Oxtail soup is a wonderfully rich, meaty soup loaded with hearty vegetables, and tender meat. The perfect meal to warm up with on a cold windy day, this hearty meal is usually served as a broth style soup with varying garnishes.
Some of the links in this post lead to affiliate sites through which Earth, Food, and Fire may earn a small commission should you make a purchase. For more info check the Affiliate Disclaimer.
Is oxtail the actual tail of an ox?
When most people first hear of eating 'oxtail' they immediately think "EWWW!!" , though that couldn't be farther from the truth. Traditionally oxtail is the actual, skinned and sectioned tail of a steer (a male neutered cow), though nowadays oxtail found in grocery stores is more likely to come from any cow that was sent to market.
Oxtail is extremely rich in gelatin due to it's high ratio of connective tissue to bone and meat. This makes oxtail ideal for braising or stewing, as the long, slow cooking process help break down all that connective tissue, and tenderizes what little meat there is.
What does oxtail taste like?
Oxtail recipes are generally very rich in flavor, and actually quite similar in flavor to other beef dishes, (especially short ribs). If you like beef gravy, you'll love oxtail!
The richness comes from the marrow in the bone, fat, and other connective tissues that are broken down as the oxtail is slowly braised, releasing all their flavor and healthy goodies into the individual recipes.
Because oxtail itself does not contain much meat, (each section of tail only has 6 or 7 small nuggets of meat on it), oxtail is most often turned into soup or stew, where the long cooking times take advantage of drawing out as much flavor and nutrition as possible.
The tail bones can be roasted first to intensify their flavor, and then stewed or braised. After cooking the meat is removed from the bones and added back into the oxtail soup or stew.
Despite oxtail having a fairly high fat content compared to other meats, it is very rich in iron, and a great source of collagen which is good for you skin and joints!
German Style Oxtail Soup (Ochsenschwanz Suppe)
I remember vising family in Germany with my wife, and going to a little local restaurant in Bad Zwischenahn which is in the North of Germany in Oldenburg. It was a cold and windy day, and we had stopped to get lunch at a local restaurant. My wife, (who at the time was much more conservative then she is now with her food choices), was cold and starving, and my father immediately suggested she order the Ochsenschwanz Suppe.
Of course she asked what that was, and when we explained it to her she said 'No Thank You', and I must say I think was put of by the idea of eating an Ox's tail! Nevertheless with a little convincing she agreed to try it, and did she ever love the soup when it did come! Served with some hearty sourdough bread, the rich, brothy soup was just what she needed to warm up!
Once the broth has been made, the meat is picked off the oxtail bones, the diced vegetable garnishes are cooked, and added to the soup with fresh herbs. This prevents the vegetables in the finished soup from breaking down during the long cooking process the oxtail broth requires.
As mentioned above, this oxtail soup is made in two parts. First the broth is made by roasting the bones, and then simmering them with some of the root vegetables and wine. Very similar to making a beef stock, but with more flavorings.
To make this oxtail soup you'll need:
Ingredients for the oxtail broth
- 4 lbs of ox tail cut into pieces
- 3 liters water
- 1 medium sized carrot - roughly chopped
- 1 parsnip - roughly chopped
- 1 large Spanish Onion - roughly chopped
- ½ small celery root (or 2 ribs of celery) - roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves - roughly chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 peppercorns
Garnishes for the finished soup
- the oxtail meat picked off the braised bones
- ½ Spanish onion - medium diced
- 1 carrot - medium diced
- 1 parsnip- medium diced
- ½ celery root - medium diced
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- a splash of Port Wine (Red wine will do in a pinch!)
Making The Oxtail Broth
Start by roasting the oxtail bones on a sheet pan at 375F for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are dark brown, and start to brown on around the edges. Toss the bones in oil and season them with a little salt and pepper before roasting to help develop the flavor of the meat as it roasts.
As the meat roasts, peel and rough chop the vegetables for the broth. This rough chop doesn't need to be pretty, as these vegetables will simply add flavor to the oxtail broth, and are discarded once the broth is finished.
Once the oxtail bones are roasted, combine them with the chopped vegetables, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, red wine, and water.
Place everything in a large pot and slowly bring the broth to a simmer. To achieve a crystal clear broth, start with cold water, and never let the liquid boil! Slowly let the oxtail broth simmer for about 4 hours.
As the broth simmers you'll notice a white foam start to form on top of the liquid. This is normal and is caused by impurities such as blood, and other minerals as they are drawn out of the oxtail and vegetables. Skim this foam off to get a clear broth.
