Jamaican oxtail stew

jamaican oxtail stew close up

beef_logo-cOxtails, like many other “scraps” synonymous with peasant food because of its toughness, require lots of patience. These cuts found their way into the pots of the poor the world over because they have been historically very cheap. Eventually, gourmands discovered the deliciousness of these “inferior” bits.  People who would normally have turned their nose up at such a lowly piece of meat have discovered the incredible flavors that are unlocked when someone takes the time and care to cook it with love.

One of my favorite ways to prepare oxtail is Jamaican oxtail stew. Since oxtail is very tough and contains lots of cartilage, it requires a long, slow braise to break it down into soft, succulent, beefy goodness. So, on a lazy afternoon, grab your Dutch oven and a few Red Stripes, turn on some Bob Marley, and discover the joy of creating something rich and decadent from such a tough cut of meat.


The first thing you need to do is source some oxtail. Oxtail has become trendy in recent years and is finding its way onto the menus at many restaurants. This is great on one hand because it’s made it easier to find. On the other hand, this once cheap cut of meat is now steadily increasing in price. For this particular recipe, I found some great grass fed beef at my local farmers market. If you don’t have a farmers market nearby, your butcher or supermarket should stock it. You will need 2-3lbs of oxtail for this recipe.  I got a bit carried away and forgot to take pictures of my oxtail before they went in the pot.  Oops.

Along with the oxtail you will need a supporting cast of ingredients. 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped large yellow onion, 4 chopped green onions, 2 diced tomatoes, 2 tsp of minced garlic, 1 TBS of whole pimento seeds (whole all spice), 1 bunch of fresh thyme, and last but certainly not least 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper.



After you’ve acquired the oxtail the next step you need to do is rinse the oxtail with cold water. Next, squeeze the juice out of one lemon and wash the meat with the lemon juice. After you’ve washed it, it’s time to season the meat. I use ½ TBS of Goya Blue Top all-purpose seasoning. Any all-purpose seasoning will work. I like the blue top Goya because it does not have any pepper in it. I like being able to control how much pepper I season the meat with. Then I add ½ TBS of black pepper, 1 TBS of Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp of minced garlic, and 1 TBS of browning sauce. Browning sauce is simply for color; it does not add any flavor to the meat. The browning sauce is optional if you can’t find it. The gravy in the stew will simply be a lighter color brown. I added it to mine because it’s simply the traditional way to cook this stew.

Mix the seasoning into the meat and make sure all the surfaces are coated. I like to let the meat sit in the marinade overnight in a Ziplock or vacuum bag. This step is optional. You can start cooking right away if you want.


When you are ready to start cooking, heat a heavy bottom pot like a Cast Iron Dutch Oven on medium heat on your stove top with 2 TBS of vegetable oil. Place the meat in the Dutch oven and brown all sides of the oxtails. Be careful to save as much leftover marinade as possible. We will add it back in later.


After the oxtails are browned, remove them and set them aside. Add half of a chopped large yellow onion and 1 tsp of minced garlic. Cook the onions until they are translucent, being careful not to burn them.oxtail6



After the onions are cooked, add in the oxtails, remaining marinade, one bunch of fresh thyme, 1 TBS of whole pimento seeds (whole allspice), and 1 scotch bonnet pepper cut in half with the seeds removed (habanero will substitute fine if you can’t find a scotch bonnet). I recommend wearing gloves when handling the scotch bonnet or habanero.


Next add in 2 cups of water. Then cover and boil the oxtails for one hour.


After the hour is up, add in two chopped carrots, two diced tomatoes, four chopped green onions, and the other half of your chopped large yellow onion.


Next, pour in one cup of water, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for another 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes are up, it’s time to add our last ingredient: butter beans. Butter beans are an essential part of this recipe. Butter beans are basically what we would call lima beans here in the states. They are one and the same so don’t freak out if you can’t find anything on the shelf called butter beans. Just grab a can of limas and you will be fine.


