Paleo Vaca Frita (Paleo, AIP, Whole30)



Cuban food is up there for me for some of my favorite flavors. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Florida, or maybe it’s because they love their meat and rice just like I do. Either way I couldn’t wait to take my husband to my hometown’s best Cuban restaurant which is only a 5 minute walk from my parents. You need at least a 45 minute walk post-meal to make enough space in your diaphragm to breathe again, but hey. We went right before we left to come back to Austin after the holidays.


I am very careful about what types of oils I consume at restaurants and always ask what type is used to fry, saute, or dress the foods. If it’s not olive oil (highly unlikely) or canola oil (more likely) I don’t touch it. I’d rather go hungry than deal with the wrath of soybean oil or corn oil on my body. This restaurant unfortunately used a vegetable oil mix that included soybean so I had a homemade limeade (water, sugar, lime juice) and boiled yucca without the mojo sauce. I seasoned it with salt and lime juice and it was quite filling since yucca may be the starchiest food on the planet.


My hub on the other hand had my favorite food in the world at the moment (the crispiest, thinnest tostones) and fried shredded pork with rice and beans. It looked amazing but I didn’t have any food envy since I know I can recreate that type of meal at home within the Paleo framework without the use of dairy, gluten or nightshades.


This recipe uses my favorite appliance: The INSTANT POT


I’ve been making tostones at least 3 times per week. My favorite method is using my recipe in The Healing Kitchen but frying in bacon fat and topping with truffle salt. This Vaca Frita, which means “fried cow” quite literally, would be amazing with tostones and a green salad on the side and sure to please any meat-loving man or woman in your life. It’s absolutely delicious! Imagine slow-cooked (well, in a pressure cooker… but you could use a slow cooker and just adjust the cooking time to 4 to 6 hours) tender beef roast, shredded, then lightly pan-fried until crispy but still moist.


Add savory onion and garlic and brighten things up with orange juice and apple cider vinegar, and this is a meaty dish that is well-balanced, flavor-driven, and oh-so-versatile. 


18 reviews

Paleo Vaca Frita

Prep Time 00:15 Cook Time 00:45 Serves 6 to 8


  • 3 pounds beef chuck roast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil; divided
  • 1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • Lime wedges for serving


  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the Instant Pot  insert using “Saute” function. Cook down onions for 5 minutes until softened and lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, chop beef using a large chefs knife into large palm-sized chunks (about 6 pieces). Add beef, garlic, 2 teaspoons sea salt, and thyme to the insert and toss well. Cook beef for 1 minute per side to lightly brown.
  • Pour orange juice over beef. Seal Instant Pot lid and set the manual pressure cooker timer to 25 minutes.
  • Release the pressure once the time has elapsed and transfer the beef and onions to a rimmed baking sheet or cutting board to shred well with two forks. Discard the liquid in the insert.
  • Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Spread shredded beef, garlic, and onions on the bottom of the skillet. Fry for several minutes before stirring with tongs once the beef has started to brown and crisp. Sprinkle in the apple cider vinegar.
  • Continue frying for anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes until the beef is crispy, sweet, and browned.
  • Transfer to serving bowl and serve with lime wedges, a side of cauliflower rice or white rice, and a green salad.




11 comments on “Paleo Vaca Frita (Paleo, AIP, Whole30)

  • Suzanne Clark says:

    I made this tonight and my Standard American Mom LOVED it and is determined to make the recipe.
    My instant pot is kaput, so I slow cooked it, and I didn’t do the fry at the end. Just shredded it.
    I also didn’t use onion and did only 1/4 tsp powdered garlic, (FODMAP issues ?) but it was still delicious.
    This will be great to serve for company. I took your suggestion and did cauliflower rice with a green salad. Thank You for a great recipe! ????????????

  • I’ve made this before and I freaking loved it. I am now having to do a low histamine diet tho so I can’t do oranges. Is there anything that might be a decent sub for the orange juice?

  • One of my favorite recipes of yours. So so delicious. I’ve been making this recipe regularly for the past two years, and it’s a lifesaver when things get busy since it’s such a quick and easy recipe. Made this for mom who is also AIP, and she loves it. She says she feels like a “normal” person eating it! Instead of frying it in a pan, I now spread the shredded meat on a sheet pan and broil it for several minutes flipping the meat occasionally. I find this is a bit less involved and I like that I’m not standing over a beefy oniony sauna.. 🙂

  • Yum, I had no idea what this was, but it had a simple list of ingredients I had on hand and some positive reviews. The family really enjoyed this. We ate it plain the first night with mashed vegetables and ate it with taco toppings the next day. I used juice from squeezed clementines I had in abundance. I would also be sure to use a big enough skillet so the meat can be spread out and not too deep. Also, RESIST THE URGE TO FIDDLE WITH THE MEAT. You are looking for a nice crisp sear like you would do for each side of a good steak. This part was not clear to me as I’ve never had vaca frita, but thankfully I just trusted the timing listed even when it looked like the pan was smoking. You don’t want to keep checking it or you lose the seared crispy side that adds the flavor. The only thing I’d change is I would SAVE the juices from cooking the meat in the instant pot. I realized too late after I’d washed it all down the drain that it could have made a great gravy to go with the mashed vegetables. Strain it, add it back to pot, add seasoning if needed, turn IP to sauté and when hot, add thickener of choice.

  • This sounds delicious but I have a quick question: shouldn’t we add more liquid to the instant pot besides the 1/3 cup of orange juice? Thank you!


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