Slow Cooked Southern Oxtails Recipe

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Sticky-lipped, rich, and savory, my mama's southern braised oxtails recipe is slow cooked until fall-off-the-bone tender. Now, using sous vide circulator, I updated her recipe to make the most amazing smothered oxtails you'll ever have!

I’m proud to collaborate with more than 30 Black recipe developers as we celebrate Black History Month 2022. This Virtual Potluck explores Black food through the lens of Afrofuturism. Our collaboration of recipes explores the intersection of the Black diaspora via culture, future, geopolitics, imagination, liberation, culture, and technology.

Cook and share the inspiring recipes by checking out the list of participants below. Follow each participant and continue the discussion with us on social media using the hashtag #BHMVP2022!

My all time favorite dish my mama, a wonderful southern cook, would make me as a child was her southern smothered oxtails with coconut rice. And while oxtails will never be a beauty pageant winner, they are the most delicious dish you'll ever have, in my opinion.

The oxtails were pressure cooked, which terrified everyone because she was using an old school pressure cooker and she was scared of the dang thing (which meant we all were scared of it), but it gave scrumptious results: after she calmed the pressure cooker down by running cold water over the pot, she had perfectly tender, perfectly braised oxtails.

She'd then make a gravy with the cooking liquid, some garlic and onions, beef stock, and a little flour to soak up all the fat that rendered from the oxtails. All that rich flavor poured on top of the oxtails but wait, there's more!

two handmade yellow clay bowls are filled with coconut rice and slow cooked smothered oxtails. A coupe glass is being filled with champagne in the background.

She had the most fluffy and delicious coconut rice under all that southern oxtail stew...just *chef's kiss*, honey! It's a mind blowing mix of sweet and savory. My all time favorite dish.

As a food blogger, I wanted to ensure that my readers would be able to make them just as tender and foolproof every time, and that can be difficult with traditional methods of cooking because oxtail sizes can vary! I wanted you to cook oxtail without feeling intimidated.

So I knew exactly what to do: bring a slow cooked sous vide soul food oxtail recipe to the blog. Anyone can make these oxtails. And YES, even you who thinks they can't make gravy? You can. I got all the tips for it, I believe in you, boo.

Jump to:

What are Oxtails?

Oxtail is the culinary term for the tail of cattle that has been skinned and sectioned. It used to mean the tails just from oxen, but they're now from both male and female cows.

Oxtails used to be a cheap cut of meat that used to be given away for free sometimes as it's considered a type of offal (or an undesirable piece of the animal) that poorer communities have turned into delicious meals for centuries, but it's now one of the more expensive cuts thanks to its growing mainstream popularity, especially in restaurants.

They are incredibly tough cuts of meat, with tons of connective tissue and collagen, which is why they're perfect for low and slow cooking like braising for stew or to give a lot of body and flavor in broth and stocks.

A brown hand is lifting the sous vide oxtail meat from the bone in a yellow clay bowl wit ha rose gold fork.

Once the connective tissue has melted away, the meat on the oxtail bones are extremely tender and flavorful. They are incredibly beefy in flavor, because the muscles are used so often by the animal, which is also why they have all that toughness and sinew. They're also...dare I say, unctious?!... because of all that collagen and gelatin. It's very, very rich.

I really love this cut since it's great to use in pot roast, for beef stew, or in birria as a substitute for the short ribs.

The oxtail is a huge part of many food cultures around the world, literally all corners of the world has recipes using oxtail. Soups, stews, with herbs and rice, it's a very popular cut anywhere from Russia to Iran to China, the Philippines, and South Africa to the Southern US.

But the most popular versions in the US are Jamaican style and Southern style oxtails.

Difference between Jamaican Oxtails and Soul Food Style Oxtails

So what's the difference between the two? There is a whole lot!

Southern oxtails are savory, often slow cooked with vegetables like a pot roast or hearty stew, or simply braised in beef broth with seasonings like garlic, onions, and savory additions like soy sauce or worcestershire sauce until the meat is falling off the bone, smothered in an rich umami-packed gravy and served with mashed potatoes or rice.

Southern style oxtails are being served with a generous pour of gravy from a small pitcher

Jamaican style is often made with a bell pepper and hot peppers like habanero or scotch bonnet, maybe jerk seasoning or browning seasoning, classically served with butter beans and rice (and hopefully not a stingy amount of gravy. IYKYK!). It definitely has a different flavor profile from southern style oxtails, but they are really delicious and one of my favorite ways to eat oxtail!

How to Sous Vide Oxtails

This year for black history month I wanted to share my favorite dish with y'all, but make it easier to create. Enter one of my favorite kitchen tools: the sous vide circulator.