Add the beans and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the oxtails are fork tender. Once tender, I recommend you plate the dish on a bed of rice. Garnish with some chopped parsley and be sure wash it all down with another ice cold Red Stripe. Enjoy.

4.3 from 29 reviews
Jamaican oxtail stew
Cuisine: Jamaican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
This wonderfully rich Jamaican oxtail stew will warm your soul and your tastebuds.
  • 2-3lbs of oxtail
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ TBS of all purpose seasoning (Goya blue top)
  • ½ TBS of black pepper
  • 1 TBS of worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBS of browning sauce (optional)
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped large yellow onion
  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 2 diced tomatoes,
  • 1 TBS of whole pimento seeds (whole allspice)
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
  1. Rinse oxtail in cold water
  2. Juice one lemon and wash the meat with the lemon juice
  3. In a mixing bowl season meat with ½ TBS of all purpose seasoning.
  4. ½ TBS of black pepper, 1 TBS of Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 1 TBS of browning sauce (optional).
  5. Place seasoned meat in a ziplock bag and marinade overnight.
  6. Heat Dutch oven or heavy bottom stock pot with 2 TBS of vegetable oil
  7. Brown all sides of the oxtail being careful to save the marinade in the bag.
  8. Remove browned oxtails and set aside. Add ½ a chopped large yellow onion and 1 tsp of minced garlic to the pot. Cook until onions are translucent.
  9. Return oxtails to the pot, pour in the remaining marinade,add in 1 TBS of pimento seeds (whole allspice), 1 bunch of fresh thyme, and one scotch bonnet or habanero cut in half with seeds removed, and 2 cups of water.
  10. Bring pot to a boil and cook for one hour.
  11. After an hour add in two chopped carrots, two diced tomatoes, four chopped green onions, the other half of your chopped large yellow onion.
  12. Pour in one cup of water, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  13. After 30 minutes at in one can of drained butter beans (lima beans).
  14. Simmer for another 30 minutes or until oxtails are fork tender.
  15. Plate stew on a bed of rice and garnish with parsley.


  1. Tekesha   •  

    OMG Andrew, this is the real deal just like my parents make! I knew it would be tops when you mentioned using browning, lol! It’s a psychological thing. I am loving your site and your photos are making me so hungry! 🙂

      • Ivy   •  

        I’m cooking this as we speak. I absolutely love it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Ayeisha   •  

      Yes!imust agree “browning ” is the keys to color in West Indian dishes lol nothing is allowed that’s to pink or bright lol I did this recipe and it was a hit !! Yessss thank you Andrew !

  2. Mena   •  

    Oh la la look so good and the preparation sounds on point can’t wait to try it 🙂

  3. Ilya   •  

    Wicked recipe but it’s missing the beans from the ingredient’s list! 😉

  4. Hari   •  

    Do u drain the butter beans before adding to oxtail?

  5. Johnk9   •  

    Rattling nice pattern and good subject matter, hardly anything else we need D. keeeefbkdeck

  6. dlj   •  

    I am in the process of making these now, a few of our friends requested them. I will serve them with brown rice, baked sweet potatoes and bacon green beans.

    I have made them before and they are absolute delicious.


  7. Noelle   •  

    Hi! So I just wanted to say thank you so much. I was born and raised in Jamaica and I have always been petrified of cooking oxtail, however because of you I have it at least twice of month. You’re my new favorite chef.

  8. sylvia   •  

    I’m trying this recipe right now but couldn’t fine the bonnet or the hub other pepper . Or can look use jalapeño pepper

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      It won’t be quite as hot and they don’t have quite the same flavor but it will work in a pinch!

  9. Jo-Anne   •  

    I made this tonight, wow so good, thanks for this great recepie!

  10. Cheech   •  

    I can’t wait to try this! I understand that we should simmer the last half hour but.. do you continue to boil throughout the entire first hour or do you reduce the heat a little? Thanks!

