12 Oxtail Substitutes with Seasonings & Recipes

My family raised cattle for most of my life. In fact, I didn’t realize you could buy beef at the grocery store until I was in high school.

So naturally, we always had all the cuts of beef in our freezer. I don’t think my parents ever made oxtail stew, but I am sure my grandmother did.

She made simple recipes like beef and dumplings (think chicken and dumplings but with beef) or stew with whatever vegetables we grew and canned the year before. 

Now, if I want to make one of her recipes, I don’t have a freezer full of beef. So to re-create that rich bone and beef broth, I need a substitute for oxtail. 

You can achieve a similar flavor for oxtail by substituting beef short ribs, bone-in beef chuck roast, beef cheeks, or a combination of bones and cuts of beef. If you need a lower-priced alternative, try beef neck bone or beef shank. Lamb neck and lamb shank provide flavorful beef alternatives.

And if you love the flavors in oxtail soups, but you prefer vegan or vegetarian eating, you can substitute seitan, tempeh, portobello mushroom, or jackfruit for oxtail and still have a delightfully flavorful dish.

If oxtail is out of your price range or unavailable, you can use other cuts of beef or lamb to create a similar dish. 

Oxtail Substitutes

1. Beef Short Rib 

Short ribs come from the part of the cow’s rib closest to the breast bone. They have a robust beefy flavor due to the marbling.

However, this cut of beef can also be tough if it is not cooked properly. Therefore, cook short ribs low and slow to create a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Beef short rib 

2. Bone-in Beef Chuck Roast

Well-marbled chuck roasts are cut from the shoulder of the cow. Look for a chuck roast with the bone-in to add more flavor to your stew.

Slow simmer chuck roasts for 3-4 hours to produce tender results. Trying to cook chuck roast quickly may result in touch chewy meat. 

Bone-in Beef Chuck Roast

3. Beef Cheeks

Beef cheeks are a specialty cut because there are only two per animal. When you look for beef cheeks, you should look for a talented butcher who can cut them properly.

The cheek is the muscle that the cow uses to chew so that it can be exceptionally tender. They work brilliantly in a hearty stew, like traditional oxtail dishes. 

One drawback to using only beef cheeks is that you won’t have the deliciousness that adding bones can impart.

So consider adding some marrow bones or other soup bones to your stock when you use beef cheeks. 

4. Combination Of Brisket, Meaty Bones, And Marrow Bones

If you buy your beef in bulk, you may find yourself trying to use up some random cuts from your freezer.

The great news is that you can use a combination of those cuts as an affordable and flavorful alternative to oxtail.

Combine some slices of marrow bones from the cow’s leg, meaty soup bones, which are leftover bones from the butchering process, and some brisket or chuck that takes time to cook slowly.

You can use up some pieces you might not know what to do with otherwise, and still create amazing flavors.

Marrow Bones

5. Beef Neck Bone 

One of the features of the oxtail is how the sinews break down and gelatin from the bones thickens the stock.

In order to replicate those processes, you need a cut of beef that has similar characteristics.

It’s full of sinew and bone so a low, slow simmer creates a rich broth and meat that just melts in your mouth. 

The beef neck or veal neck is an often overlooked cut because it can be seen as “unappetizing.”

However, the taste will blow you away. Furthermore, it is much more affordable than oxtail, about 1/4th of the price per pound. My local market sells it at around $3.00 per pound.

Beef Neck Bone 

6. Beef Shank 

The beef shank is cut from the cow’s thigh. Leg bones are major marrow-producing bones, so they add a lot of depth of flavor to your soup and stew.

Shank portions can be tough because they are a muscle that the cow uses all the time.

Like other lean portions, you need to cook the shank slowly to make it as tender as possible. The grocery store in my area sells this for under $5.00 per pound.

Beef Shank 

7. Lamb Shank 

Like beef shank, lamb shank comes from the thigh of the animal. Lamb is leaner and softer than beef, so it will cook more quickly.

Lamb shank has an outer layer of fat and a membrane that covers it. When you cook it, you should remove the outer membrane to ensure that the fat cooks properly and the meat becomes soft and tender.

Lamb shank should be braised or stewed for the best results. While the flavor of lamb is different than beef, you can still have a rich and delicious stew when you substitute lamb for oxtail. 

Lamb Shank 

8. Lamb Neck

You may also consider lamb neck bones as a substitute for oxtail. Lamb neck has a high gelatin content, so it will create a delicious, thick stock.

You should cook this cut slowly over low heat and keep it completely covered the whole time.

When you are ready, pick the meat from the bones. However, don’t return the meat to the stew until you are ready to serve. The meat can disintegrate into stringy strands if it is overcooked. 

9. Seitan

Seitan is made from wheat gluten, so it is high in protein. However, the proteins are not complete amino acid-containing proteins, so you shouldn’t rely on them for your nutritional needs. Look for a brand of seitan that is the least processed.

