Vaca Frita – A Champion Cuban Meal for Any Night of the Week

Recipes

August 30, 2022

Vaca Frita de Pollo is one new dish you can start adding to your weeknight rotation because of its ease to make and for its signature citrus flavor that is so refreshing…its downright addictive!

You may or may not have heard, but Cuban cuisine has risen in popularity. With its history comprising of Spanish colonization, the arrival of African slaves, and with Cuba being surrounded by various Caribbean countries, it comes as no surprise that Cuban cuisine is anything but plain. 

Today I’m going to share my Vaca Frita de Pollo recipe. It’s traditionally made with beef, but I’m substituting with chicken, so this dish is also known as “Fried Cow of Chicken.”

Alright then, so now that you know what it means, you’re probably wondering what this dish is made of.

I’ll tell you that it’s authentically Cuban as you can find this item in most ANY restaurant in Miami (my hometown). Whether you visit the most popular restaurants down on Calle Ocho like Versailles, La Casita or Havana Harry’s, this is a perfect meal for any night of the week and is quickly cooked at home using just one pan.

I love making this at home because I can quickly just whip this up even with leftover rotisserie chicken from our local HEB or Costco, which in my opinion has THE most tender and juicy rotisserie chicken.

What is Vaca Frita de Pollo?

This Cuban dish is filled with zesty, mouthwatering ingredients, and the best part is that the meal is authentic and healthy. Dining in with this meal will be your top choice, and after that, there’s no going back. 

Ingredients for Vaca Frita de Pollo

  • Succulent Pulled Chicken
  • Zesty limes
  • The juice of an orange
  • Onion and garlic 
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Goya Black Bean soup
  • White rice
  • Ripe plantain

As you can tell, Vaca Frita is a dish that encompasses everything Cuban. When I make this dish, it brings me back to my childhood home in Coral Gables, FL. It’s a dish that is served at most any family gathering because it simply is such a comforting dish that satisfies both your belly and your soul.

Of course, this is “just” the main course. You can’t have vaca frita de pollo without its iconic side dishes.

Typical Sides That Complement Vaca Frita de Pollo

I love serving this main dish with the the typical sides. I grew up with this and it is such a joy to make it for my own family. To serve a truly authentic Cuban meal, you’ll want to have a few side staples that complement it (and almost any entree within Cuban cuisine). These sides are easy to prepare and finish off any dish beautifully. Arroz blanco, frijoles negro, and platános maduros are all popular sides that you’ll find served either at restaurants or at home.

Arroz Blanco (White Rice)

All you need to master arroz blanco is long-grain white rice, water, vegetable oil (or olive oil), and salt. You can make this either in a rice cooker or on the stove. Be sure to fluff the rice once cooked to create a lovely texture. 

Frijoles Negro (Black Beans)

You will very rarely find a Cuban dish without frijoles negro accompanying it. They are the perfect extra source of protein and are a definite staple in Cuban cuisine. Each cook adds a personal touch to frijoles negro, making it a versatile option. 

Plátanos Maduros (Fried Plantain)

You’ll find these gems as a side in nearly every Cuban dish. The way that platános maduros are made is to either slice, and deep fry them in oil or to pan fry them to make tostones. Platános maduros can also be served with garlic and lime sauce, which we call “mojo”, pronounced mo-ho. (not to be confused with mo-joe, dah-ling!)

Why You Should Incorporate Vaca Frita de Pollo into Your Weekly Menu

You should incorporate this dish into your weekly meal for many different reasons. Still, there are two particular reasons that I want to focus on.

It’s Inexpensive:

Vaca Frita is an extremely cheap meal to prepare so you can serve this dish without worrying that it costing you, yet, you feel as if you’ve been transported to the streets of Calle Ocho, Miami. (I won’t say Cuba as I have never been and my family would disown me if ever go).

It Can Be Prepared in Less Than an Hour:

If you live in a busy household, the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. Vaca Frita is a dish that can be made in under 40 minutes and is a simple recipe to follow. 

How to Make Vaca Frita de Pollo

  • The first thing you need to do, and also the most important as this is where all the flavor comes from is combine the 2 citrus juices in 1 bowl. Then you’ll set this aside until later.
  • Next, you want to heat up olive oil over medium heat then add the onions and garlic.
  • You’re going to cook this for about 3 to 4 minutes but don’t let it get any color. It needs to remain translucent. Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Once the onions and garlic are wilted but not browned, pour the citrus juice.
  • Taste for seasoning.
  • If you’re using rotisserie chicken, shred it into even pieces about ½ inch wide and 1 to 2 inches long. If you cooked and marinated your own chicken breast earlier, we’re going to sear it to get a nice brown crust.
  • Using the same pan you cooked with onions and garlic with (you can just wipe off the remnants with a paper towel), add 3 tbs. of oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, do not overcrowd the sauté pan.
  • Let it build a nice crust. About 2 minutes per side.
  • Once you see a nice golden brown color, add the mojo sauce which is the citrus sauces you put aside.
  • Turn off the heat, and stir in about 3 tbs. of chiffonade parsley.
  • Serve with arroz blanco (white rice), tostones (fried plantains), maduros (sweet plantains), and frijoles negros (black beans).

Are we connected yet?

Are we friends on social media yet? Come follow along for more kitchen tips and inspiration. You can find me on Instagram @chef.rafael.gonzalez and on Facebook, Chef Rafael Gonzalez

If you tried this recipe and feel free to tag me so I can see your culinary creation! 


Are you hungry for more? You can snag my FREE mini recipe e-book with 5 of the most popular dishes my students cooked with me on the Outschool platform during the height of the pandemic. These recipes have found a cozy spot in the kitchens of many kids and parents and they continue to cook the same meals, 2 years after. 

You can get your FREE copy right HERE.

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Cuban Vaca Frita de Pollo

Authentic Vaca Frita de Pollo


  • Author: Rafael Gonzalez
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 30
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

A quick and easy one-pan recipe for an authentic Cuban weeknight meal at home. 


Ingredients

Scale

1 pound pulled rotisserie chicken from Costco or your local supermarket

4 limes, juiced

1 orange, juiced

1 large onion, thin sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 bunch parsley chiffonade

1/2 cup olive oil

Goya black bean soup or ready-to-eat

White rice

Plantain ripe (maduros) Goya makes a good product


Instructions

  1. The first thing you need to do, and also the most important as this is where all the flavor comes from is combine the 2 citrus juices in 1 bowl. Then you’ll set this aside until later.

     

  2. Next, you want to heat up olive oil over medium heat then add the onions and garlic.

    You’re going to cook this for about 3 to 4 minutes but don’t let it get any color. It needs to remain translucent. Season with salt and black pepper.

  3. Once the onions and garlic are wilted but not browned, pour the citrus juice.

    Taste for seasoning.

  4. If you’re using rotisserie chicken, shred it into even pieces about ½ inch wide and 1 to 2 inches long. If you cooked and marinated your own chicken breast earlier, we’re going to sear it to get a nice brown crust.

  5. Using the same pan you cooked with onions and garlic with (you can just wipe off the remnants with a paper towel), add 3 tbs. of oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, do not overcrowd the sauté pan.

    Let it build a nice crust. About 2 minutes per side.

  6. Once you see a nice golden brown color, add the mojo sauce which is the citrus sauces you put aside.

  7. Turn off the heat, and stir in about 3 tbs. of chiffonade parsley.

     

  8. Serve with arroz blanco (white rice), tostones (fried plantains), maduros (sweet plantains), and frijoles negros (black beans).

Keywords: vaca frita de pollo, cuban vaca frita, cuban cuisine

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