Hawaiian Oxtail Soup

An odd ingredient, one that isn't readily accessible in the stores around here at least, is dried orange peel. (Apparently you can buy it pretty easily in Hawaii.)

What I did for this ingredient is I used a vegetable peeler to strip off a long strip of peel (just the zest) from an orange. This I set on a shelf in my kitchen for a week to dry out. It worked great!

I wondered why one would use the dried and not fresh orange peel and I think perhaps it's because of the long cook time; maybe the dried peel holds up better to long cooking?

If I didn't think ahead to dry the peel, I would just use a couple teaspoons of orange zest instead.

  • Cook time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 2 pounds oxtails
  • 1 strip dried orange peel (zest, not the pith)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • Salt, at least a tablespoon, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup of shelled, skinned, raw peanuts (can sub roasted unsalted peanuts)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • A handful of fresh mustard greens, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups, loosely packed)


  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Green onions, white and green parts, sliced on diagonal
  • Freshly grated ginger


1 Parboil the oxtails, trim of excess fat: Bring a large pot (5-quart), half filled with water, to a boil. Add the oxtails. Parboil for 30 minutes. Drain the pot. Rinse the oxtails in water. Trim the oxtails of any excess fat.

2 Simmer oxtails in water with seasonings for 1 hour: Return the oxtails to the pot. Cover with water by an inch. Add the orange peel, star anise, ginger, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for one hour.

3 Add peanuts, simmer 2-3 more hours: Add the peanuts and simmer for 2-3 more hours, until the oxtail meat is tender and falling off the bone.

4 Skim fat: At the point, you can either skim the fat off the soup and proceed to the next step, or let the soup cool, and chill it overnight in the refrigerator. The next day the fat will have solidified and will be easy to pull up from the top of the soup.

The flavors will also have had more of a chance to blend and be absorbed by the oxtails if you let the soup sit overnight.

5 Add chili pepper flakes, mustard greens: Bring soup to a simmer. Add the chili pepper flakes and mustard greens. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until the mustard greens are tender.

6 Garnish with cilantro, green onions, ginger to serve: Serve with garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, green onions, and freshly grated ginger.

If you want, you can strip the meat off the bones before serving. We prefer the meat served bone-in, in which case you will want to provide a bowl for the bones.

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  • Meg

    Planning to make this today and I dont have peanuts but I do have sunflower seeds. Do you think it’s a good substitute?


    I havent tried this yet, definitely will. Tangerine orange peels can be found at Asian markets. If this recipe is orange peel specific sounds like you had a great idea by doing it home made!

  • Sonnyboy

    Was ono mahalo plenty . We love oxtail soup. We used to go to Zippys when we lived in Hawaii. Now we live in New Mexico


  • HenryJ Henry

    We loved this recipe However I used endive half the anise A little Better Than Chicken Base 4 mushrooms chop fine n a little white not red wine. Mustard greens don’t go over at our home to well .. Thxs so much


  • Moki Hill

    Good recipe! I’m a Hawaiian transplant now living in Oregon. When it’s cold and rainy nothing comforts me like a bowl of Oxtail Soup!

  • Sandra

    Yummy ! Not as good as the oxtail soup at
    Bamboo Grille located in Wailuku on Maui.
    I’m lucky, living in Hawaii means I can go out to enjoy this island treasure anytime without having to cook it myself.

  • Giovanni

    Great recipe and very easy to follow. Full disclosure here, I only made this because I love Asahi Grill in Oahu which is where I had it the first time and when I had it, it was so rich, deep, and flavorful. When I made this one it felt light and fresh, I followed the recipe to the T but I was wondering if anyone has advice on how to make the flavor richer? I miss Asahi Grill so much and miss the flavor, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Giovanni! Emma here, managing editor. To make this richer, I’d recommend searing the oxtails really well on all sides instead of parboiling them and then swapping the water with either beef stock or chicken stock. Adding some onions and/or carrots would also deepen the flavor. You might also want to take a look at this recipe for Oxtail Stew, which is richer than this version. Enjoy!

      • Rachel

        Or adding some fish sauce (or Worchestershire) to deepen and salt the flavor a bit. I did that at home and it was great!

    • Betty

      Use beef broth instead of water.

    • Emily

      Lightly salt and pepper oxtails and put a light coating of flour on them. Place oil (avocado or canola) or butter (it will brown) in a heated large Dutch oven. Sear the oxtails on all sides, browning them. They might try to stick a little but use a thin spatula to help remove if needed. It’s ok if dark flour spots remain. Remove oxtails and use a dark bourbon, beef broth, or red wine to deglaze the pot. Put oxtails back in with a few halves of a full onion added to all the other ingredients in this recipe and then add the rest of the water to simmer. This will make it richer and thicker.