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      You can boil for the first hour as long as the oxtails are covered. Add water as needed. Not everybody has the same level of BTUs on their stove so adjust accordingly.

  11. Sandra   •  

    No salt?

    • mike   •  

      all purpose seasoning contains salt with a ratio of about .5:1:1:2 paprika, dried onion,dried garlic and salt.

  12. Tamika   •  

    I made this last night. It was amazing. Would love to see other recipes cause this was very easy.

  13. Pingback: Insanely Delicious Jamaican Dishes You Need To Know About | WORLD Warotter

  14. Queen   •  

    This is an amazing recipe! Thanks Andrew! YOU NAILED IT! I had a craving for this stew last week and made a huge pot that disappeared very quickly. I found a recipe for rice and peas to accompany it ~ a smash HIT (never made it before but got multiple thumbs up :-))

  15. Kinya   •  

    I’m trying this recipe tonight hope its good and a little sweet like the Jamaicans do it.

  16. Krista Buchanan   •  

    So love your blog! Today was my very first time cooking this dish. Can you say gourmet chef status! Lol ??. The visual helped out a lot. Thanks, you could’ve been doing anything else, but you chose to teach me how to cook. ?

  17. Stephanie   •  

    I have been reading recipes online for years and I have yet to come across a better narrative of the steps involved. Thank you for taking the time to explain what is your preference, what is optional, and providing substitutes. I travel and love to replicate what I’ve encountered along the way but ingredient availability changes region to region and knowing what to swap for what can be a challenge. I look forward to making this!

  18. Greg   •  

    This shit is way to hot with habaneros

    • Thom   •  

      Lawd! I took the habanero out after the first hour and it was still too hot!

      • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

        Tom did you leave the habanero whole? My family is pretty adverse to really spicy stuff and they usually have no problem with the spice level.

  19. Dundae   •  

    Lovely dish one of my favorite meals from Jamaica, my family is from bahamas so its difficult to get there so i appreciate the lesson to be learn

  20. Tony Barresi   •  

    Hi, because Oxtails here are almost impossible to find, what can i substitue it with?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Any tough piece of beef with a bone would work. Some beef ribs should be easier to find. You could get fancy and use an Osso Buco veal shank. I’ve actually never tried that but now that I suggested it I think I know what I’m going to have for dinner tomorrow.

  21. Zinc Roof   •  

    Hi Andrew, what do you think about cooking this in an electric pressure cooker?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      You can totally put this in a pressure cooker. It will certainly speed the process up.

  22. Carin   •  

    Yes.. would love to know if this could be done in a pressure cooker…

    • Nique   •  

      I do mine in a pressure cooker then transfer to a slow cooker. Just looked at this recipe to remind me of what I could use but also decided to add red bell pepper and bay leaf during the simmer process. I also use no sodium beef broth… OMG….so good!!

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Carin many people do indeed use a pressure cooker to speed this process up and cut down on the cook time.

  23. boganni   •  

    I am trying it with upper back beef ribs now! Store was out of oxtail.

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      That should be fine. This recipe was made for any tough cut of meat that requires a long slow cook to breakdown.

  24. T.T   •  

    Hey Andrew can I substitute the Worchester Sauce for Mushroom Soy that I also cook my brown stew chicken with ?

    • T.T   •  

      It’s a Mushroom Soy Sauce

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      T.T I generally don’t have any firm rules when I cook. Give it a go and let me know how it turns out!

  25. Panthera   •  

    I made this today. Damn it’s good, my boyfriend and I are stuffed! The flavor is on point. I cut off a pound of fat off the meat before I cooked it, I’m glad I did. The stew can get quite oily, but I spooned out a lot of fat lipids while it cooked. It was my first time cooking with whole all spice seeds, I love the flavor it brings and the fact that the seeds get soft and chewy. I cooked the stew in a regular pot on low, it took 3 hours and the meat was fall off the bone. Another 30 minutes wouldn’t of hurt though. I substituted 1 tsp of dry thyme for a fresh bunch of thyme. Great recipe, thank you for posting.

