Jamaican Oxtail

Jamaican Oxtail is a rich and savory yet spicy beef dish. It usually has butter beans in it, and sometimes some other vegetables. The beef is usually cooked until it is falling off the bones. It is generally served with rice. This recipe is my improved version of Jamaican Oxtail, cooked in a crock pot. Since I marinate the meat overnight, and cook the dish in a Crock-pot (slow cooker) overnight, you need to start about two days ahead of when you plan to serve this. Jamaican Oxtail can also be made in a pressure cooker, which shortens the time needed. I will document the pressure cooker method at a later time.

Jamaican Oxtail with rice

The Improvements

Most recipes used canned butter beans. The canning process for beans tends to leave them mushy and removes much of their natural flavor, so I much prefer using either dried beans, that I reconstitute and cook, or fresh beans, or frozen beans, which are easier to find.

Of course Jamaican Oxtail has Oxtail (also known as beef / cow tail) in it. To get more meat into the dish, I use beef shank for about half of the meat. Beef shank meat is much like the tail meat, but it has more meat and less bone per pound.

Most Oxtail recipes cook all their vegetables for the full time with the meat, this ends up producing overly mushy vegetables. In this recipe we will cook the vegetables separately at the end then combine all together to produce the finished dish.


Jamaican Oxtail is a little spicy, that is, it has a little heat, from a hot pepper cooked in the dish. I usually use a jalapeño, and mince it without removing the seeds or white pithy ribs, but I sometimes use a Scotch Bonnet a.k.a. habanero, but if I use that, I open it up and remove the white pithy ribs, and rinse all the seeds out, which have most of the heat. I prefer the flavor of the jalapeño over the habanero. If you don't want your dish to be as spicy, try removing the seeds etc. from the jalapeño, or just omit the hot pepper all together.

Beef shank on left and Oxtail on the right
Beef shank on left and Oxtail on the right


About 3 pounds of meat, about half Oxtail and half Beef shank with the bones
½ cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Jamaican Oxtail Ingredients

1 small Spanish (yellow) onion, chopped
1 small bunch green onions (also known as scallions), chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 hot pepper, finely minced (jalapeño or habanero)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
2 parsnips, cut into bite sized pieces
1 small (8 oz) bag frozen butter beans, or baby lima beans
¼ cup flour
¼ cup butter
salt to taste
Cooked rice to serve with the Oxtail

Preparing the Dish

Oxtail and Beef Shank marinating in soy sauce
Oxtail & Shank marinating in soy sauce

First put all your meat into a zipper close bag, add the soy sauce, and close the bag, squeezing all the air out of the bag. Getting the air out of the bag helps get the soy sauce in contact with the meat. Allow this to marinate in your refrigerator overnight.

The next day, in a large pot, that can be covered, carefully brown all of your meat in the olive oil. Remove the meat from the soy sauce, and discard any left-over soy sauce. You want the meat to brown deeply, so you will probably need to brown just a portion of the meat at a time, over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides.

Return all meat to the pot, and turn the heat to low. Sprinkle all of your spices, garlic powder, allspice, black pepper, and thyme, directly on the meat. Add all your onions and peppers, two types of each, and the garlic. Cover the pot and allow to cook until the Spanish onion is translucent, about 20 minutes.

Move all into your crock pot (slow cooker), then deglaze the original browning pot. Add four cups of water to your pot, and bring it to a boil while scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to remove any fond, browned bits left on the sides and bottom of the pot. Once the water comes to a boil, and all bits are off the pot and in the water, pour the water into your crock pot. If necessary, add more water to the crock pot to cover the meat. Set your crock pot on "low", and cook your Oxtail for 8 hours or more. I just leave mine cooking over night on "low". Then keep the crock pot on "low" or "warm" until meal time.


frozen beans
Frozen Baby Lima Beans

Crock pots vary greatly in size, shape, and most importantly in cooking temperature. Older crock pots cook at much lower temperatures than newer crock pots. In newer crock pots, the liquid may actually boil or simmer, even on the lowest setting, so you may need to adjust the amount of liquid you use, because you don't want your dish to dry out, you want at least two to three cups of liquid left when you finish cooking.

About half an hour before you are ready to serve this dish, you will want to start cooking your rice.

Move all the solids from your crock pot to a serving dish. Strain the broth into a sauce pan. Add your carrots and parsnips to the broth, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. When the vegetables are cooked, move them to the serving dish.

Jamaican Oxtail

Cook the frozen butter beans (or baby limas) as directed on the package, and add them to the serving dish.

While the carrots, parsnips and butter beans are cooking, prepare a roux by combining the flour and butter in a pan and heating the mixture until it starts to bubble, then remove from heat.

Cook your broth down to about two cups of liquid, then add your roux and stir and simmer for about two minutes to thicken. Taste and add salt if necessary. The broth usually does not need more salt, as the soy sauce used to marinate the meat has salt in it. Pour this gravy over your meat and vegetables in the serving bowl.

Serve with cooked rice.