Homemade Oxtail Soup

Oxtail soup in a bowl with a spoon and bread slices alongside

The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 30 mins
Total: 3 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
485 Calories
26g Fat
16g Carbs
43g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 485
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26g 34%
Saturated Fat 9g 44%
Cholesterol 139mg 46%
Sodium 541mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 43g
Vitamin C 6mg 28%
Calcium 64mg 5%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 710mg 15%
*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.)

Although the name implies otherwise, oxtails are beef tails (no specific breed of cow is used), and they happen to make the most delicious soup. While some people may balk at the idea of eating a cow's tail, this recipe may change their minds. Oxtail tastes like beef, but more specifically, like a more tender, silkier short rib in terms of texture. In fact, oxtail is often used on its own to make stock because it's such a gelatinous, rich meat.

It is believed that this oxtail soup recipe was created in the 1700s in London by French and Flemish immigrants. With their long cooking time and high-fat content, oxtails were traditionally a very cheap cut of meat meant to economize all parts of the animal. It's a dish that is made all over the world, from Korea, Indonesia, and Russia to Africa, Spain, Jamaica, and the American South.

The British recipe is made with onions, carrots, celery, and thyme. It does need a lot of time to simmer because of the fatty meat​, but requires little work. Once you taste the soup, you will see that the result is well worth it.

"This soup was very flavorful. I refrigerated the soup so I could skim more fat from the top. I also added the dry sherry, but the broth was excellent with or without it. All in all, a tasty soup with French bread." —Diana Rattray

Oxtail soup in a bowl with a spoon and a slice of crusty bread alongside
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 pounds oxtail, fat trimmed cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch chunks

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons beef drippings, or cooking oil

  • 2 medium yellow onions, minced

  • 2 quarts water, or 6 cups water and 2 cups beef broth or bouillon

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

  • 3 whole cloves

  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 1/3 cup dry sherry, or port wine, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for oxtail soup recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  2. Dredge oxtails in the 1/2 cup flour.

    Oxtails dredged in flour in a shallow bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  3. Heat the beef drippings or cooking oil in a large, heavy pot over high heat. Cook to brown the meat, remove (keeping the fat in the pan), and drain on paper towels.

    Oxtail meat cooking in a large ceramic pot with beef drippings or oil

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  4. Add the minced onions to the pot, turn the heat to medium, and saute 8 to 10 minutes until golden.

    Minced onion cooking in a large ceramic pot with beef fat or oil

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

  5. Sprinkle in remaining 2 tablespoons flour, mix well, and brown lightly.

    Flour combined with minced onion in large pot for oxtail soup

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  6. Slowly add the water, and stir in tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Tie the bay leaf in cheesecloth with the thyme, cloves, and parsley and add to the pot.

    Water, tomato paste, bay leaf and spices added to pot with onions

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  7. Return oxtail to pot, cover, and simmer 3 hours until meat is fork-tender. Cool and skim off fat; remove cheesecloth bag.

    Oxtail simmering in water, spices, onions, and tomato paste for soup

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  8. Remove the oxtail from the soup and separate the meat from the bones. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and return to pot. Add the carrots and celery.

    Oxtail meat removed from the soup to a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  9. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until carrots are tender. If you like, mix in sherry or port.

    Oxtail soup with carrots and celery and a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

  10. Serve as is, or strain the liquid and serve as a first course. Follow with oxtail and vegetables.

    Oxtail soup in a bowl with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada 

Why is Oxtail So Expensive?

It's a bit of irony that a cut of meat associated with economical cooking—i.e., using every part of the animal because it was efficient and inexpensive—has turned a different corner. In the wake of farm-to-table cuisine, chefs have of late rediscovered this cut of meat and demand has gone up. After all, there's only one tail per cow.

How to Store and Freeze Oxtail Soup

Oxtail soup can be stored and frozen like any other beef soup, which means it's good in the refrigerator, covered, for 3 to 5 days and frozen, in a freezer-safe container or zip-close bag, for up to 3 months.