnish.

Authentic Jamaican Oxtail Stew

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Jamaican
Servings: 6
Calories: 84kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 1 whole oxtail cut up into pieces
  • 1 16 oz canned butterbeans or dried beans soaked for 8 hours
  • 2 tablespoons lard more or less as needed, can also use whatever oil or fat you prefer
  • 2 medium carrots finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1 stalk green onion chopped small, save some extra for garnish at the end if you wish
  • 1 large tomato canned tomato works too
  • ½ scotch bonnet pepper or habanero pepper seeds and membrane removed, finely chopped
  • ½ inch piece of fresh ginger finely minced, can use 1 teaspoon of dried ginger too
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic minced, or 1 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt and extra as needed
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

see recipe notes for other ingredient possibilities.

    Instructions

    • Start with dry oxtail, add a liberal coating of kosher salt and black pepper, and then add a generous coating of dark brown sugar.
    • Start browning the oxtail in batches in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat with plenty of hot fat or oil. Do not overcrowd the pot, or the meat will steam and not brown. Get a crispy, brown coating on all sides. Set the meat aside in a bowl or plate as you continue to brown.
    • Get your seasonings, herbs, and spices in order. Prep your vegetables as instructed while the oxtail is browning.
    • Once all the oxtail pieces have been browned, add the onion, carrots, and scotch bonnet pepper to the same pot and saute until light brown. Add more fat/oil as required.
    • If too much fond is sticking to the bottom and starting to burn, just deglaze the hot pot with a small amount of water, stirring briskly and scraping up the flavorful stuck bits with a wooden spoon, and then continue.
    • Add green onions, ginger, garlic, allspice, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and cook for an additional 60 seconds, stirring the entire time.
    • Add the oxtail back into the pot, and add the thyme. Cover with enough water to submerge the oxtail by about 1-2 inches. Let this come to a boil before immediately turning the heat down to low, partially covering the pot.
    • If you're using dried beans that have been soaked for 8-10 hours, you would rinse the beans and add them at this point. Canned beans must be added towards the end.
    • Let this simmer on for up to 2.5 hours, checking occasionally to see that the water has not evaporated and adding more water as necessary.
    • After 2 hours, check the oxtail for doneness; it should still need about 30 minutes to an hour at that point to be really done.
    • At the 2.5-hour mark of the cooking time, the oxtail should be falling off the bone and very tender. Add the canned butterbeans now if using canned beans.
    • Keep the lid off and let the mixture simmer on low until most of the water has evaporated and you have an extremely thick stew.
    • Taste for salt and adjust as you cook. Remember that as the water evaporates, the flavors will concentrate, so go slowly with adding salt.
    • Serve hot and enjoy!

    Notes

    Butterbeans are also known as lima beans. If you cannot access them, the best alternatives are navy beans, cannellini beans, or great northern beans. You can use canned beans or dried beans that have been soaked in water for 8-10 hours and then rinsed.
    Top Tips
    • Dried beans are preferable, and I think they taste better.
    • Once dried beans are done soaking, you can boil them for 5 minutes and then rinse them once again before adding them to the stew. This removes impurities and unpleasant scum.
     
    Other Authentic Ingredients
    I’m not using the following traditional ingredients in my recipe, but you can use them as described below, and you can use all of them together:
    • Ketchup | Add a ¼ cup of ketchup towards the end of cooking.
    • Green bell pepper | 1 whole green bell pepper, diced, added along with the carrot or instead of the carrot.
    • Dry oxtail seasoning | This all-purpose meat seasoning mix contains salt, red pepper, sugar, thyme, celery, paprika, garlic, onion, and other spices. You can buy it online. If you want to use this, sprinkle it onto the oxtail with the other ingredients before the browning/searing cooking stage. About 1 teaspoon.
    • Oxtail browning sauce | You can use this instead of the brown sugar to sear the oxtail or use it with the brown sugar. It makes food darker and adds more flavor. You can buy browning online. It’s basically a combination of sugar and water with citric acid and has a unique bitter-sweet flavor. Add this to the oxtail before the browning/searing stage if you want to use it. About 1 tablespoon.
    • Beef bouillon cubes | 1-2 cubes of beef stock can be added to the stew for even more depth of flavor. Add it with the water.
     
    Instant Pot Instructions
    Use the pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time of the oxtail.
    1. After the meat has been sauteed as instructed above, remove it from your pot and add it to your pressure cooker.
    2. Cover the oxtail so that it is just barely submerged in water.
    3. Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes.
    4. Remove the meat, add it back to your pot on the stove, and proceed. This will reduce the cooking time by 1-1.5 hours.
    I don’t recommend making the entire stew in the pressure cooker; it is not as good.
    Slow Cooker Instructions
    1. Saute the meat as described in the recipe instructions.
    2. Deglaze the pan with water and add the liquid to the slow cooker.
    3. Add the meat and the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours. Check meat for tenderness and cook for 1-2 hours on HIGH if necessary.
    This is not the preferred way to make this stew. If it is too watery at the end, you can reduce the liquid on the stovetop by simmering it gently. 
     

    Nutrition

    Calories: 84kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 0.2mg | Sodium: 407mg | Potassium: 206mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 3712IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 0.5mg
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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