You should also be aware that it is generally high in sodium, so you should adjust the amount of additional salt in your recipe. 

Seitan blends well with other flavors and will shred like stewed meats, so it is a great vegan substitute for Oxtail. 

One 1/4 cup (28 gram) serving of seitan has 104 calories and only 1/2 gram of fat. It is a great source of protein with 21 grams.

A serving of seitan has 16% of the DV of selenium, 8% of the iron, and 4 % of the DV of calcium needed in a healthy diet.


10. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product. You can often find it combined with other grains for additional flavor and texture.

It has a meaty texture and a nutty flavor, so it works well as a meat substitute in your recipes.

Cut the tempeh into bite-sized portions. Then marinate and sauté it before adding it to the soup. It doesn’t need to cook for a long time, so add it at the end of the cooking time. 

Tempeh is an all-around healthy meat alternative. A 3 ounce (84-gram) serving of tempeh has 162 calories. It contains 15 g of protein, 9 mg of sodium, and only 9 g of fat.

Tempeh also contains many nutrients like 12% iron, 9% of calcium, and 54% manganese needed in a daily diet.


11. Portabello Mushroom

Portabello mushrooms have a texture that can be similar to beef. Scrape out the gills with a spoon and discard them.

Cut the mushroom into strips, then marinate for no more than 30 minutes in the seasoning for your soup.

It doesn’t take long for this mushroom to cook in your stew, so save it until the end to add it. 

Portabello mushrooms are a fantastic low-calorie, flavor-rich alternative to beef. A 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving of portabello mushrooms has only 22 calories and less than half a gram of fat.

It is high in potassium with 9% of the DV and 6% of the DV of protein. It even has a bit of vitamin C and iron.

Portabello Mushroom

12. Jackfruit

You may not have considered using fruit as a substitute for oxtail, but the 2-foot long versatile jackfruit is a solid contender.

Fresh jackfruit has a green spiky rind and creamy pods on the inside surrounded by stringy fibers. It may seem intimidating, but you can use jackfruit in a wide variety of recipes.

You can also purchase canned jackfruit if that is more convenient for you. This unique fruit is high in protein, potassium, and B vitamins.

One cup of jackfruit has 155 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. Most other fruits have less than one gram of protein per cup. Jackfruit is also high in Vitamins A & C, magnesium, potassium, copper, and Manganese.

If you are starting with a whole jackfruit, you will find these step-by-step instructions for cutting a jackfruit extremely helpful.

Once you have gathered all the pods from the inside of the fruit, you can boil them for 20-30 minutes and shred them to make a texture like pulled pork.

Then simply add that to your stew near the end of the cooking process and enjoy your vegan oxtail soup. 

The process for cooking canned jackfruit is different. It is picked and canned before the fruit is ripe.

When you open the can, you should boil the fruit for 5-10 minutes until it starts to separate into shreds.

Then you can add it to your oxtail soup (or any other) recipe as a replacement for the meat.

Organic Canned Jackfruit
         Nutritious Jackfruit

Traditional Recipes For Oxtail

Kare Kare

Kare Kare is a traditional Filipino stew made with oxtail and other cuts of beef. It has a peanut-based sauce that is colored to a beautiful golden with the use of annatto seeds. Traditionally Kare Kare is cooked slowly in a clay pot. 

1. In a large clay or stoneware pot, bring 1 liter of water to a boil. Add  3 pounds of sliced oxtail (or your substitution) and 1 chopped onion. Cover and simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours.

2. While the meat and onion cook, prepare your vegetables:

Slice 1 small banana flower

Cut up 1 bundle of bok choy

Cut 1 bundle of string beans into 2-inch slices

Slice 4 small eggplants

Mince 2 garlic cloves

3. Near the end of the cooking time soak ½ cup of annatto seeds in 1 cup of water for about 12 minutes. Strain out and discard the seeds.

4. In a heavy skillet, toast ½ cup of ground rice. Set the toasted ground rice aside and use the skillet to sautee the vegetables and garlic.

5. Once the meat is tender, add 1 cup of ground peanuts, ½ cup of peanut butter and the water from the annatto seeds. Simmer for another 5-7 minutes.

6. Add the toasted ground rice and the sautéed vegetables to the large pot. Simmer for 5 more minutes and serve with shrimp paste.


One of my favorite soups is Vietnamese Pho. Pho actually refers to the broth, but in current culinary climate it has come to refer to the whole soup.

Pho is a beef bone broth that is simmered slowly over several days. Cooks tend to the broth, skimming it often so that the final product is rich and flavorful, but clear. 

The broth is served with rice noodles and very thin slices of beef. Vegetables and herbs like radishes, bean sprouts, chile slices, basil, cilantro, and lime accompany the soup on a side dish. You can often find a variety of sauces like soy sauce, fish sauce, Hoisin, and Sriracha.