  26. Valerie   •  

    Wow! Fantastic recipe – you have sweet hands 🙂

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Thanks Valerie I don’t think I’ve ever had a compliment on my hands before haha!

  27. Danielle   •  

    My son is ALWAYS on a quest to try new “exotic” and different foods. So, when we came across oxtail at our local butcher shop I Googled and came across this recipe. I made this tonight. Absolutely wonderful! My son loved it ! (Spicey foods are among his favorite).

    Thank you for the awesome recipe !

  28. Sam   •  

    Thank you! This was amazing and the directions were too!

  29. Theresa   •  

    This looks awesome! Making it right now, however I didn’t have oxtail so I’m using some beef I had in the freezer. Habanero pepper has such a great flavor, I used a medium sized pepper and it’s perfect! Smells wonderful as it cooks. I’m saving it for tomorrow’s dinner but can’t wait to try it!

  30. christy   •  

    Can I use soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Christy, soy is going to add more saltiness to the dish. If you are going to add it I suggest using a lite soy sauce and then not adding it in as a 1:1 replacement for the wocestershire sauce. Add a little in at a time and taste to make sure it doesn’t get too salty for you.

  31. Na-Na   •  

    I made these oxtails and they were sooooooooooo good. I followed the recipe exactly and they were perfect. I love love love oxtails and never made them before because i live in flatbush brooklyn and there is a jamaican restaurant on every corner. These were better than those restaurants. Thanks for your recipe.

    • Ayeisha   •  

      Haha Nana is in NYC like me so yes Jamaican restaurant on every corner or a Jamaican friend lol I’m from belize ?? but since I’m Americanize I have to search or stress my mom for her many recipes but I know she tired of me lolso I thank Andrew for his time to provide his public responsibility knowledge lol

  32. Sara   •  

    2 cups of water for the first boil as NOT enough!!! All of the water boiled off and everything in the pot burned. Either the recipe should be updated to add more water, or it should make it clear that the water should be turned down to a simmer after it begins to boil. I’m surprised no one else has had this issue!? Very disappointing, the dish was completely ruined and all my hard work and money went to waste. It’s a shame because the flavors were there and otherwise would have been delicious I’m sure.

  33. Sara   •  

    2 cups of water is NOT enough for the first boil. I did just as the recipe said and came back to a pot with everything burnt to a crisp, all the water had evaporated the during the boil and everything burnt and stuck to the bottom of the pot, I don’t understand how no one else has had this problem?? The recipe either needs to be updated to add more than 2 cups of water for the first boil or it needs to say bring to boil then lower heat, cook for 1 hour. I was extremely disappointed, all of my work and money went to waste, nothing was edible! It’s a shame because the flavors were there and it probably would have come out great if not for this miss-step.

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Sara I’m sorry to hear this recipe did not work out for you. Not everyone has the same level of heat output on their stove so I would encourage you to give it one more try and add a bit of water as needed.

  34. Trini   •  

    It’s 5:37am and I just finished seasoning my oxtails for Sunday dinner later. It’ll be my first time making it, so some assistance was definitely needed. I googled oxtail recipe to see if I was on the right track with my seasonings. I’m Trinidadian, so I stayed true to the seasonings in familiar with, as well as some of my favorites. After reading your recipe, most of my seasonings were on point with the exception of the scotch bonnet pepper, Worcestershire sauce, pimento seeds, tomatoes and green onions. Needless to say, I’ll be making a run to the supermarket first thing in the morning lol. Based on the reviews, I anticipate the flavor level to be marvelous! The only thing is, I plan to cook the oxtails in a slow cooker but you used another vessel for your cooking process. Do you have any tips for using a slow cooker as opposed to a pot?

  35. Bob   •  

    The recipe was good but far too much allspice, I would cut it back at least in half. Also a bunch of thyme is too much. Other than the over powering taste of allspice the recipe would be great!

