Growing up, vaca frita was one of my favorite dishes. It's one of my favorite comfort foods and my mom still makes it for me when she knows I need some cheering up. It's a Cuban staple that's available at most Cuban restaurants
What does Vaca Frita mean?
Vaca frita translates to fried cow. It's a Cuban beef dish typically made using flank steak with suateed garlic and onion.
What do you eat vaca frita with?
Vaca frita is traditionally paired with white rice, and black beans or plantains. Some people have recently created vaca frita sandwiches with the beef sandwiched in a bun topped with tomatoes, potato sticks and cheese. Either option is delicious!
How do you make Cuban vaca frita?
The process of making vaca frita is a labor of love. The beef is twice cooked to ensure it's tender yet crispy on the exterior. Traditionally, the beef is pressure cooked to ensure it's tender and "falls apart" since flank steak can be tough and dry.
For this recipe, I used my Instant Pot. It cooked the flank steak in a fractions of the time and provided tender perfectly cooked beef.
Once the beef has been pressure cooked, you shred the beef to your preference. I prefer having some chunks of steak vs. all stings of meat. Some people will shred with a fork or by hand, I just pound it out with a meat tenderizer.
The beef is then pan seared along with lime juice sliced onions and garlic. Depending on how crisp you prefer your vaca frita, you can sear it for longer in a bit more oil. I personally prefer a light sear, so I use about 2 tablespoons of oil and sear until I see some golden bits and my onions are translucent.
Looking for more Latin dishes?
Cuban Vaca Frita Recipe
- 3 lbs flank steak
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sazon completa
- 6 cups water
- 1 medium sized yellow onion sliced
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 large lime
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- Place the water, salt, bay leaves sazon completa and beef into your Instant Pot and set for 40 minutes at high pressure in the meat/stew setting
- Once the 40 minutes are up, release the steam and remove the beef from the pot. Reserve about ½ cup of the broth from the Instant Pot.
- Using a meat tenderizer or fork, shred the beef to your desired size. Place the shredded beef on a large plate or cutting board and top with the garlic, lime juice of one lime and onions and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of oil. You don't want to over crowd the pan, so you may need to sear the meat in two batches.
- Once the oil is hot, add in your beef, onions and garlic. Baste the meat with that reserved broth while it's sautéing. Flip the meat every couple of minutes until it reaches your desired crispness.
- You don't want to over crowd the pan, so you may need to sear the meat in two batches.
- Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for upto 4 days.
- If you cant find flank steak, you can use chuck roast instead.
- You can freeze the remaining broth and use it for soups