In a pinch and need an oxtail substitute? These cuts listed below will be great replacements for recipes that call for gelatinous, melt-in-your-mouth, slow cooked oxtail.
All of these choices are typically low-and-slow stew cuts that have bones and connective tissue filled with fat and collagen that will add a similar richness to your recipe that oxtail does.
1. Beef Shank
Beef shank is from the leg of a cow, just above the knee. It’s sometimes sold as fore shank or hind shank. They usually look like steaks with round bones in the middle. Beef shanks are very tender if cooked slow and with moisture. They make a great substitute as they have bones like oxtail, and the meat becomes extremely tender when stewed. They have a similar flavor, but are usually significantly cheaper than oxtail.
2. Beef Short Ribs with bones
Beef short ribs with the rib bones included is a great choice to replace oxtail, as they have meat, connective tissue, and bone, just like oxtail. Make sure you get English cut short ribs, which are thicker. Korean style short ribs could work, but since they are thinner the meat may get tougher more quickly.
3. Beef Neck Bones
This unglamorous cut is very similar to oxtail and short ribs, but at a fraction of the cost. Beef neck bones are just not on the radar of home chefs in the way that oxtail and short ribs are, so you can find them for very cheap. They are filled with collagen which creates succulent tender meat like oxtail. They have less fat than oxtail, but have the same type of tendons as oxtail. Beef neck bones are only suited to stewing.
4. Beef Cheeks
Beef cheeks are the facial cheek muscles of the cow. They are muscles that get used a lot, as cows chew cud often, so the muscle is tougher if cooked fast. However, cheeks are melt-in-your-mouth when cooked low and slow and with moisture. They aren’t suited well to be cooked dry in an oven, or in a pan. They might be harder to find than other cuts listed here, but most butchers will have them if you ask. Beef cheeks also may be easier to find at Asian grocery stores, so be on the lookout.
5. Lamb Shank/Neck
Lamb shank or Lamb neck is a great option if you like lamb flavor. You should know that lamb has a distinct flavor that is stronger than beef, so keep in mind that this substitute will alter flavors more than the others listed. They are still great options as an oxtail substitute as they become fall-off-the-bone tender when slow braised or stewed.