Oxtail is an extremely rare type of meat. With its scarcity, comes an expensive price tag. It used to be the tail of oxen, but nowadays oxtail is just the tail of beef cattle. It can come from either gender of cow, and is sometimes also veal.
Before preparation, an oxtail weighs around eight pounds. The tail has a high amount of collagen, making it rich in gelatin. To be sold, an oxtail is skinned and cut into pieces, which are different sizes because the tail narrows as it gets closer to the end.
Oxtail is a wonderful delicacy, but it’s no surprise that it isn’t really accessible for many people. At least, not for a casual dinner. If you want to enjoy something similar to oxtail, you have plenty of options. Because oxtail is a type of beef, other types of beef can suffice in its place.
Some of the best oxtail substitutes are beef neck bones, beef shank, beef tendon, chucks, cheeks, and short ribs. A similar flavor to oxtail can also be found in lamb neck bones and shanks. There are even some vegan options for oxtail substitutes.
Is Oxtail a Good Meat?
Oxtail is a pretty healthy red meat. It is incredibly rich in collagen, which is an essential protein to keep our bodies in good shape. Oxtail is over 70% fat, meaning those on ketogenic or paleo diets can consume it.
One serving of oxtail also contains two-thirds of the recommended daily protein intake. It is still a red meat, however, and has saturated fats and cholesterol. Oxtails are also very useful. They are bony and don’t have much meat, so they are perfect for making bone broth.
Why is Oxtail So Tasty?
The taste of oxtail is complex. It is comparable to beef (as oxtail comes from a cow, like beef), but more tender. Its texture is similar to that of beef short ribs, and is often described as silky. The gelatinous, richness of oxtail makes it an easily craveable meat.
What Can I Substitute for Oxtail?
While oxtail itself is somewhat rare and rather expensive, there are other foods which have a similar flavor or texture, and thus can be substituted for it. Below are some of the best substitutes for oxtail.
1. Beef Neck Bones
Beef neck bones are going to be much easier to track down than oxtail. The tendons of beef neck bones can also be found in the tail, so it is a sufficient substitute. Beef neck bones are also much less expensive than oxtail.
Their texture is still tender when cooked, but they have a much lower fat content. Beef neck bones can be used in any situation that you would use oxtail, or beef, for that matter. They are super easy to work with and can be added straight into a boiling pot of water for stew.
2. Beef Shank
Beef shank comes from the leg of a heifer or steer (female or male cow that has not given birth and is relatively young). Cattle use their legs often, so beef shank is dry and rough in texture. Because of this, it requires a longer cooking time than other types of beef.
Beef shank is often the type of meat that is used to produce ground beef. It must be cooked on a moist heat, so as to not dry it out further. You probably won’t be able to get it at a butcher shop, but it is widely available and affordable at grocery stores.
3. Beef Short Ribs
Beef short ribs can be cut from the chuck, brisket, or plate parts of the cattle. Short ribs have a bone attached to them, so they come in either English or flanken cut. Beef short ribs can easily replace oxtail in nearly any recipe that calls for it.
4. Beef Tendon
When making soups and stews, beef tendon is a perfect substitute for oxtail. Like oxtail, beef tendons are very gelatinous and firm, but they tend to be richer in flavor. Beef tendon is best when simmered, because the juiciness of it will be extracted and it will add a pungent flavor to your dish.
5. Beef Cheeks
The flavor of beef cheeks can easily be equated to that of oxtail. The meat of beef cheeks also has a very concentrated gelatin content, which melts off wonderfully. It will seep into the rest of your dish, creating a perfect umami flavor.
6. Beef Chuck
For any dish that has to do with beef, consider beef chuck as an oxtail replacement. It is the largest cut of cattle, and is also a type of steak. Because beef chuck usually comes from the meatiest part of the cattle, it is high in protein and many vitamins and minerals.
One serving of beef chuck contains vitamin D, and is full of other minerals. Some of these include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, to name a few. It is also pretty low in fat, considering the rest of its health value.
7. Lamb Neck Bones
Lamb neck bones are, as the name suggests, a portion of lamb containing bone. The bones are covered in a layer of fat which is firm, but becomes tender when cooked properly. When simmered or stewed, lamb neck bones can easily produce as much gelatin as oxtail.