We are slow cooking the oxtails for a good long time using sous vide methods, letting the connective tissues breakdown and create a collagen filled jus for a homemade onion garlic gravy that is absolutely perfect on top of the smothered oxtails and rice.

First thing, we get some fat in a cast iron pan nice and hot, then we sear the salted oxtails. Meat always needs to be browned in order to activate the Maillard Reaction, that delicious flavor that is created when proteins and amino acids react to high, dry heat. As chef Anne on the Food Network says, "Brown food tastes good!"

a close up of the seared and slow cooked oxtail meat in a bowl, the meat is so tender it's falling off the bone.

After they're nice and seared, get the oxtails into some sous vide-safe bags with other seasonings. A couple of bay leaves, some onion and garlic powder, some worcestershire sauce it's perfect as a simply seasoned recipe.

I use the Foodsaver bags and the brand's vacuum sealer to help me out, but you can use sous vide-safe zip top bags and use the water displacement method to get all the air out of the bags. Remember, we don't want to overfill the bags, so try to get all the oxtail into one layer in the bag, it's okay to use more than one.

Get the sous vide circulator up to temperature in a large tub of water. You could use a large stock pot or a dutch oven, or a dedicated sous vide container if you have one. This is the set up I use and love.

Now we cook. The great thing about sous vide is that you don't need to baby it. You don't need to eyeball it. You can literally have this recipe cook for 100 hours, no I'm not kidding, and the oxtail will come out perfectly delicious.

Because sous vide cooks at such low temperatures (yet the temperature is well above the safety levels for food, so don't worry about that), the meat will not have a chance to overcook. You're cooking the oxtails at exactly the temperature they need to be to render the collagen and connective tissue and cook the meat to its perfect tenderness.

And all the time it's taking to cook will allow the oxtails to really absorb all the flavor that's with them in the bag. Not only that, but the jus that they release will make the perfect gravy. Speaking of...

Once your oxtails are ready, you can make your gravy! Saute the onions and garlic in some fat over medium heat in a saute pan until the onions are gaining some color, then whisk in the flour. Whisk in the oxtail jus and some more beef broth, and let come to a simmer over medium-low heat until thickened into a rich gravy. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then serve over the oxtail with some rice or mashed potatoes.

This is a super easy way to make those delicious smothered oxtails my mama made for me as a child! No worrying about over-cooked oxtail, or undercooked, tough, sinewy meat. Super flavorful yet totally simple and a fabulous Sunday dinner or celebratory meal!

a side view of a bowl of southern oxtails with gravy poured over them in a bowl on top of a rustic wood serving tray.


Fresh Oxtails. You'll want about a little under a pound of oxtail per person/serving.

Vegetable Oil or Warm Bacon Drippings. If you want the best country style oxtails gravy, you'll want to use some bacon fat to sear the oxtails and onions in.

Worcestershire Sauce. Umami-packed, savory, it's a must! Don't have it? You can sub some soy sauce, just make sure it's low-sodium!

Garlic and Onion Powders. You may be asking why not have fresh garlic and onion in the sous vide? First, garlic can become dangerous in situations where there is no air (creating botulism toxins) and onions tend to get their delicious flavor from sautéing on the stove or roasting in the oven. We still want their flavors, but we want to keep it safe and tasty with their granulated counterparts.

Bay Leaves. You're probably like 'what do bay leaves even do in food?' They do a lot! Because this dish is very rich, you need something to help lift that heavy flavor. In comes the bay leaf! Its flavor is light, peppery, the slightest bit minty + piney, and it brightens up heavy soups and stews. I don't braise a meat without them!

Yellow Onions and Garlic Cloves. This is for the gravy recipe, because if you want serious comfort food, you'll always want to sauté onions and garlic.

All Purpose Flour. To help thicken the gravy, of course!

Beef Stock or Broth.

A really short simple ingredient list, but it's super impactful!

two bowls of sous vide oxtail are served on a stucco table with a rose gold serving spoon, gold rimmed champagne coupe, on a rustic wood tray

Storing and Freezing

Oxtails will last in your fridge in airtight containers for up to one week! You can reheat in the microwave in microwave-safe bowls just fine.

Freeze the cooked oxtail for up to one month. The sous vide safe bags are freezer safe, but you can also put them into freezer safe zip top bags.

Simply thaw the oxtail in the fridge overnight (or place them in the sous vide bath with the sous vide circulator at 100 degrees F for an hour), and reheat the dish in a saucepan over medium heat or in the sous vide bat hat 165 degrees F until heated through.


Where can I buy oxtails?

