Oxtail Soup Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. Cook: 10 hours
This oxtail soup recipe creates a hearty, rustic stew that's perfect for cold winter days. The oxtails take a long time to become tender in the slow cooker, but it’s worth it. You can easily make this recipe ahead and freeze the leftovers for a rainy or snowy day!

Updated: Feb. 21, 2024

This soul-soothing oxtail soup recipe will warm you up and delight your taste buds. Although it’s typically called “oxtail soup,” this hearty dish eats more like a comforting stew recipe. It’s packed with vegetables and big chunks of fall-off-the-bone tender oxtail meat.

I’ve had many versions of oxtail soup, each one delicious in its own way. Jamaican oxtail soup is full of warming flavors like allspice and scotch bonnet peppers. Hawaiian oxtail soup gets an aromatic edge from ginger, star anise and dried orange peels. And Korean oxtail soup with daikon radish has an unmistakable milky-white color.

This version is a great base recipe, especially if you’re not familiar with oxtail’s rich flavor. It’s delicious soul food that will warm you up, inside and out.

What’s oxtail?

Oxtail is a gelatin-rich, fatty cut of meat that comes from the tail of a cow. The word “oxtail” is a little misleading. It used to come exclusively from oxen, but today’s cuts are sourced from any beef cattle. And don’t worry—you won’t receive the whole tail! Most butchers cut the oxtail into 2-inch-long cross sections.

The meat is incredibly rich and has a beef-forward flavor. It tastes similar to short ribs but with a more silken texture. Oxtails have more gelatin, too, so they create an incredible stock for soup.

How long do you cook oxtail?

In this recipe, we slow-cook oxtail for about 10 hours on low. That’s a long time, but the low-and-slow cooking method is the best way to ensure oxtails turn out meltingly tender. If you need to speed up the cooking time, you can simmer oxtails on the stovetop for about three hours.

Ingredients for Oxtail Soup

  • Oxtails: If you can’t find oxtails at the grocery store, check out your local butcher shop. The cut is popular in Asian and Jamaican cuisines, so you may be able to find it at a specialty market.
  • Aromatic vegetables: Carrots, onions and garlic add depth to this comforting soup.
  • Bay leaves: You don’t want to eat bay leaves, but they’re a great way to add subtle flavor to soups and stews.
  • Tomatoes: The acidic tomatoes help to tenderize the tough meat. Some recipes use tomato paste or ketchup, but we prefer the texture that diced tomatoes add to this dish.
  • Beef broth: Canned broth works just fine here. Of course, you can always use homemade beef broth if you have it on hand.
  • Cabbage: You can use green or savoy cabbage. We don’t recommend red cabbage. It’s more bitter than sweet, and it can turn the soup a funky color.

Directions

Step 1: Brown the oxtails

In a large skillet, brown the oxtails in oil over medium heat. Remove them from the skillet, and transfer them to a 5-quart slow cooker.

Editor’s Tip: We know that this step dirties an extra pan for you, but it’s worth it! Browning the oxtail renders out some of the fat and adds a layer of caramelized flavor to the soup. Searing the meat also gives the dish a lovely brown crust it won’t get from slow-cooking alone.

Step 2: Soften the vegetables

Add the carrots and onion to the drippings in the skillet. Cook and stir until just softened, three to five minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute longer.

Step 3: Cook the oxtails in the slow cooker

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, salt, oregano, thyme and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook, covered, on low for eight hours.

Step 4: Add the cabbage

Add the cabbage to the mixture in the slow cooker. Continue to cook until the cabbage is tender and the meat pulls away easily from bones, about two hours longer.

Step 5: Shred the oxtail meat

Oxtail Soup with serving spoon and bread loaf on cutting boardTMB Studio

Remove the oxtails from the slow cooker. Set them aside until they’re cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones. Shred the meat, and return it to the soup. Discard the bones. Discard the bay leaves from the soup.

Editor’s Tip: If the soup has an oily coating on top, use this trick to degrease sauce.