The flavor of lamb neck bones is meaty and strong, making them suitable for a wide variety of dishes. They are great for slow-cooking, and are also a good addition to soups and stews. Overall, lamb neck bones will give a new, fresh, flavor to essentially any recipe.
8. Lamb Shanks
Lamb shanks are very similar to beef shanks, so it only makes sense that they would also belong on a list of oxtail substitutes. The shanks of lamb are rich in tendons and fats, which allows them to add a mouth-watering taste to whatever dish they are added to.
When cooked properly (on low heat and slowly), the texture of lamb shanks becomes juicy and tender. There are a couple types of shanks, but they virtually taste the same in the end. The foreshank is from the front legs and is smaller than the hind shank, which is derived from the animal’s back legs and is much meatier.
Believe it or not, the taste of oxtail can also be replicated with plants. This will be very helpful for those who follow a vegan diet, but the similarities to oxtail that can come from mushrooms or jackfruit are certainly shocking to seasoned meat lovers.
If you’ve ever researched a vegan alternative to any sort of meat, you’ve likely come across seitan as a recommendation. This is because its texture and taste were made to replicate that of regular meats. When cooked, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Seitan is made from gluten, which is the stringy protein used in dough. It’s what makes dough stretchy. But for seitan, the starch is removed, so it is basically pure gluten. Most other plant-based meat replacements are made from soy, so this is how seitan sets itself apart, and becomes an almost-exact meat replica.
10. Portobello Mushroom
It’s no secret that the flavor of portobello mushrooms is complex. Combined with their tough, chewy, texture, these mushrooms can make for a good meat substitute. The aroma they give off is similar to beef, and they will also add a deeper flavor to your recipes.
Try using portobello mushrooms in place of oxtail in casseroles, stews, and soups, to get a hint of the beefy flavor that we know and love oxtail for. They are also low in calories, making them great for those who may be trying to lose weight.
Jackfruit makes for an excellent meat substitute, in almost any case, including for oxtail. Unripe jackfruit has a meaty and stringy texture that is similar to meat. It is the most similar to pulled pork or beef. In fact, jackfruit can be used in place of meat in any recipe that calls for shredded, ground, or pulled meat, making it incredibly versatile.
The fruit also has a very neutral taste, like most meats do. Because of this, it’s an easy meat replacement that can cater to whatever flavors it’s added to. Some say its flavor when cooked is strikingly similar to pulled pork.
What Can I Use Instead of Oxtail for Kare Kare?
For kare kare, the best oxtail substitute is beef shin or beef chuck. If you go to a butcher and have them cut it into smaller pieces, it will give the desired effect for kare kare. Some other options for a more mild taste include chicken or pig’s feet.
Any of these options will add the umami flavor that you’re looking for. It may not be oxtail, but it sure gets pretty close. Beef neck bones or short ribs can also work, as they have a high amount of collagen as well. Just be sure that it’s cut into smaller pieces if needed.
Is Oxtail a Lamb or Beef?
Originally, many years ago, oxtail came from the tail of an ox (male working cow), hence the name. Nowadays, it is simply the tail of cattle, and can come from either sex. Even though it’s strayed slightly from its original name, oxtail is still beef.
How Do You Eat Oxtails?
Oxtails are very bony, so they are always ideal for stews and soups. Being cooked slowly helps absorb the gelatin to get the most out of oxtails. They can also be braised, often in a liquid like red wine.
Oxtails are debatably the least versatile part of beef, but are also the most flavorful. If you’re making beef stew, oxtail will give it a dramatic and juicy taste.
Is Oxtail the Same as Short Rib?
Although they can be used interchangeably in many cases, oxtail and short rib are not the same. For one, they come from completely different parts of the cattle. Oxtail is also far superior for soups and stews, as it sheds much easier.
Oxtail is also extremely gelatinous and fatty, giving it its signature juiciness. Short ribs are somewhat juicy as well, but the closest match to oxtail is beef cheeks, not short rib.
Oxtail is a decadent meat, but unfortunately it has risen in price in the last decade. It has become more of a scarcity, which may leave people wondering what they can use instead of oxtail. Fortunately, there are many sufficient replacements which are often both easier to find and cheaper in cost.