Oxtail is an excellent choice of meat for Pho since it is at its best when cooked slowly. Additionally, the gelatins and marrow from the bone make the broth more fragrant and flavorful. 

Jamaican Oxtail Recipe

If you are in the mood for a spicy, rich, and hearty stew, try this Jamaican Oxtail recipe.

This recipe offers the convenience of a slow cooker for a 3-4 hour cook or a pressure cooker for a hearty meal in a little over an hour.

It’s not just a dump everything in and wait for kind of recipe though. You will need to tend to the oxtail and add different ingredients at different times to ensure that everything is cooked properly and comes together perfectly.


  • 2.5 lbs oxtails
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon all-spice
  • 1 teaspoon browning
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic chopped
  • 2 whole carrots chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper seeds and membrane removed and chopped
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 Tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 16 oz can Butter Beans drained


1.Rinse oxtails with water and vinegar and pat dry. 

2.Marinate oxtails with brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, all-spice, and browning sauce.

3.Set Pressure Cooker on High Sauté and once hot, add vegetable oil. 

4.Next, sear the oxtail in the pressure cooker and remove it.

5.Deglaze your pressure cooker with 2 Tbsp of beef broth. Use a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits. 

6.Add yellow onions, green onions, carrots, garlic, and scotch bonnet pepper. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onions have softened.

7.Add dried thyme, oxtails, remaining beef broth, and ketchup to the pressure cooker.

8.Turn the pressure cooker off, then put on the lid and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Once the timer is done, allow the pressure cooker to naturally release. This extends the cooking time. It takes about 25 minutes to release the pressure.

9.Open the pressure cooker and remove everything but the liquid. Set the pressure cooker to the saute setting. Make a corn starch slurry and add it to the simmering liquid. Add drained butter beans into the pressure cooker and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, until liquid is slightly thickened and butterbeans are warmed.

10.Add oxtails and vegetables back to the pressure cooker. 

Oxtail Soup Mixes And Seasonings

In recipes for Jamaican Oxtail, you may find Oxtail Seasoning as a listed ingredient. It is a premade blend of spices and salt you can use as a bit of a short-cut for your dish.

If you can’t find it, or you prefer to make your own seasoning, use salt, chili powder, dried red pepper, celery powder, ground allspice, onion powder and garlic powder.

Many of these spice mixes also include a starch like cornstarch or whole wheat to help thicken the broth as it cooks. 

Another ingredient you will find in these recipes is browning sauce. This liquid seasoning adds depth of flavor to sauces and soups.

It is a reduced vegetable broth from carrots, celery, onion, parsley, turnips, and parsnips. It also contains caramel color, an assortment of spices, salt, and preservatives.

Another option to explore is the variety of oxtail soup mixes. These contain all the ingredients for the base of oxtail broth. You simply mix with water and add your oxtail (or other beef cuts).

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Oxtail?

Oxtail, as the name indicates, is the tail, meat, and bone, from cattle. In American grocery stores, you are not likely to find actual ox meat, but beef tail will work just as well. 

As it cooks, you need to pay attention to the broth to skim off fats and foam that develop during the cooking process.

Why Is Oxtail So Expensive?

Oxtail is in a strange kind of grocery store limbo. It is not the most popular cut of meat and so it is less available than other cuts.

Furthermore, each cow only has one tail so there is simply less oxtail than other cuts. As this cut grows in popularity, the price increases.

For more detailed guide, check out our article Why Is Oxtail So Expensive and Its Cheaper Alternatives.

What Is The Best Way To Cook Oxtail?

Oxtail, and similarly tough cuts, need to be cooked for a long time at a low temperature to produce tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

The traditional way to cook oxtail is to braise it or simmer it in a covered pot for 3-4 hours.

You can also use a slow cooker for that low, slow cook time. If you have a pressure cooker, you can sear the oxtail first, then cook it on high pressure for 45 minutes.

Let the pressure release on its own rather than opening the valve to increase the cooking time.

While the pressure cooker will completely cook the oxtail, longer cooking times at low temperatures will still produce better results.

What Is The Nutritional Information For Oxtail And Beef Substitutions?

Beef, regardless of the cut, will have more or less the same nutritional information. Some portions may have a slightly higher fat percentage based on how they are cut. 

One 4 ounce (113 grams) serving of beef with the visible fat trimmed off has 158 calories. one serving contains 7 grams of fat, 75 mg of cholesterol, and 92 mg of sodium.

You will gain 24g of protein from one serving; that is almost half your DV of protein. Beef is also an important food to help maintain the iron levels in your body. One serving has about 14% of the DV of iron.

Final Thoughts

You should give oxtail soup a try for a complex and flavorful dish from an unlikely ingredient.

If you can’t find oxtail, you can use other cuts of beef, veal neck, or even lamb to create this dish.

For those who prefer vegan alternatives, try substituting seitan or jackfruit for the oxtail.  

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