Smothered oxtail is a Southern recipe that evokes memories of Sunday soul food dinners and family gatherings. Cooked to tender perfection, these oxtails, are smothered in rich, velvety brown gravy with bell pepper and onion and served over rice.
Updated January 22, 2024: Southern oxtails are one of Marrekus’ favorite dishes. Growing up in the South, he recalls the comforting aroma of oxtails wafting through his grandmother’s kitchen. My favorite part of this southern oxtail recipe is the velvety brown gravy! It’s reminiscent of our Smothered Chicken recipe.
Our southern oxtail recipe is cooked to tender perfection and brought to life with a medley of seasonings and aromatics. Whether you’re well-acquainted with this cherished dish or embarking on a flavor-filled journey into soul food cooking, these southern oxtails will transport you to a world where culinary heritage meets modern-day comfort.
Grab your apron, fire up the stove, and let’s cook up this smothered oxtail recipe that’s as timeless as it is delicious!
What is Oxtail?
Oxtail is a cut of meat that comes from the tail of a cow. It’s a bit unique because, unlike other cuts of beef, oxtail contains a lot of bone and connective tissue, which gives it a rich, hearty flavor and a wonderfully tender texture when it’s cooked slowly.
This special cut has been a staple in Soul Food cooking for generations, often used to create comforting, flavorful dishes like oxtail stew, oxtail soup, or this braised oxtail recipe with brown gravy.
We also use oxtail in these amazing Oxtail Chili Cheese Fries inspired by Bachi Burger.
What Does Oxtail Taste Like?
Oxtail has a rich, deep, and wonderfully beefy taste, with a flavor that’s both savory and slightly sweet. The magic happens when you cook it low and slow, which makes the meat incredibly tender, almost like it’s melting in your mouth.
The History of Oxtail in America
Oxtails were a less desirable and often discarded part of the animal by white slaveowners. African slaves would salvage these leftover cuts, transforming them into flavorful dishes through slow cooking and seasoning. This practice not only showcased the culinary skills of Black American cooks but also highlighted their ability to make the most of limited resources.
Culinary historians and scholars such as Jessica B. Harris, author of “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America,” and Michael W. Twitty, author of “The Cooking Gene,” have explored the ways in which African American culinary traditions evolved during the period of slavery, emphasizing the significance of making nourishing meals from what others considered scraps.
- All-purpose flour
- Neutral oil (e.g. vegetable oil, olive oil)
- Beef stock or beef broth
- Bell pepper
- Cooked rice, for serving
- Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (start with less and adjust to taste if using any other type of salt)
- Ground black pepper
- Seasoned salt
- Granulated garlic
- Granulated onion
- Lemon pepper
- White pepper
- Italian seasoning
Note: The oxtail seasoning yields 6 tablespoons, but this recipe only calls for 3 tablespoons. Feel free to adjust to your taste preferences if you’d like to use more or less.
How to Make Oxtail Seasoning
In a small bowl, combine kosher salt, ground black pepper, seasoned salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, lemon pepper, ground white pepper, Italian seasoning, and Sazón. Stir all the ingredients together until well combined.
Oxtail Recipe Instructions
Step 1: Prep Your Oxtails: Start by seasoning your oxtails with 2 tablespoons of Oxtail Seasoning mixture. Then, sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the oxtails. Make sure they get a good coating but don’t forget to shake off any excess flour.
Step 2: Brown Oxtails: Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-duty roaster or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, it’s time to add your seasoned oxtails. Give them a beautiful golden brown sear and keep turning until they are browned on all sides. Once your oxtails are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.
Step 3: Make the Gravy: Leave the oil in the pan and whisk in 1/2 cup flour. This will be the base of your brown gravy. Pour in beef stock or beef broth and add another tablespoon of seasoning. Keep whisking until the gravy becomes silky-smooth and takes on a beautiful caramel brown color. Alternatively, adjust to your desired consistency.
Step 4: Add the Aromatics: Once your gravy is smooth and beautifully brown, lower the heat to medium. Add in the sliced onion, bell pepper, and garlic.
Step 5: Return Oxtails to Pot: Place seared oxtails back into the pot and give them a gentle stir.
Step 6: Roast in the Oven: Cover your pot and place it into the preheated oven set at 325°F. Cook oxtail, letting them simmer and stew for 2 hours and 45 minutes up to 3 hours. This slow cooking will transform those oxtails into a melt-in-your-mouth delight. Oxtails are typically done when they reach an internal temperature of 180-200°F (82-93°C).
Step 7: Serve and Enjoy: When you finally take your smothered oxtails out of the oven, spoon that rich and hearty gravy generously all over. Then, serve them over a bed of fluffy rice.
To make this oxtail recipe in a slow cooker, scroll down to “Slow Cooker Instructions” or see the Notes section in the recipe card.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Quality Ingredients: It starts with high-quality oxtails and fresh vegetables!
- Proper Seasoning: Ensure even seasoning by generously sprinkling our Oxtail Seasoning mixture over the oxtails. This is necessary for building flavor throughout the dish.
- Hot Oil for Searing: Use hot oil for searing the oxtails. This helps to achieve a nice browning on all sides, adding depth and flavor to the meat.
- Whisking the Flour: When whisking in the flour to make the gravy, do it gradually to prevent lumps. Continue whisking until the consistency is smooth and it has a nice golden brown color, or to your desired consistency.
- Low and Slow Cooking: Cook oxtail in the oven at 325°F. The slow cooking process is essential for tenderizing the tough oxtail meat. This allows the collagen in the oxtails to break down, resulting in a flavorful and tender dish.
- Resting Before Serving: Allow the oxtails to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a more succulent and flavorful meat.
Slow Cooker Instructions
- After browning the oxtails and making gravy (Steps 1-4 above), transfer oxtail to the slow cooker. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic.
- Pour the prepared gravy over the oxtails and vegetables in the slow cooker. Give them a gentle stir.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or until the oxtails are tender. You can also cook on high heat for 3-4 hours. Serve over cooked rice and enjoy.
When using a Crockpot, you can still achieve the slow-cooked tenderness without the need for an oven. Adjust the cooking time based on your slow cooker’s settings and the desired level of tenderness.
It’s only right to serve this southern oxtail recipe with some classic Southern and Soul Food side dishes. Here are some tried-and-true options that’ll make your meal complete:
- Collard Greens: Slow-cooked collard greens seasoned with bacon, onions, and garlic add a savory and slightly smoky element to the meal.
- Green Beans and Potatoes: Whether cooked with bacon or seasoned with Southern spices, green beans make a vibrant and tasty side dish.
- Candied Yams: Sweet and buttery and featuring brown sugar and warm spices. A traditional soul food candied yams recipe passed down from generation to generation.
- Southern Style Braised Cabbage: Braised cabbage cooked with bacon, onion, and garlic in a savory broth, offering a flavorful and slightly tangy side that complements the crispy goodness of fried chicken.
- Southern Cornbread: Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb. It combines the rich tang of buttermilk with classic ingredients like butter and sugar for a delightful side dish that complements any Southern meal
- Sweet Potato Cornbread: This sweet potato cornbread is perfectly moist and flavorful, made with fresh, mashed sweet potatoes, a touch of cinnamon, and the magic of beaten egg whites. Topped with a luscious coat of melted butter for the ultimate Sunday dinner companion.
- Southern Fried Cabbage with Bacon and Sausage: A flavorful combination of cabbage, bacon, and sausage adds a unique and savory dimension to the meal.
- Macaroni and Cheese: A rich and cheesy macaroni and cheese dish can be a deliciously indulgent side to balance the savory fried chicken.
- Black-Eyed Peas: Seasoned black-eyed peas make a hearty and flavorful side dish, providing protein and a distinct Southern touch.
- Creamed Corn: Sweet, tender corn kernels are simmered in a rich, creamy sauce, making this dish a true comfort classic that’s easy to prepare and impossible to resist.
- Pinto Beans: This pinto beans recipe, adapted from chef and restauranteur Kevin Bludso, is made with smoked ham hock in a flavorful broth.
Commonly Asked Questions
Some larger supermarkets or upscale grocery chains should carry premium meat selections, including oxtails. You can also visit a reputable local butcher shop or meat market. We live in a rural area, so sometimes we connect with local farms or ranches that raise cattle and sell directly to consumers.
Oxtails are done when they become tender and easily pull away from the bone. You can check for tenderness by inserting a fork or knife into the meat. If it goes in and comes out with little resistance, the oxtails are likely done. The meat should have a rich, brown color and a pleasing appearance.
These oxtails are cooked to tender perfection and generously coated in a velvety brown gravy infused with bell pepper and onion. Served over a bed of rice, this dish is a cherished Sunday soul food dinner.Print
This Southern oxtail recipe is a cherished classic that evokes memories of Sunday soul food dinners and family gatherings. Cooked to tender perfection, these oxtails, are smothered in rich, velvety gravy with bell pepper and onion and served over rice.
- 3–4 pounds beef oxtails
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil (e.g. vegetable oil, olive oil)
- 3 cups beef stock or beef broth
- 1/2 sweet onion, sliced (or 1 small yellow onion)
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Cooked rice, for serving
- 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (start with less and adjust to taste if using any other type of salt)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon spoon seasoned salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon of Sazón
- Make Oxtail Seasoning: In a small bowl, combine kosher salt, pepper, seasoned salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, lemon pepper, ground white pepper, Italian seasoning, and Sazón. Stir all the ingredients together until well combined.
- Season oxtails with 2 tablespoons seasoning mixture.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour over oxtails; shake off any excess flour.
- Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-duty roaster or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once oil is hot and shimmering, add seasoned oxtails.
- Sear and turn oxtails until they are browned on all sides. Then remove them from pan and set aside.
- Leave oil in the pan and whisk in 1/2 cup flour.
- Pour in beef stock and add 1 tablespoon of oxtail seasoning. Keep whisking until gravy is smooth and takes on golden brown color.
- Lower heat to medium and add onion, bell pepper, and garlic.
- Return seared oxtails back to pot and give them a gentle stir.
- Cover pot and place in preheated oven set at 325°F.
- Cook oxtail, letting them simmer and stew in oven for 2 hours and 45 minutes up to 3 hours. Oxtails are typically done when they reach an internal temperature of 180-200°F (82-93°C).
- Remove oxtails from oven and spoon gravy generously all over.
- Allow them to cool for 10 minutes then serve over white rice.
This oxtail seasoning yields 6 tablespoons, but the recipe only calls for 3 tablespoons. Feel free to adjust to your taste preferences if you’d like to use more or less. For the gravy, adjust to your desired consistency by adding more flour or more oil and/or broth.
- Serving Size: 4 servings
- Calories: 850 kcal
- Sugar: 3g
- Sodium: 900mg
- Fat: 55g
- Saturated Fat: 13g
- Carbohydrates: 23g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 35g
Keywords: oxtail recipe, smothered oxtail, oxtail gravy, oxtail seasoning, what is oxtail, oxtails