Caribbean Cow Heel Soup

A bowl of cowheel soup
Cynthia Nelson
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 55 mins
Total: 65 mins
Servings: 4 to 5 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
665 Calories
31g Fat
36g Carbs
61g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 665
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 40%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 182mg 61%
Sodium 563mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 10g 37%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 61g
Vitamin C 56mg 278%
Calcium 278mg 21%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 1290mg 27%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Before you flinch at the thought of eating cow's heels—that is, their feet—think of an unctuous and flavorful bowl of soup packed with veggies, dumplings, and split peas. It's similar to many other beef-based stews and not uncommon in many cuisines around the world. Asians, Europeans, West Africans, and even Hispanics have varied versions from very spicy to very mild. Even within the Caribbean, different cultures have a variety of takes on the soup, with or without root vegetables, and with diverse levels of spiciness. Likewise, the use of herbs and seasonings is different depending on the island, but no matter which recipe you go for, this soup is one of those dishes you have to try at least once in your life.

Our recipe for cow heel soup, also known as cow feet soup, is one of the most loved soups in the Caribbean. The secret lies in the pillowy flour dumplings that top the soup and make it extra rich, hearty, and filling. Although the feet don't have much meat—they're pretty much skin, tendons, and cartilage—they do carry a lot of flavor. They also have plenty of bone marrow, which gives the soup a gelatinous consistency and is said to heal different ailments, from digestive discomfort to soggy skin. In addition, the bone marrow in the feet does have conjugated linoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Most grocers don't carry cow's feet, but smaller butchers could get them for you if ordering ahead of time. Most Latin and Asian markets have cow's feet on a regular basis, so that's your best bet. We used a pressure cooker for our recipe, the best and fastest cooking method as the feet are very tough. Before you start, you need to make the dough for the flour dumplings; they need to be added a few minutes before the cooking time is done.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 1 cup onions, diced

  • 6 sprigs thyme, divided

  • 2 pounds cow heel, chopped

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 5 cups water, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas

  • 6 to 8 okra

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds

  • 12 small flour dumplings

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the oil in the bottom of a pressure cooker.

  3. Add the onions and half of the thyme and sauté until the onions are translucent, or about 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Add cow heel. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté the heels for 3 minutes.

  5. Add 5 cups of water. Stir, place the lid on the pressure cooker, close, and cook for 30 minutes after the first whistle.

  6. Release the valve of the pressure cooker to let out the steam. Next, open the pressure cooker and add the peas and more water—there should be enough liquid to make a soup.

  7. Add the remaining thyme and let the peas and cow heel cook on high heat until the peas soften, or about 8 minutes.

  8. Add the okra, carrots, and dumplings to the pot. Place the lid slightly askew and let the soup cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked through. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. Serve hot.

  9. Enjoy.

Stovetop and Slow Cooker Method

If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can still make this soup using a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or a slow cooker. Slow and steady heat and more cooking liquid are what you need. The aim is to cook the cow heel until it is fall-off-the-bone tender:

  • Stovetop: Once you add the water to the pot (Step 5), lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow the feet to cook for 2 1/2 hours, occasionally checking that the cooking liquid is enough to cover the feet. Add the rest of the ingredients and more water, as needed, and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Once the meat is tender, add the dumplings and let cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Slow Cooker: In a large pan, sauté the onions in oil, brown the heels, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper, add half the thyme, and cook on high for 3 hours, checking that there is enough water at all times. After 3 hours, add remaining ingredients except the dumplings and cook for 2 to 3 hours on low, until the meat falls off the bone. Add the dumplings and let cook for 10 minutes.
Article Sources
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  1. Koba K, Yanagita T. Health benefits of conjugated linoleic acid (Cla)Obes Res Clin Pract. 2014;8(6):e525-532.  DOI: 10.1016/j.orcp.2013.10.001