  • Domo

    Learning from these comments what to add next time! Thank you!
    Mine was super delicious though. Cooking it in an Instant Pot one had to be careful in the quantity of the spice, sine the Instant Pot will intensify the flavor of the spice. I used only 1/2 Star Anise for example.
    Skim off the fat from the top the next day, yet I believe a limited amount of that fat is healthy. Broth can be clarified with egg shells if you like clear broth.


  • Domo

    Easily made in an Instant Pot! I threw everything in Oxtails, Ginger, star anise, orange peel, some chicken flavor bouillon, salt and pepper.
    After about an hour of cooking and another 30 or so minutes for the steam to deflate it is finished. Just before serving add generously all the green vegetables, including green onions.

    • MaryAnn

      Did you include any liquid?

    • MaryAnn

      I guess I should say, how much liquid (water) did you use?

  • Aliina Lahti

    Just wondering why the first cook of meat is boiled and drained (wouldn’t you want to keep that? is there a flavor reason for throwing out the water?) also, why cut the fat off? Isn’t the fat cook flavor? Ox tail is expensive in these parts, so I don’t want to mess it up, but I want to keep all the fat!!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Aliina, when you parboil raw meat, as is called for in this recipe, you releasing things into the water that would otherwise cloud your stock. When you cook the meat for a longer period of time in the next step, the resulting stock is clear, and has a much cleaner taste.

      As for cutting off the excess fat, I agree fat is flavor! That said, there is so much fat in oxtails, including marbled throughout the meat, you don’t need the excess. The oxtails will have plenty of flavor as it is.

  • aaron

    Thank you so much for your receipe. I use it all the time I make oxtail soup. However, our town was out of raw peanuts for some reason. I was going to substitute roasted, unsalted peanuts as suggested in your receipe, but my friend told me that it will get very soft. She’s a really good cook so I just took her advice. She said to substitute raw blanched peanuts instead. You can find it in the Oriental section of the market. Thank you again.


    I make this every new years for my kids ! I doubled it last year and it wasn’t enough! Gonna quadruple it this year! My boys use ladles for spoons! Wish me luck!

  • al

    Great recipe…just add shiitake mushrooms to take it over the top!

    • KC

      When is the ideal time to add the shiitake mushrooms?

      • Elise Bauer

        Shiitakes cook rather quickly, so I would add them in step 5, a few minutes before the mustard greens.

        • KC

          I greatly appreciate your prompt response! Thank you, Elise! It’s on the stove now as I type this. Excited for when it’s ready to eat!

  • mom2abc

    This is a Chinese recipe in origin, although there are many different regional variations I’m sure in China. We are Cantonese from Taishan and this is how our family cooked it, minus the cilantro garnish and prefering black eyed peas to peanuts. The peanuts do not contribute taste, its used like a bean and very nutritious.

    The key ingredients are ginger and dried tangerine peel (need very little), then garnished with green onions, —cilantro is a nice touch, but the kids hate it. I will sometimes drop in a couple of red dates and a couple of dried shiitakes and a can of chicken broth. We like more meaty flavor so we use less liquid.

    We dip the meat in soy sauce before biting in and eat the soup with rice…..got some on the stove right now. It’s 10F outside now and I just shoveled the snow. Can’t wait till dinner :)

  • Maebelle Librando

    Ox Tail Soup/stew…My late mom, always made oxtail stew..I was born & raised on Maui..and this was , to us, a way of life..Your recipe is wonderful and uses just about everything we would use..Huge Mahalo for sharing this with all of us!! I shall make some this weekend.

  • SHO

    If I can master this dish, It’ll always feel like home! I’ve always loved oxtail soup. For a more “local kine” experience, add saimin noodles to the soup… so good… Thanks for the recipe!

  • Deborah

    I have made oxtail soup for years. Learned from my grandmother who was german. We used it to make a beefy soup with barely. The oxtail meat taste much sweeter to me. We browned them in a stockpot, then added onion, celery, salt, pepper and a bay leaf. Let it simmer for 3 hours and then drained it. Then a can of diced tomatoes was added along with partially cooked barley. Home made bread topped it off! So warming on a cold winter day!!!

    • Deborah

      Oh I forgot that we had boned the oxtail for the meat in the soup

  • Pepy @Indonesia Eats

    I love oxtail. Usually I make the Indonesian oxtail soup and enjoy it with green chilies sambal & rice. Now, I have the recipe of the Hawaiian version. Thank you!

    PS: I do like the Caribbean oxtail stew as well but never make it by myself.