Oxtail Soup Variations

  • Make it on the stovetop: Follow the recipe steps, cooking the oxtails and vegetables in a Dutch oven instead of a skillet. Bring all the ingredients to a boil in the Dutch oven. Reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the oxtail meat is tender, 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours. Add the cabbage during the final 15 minutes of cook time.
  • Use an Instant Pot: You can speed up the cooking time with an electric pressure cooker. Learn how to convert slow-cooker recipes for the Instant Pot.
  • Add potatoes or other root vegetables: Potatoes, turnips and parsnips are great additions to oxtail soup. They take on the flavors of the rich cooking juices and add to the stew’s thick, chunky texture. Add them 30 minutes before the stew finishes cooking.
  • Include leafy greens: If you’re looking to add even more veggies to your meal, add 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, bok choy or mustard greens to the soup. They’ll wilt down quickly once they hit the hot liquid, so you can stir them in just before serving.
  • Give it a flavorful spin: You can add so many flavors to oxtail soup! Try Asian sauces like fish sauce, miso paste, gochujang or soy sauce to make an Asian-inspired oxtail soup. Or give it a Jamaican spin with Worcestershire, allspice and scotch bonnet peppers. A splash of sherry at the end is typical in British oxtail soup.

Can you make this oxtail soup recipe ahead of time?

Braised meat recipes like oxtail soup are fantastic make-ahead meals. The soup will actually taste better the next day, once the flavors meld together. Store the soup, covered, in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat, heat it through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Add broth or water if necessary to adjust the consistency.

How to Store Oxtail Soup

Store oxtail soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Can you freeze oxtail soup?

Oxtail soup is a soup that freezes well. Let the soup cool completely, then store it in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to four months. To use, thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat.

Oxtail Soup Tips

Oxtail Soup served in a blue bowl with spoonTMB Studio

How do you trim oxtails?

Oxtails can be tough to cut, so it’s best to ask the butcher to slice them into pieces if need be. At home, you can cut away the thick pieces of excess fat from the oxtails. This will ensure a stew that’s flavorful with a velvety mouthfeel.

How can you make oxtail soup less oily?

Trimming off any large pieces of fat before cooking is the best way to reduce the oil in the finished stew. Oxtails are very rich in fat. Fat does mean flavor, but the stew can become slick and greasy if it contains too much fat. After cooking, skim off the excess fat from the surface with a shallow ladle or a large serving spoon. If you’re preparing the dish a day ahead, it’s even easier. Simply refrigerate the stew, and remove the solidified excess fat from the surface of the soup before reheating.

What do you serve with slow-cooker oxtail soup?

Serve oxtail soup over white rice or mashed potatoes. If you prefer to serve it as a stand-alone soup, try pairing it with potato salad, butternut squash risotto or a crisp mango and jicama salad.

Do you have to clean oxtails before cooking?

Some oxtail soup recipes include a cleaning step, such as soaking the meat in vinegar water or parboiling the oxtails to remove impurities. This step is not necessary in our recipe. We brown the oxtails before they go into the slow cooker, which adds flavor and renders off excess fat.

Watch how to Make Oxtail Soup

Oxtail Soup

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 8 servings (3 quarts).

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds oxtails, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) beef broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 cups chopped cabbage

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, brown oxtails in oil over medium heat. Remove from pan; place in a 5-qt. slow cooker.
  2. Add carrots and onion to drippings; cook and stir until just softened, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Transfer vegetable mixture to slow cooker. Add tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, salt, oregano, thyme and pepper; stir to combine.
  3. Cook, covered, on low 8 hours. Add cabbage; cook until cabbage is tender and meat pulls away easily from bones, about 2 hours longer. Remove oxtails; set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones; discard bones and shred meat. Return meat to soup. Discard bay leaves.

Nutrition Facts

1-1/2 cups: 204 calories, 10g fat (3g saturated fat), 34mg cholesterol, 705mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 5g fiber), 16g protein.

This wonderfully rich slow-cooker oxtail soup will warm your soul and your taste buds. Oxtail stew is a favorite family heirloom recipe. Don’t let the name of this dish turn you off. Oxtail describes the meaty part of the tail of an ox (now commonly cow). The meat is delicious but requires long and slow cooking. —Bobbie Keefer, Byers, Colorado