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Instant Pot - Oxtail Ragu - Paleo + Whole30

Instant Pot Oxtail Ragu

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The deeply, spiced aroma of braised oxtail transports me back to Italy instantly.  In Italy, Coda alla Vaccinara is made into a stew that eats like a sauce, traditionally made in Rome.  This rich oxtail ragu, spiced with cinnamon and juniper just begs to be eaten with a big bowl of pasta, creamy polenta or zucchini noodles, if you’re paleo-ish like we are.

Braising oxtail can take up to 4 hours in the oven and these days I’m just not able to babysit my oven for that long.  My solution: Instant Pot oxtail. If you’re not sure about oxtail, let me convince you! Oxtail is a delicious, relatively affordable cut of beef that’s unctuous, richly flavoured and perfect for winter stews, ragus, and curries.

The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker (amongst other things) so it makes quicker work of tough cuts of meat like oxtail and transforms them to be tender and perfectly cooked.  If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I’ve included the instructions to prepare this recipe in the oven or slow cooker.

What’s the deal with oxtail?

If you haven’t tried oxtail, it’s time you did! Oxtail is, as the name suggests, the tail of an ox, or cow. Oxtails have a lot of connective tissue and cartilage that provide an amazing amount of collagen which breaks down while it cooks to create the richest, deepest, most unctuous sauce. Collagen is also incredibly good for you – Mark’s Daily Apple explains why here!

Oxtails come in round small to large pieces from the butcher – I prefer the medium to large rounds for braising, while the smaller rounds are great for adding to bone broth and stock. Each piece of oxtail has a bone in the center so once the oxtail is cooked, you can easily separate the meat from the bone, if it hasn’t already done so in the pot.

What’s a ragu?

You may see the word ragu on menus, or in blogs, and cookbooks, but do you know what it means? This typically Italian term refers to a ‘concentrated, dense, meaty sauce made in Bologna…’* It’s traditionally made by slow cooking beef and pork with celery, onions, carrots, herbs,  a small amount of tomato, and wine or broth. In our version, we forgo the wine for balsamic vinegar and increase the tomato.


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WHAT ARE JUNIPER BERRIES?

If you’ve ever tasted gin, you’ve tasted the flavour of juniper berries. Juniper berries are the ‘seed cones’ from certain juniper trees. They lend an herbal, earthy, incredible flavour to traditional game dishes like rabbit, venison, duck but also, pork and oxtail. When I worked in Italy at La Palta, we made a braised rabbit stuffed pasta tossed in olive oil that had been flavoured with juniper and bay leaf – it was sublime and reimagined the way I think about juniper and bay leaves.

If you’re looking to buy juniper, it’s available from good spice shops and online from my friends at Gneiss Spice. They are kind enough to offer a discount to my readers – use the coupon code PASTATOPALEO15 for 15% off your first order!

NEED SOME MORE OXTAIL RECIPES?

Oxtail - Chinese Herbal Healing Oxtail Soup - Yang's Nourishing KitchenChinese  Herbal Healing Oxtail Soup from Yang’s Nourishing Kitchen
Hawaii Oxtail Soup from The Domestic Man
Crock Pot Carribean Oxtails from Stupid Easy Paleo 
Instant Pot Beef Pho from Zenbelly

Print Recipe
Instant Pot Oxtail Ragu
The Instant Pot makes this classic Italian oxtail ragu come together quickly!
Instant Pot - Oxtail Ragu - Paleo + Whole30
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Prep Time 25 + 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Oxtail Ragu
Garnish (optional)
Prep Time 25 + 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Oxtail Ragu
Garnish (optional)
Instant Pot - Oxtail Ragu - Paleo + Whole30
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Instant Pot Method
  1. Turn on the Saute function on your Instant Pot, add 1 tbsp avocado oil and allow Instant Pot to warm up. Season oxtail with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. In two batches, cook oxtail until it is brown on both sides. Once browned, remove from Instant Pot and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of avocado oil to the Instant Pot and add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, fennel seeds, juniper, cinnamon, chili flakes, black pepper and salt. Saute for 2 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. By now, there should be crispy bits on the bottom of the pan, add tomatoes and balsamic vinegar to deglaze or loosen the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the oxtail back into the Instant Pot and cover with the tomato sauce.
  4. Cover and cook on Manual High Pressure for 30 minutes. You can let the pressure release naturally or if you'd prefer, wait 5 minutes and then manually release the pressure.
  5. Remove oxtail from ragu and separate the meat from the bones. Be careful to remove the bones from the ragu before serving.
  6. Taste for seasoning, add a sprinkle of kosher salt, if necessary. Serve with zucchini noodles, on mashed potatoes, polenta, or even fresh gluten-free pasta.
  7. Garnish with green onion, if you'd like.
Oven Method
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. In a heavy cast-iron dutch oven, complete step 1 and 2 as written above. Cook in oven for 4 hours. The oxtail does not need to be stirred, but check halfway through cooktime, if liquid is too low, add a small amount of chicken stock or water to prevent it from burning. Once oxtail is finished, remove from oven and complete the final three steps as written above.
Slow Cooker Method
  1. If you have a slow cooker that can saute, brown oxtail as written in step one in your slow cooker. If not, prepare step 1 and step 2 in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat on a stove. Add ingredients to slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Check that meat is tender and continue with the final 3 steps as written above.
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*The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, p. 433.

MORE RECIPES TO ENJOY

Mango Chicken Curry – Instant Pot + Slow Cooker 
35+ Whole30 Recipes for the Instant Pot
Instant Pot Paleo Chicken Cacciatore
Instant Pot Tomatillo Pork Soup

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29 comments

  1. Aha! I was wondering where to buy juniper berries! There was a restaurant I worked at a few years ago where we used them quite a bit and I haven’t been able to find them since at a reasonable price. Thank you! The flavors in this ragu sound freakin’ amazing by the way!!

  2. Meredith says:

    This oxtail ragu looks like it is just bursting with umami flavor! And of course serving it over zoodles… perfect! Pinning to try soon!

  3. Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says:

    Such a nourishing meal with lovely flavors – the cinnamon, fennel seed and juniper berries! My husband and youngest would love this.

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