  • HelenHwriting

    Thanks Elise – I will try your recipe for oxtail next time, for a more spicy result.
    Even if I keep the other ingredients simple for slow cooking oxtail or lamb shanks or brisket of beef, I try to include a long strip of citrus zest straight from the fruitbowl – it just cuts through the fat and heightens the flavour development, I find. I have just included this tip in my first ever paid blogpost as a copywriter (just recovering from long term illness).
    Slow cooking is so simple, and perfect right now here in the UK as the snow has arrived, but many people have lost the skill of using cheap but tasty cuts of meat for slow and delicious recipes. Great blog. Always great recipes.
    Thanks! Helen

  • Chris

    Wow, thanks for the recipe! I grew up on Oahu and I always wondered how to make the popular oxtail soup at restaurants like Zippy’s and Kapiolani Coffee Shop. This recipe is pretty close in flavor to the restaurant versions minus the pepper flakes, although I’ll use less salt next time. I didn’t add any peanuts because I always thought it was pointless, they’re so soft and their flavor is masked by the broth and everything else going on. This oxtail soup was great with shiitake mushrooms and bok choy (my family cannot handle any mustard/spicy type greens ^_^).

  • Zach

    Hi Elise,
    Just made your oxtail soup recipe today, and it was amazing! Reminded me of my favorite bowl at the Forty Niner Restaurant in Aiea. Thanks for the great recipe! Mahalo!

  • thwoo

    Just made the Oxtail Soup tonite, and it was delicious~! The flavor was very Asian and as a Chinese I just love the star anise taste….I sure will try lemongrass as suggested by another poster for another flavor….

  • TR Cunning

    The benefit of dried citrus peel is mostly in the storage. The assumption is that you’ll save the peel of any citrus you eat the flesh of and when it dries it becomes shelf stable and can be kept for later use.
    That’s why I find jars of citrus peel so odd. Dried spices I understand, I’m no green thumb and it’d be silly to buy herbs just to dry them but for citrus peel all you need to do is not throw them away or let them mold.

  • Madeline

    Thanks Elise for such a great recipe! We made it twice now!

  • Garrett McCord

    Made it and loved it. I used fresh orange zest and kale as that was what I had and it worked out just fine.

  • Sonia (Restaurant Baby's sister)

    My dreams came true this holiday, and I finally got a dutch oven. The first recipe that I tried in it was this one, and it made my house smell so mmm mmm goooooood.

    For the dried orange peel, we used “guo pei” which is dried orange/citrus peel that you can buy at Chinese grocery stores. We added a couple whole cloves to the initial broth (per my sister’s suggestion to make it more Chinese-y). And at the end, we added in roughly chopped daikon (in addition to the greens).

    I can’t wait to make it again!

  • Kisha

    I want to try this, but how would one make it in the crockpot/slow cooker? Just throw it all in after parboiling and removing excess fat? Thanks!

    Yes, I think that’s how I would do it if using a slow cooker. ~Elise

  • Stephanie M at Together In Food

    Mm, I love oxtail soup. This is similar to the version my Indonesian grandma used to make. It’s great with a dash of vinegar at the end as well.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for the recipe, Elise. I made this, starting yesterday, and ate it today. I am not sure what I did wrong or if I was expecting something different, but it just wasn’t as flavorful as I thought it would be. I also thought the oxtails were difficult to work with – I’m a pretty experienced home cook but apparently not with oxtail. I am definitely interested in ordering this next time I’m in HI to see how the locals do it.
    The oxtails did make a nice gelatinous broth, which would be a great base for other soups.
    I was able to make the dried orange peel pretty easily – just thinly peeled some navel oranges, set my toaster oven on 200 convection. They were ready in about 30 minutes.

    Hi Shannon, you may need to add more salt. Also this soup isn’t nearly as strongly flavored as traditional oxtail stew. Much of the flavor is going to come from the add-ins like the the ginger and star anise. ~Elise

  • Diana

    Mmmm, being from Hawaii I grew up on oxtail soup. It was one of my favorite menu items at Zippy’s (kind of a Hawaiian Dennys but better) and I crave it when the weather turns cold here in Washington. Thanks for sharing this I’ll definitely give it a try!

  • Rachel

    I love this! Especially how you titled it ‘Hawaiian’ Ox Tail Soup. I was born and raised in Hawaii and this is one of my grandmothers favorites. She is Hawaiian Filipino and like most of the local dishes you never know where they came from, lol Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino it’s all yummy. One of my favorite dishes is pastele and that’s A Traditional Puerto Rican Dish.

    I will definitely be a nice surprise to make this for my grandmother.


    • ABCM2

      I realize that a lot of people like to lump all Asians together and typically can’t tell them apart, nor their food. But actually, this is a Chinese dish in origin, guy choy (a type of mustard green), red dates, dried orange peels (which is actually tangerines, not oranges, not ever), the use of peanuts as legumes, the combination of fresh “Chinese” parsley, ginger and green onions are Chinese flavours.

