Vaca Frita (Pan-Fried Beef)


Vaca frita is one of my favorite Cuban foods. It reminds me of the countryside. I like this with black bean soup and rice and either plátanos maduros (fried ripe plantains) or tostones (fried pressed plantains). You could also serve it with a mixture of black beans and rice. It pairs well with a spicy Cabernet Sauvignon.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
50 mins
Additional Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 45 mins


  • 2 large onions

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak, cut into 4 pieces

  • 1 medium green bell pepper, quartered

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons butter

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 medium lime, cut into wedges (Optional)


  1. Cut one onion in half and thinly slice second onion. Set aside.

  2. Combine flank steak, onion halves, bell pepper, and bay leaf in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until meat is easily shredded with 2 forks, about 20 minutes.

  3. Transfer flank steak to a work surface and let cool, about 10 minutes. Shred cooled meat using two forks and place into a bowl. Discard cooking liquid, or strain and save broth for another use.

  4. Mix garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl until a paste forms. Mix paste into shredded meat, then stir in onion slices, lime juice, and oil. Cover and marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 1/2 hours.

  5. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in small batches, add a thin layer of beef and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook, turning once or twice, until sizzling and crispy, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a platter and garnish with lime wedges.


For more flavor, marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator in Step 4.

You can use extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter if preferred.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

221 Calories
15g Fat
8g Carbs
15g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 221
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 38mg 13%
Sodium 268mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 15g
Vitamin C 28mg 139%
Calcium 25mg 2%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 313mg 7%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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