  36. B. Robinson   •  

    Is there a substitution for the whole tomatoe? Like maybe tomato sauce or paste?

    • Ayeisha   •  

      I believe a can of diced ? will work , since his recipe suggest “dicing ” the tomatoes!

  37. Robinn   •  

    Do you wash the lemon juice off? I’m sure this is a dumb question, but it’s my first time making this.

    • Ayeisha   •  

      Yes you do Robinn ! Andrew made this awesome recipe for us all to enjoy, I just decided to chime in , but he did it culturally correct! lol I think almost all West Indian dishes have to wash off meats with cold water and lemon ? and this one is perfect !

  38. Bianca Williams   •  

    Can you substitute the 2 cans of water with beef stock? Do you think it will make a difference?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Bianca, beef stock would be a great substitute if you want to punch the recipe up even further! I love that deep rich umami flavor a good stock can add to a dish.

  39. cooking dad of 6   •  

    I’m sorry to sound contrary, but lima beans and butter beans are not at all the same thing.

    Otherwise, recipe sounds nice (I usually do a more Cuban or African style) and I want to try this next.

    And I definitely feel ya on “On the other hand, this once cheap cut of meat is now steadily increasing in price. “. I used to get oxtail (or beef tail) for around $4 a pound. This week, at a “cheap” place (Korean Supermarket) I paid $8.50 a pound (Atlanta metro area).

    I’ll also toss in my comments to some of the questions above.

    Robinn, the amount of lemon juice hanging on after the lemon rinse isn’t going to matter; there’s no need to rinse.

    Bianca Williams, if you sub 2 c beef stock for the 2 cups of water, you need to realize you’re adding (depending on salt level of stock) in the neighborhood of 1-1.5 teaspoons of salt. So you can use beef stock but should cut back on the “all purpose seasoning” called for in the recipe, which for most brands is primarily salt. You may want to test this out a bit, for example going with a no-salt main seasoning then adding salt at end if need be. Just remember, it’s fairly easy to add salt mid-way, but pretty hard to get it out if you’ve ended up with too much.

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      In my research a butter bean is a particular type of lima. It’s a regional preference. As far as the stock it does depend on the type of stock you use. If it’s a store bought then yes you would certainly need to pay attention to the amount of salt you are introduced to the dish. As you pointed out you can always add salt but reducing a saltiness of a dish is much harder to do. At the butchershop I work at we simply roast bones and add them to water and reduce for days. This allows us to add salt and aromatics as needed. I like to keep my stocks as neutral as possible because I may be cooking something very french one day and then very asian the next. Great advice for the dish cooking dad of 6!

  40. Kita   •  

    Can I leave the tomato out?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Kita, I’m not one for strict recipe guidelines as long as it doesn’t compromise food safety. By all means leave something out if you have an allergy. I’d love to hear about the results if you do modify the recipe. You might not be the only one!

  41. Kaiesha S Strickland   •  

    Delicious!! I did add more to it for more spice!

  42. Chris Green   •  

    Second time making this, I substituted beef shanks for the oxtail, Tabasco peppers for the Scotch bonnet, and fava beans for the butter beans. Less authentic, but still very successful. I know that’s a lot of allspice and thyme, but it’s a highly seasoned dish and needs that much to balance out.

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      To me that is the essence of cooking. As a butcher I get lots of people that come into my shop and get so hung up on using the exact cut a recipe calls for. As a whole animal butcher shop we don’t always have EXACTLY what they are looking for. Beef shanks are an excellent substitute for oxtails. I’m glad to hear it worked out for you.

  43. Lisa   •  

    Andrew, like many others who’ve commented, I’d never cooked oxtails before and was terrified. Your recipe is perfect! I followed the recipe to the letter and they turned out really well. Thank you.

  44. Desiree   •  

    Can I substitute some else for tomatoes I’m allergic to them?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Desiree, I’ve never tried it but I have heard of other people using a combination of red pepper and eggplant as an acceptable substitute for tomato in certain dishes.

