The history of Oxtail Stew

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Oxtail stew is a hearty and flavorful dish that has become a staple of Jamaican cuisine, yet its roots can be traced back to Europe.

Historically, oxtail was considered a byproduct of the beef industry, often discarded or sold cheaply. The consumption of oxtail, initially out of necessity and frugality, was seen in many cultures across Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. The British, who had a tradition of making hearty stews and soups from leftover cuts of meat, were known for their oxtail soup.

The journey of oxtail stew to Jamaica is closely tied to British colonialism. The British colonized Jamaica in 1655 and brought with them their culinary traditions, including the practice of cooking with oxtail. Over time, as with many aspects of Jamaican culture, this culinary tradition was adapted and transformed by the African, Indian, and Chinese influences present on the island.

In the Jamaican version of oxtail stew, the oxtail is typically slow-cooked until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. The stew is heavily spiced and often includes ingredients like Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice (pimento), thyme, and garlic – ingredients that are central to Jamaican cuisine. Broad beans (also known as butter beans) are another common addition, adding heartiness to the dish. The result is a rich, flavorful stew with a depth of flavor that reflects the cultural melting pot that is Jamaica.

Today, Jamaican Oxtail Stew is enjoyed not only in Jamaica but also in other parts of the world, particularly in areas with a significant Jamaican diaspora. It’s a dish that truly represents the resilience and creativity of Jamaican culture – taking a cut of meat that was once discarded and transforming it into a dish that is now sought after.

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  • 2 lbs oxtail, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon browning sauce (optional, for color)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and chopped (adjust to your heat preference)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice (pimento)
  • 4 cups beef broth or water
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 can (14-15 ounces) broad beans (also known as butter beans), drained
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional, for thickening)

    Remember, you can adjust the ingredients according to your taste and preference. Handle Scotch bonnet pepper with care, as it is very hot. Always use gloves to avoid skin irritation.

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Marinate the Oxtail

In a large bowl, combine the oxtail pieces, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, browning sauce (if using), salt, and black pepper. Mix well to ensure each piece of oxtail is coated with the seasoning. Cover the bowl and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight for the flavors to fully penetrate the meat.

Brown the Oxtail

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the marinated oxtail pieces and brown them on all sides. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Remove the browned oxtail pieces and set them aside.

Sauté the Vegetables

In the same pot, add the chopped onion, minced garlic, grated ginger, and chopped Scotch bonnet pepper. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Simmer the Stew

Return the browned oxtail pieces to the pot and add the thyme, allspice, and beef broth or water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer. This should take about 2-2.5 hours, or until the oxtail becomes tender. Remember to stir occasionally and add more liquid if necessary.

Add the Remaining Ingredients

Once the oxtail is tender, add the chunks of carrot, the drained broad beans, and chopped green onions to the pot. Cover and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

Thicken the Stew (Optional)

If you prefer a thicker stew, mix the cornstarch with a little cold water to create a slurry, then stir this into the stew. Let it simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the stew has thickened to your liking.


Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Your Jamaican Oxtail Stew is ready to be served! It’s traditionally served with rice and peas, but you can also serve it with your choice of side.

Please remember that Scotch bonnet peppers are very hot, so handle them with care and adjust the quantity as per your preference. Always use gloves to avoid skin irritation.

Ut libero aliquam elit ac sed mauris sagittis ullamcorper pretium mauris libero nullam maecenas aliquet eu viverra sed.