It's so interesting to find that what was once peasant food is now on the shelves of Whole Foods and common at other chain grocery stores. If you can't find them at your local stores, try a mom and pop butcher.
If they aren't prepackaged and segmented at the meat area at the store, go to the butcher section/your local butcher and ask for a few pounds of oxtails. Oxtail as a primal cut is an actual cattle tail that weighs about 5 pounds, so they'll need to skin it and segment it.

What should I look for when buying oxtails?

ou're looking for oxtail that is already segmented with plenty of red meat surrounding the center bone and white fat, but not a ton of it, just a thin layer. You can ask the butcher to trim the fat, or you can do it yourself with a paring knife at home.

What herbs sous vide well?

Woody herbs like bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, and sage are perfect for long cooking times. More delicate herbs like parsley should be added to the gravy.

How much do oxtails cost?

Oxtails used to be an extremely inexpensive (borderline free!) cut of meat, but now that they have gone from being considered peasant food to being mainstream the price has skyrocketed. Unless you find them on sale or are able to butcher the primal cut yourself, expect to pay around $9 a pound for segmented oxtails.

Make sure to check out the other amazing dishes made by my wonderful food blogging friends for this year's BHM virtual potluck by clicking the links below the recipe!

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📖 Recipe

Sous Vide Southern Oxtails Recipe

Eden Westbrook
Sticky-lipped, rich, and savory, my mama's southern braised oxtails recipe is slow cooked until fall-off-the-bone tender. Now, using sous vide circulator, I updated her recipe to make the most amazing smothered oxtails you'll ever have!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 day 13 hours
Total Time 1 day 13 hours 5 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine African American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 1093 kcal


Sous Vide Oxtails

  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds oxtail segments trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 bay leaf

Southern Smothered Gravy

  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups beef stock or broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Sous Vide Southern Oxtails

  • Pat oxtails dry and season them with the kosher salt. Set up your sous vide bath and set the temperature of your sous vide circulator to 165 degrees F.
  • Pour vegetable oil into a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering hot, add the seasoned oxtails, but don't overcrowd the pan. Do this in batches if necessary, crowding will make the meat steam not sear.
  • Sear the oxtails on every side until each side is browned, about 2 minutes each side. Place the oxtails into the sous vide-safe bags in one layer.
  • Add the required amount of black pepper, worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powders, and the bay leaf to each bag (the list amounts for these ingredients are per bag!) and vacuum seal the bags (or use the water displacement method).
  • Sous vide the oxtails for at least 36 hours up to 100 hours.

Southern Oxtail Gravy

  • Once the oxtails are full cooked and tender, start making the gravy. Remove the oxtails from the jus in the bag, you'll be using the jus to make the gravy.
  • In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the yellow onion slices to the pan and sauté them until they are golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and stir them in for 30 seconds.
  • Add the all purpose flour, and whisk for a couple of minutes to ensure the flour taste cooks out.
  • Add the reserved jus and the beef stock into the flour ¼ cup at a time, whisking well to incorporate. If you notice the roux getting thick and seizing up, that is perfectly fine. Don't panic, just keep adding the liquid and whisking until all the stock is in and the liquid is smooth.
  • Add the oxtails to the gravy and let it come to a simmer, whisking occasionally so it doesn't burn anything at the bottom, for 10-15 minutes or until the gravy has reduced and thickened.
  • Serve the oxtails and gravy hot over coconut rice, mashed potatoes, grits or polenta, or any other delicious side you can think of.


Storing and Freezing

Oxtails will last in your fridge in airtight containers for up to one week! You can reheat in the microwave in microwave-safe bowls just fine.
Freeze the cooked oxtail for up to one month. The sous vide safe bags are freezer safe, but you can also put them into freezer safe zip top bags.
Simply thaw the oxtail in the fridge overnight (or place them in the sous vide bath with the sous vide circulator at 100 degrees F for an hour), and reheat the dish in a saucepan over medium heat or in the sous vide bat hat 165 degrees F until heated through.


Serving: 1gCalories: 1093kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 99gFat: 68gSaturated Fat: 27gPolyunsaturated Fat: 32gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 345mgSodium: 1513mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4g
Tried this recipe?Leave a star rating and let us know!

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  1. Absoutely thrilled to find your blog. I made your sweet potato pie recipe and it was delicious! I was hooked!!! Please keep the recipes coming, and can't wait to try the oxtails. Have you considered writing a cookbook?

    1. Eden Westbrook says:

      Hi Kay,

      Thank you so much! I'm thrilled to hear you loved the recipe and I hope you love the oxtails!

      I hope to author a cookbook one day; if enough readers want one I will! xo, Eden