Reviving Leftovers with Vaca Frita


You either love them or hate them.

Learning to transform leftovers is the key to loving them.

Vaca frita is just the dish to sway you to the leftover camp.

It’s a classic Cuban dish and my version features the resourcefulness, the beauty and the deliciousness of leftover transformation.


The Original Version

At its core, Vaca frita is a beef dish that undergoes a three-step cooking process featuring flank steak.

The steak is first marinated in a mixture infused with garlic, lime juice, and other seasonings.

Then the beef is simmered with aromatics until it becomes fork-tender.

Once tender, the meat is shredded.

The magic happens in the final step when the marinated, cooked, and shredded beef is quickly fried in a hot pan with a touch of olive oil.

This frying process gives the beef its signature crispy edges, contrasting wonderfully with its tender interior.

Its flavor profile is a delightful blend of tangy, garlicky, and savory, complemented by the crispy yet tender texture of the beef.

Vaca frita which translates to “fried cow” is a must-try – a true gem in the vast treasure chest of Cuban cuisine.

Now for the best part of my version: Imagine having this dish ready to go in a flash featuring leftover pot roast.


The Leftover Magic of Vaca Frita

We’ve all been there – after a sumptuous roast dinner, we’re left staring at chunks of leftover chuck roast, too precious to discard yet too monotonous to eat in its current form.

Enter Vaca frita.

Your pre-cooked chuck roast eliminates a significant portion of the traditional cooking time.

Your task is straightforward: infuse the leftover beef with flavor through a quick marinade along with onion and bell pepper, then pan-fry it to achieve that signature crispy exterior.

In a matter of minutes, what seemed like a humble leftover is transformed into a dish that’s simple yet with exquisite flavor

And, yesterday’s roast is reborn as a tantalizing plate of Vaca frita.

Serve it with rice and black beans and you’ve got a meal worthy of applause.

In a land of abundance that often thinks nothing of throwing out unwanted food simply because our tastebuds are tired, choosing to repurpose leftovers is the ultimate act of conserving the environment and saving dollars from flying from your wallet.

So, the next time you’re faced with a chunk of leftover roast, see it not as a challenge, but as an opportunity: An opportunity to dive into the rich world of Cuban flavors and to relish the sheer simplicity of creating magic in the kitchen from simple leftovers.

Try my Stout Beer Braised Chuck Roast. It’s a super-easy and tasty roast to get you set up for the deliciousness of vaca frita.



Vaca Frita

Cuban in origin, vaca frita is delicious and super easy especially when you repurpose leftover chuck roast. Give this one a try!

  • Author: Life At The Table
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x


  • 12 ounces cooked, shredded chuck roast
  • 1 cup sliced bell pepper (any color)
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • fresh or dried oregano
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


  1. Combine the shredded chuck roast with the bell pepper, onion, garlic, lime juice, and olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
  2. Marinate beef mixture for 15 minutes to an hour.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
  4. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  5. Add small batches of the beef mixture to the skillet; season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper to match your taste preference.
  6. As each batch is crisped to your liking, remove from the skillet to a sheet tray until all the beef is crisped.
  7. Serve over rice with lime wedges.
  8. Garnish with oregano and red pepper flakes.


  • Black beans are also a good choice as a side for this dish.


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