Keep an eye on the oxtail broth as it simmers to prevent it from boiling, it should just bubble along happily on the stove. Taste the broth occasionally to see how the flavor is developing, it should be rich and beefy.
Once the broth has a rich taste, you can safely turn the pot off. Strain the oxtail broth from the pot, and set aside the oxtail bones themselves. These can be picked out with a spoon or tongs.
I like using a fine mesh strainer (affiliate link) to separate the broth from the oxtail bones and vegetables, to catch even the smallest solids. The vegetables can be discarded.
Pick the meat of the oxtail, and reserve it for later. Picking the oxtail meat of the bones while still warm is easiest, as the meat will fall right of the bone. The broth can be cooled or kept warm if you plan on finishing the soup right away. If you cool the broth, the fat will rise to the top and solidify. This can be skimmed of and discarded as well. If you don't cool the broth, just continue with the instructions below.
Cooking The Garnishes & Finishing The Soup
While the oxtail broth is simmering, cut the vegetable garnishes into a medium dice, and chop the herbs. Sauté the vegetables in a pot with a little butter or oil, until they start to brown slightly.
Add the garlic and herbs and cook for another minute or two. You'll notice the root vegetables start to stick to the bottom as the naturally present sugars start to caramelize.
At this point you should add the wine to de-glaze the pot. Add the oxtail broth, and picked oxtail meat to the cooked vegetable garnish. Bring the oxtail soup to a simmer and cook for another 30 minutes.
Taste the oxtail soup and season it with salt and pepper. Serve this hearty oxtail soup with a crust loaf of bread, for a delicious, filling meal.
Storing & re-heating oxtail soup
The oxtail soup is best served right away, but if you have leftovers or are meal prepping, it is easily refrigerated and kept for three to four days.
It makes a quick weeknight meal, re-heated on the stove top! Simply add the cold soup to a thick bottomed pot, and bring the soup back to a simmer. Serve and enjoy!
You can also 'bind' this oxtail soup with a flour or cornstarch slurry, creating a more creamy, stew-like recipe. This 'clear broth' variation is the one I grew up with, and is quite popular in Germany around Christmas, and served at special occasions such as weddings.
Have you tried this recipe at home? Leave a comment and star rating below, then take a picture and tag me on Facebook & Instagram: @earthfoodandfire. For more from scratch recipes follow me on Instagram & Pinterest
German Style Oxtail Soup
Ingredients for the broth
- 4 lbs oxtail cut into pieces
- 3 liters cold water
- 1 medium carrot roughly chopped
- 1 medium parsnip roughly chopped
- 1 large Spanish onion roughly chopped
- ½ small celery root or 2 ribs of celery
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 each bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 each peppercorns
Vegetable garnishes for the finished soup
- 2 cups oxtail meat picked of the braised bones
- ½ whole Spanish onion medium diced
- 1 whole carrot medium diced
- 1 whole parsnip medium diced
- ½ whole celery root medium diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- 1 splash Port Wine Red wine will do in a pinch!
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
Making The Oxtail Broth
- Toss the bones in oil and season them with a little salt and pepper. Roast the oxtail bones on a sheet pan at 375F for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are dark brown, and start to 'sear' on around the edges.
- As the meat roasts, peel and rough chop the broth vegetables. This doesn't need to be pretty, they will simply add flavor to the oxtail broth, and are discarded once the broth is finished.
- Once the oxtail bones are roasted, combine them with the chopped vegetables, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, red wine, and water. Place everything in a large pot and slowly bring the broth to a simmer.
- Slowly let the oxtail broth simmer for about 4 hours. As the broth simmers you'll notice a white foam start to form on top of the liquid, skim it off as it forms. Keep an eye on the oxtail broth as it simmers to prevent it from boiling, it should just bubble along happily on the stove. Taste the broth occasionally to see how the flavor is developing, it should be rich and beefy.
- Once the broth has a rich taste (after about 4 hours), you can safely turn the pot off. Strain the oxtail broth from the pot, and set aside the oxtail bones themselves.
- Pick the meat of the oxtail, and reserve it for later. The broth can be cooled or kept warm if you plan on finishing the soup right away.
Finishing the oxtail soup
- While the oxtail broth is simmering, medium dice the vegetable garnishes, and chop the herbs. Saute the vegetables in a pot with a little butter or oil, until they start to brown slightly.
- Add the garlic and herb and cook for another minute or two. Once the vegetables start to brown, add the wine to de-glaze the pot. Add the oxtail broth, and picked oxtail meat to the pot. Bring the oxtail soup to a simmer and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Taste the oxtail soup and season it with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Nutrition info is auto-generated. This information is an estimate; if you are on a special diet, please use your own calculations.