German-Style Oxtail Soup (Gebundene Ochsenschwanzsuppe)

oxtail soup with bread

Joff Lee / Photolibrary / Getty Images

  • Total: 5 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 4 hrs
  • Servings: 6 servings

Traditionally served as a first course for big events like wedding suppers, Christmas Day, or New Year's, German Oxtail Soup is a special treat. A rich beef and vegetable broth with paprika and pepper to add a little bite and Madeira and cream to round everything out, this soup takes awhile to make but is a real taste extravaganza.

There are two main versions of Oxtail Soup, one is a clear broth with beef bits, but this recipe makes a "gebundene" version, thickened with a little flour and cream.


  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil (or "Butterschmalz")
  • 2 to 3 pounds oxtail bones from the butcher
  • 1 to 2 pounds soup bones
  • 1 to 2 leeks (cleaned and sliced)
  • 1 to 2 onions (chopped)
  • 3 to 4 carrots (sliced)
  • 1/2 of a celery root (celeriac; or 3 to 4 stalks celery, cleaned or peeled and chopped)
  • 1 parsley root (or parsnip, peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons ground paprika (such as sharp or sweet Hungarian paprika)
  • 1 cup dry, red wine
  • Dash salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 juniper berries
  • 1 stalk fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
  • Optional: dash Cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or brown rice flour
  • Optional garnish: parsley (dried or fresh)

Steps to Make It

At least 6 hours before serving or the day before serving:

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Wash soup bones and oxtail bones free of any debris and pat dry. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet and brown bones with meat on all sides at medium heat.

  3. Meanwhile, clean and chop your vegetables. Parsley root, celeriac, and leeks are optional, if you can't find them, increase the celery, onions, and carrots to make 6 cups of chopped vegetables. These are to flavor the strong, beef broth and will be discarded later.

  4. Remove the beef from the pan, add oil if necessary and brown the vegetables for several minutes. Add the tomato paste and the ground paprika to brown for 1 minute. Do not let them burn! Add the red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits.

  5. If the pan is large enough, add the meat back into the vegetables. Otherwise, find a stock pan to hold all the bones and the vegetables, or split into two pots to simmer.

  6. Add the whole spices and one teaspoon of salt and some ground pepper. Add water to cover everything and let the broth simmer for 2 to 4 hours or more on the lowest setting on your stove.

Two Hours Before Serving:

  1. When the meat is fork tender, remove the bones to a platter to cool.

  2. Pour the broth through a strainer and discard the vegetables. You should have 6 to 8 cups of broth.

  3. Cool the broth and remove the layer of fat on the top. This can also be done overnight, making this a good soup to make ahead and finish just before serving.

  4. When the bones are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and chop into bite-sized pieces. Discard the rest of the bones and cartilage. Refrigerate shredded meat until the last step.

One Half Hour Before Serving:

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Reheat the broth gently on the stove. Add 2 tablespoons of Madeira or dry sherry. Add some freshly ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Add salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

  3. Mix the tablespoon of flour with a few tablespoons of cream to make a slurry. Pour into the gently simmering soup, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. Add the rest of the cream and the meat. Heat through, but do not boil.

  5. Serve as a first course with a warm baguette and parsley sprinkled on top. Enjoy!