4 x 2–New Recipes: Jamaican Oxtails

I LOVE Jamaican food. Well, really I love most food. Anyway, while I’m partial to curried goat whenever I find a Jamaican restaurant, goat isn’t exactly easy to come by. The butcher shop I go to (Cleaver and Co.) always has cow and thus always has oxtails. Even better, it’s a local, grass fed, grass finished cow–for you food justice folks out there.

So I went to the shop today and got just shy of 3 lb. of oxtails that they chopped up for me. I found a recipe online that I basically had all the ingredients for already at home. With a few substitutions and improvisation, I got a real fragrant and yummy dinner paired with my last glass of South African pinotage. The only thing is, I have no reference point for what it should taste like since I never get oxtails. But I like it.

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  • 3 pounds oxtails, cut into segments by a butcher
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 Spanish onions, peeled and chopped (I used yellow onion, it may be the same thing, idk)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, whole
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (I used a tablespoon of dry thyme)
  • 12 allspice berries (I used a tablespoon of ground allspice)
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped (didn’t have scallions, excluded)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup (didn’t have ketchup, so I used tomato paste with some sugar and water)
  • 1 cup butter beans, or a 10.5-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained (I used black eyed peas, it’s all I had)


1. Season oxtails aggressively with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add brown sugar to pot and melt, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it darkens and starts to smoke ­— about six minutes. When sugar is nearly black, add 2 tablespoons boiling water. (It will splatter.) Stir to mix.

2. Add the oxtails to the pot, working in batches, stirring each time to cover them with blackened sugar, then allowing them to cook, turning occasionally, until they are well browned. Remove oxtails to a bowl and keep warm.

3. Add half of the onions, garlic and ginger to the pot, along with the pepper, the thyme, the allspice and a third of the scallions, and stir to combine. Allow to cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes.

4. Return the oxtails to the pot along with any accumulated juices and put water into the pot so that the oxtails are almost submerged. Bring to a simmer and then cook, covered, approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

5. Add remaining onions, garlic and ginger to the pot, along with another third of the scallions. Add sugar, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine and continue to cook until the meat is yielding and loose on the bone, approximately one hour longer. Remove approximately one cup of liquid from pot and place in a small bowl. Add flour to this liquid and stir to combine, working out any lumps with the back of a spoon. Add this slurry to the pot along with ketchup, then stir to combine and allow to cook a further 15 minutes or so. Remove Scotch bonnet pepper and thyme stems. Fold butter beans into the stew and allow these to heat through. Scatter remaining scallions over the top. Serve with white rice or rice and peas.

Serves 4. Adapted from Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill.