Spicy Oxtail Stew (Dominican Rabo Encendido)

Updated: Feb 27

Spicy, rich, tender, and truly delicious: this Dominican dish is just full of amazing flavors!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6 people

Dairy/Soy/Gluten Free

Yields 6 servings

This is a real treat! Those who have tasted oxtail stew know how delicious it is. There are bits of vegetables, olives, and this incredible tender meat... all combine with enough spices, seasonings, and heat to awaken your taste buds!

Oxtail meat is full of flavor and very tender when prepared accordingly. The meat falls off the bone and the natural collagen thickens the stew without the addition of starches.

"Rabo Encendido" means "tail on fire" in Spanish, and it refers to the heat level of this delicious traditional Dominican dish. Now... I don't claim is just a Dominican thing. You can find multiple versions of it in the Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, The Lesser Antilles), Central America, South America, and Spain. Why? Because the original recipe came from Spain and into the "colonies" in the "New World". In Spain it is simply known as "Rabo de Toro (ox tail) and it is made with red wine and Jerez (Sherry). But I digress...

As I said, it is not just a Dominican thing but this recipe in particular is from the Dominican Republic, thus why I labeled this recipe "Dominican Rabo Encendido". I am very aware of the Jamaica's Spicy Oxtail Stew, Haiti's braised oxtail, Cuba's oxtail stew, and so many others! They are all truly delicious! The base for this recipe is Dominican in origins. Obviously it is expected that when a recipe falls in my lap, I will make some adjustments. It is just my nature. I combined the Dominican recipe with the Spanish recipe, bringing the final product to another level of full head-on flavors to awaken the taste buds and give you a great culinary experience.

In Europe and Asia, oxtail is prepared as a soup. You find it in England, France, all over China, Indonesia, and Korea. It is not a new concept to utilize the ox tail to create a delicious dish.

What is the flavor profile of this soup?

Rich deep flavor. Spicy, tangy, sweet, herbaceous, and earthy. This is a good stew that will make many happy. It is hearty and full of small delicious bites from the carrots, olives, and peppers. I guess the best way to describe the stew is by comparing it to a "curry" but without all the spices associated with curries.

What is the texture of oxtail?

The oxtail meat is so tender and develops such a great flavor! I believe it is one of the most underused and neglected cuts of beef.

What will I need to make this dish?

Oxtail, carrots, Spanish Olives, Sweet Bell Peppers, a red onion, garlic, red wine, crushed tomatoes, water, adobo, bay leaves, one habanero pepper, and olive oil or vegetable oil.

What else will I need to make this?

A large cast iron pot or pot, a knife, a cutting board, a wooden spoon, and probably some gloves to handle the habanero or jalapeño peppers.

To make the adobo you will need measuring spoons and a small container with a lid.

Can I make substitutions?

Actually, you could substitute the oxtail for lamb or goat. You will have a wonderful stew in the end.

You can substitute the habanero pepper for 2 jalapeños or any peppers you wish to use. Remember, you can control the heat level by choosing the peppers you like.

Also, of you do not like spicy food or just can't handle it, skip the habanero pepper.

Where do I find oxtail?

Check the meat section at your favorite grocers or ask your butcher.

What is Adobo?

Adobo is a combination of seasonings and spices used in Latin cuisine. It is used to impart flavor to fish, poultry, beef, pork, and vegetarian dishes. Keep in mind that Latin Adobo is different from Adobo from the Philippines.

Is store-bought Adobo gluten free?

Most of the time it is not. Thus why I will teach you how to make your own. It is very easy to make and it can be stored for months.

What will I need to make adobo?

Salt, black pepper, onion and garlic powder, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and oregano.

What do I serve this dish with?

Traditionally it is served over white rice, "tostones" (fried plantains), and a side of fresh salad to cool the palate.


  • 3 or 4 pounds of oxtail

  • 3 carrots (peeled and diced)

  • 1/4 cup of Spanish Manzanilla Olives Stuffed with Pimento

  • 1 Red Bell pepper (seeded and diced finely)

  • 1 Yellow Bell pepper (seeded and diced finely)

  • 1 Orange Bell pepper (seeded and diced finely)

  • 1 large red onion (diced finely)

  • 8 cloves of garlic (peeled and minced)

  • 2 15oz cans of crushed tomatoes

  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste

  • 2 cups of red wine or Sherry

  • 1 cup of water

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 tablespoons of Adobo (see recipe below)

  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder

  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder

  • Salt & Pepper to taste

  • 1 habanero pepper or 2 jalapeño peppers

  • Olive oil or vegetable oil


  • 5 tablespoons of salt

  • 2 tablespoons of black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons of onion powder

  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons of cumin

  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric

  • 1 tablespoon of paprika

  • 2 tablespoons of crushed oregano


Step One: Prep the Oxtail

  1. Trim all excess fat from the oxtail. A layer of fat sometimes encases the meat, and although it gives the dish a wonderful flavor, excess fat can be very chewy.

  2. Lightly season the oxtail with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Step 2: Prep the Vegetables

  1. Peel and chop the carrots.

  2. Remove seeds from bell peppers and chop into small bits.

  3. Peel and chop/mince the onion and garlic.

  4. Set Aside.

Step 3: Make the Adobo

  1. Combine all the adobo ingredients in a container with a lid

  2. Place the lid on the container and shake well for 30 seconds.

Step 4: Make the Stew

  1. Start by adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil to a large pot over medium high heat.

  2. Once the heat is ready, add the ox tail sections and brown on all sides for at least 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the heat and set aside.

  3. Add the onions, carrots, onion, garlic, and bell peppers to the pot. Cook until tender.

  4. Return the meat into the pot and add the wine, water, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, adobo, bay leaves, and olives. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour.

  5. After one hour has passed, add the garlic and onion powders. Stir, cover, and cook for another hour.

  6. Once the time has elapsed taste for seasonings and adjust with salt and pepper.

  7. Cut the habanero in half, remove the seeds and chop into small pieces (same with the jalapeño if using instead). Add to the stew. And cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

  8. After 2.5 hours the meat should fall off the bone. If not, cook for another 30 minutes.

  9. During the cooking process, excess grease might have accumulated on the surface of the stew. Carefully remove it with a spoon.

  10. Serve over white rice.


Printable PDF Recipe File below:

Spicy Oxtail Stew
PDF • 17.30MB

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