Oxtail is a culinary delicacy in many cuisines. It's delicious meaty flavor and high amounts of bone marrow give it a beefy gelatinous flavor that makes any dish the ultimate comfort food.
Whether slow-cooked in a medley of spices to make an oxtail stew or simmered to make a wonderfully hearty soup, the tender meat is a delicious source of protein in any meal.
While oxtail is definitely delicious, is oxtail healthy?
Oxtail is a very healthy meat given its high protein content and high nutrient content from the bone marrow and connective fats. The key to incorporating oxtail into a healthy meal is to portion the oxtail and use lower calorie and lower fat ingredients to cook it with.
💭 What Is Oxtail?
Oxtail refers to the cut of meat that comes from the tail of the cow. It is cylindrical in shape, consisting of small amount of meat clustered around the tailbone and a nice fat layer. An entire oxtail will typical weigh around 5-7 pounds and is often cut into small cross-sectional pieces to be sold.
In addition to the meat, the fat and bone is a good source of bone marrow and gelatinous collagen, and connective tissues, making this a uniquely nutrient-packed cut of beef.
🍎 Calories and Nutrition
A serving of oxtail with bone, on average, runs at 296 calories with 35 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, and 0 grams of carbs.
Given the high fat content of oxtail, it can easily be made into a high fat and high calorie dish if not portioned and prepped mindfully, which can be detrimental to weight loss. Thankfully, there are many options to make a healthier oxtail dish that can easily fit into your daily diet.
🍏 Health Benefits
Given the nutrient content of oxtail, its no wonder that oxtail is such a popular and beloved cut of meat across all cuisines.
Good Source of Protein – Oxtail is an excellent source of protein. An ounce of oxtail has about 9 grams of protein from the meat and the bone marrow as well. Protein is vital for any healthy diet.
High Calcium – An ounce of oxtail has about 7 milligrams of calcium present, which is good for bone health. Learn more about the benefits of calcium.
Excellent Source of Iron – Oxtail has about 3.6 milligrams of iron per serving, which is 20% of the recommended daily requirement.
Great for skin, hair, and nail health – Given the high collagen content of this cut of meat, this makes it great for skin hair and nail health/ Collagen is known to maintain skin moisture and suppleness.
Good for joint and connective tissue – The collagen is also great for bones and connective tissue. Learn more about the health benefits of oxtail.
High cholesterol and saturated fats – As with any red meat, oxtail, which has saturated fats, can raise levels of LDL cholesterol. It's best to eat oxtail sparingly if you have any cardiac conditions.
Check out this post from Harvard to learn more information about what foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol.
📋 How To Make It Healthy
To make a healthy oxtail dish, it’s important to use the right cooking methods and be mindful of what it is served with. Oxtail is already a relatively calorie dense and high fat dish, so it’s best to pair it and portion it with lower calorie ingredients.
- Portion the oxtail mindfully – While oxtail is healthy, it is a relatively calorie dense ingredient due to its high fat content. Portion mindfully to keep your meal planning on track.
- Limit and portion high calorie ingredients when serving it. Oxtail is often served with a side of rice or stewed in pasta. Just be sure to portion the rice and/or pasta or noodles mindfully. I usually portion 1 serving, which runs at about 150-200 calories.
- Simmer in low heat to create a stew. Hours of cooking the beef bones will extract the nutrients from the bone without the use of high calorie ingredients. Eat it the next day for a rich beef stock with even more flavor.
- Braising oxtail with some spices, water, and low calorie condiments is also a good way to prepare the oxtail.
- Use low calorie seasonings and spices – Black pepper, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, and tomato paste are just a few popular low calorie options that can accentuate the taste of oxtail. Given oxtails high fat content, is best to limit any usage of olive oil and butter.
I would not eat oxtail everyday given that it usually takes a long time to cook and its high fat content. But by following the tips here, you'll be able to enjoy the delicious oxtail meat while still staying on track with your fitness goals.
🍽 What To Eat Oxtail With
- Noodles (like Pho)
- In Soup
- Winter vegetables during holiday dinner
🥡 Recipe Ideas
- Korean Oxtail Soup – A classic favorite in Korean cuisine. Korean oxtail soup is a comforting and soothing broth with a rich flavor that is perfect for soup season. The delectable oxtail broth seasoned to taste is the ultimate comfort dish that is a great low carb meal option.
- Oxtail pasta – Use oxtail in the place of short rib to make your favorite ragu recipe. The bone marrow adds a delicious creamy depth of flavor to the pasta sauce.
- Oxtail pho – Pho is another dish that is accentuated with the use of oxtail. Just slow cook the oxtail in your typical pho broth recipe and serve with noodles.
- Birria Tacos – The collagen in the oxtail mixed with short ribs or beef chuck will give the stewed beef a delicious flavor
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
You can cook oxtail with equipment that most home cooks have.
Slow cooker – Great for making stews and braised meats.
Pressure cooker – Great for making the same as slow cooker, but with less time. The flavor won't be quite the same but is a good option for everyday cooking.
Large pot – Best for making bone broth. For best results, simmer for about 24-48 hours.
Roasting pan – To braise in the oven.
Oxtails can be bought at most butcher shops or your local grocery store, although most major grocery stores will carry them as well. I’ve also found them at most local Asian grocery stores.
Oxtail is expensive because it is the smallest cut of meat on the cow – the oxtail makes up 1% of the cow. It’s also considered a higher end cut of meat in many cuisines, including Korean, Jamaican, and Chinese cuisine, given its collagen and bone marrow content.
To extract all the nutrients from the bone and get all the health benefits of oxtail, slow cooking and simmering are the ideal cooking methods, which tend to take a longer time. You can also use a pressure cooker to cut the cooking time down.