  45. Karen   •  

    Hey Andrew- Making this today for the 1st time. A) Do you take out the Scotch Bonnet when it’s cooked? B) Do you mince the thyme or put the whole sprigs in and leave them? Thanks.

  46. Nancy Carlson   •  

    I’ve made this recipe several times it’s the best one I found for Jamaican oxtail stew. I am from St.Louis and during the summer months we can find Scotch bonnet peppers at our local Global Food Market. We vacuum seal Scotch bonnet peppers so we can use them throughout the year and recipes. I just love this recipe and so does my family and friends.

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Fresh local ingredients are the best way to start any dish. Glad you like the recipe Nancy!

  47. Czarina   •  

    Hi Andrew. I’m thinking of making this, my question is, can I make this in a slow cooker?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Czarina, you can certainly make this in a slow cooker. Be aware that your beans and other ingredients may end up being a bit softer. As Chris Green pointed out I would at the very least brown your meat before adding it to the slow cooker.

      • Czarina   •  

        Thank you. I will give it try 🙂

  48. Chris Green   •  

    I would go for a slow cooker, especially if you have a way to brown the meat in the pot or before adding it. Browning goes a long way to improving the texture, color, and flavor of the less-than-prime meats that are suited to this dish.

  49. Oliver Twist   •  

    Are you removing the scotch bonnet seeds to lessen the heat? That is pointless, because the seeds aren’t the hot part!

  50. Tierra   •  

    First let me say, this recipe is amazing. I made it for Super Bowl LI! When I say everyone raved and raved about these oxtails! I was super surprised that it flavored itself with those simple ingredients. Also, I used a dried scotch bonnet peppers as a sub for fresh scotch bonnet. and it wasn’t spicy enough for me so I added half of another and that took it over the top. I will use just one pepper next time. But all in all this is an amazing recipe! Thank you

  51. Manika   •  

    I just made this today and it was a hit! I needed to add a little more water than the recipe called for, so I also added a little more all purpose seasoning — so good! Thank you 🙂

  52. Manika   •  

    Forget to add the stars — sorry.

  53. melissa   •  

    what brand can i use for the browning sauce and can i
    use beef instead of oxtail?

  54. Gene Callahan   •  

    Oxtail IS beef.

  55. Friend in Kitchen   •  

    I like your post very much!I read your blog very often and you’re always comming
    out with some great stuff!I shared this on my Facebook and my followers loved!Keep
    up the good work!

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  57. Vanessa   •  

    Made this last night it was a big hit for dinner

  58. Gerra   •  

    I used this recipe about a week ago and tailored it a bit to how I wanted the oxtail to come out. It was absolutely amazing! I’ve been trying to perfect my oxtail and your recipe helped tremendously! Thank you for posting!

  59. Bonita Vaughan   •  

    Tried your recipe today, my sister and I loved it!!

  60. Shakorah Burke   •  

    I’m trying this recipe without the rice and beans because I am on a diet. I think I soaked the oxtail in the lemon water bath for too long. The color was completely out of the meat, the meat was like a pale color and the blood was in the water but you could tell by the color of the water being red. I marinated overnight, I did. I browned the oxtails but I didn’t brown them until it looked fried on the sides. I browned it until the meat turned a light brown color and then I added the ingredients and followed the rest of the recipe. Maybe I looked up the wrong type recipe but I wanted original oxtail that comes with rice and beans as if you would get it from the restaurant but of course since I am on a diet, I was going to eat it without the rice and beans. As I am cooking the oxtail right now still, the oxtail are still a lightbrown color and there isn’t much taste. Please tell me where I went wrong. It’s my first time making it and they came out horrible to me. There isn’t very much color to them, except for he fresh veggies and it’s just idk.. I wasted money trying to make this when I knew nothing about cooking oxtail. Someone please help!!!

  61. Druu   •  

    Should I pull off the meat from the bone? Should you use the liquid for the rice? Cooking it now in prep for our trip to Jamaica in 30 days!!

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