These Southern-style slow cooker smothered oxtails are cooked in a flavorful homemade onion and garlic gravy until they are fall-off-the-bone tender!
There’s something about Southern smothered oxtails and gravy that just comforts my soul. If I’m not feeling well or had a bad day, just the simple thought of oxtails and rice makes me feel better. My mom used to make oxtails all the time, especially for Sunday supper. She’d serve the oxtails with her infamous southern-style potato salad, mixed greens, and corn muffins. We’d tear up dinner like there was no tomorrow! The only thing left on our plates would be the bones and not a bit of meat! Smothered oxtails were, and still are one of my soul food dishes.
Over the years, I’ve made smothered oxtails in plenty of ways—smoked oxtails, traditional Jamaican oxtails, and even BBQ oxtails. But I finally found a recipe that I’m going to stick with. No more revising, no more adding ingredients or steps. I finally have a go-to recipe for Southern smothered oxtails.
What Are Oxtails?
Despite the name, oxtails don’t come from oxen—at least, not anymore! Oxtails are simply the tail of beef or veil, skinned and cut into pieces. The tail is a rich cut of meat. It’s fatty and flavorful and to die for delicious when slow-cooked. Today, you’re likely to find oxtail on the menu of fancy restaurants. Yes, they’re pricy, but so worth it! Because oxtails are a bit on the expensive side, it’s best to save them for special occasions or when you’re REALLY craving a good ol’ Southern-style meal.
What Does Oxtail Taste Like?
Oxtail tastes like beef, but the meat is super tender because of the amount of bone, cartilage, and fat in the tail. Oxtail has a deeply rich beef flavor that infuses into the broth or sauce it’s cooked in. Taste and texture-wise, oxtails are similar to super fatty beef short ribs. Eating oxtail tastes like a luxury experience—one well worth having at least once in your lifetime!
Ingredients for Slow Cooker Smothered Oxtails
This slow cooker oxtail recipe is super simple. Unlike a lot of other soul food-style oxtails, I don’t use a ton of ingredients. I keep my seasonings simple—garlic, salt, and onions for the oxtails and gravy. And to make it even easier, I use my slow cooker. Not only is this the best way to cook oxtails, but it prevents me from standing in the kitchen all day.
Here’s what you need for my simple slow cooker smothered oxtail recipe.
- Beef Oxtails: this recipe calls for two and a half pounds of beef oxtails.
- Flour: to coat the oxtails for browning and to thicken the gravy.
- Worcestershire Sauce: adds depth and flavor to the oxtails.
- Kosher Salt & Black Pepper: simple seasonings for the oxtails. I also add parsley flakes because I love parsley, but that is totally optional.
- Vegetable Oil: to brown the oxtails before slow cooking, sealing in all those yummy juices and flavors. You could also use olive oil or neutral cooking oil of your choice.
- Beef Broth or Water: the liquid base of the gravy. The beef broth will add more flavor to your gravy, but water will work perfectly fine if you don’t have it on hand.
- Onion & Garlic: add flavor to the gravy.
Where to Buy Oxtails?
You should be able to find oxtail in the meat department at your local grocery store. However, if you don’t see it there, a specialty butcher shop should have oxtails available. This recipe calls for two and a half pounds of beef oxtail, but you can easily double it if you want more meat. (Keep in mind that oxtails typically have less meat than the average cut of beef.)
The Best Seasoning for Smothered Oxtails
If you want the best seasoning for this slow cooker oxtails recipe, you have to try my very own Rosamae Seasonings oxtail seasoning! My oxtail seasoning is handcrafted to bring out the natural umami flavors of beef. It’s made with simple ingredients and is perfect for slow-cooked recipes like this one. But it’s not just an oxtail seasoning. The perfectly balanced flavors of salt, pepper, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and more bring out the best in any beef dish. You have to give it a try!
How to Make Slow Cooker Smothered Oxtails
Okay, Cousins, are you ready to see how I make my slow cooker oxtail recipe? Here’s a quick overview of the steps! For complete instructions and exact ingredient measurements, scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post. You can also watch my step-by-step YouTube video to see the recipe in action!
Here’s how to make smothered Southern oxtails in the slow cooker:
- Prep the oxtails. First, wash them with cold water. Then it’s up to you whether you want to trim the excess fat.
- Season the oxtails with salt, pepper, parsley flakes, and Worcestershire sauce. Then coat the oxtails with all-purpose flour.
- Brown the oxtails in a pan with oil over medium heat. Make sure to rotate to brown each side of the oxtails. Then remove the browned oxtails from the pan and put them into the slow cooker.
- Start the oxtail gravy by adding the remaining flour gradually to the oil. Whisk continually until the flour is brown and chunky, then add the water or beef broth slowly, stirring constantly.
- Add the sliced onions and minced garlic cloves once the gravy is at a full boil. At this point, the gravy should have started to thicken. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, or other seasonings of your choice (like my oxtail seasoning) and do a taste test.
- Pour the onion and garlic gravy into the slow cooker over the browned oxtails. Make sure the oxtails are completely coated with that thick gravy!
- Cover the slow cooker and let those smothered oxtails cook on high for 8 hours.
When these babies are done, they are so tender, y’all. They will fall off the bone without you even trying! All that fat and gelatin in the oxtails melts away into the gravy, creating the most rich, flavorful gravy. Serve your slow-cooked oxtails over rice, mashed potatoes, or grits, and you’ve got yourself a truly luxurious soul food meal.
Smothered Oxtail Recipe Tips & FAQs
What tenderizes oxtail? How do I get fall-off-the-bone tender, smothered oxtails?
Slow cooking is the way to get the most tender oxtail meat. Braising oxtail in broth or gravy for several hours allows all the fat to melt away, bringing out the cartilage and bone marrow flavor from the oxtail bones. If your oxtails aren’t tender after 5-6 hours, your slow cooker might not be hot enough. This is why it’s so important to slow-cook oxtails on high instead of low. So don’t be afraid of setting that Crockpot on high and letting those babies cook—don’t try to rush it!
Do you have to brown oxtail before cooking?
No, you don’t have to sear oxtail before cooking, but in this recipe, I highly recommend it. Why? Browning or searing the meat before slow cooking locks in all the flavors and juices in the meat. Plus, we season the oxtails with our seasonings and Worcestershire sauce before browning, which seals even more flavor into the meat. It’s not a necessary step, but one that’s well worth doing.
How to Store Leftover Smothered Oxtails
Leftover smothered oxtails are even better the next day. All those flavors jive together in the fridge and become even more intense! I highly recommend making extras to have leftovers, but this recipe is so dang good it might be hard to keep everyone from eating it all up! Here’s how to keep leftover oxtails:
- In the fridge: allow leftovers to cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. I’d recommend storing the leftovers separately from any rice or other sides you serve them with.
- In the freezer: once completely cooled, store in freezer bags or a freezer-safe container. Frozen smothered oxtails will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months and should be completely or partially thawed before being reheated.
- To reheat leftovers: slow-cooked oxtails are best when reheated on the stovetop or in the oven. Use a Dutch oven (in the oven) or a large saucepan (on the stovetop) to heat up the oxtails and gravy until bubbling and hot throughout. Add more beef broth to loosen up the gravy.
Slow Cooker Smothered Oxtail Recipe Variations
There are plenty of ways to adjust this recipe based on your tastes. While I think this recipe is the best way to make oxtails, you do you, boo boo! Any Southern family will tell you their grandma has her own recipe for soul food-style oxtails. Here are some popular recipe variations for slow cooker smothered oxtails:
- Add more herbs to the gravy for added flavor. You can use dried or fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano, or bay leaves to infuse flavor into the gravy.
- Instead of Worcestershire sauce, use soy sauce or red wine to flavor the oxtail and gravy. Both soy sauce and red wine bring out beef’s savory, umami flavors.
- Add veggies to the slow cooker, like potatoes and carrots, for a hearty oxtail stew-like dish. The vegetables will slow cook in the gravy and be absolutely delicious when done, making the Southern smothered oxtails a complete meal.
- Add some heat! Most oxtail recipes are delicious with a kick of heat. Serve with a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce, or spice up the gravy with red pepper flakes, some cayenne pepper, or add hot peppers into the slow cooker with the oxtails.
What to Serve with Southern Slow Cooker Smothered Oxtails
Smothered oxtails are perfect served over mashed potatoes, rice, or grits for true Southern flavor. You also serve oxtails with collard greens, cornbread, or potato salad. Make homemade biscuits or dinner rolls to scoop up that onion and garlic gravy!
More Soul Food-Style Slow Cooker Recipes
If you loved this Southern smothered oxtail recipe, try some of my other slow cooker recipes!
- Slow Cooker Smothered Roast
- Slow Cooker Neck Bones & Potatoes
- Easy Slow Cooker Short Ribs Recipe
- Southern Pinto Beans and Ham Hocks
- Mississippi Pot Roast Recipe
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Southern Smothered Oxtails
- 2 1/2 pounds beef oxtails
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour to brown the oxtails
- 1 cup all-purpose flour for the gravy
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly cracked or ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups beef broth OR water
- 1 large yellow onion sliced
- 3 cloves of fresh garlic minced
- * more salt & pepper for taste
Brown the Oxtails
- Season the oxtails with 2 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp black pepper.2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp freshly cracked or ground black pepper, 2 1/2 pounds beef oxtails
- Drizzle the Worcestershire sauce all over the oxtails, then toss the oxtails to make sure that they are coated.2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- Next, sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour all over the oxtails and make sure that the oxtails are coated with the flour.1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- Next, pour the vegetable oil into a large pan and place the pan over medium heat.3/4 cup vegetable oil
- Once the oil is nice and hot, add the oxtails to the pan and brown them on every side.
- Once the oxtails are nice and brown, remove them from the pan and put them in the slow cooker.
- Return back to the pan with the hot oil. If they are burnt pieces in the pan, pour out the oil, strain, clean the pan, then pour the strained oil back into the pan.
Make the Onion Garlic Gravy
- Start adding the remaining flour into the pan, but only a little bit at a time. Whisk continuously.1 cup all-purpose flour
- Once the flour is brown and chunky in texture, slowly pour in the beef broth or water. Whisk while you pour! Make sure everything is lump free, then turn the heat from medium to high.3 cups beef broth OR water
- Once the gravy reaches a full boil, reduce the heat to medium, and add in the sliced onions and garlic.1 large yellow onion, 3 cloves of fresh garlic
- Stir the gravy and do a taste test. Add as much salt & pepper as you need to taste.* more salt & pepper for taste
Slow Cook the Oxtails
- Turn the heat off and pour the gravy into the slow cooker covering the oxtails.
- Make sure that the oxtails are nicely covered with gravy, then set the slow cooker on high. Let cook for 8 hours.
- Once done, serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or whatever you'd like.