      This is a family dish eaten at home and never at restaurants except in Hawaii…at least I can confirm this in North America. I’m not Hawaiian, but I’ve been eating this for almost 50 years, I had this when my grandmother made this, then my father-in-law when I married, and outside of the references to “Hawaiian oxtail” I’ve not seen one published recipe for this dish. But a lot of food of Hawaii is about soul food, and I am certain this dish is brought by the Chinese migrant workers of the sugar plantations, and oxtail was considered cheap organ meat, not like the expensive meat used to feed the haole.

  • arlene

    My mother always saved the tangerine peels and dried them for use in soups such as this. I believe the chinese oranges are more like tangerines than the oranges here in the USA. Like the lemons, the chinese lemons are more like meyer lemons than the regular lemons we are used to.

    Good suggestion on the tangerine peels, as they have much less bitter pith than our standard navel oranges. Thanks! ~Elise

  • Donna L.

    My Cantonese grandmother often made oxtail soup for the family. She removed the oxtails and served the broth first, then we’d dip the meat in a little soy sauce and eat it with rice.

  • kenneth

    You can find dried orange peel pretty easily if you have an Asian supermarket near you. It’s usually in the snack and candy aisle.

    Thanks! ~Elise

  • gingerroot

    Thanks so much for this recipe! Honolulu is my hometown, although I’ve never made oxtail soup until your post. I made it tonight and it was delicious- perfect for our blustery, Hawaiian winter weather tonight. I’ll be making this again and again.

  • Debbie

    We love oxtail stew in our family. Our Asian supermarket has whole oxtails in the display case. I choose one and the butcher saws it up for me. If there is an Asian market near you, go check it out. :-)

  • Kate

    I believe it has Chinese origins and as you know Hawaii is a melting pot of Asian and Polynesian cuisine. It is not something you’d find at a tourist spot but the local “coffee shops” usually offer it.

  • Ana

    This sounds very tasty. We also have a soup called cosido.We use the oxtail & beef shank, the difference is we mix it with squash,carrots,celery, corn onions,& cilantro it’s also very tasty. It’s traditional in Mexico.

  • Kate

    Yes, in the islands everyone has their favorite restaurant when it comes to Oxtail soup – my father-in-law would only eat it at LikeLike Drive in.
    My cousin who is a retired Honolulu Fireman (and we all know how good the firemen cook) makes the best Oxtail Soup you can imagine. In addition to browning the oxtail in a pan first, he adds to the soup: shiitake mushroom and other mushrooms, dried red date, shredded bamboo shoots, fresh sliced lotus root, baby corn….and of course the raw peanuts, star anise and orange peel. The large amount of ginger is crucial! He also adds oyster sauce and a couple shots of whiskey to the broth.
    He sets out many garnishes – mustard cabbage, sliced par boiled baby bok choy, cilantro, extra ginger, green onion….
    It is a party in your mouth!!
    And if you’re ever in Vegas – the California Hotel downtown has an upstairs restaurant that serves the best Oxtail Soup outside of Hawaii!

    Great ideas, thanks Kate! ~Elise

  • winne

    I love oxtail soup. I’ve never tried Orange peel nor peanuts with it. Very interesting. I typically serve mine over noodles (like Pho). I will have to try this version (perhaps this weekend as it’s COLD in so. Cal) minus the peanuts. Delish! Thanks for sharing.

  • Audrey

    We dont have mustard greens here in South africa. What could I use instead?

    Try arugula, also known as rocket. ~Elise

  • Jade

    Would this recipe work without the peanuts? I’m allergic to them and am always looking for recipes to try.

    Yes, you could easily make the soup without the peanuts. ~Elise

  • Chris

    Oxtails are regularly stocked at the Publix stores here in the south. I’ve been wanted to try them, thanks for the great recipe!

  • Shibi

    These ono grinds fo broke da mouth!

    I have eaten this tasty soup all of my life. Thanks so much for the recipe! I have always gone to Tip Top Bakery in Lihue for my oxtail soup fix but now… now, I can make it in my mainland home (in my freezing kitchen in San Francisco).

    Mahalo, Elise!

  • Lester

    This sounds delicious! I’ll be making this over the weekend. The peanuts make me think of a Filipino dish called Kare Kare. I used to beg my mom to make it whenever I’d come home to visit. Any fan of ox tail soups/stews should check it out!

  • Renni

    I grew up in Hawaii and oxtail soup is definitely and island favorite. I love to add peanuts as a garnish as well. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Jules

    Have you looked at the carnicerias for oxtails? They’ve usually got beautiful meat, and at a decent price. i can always find oxtails there when I need a fix.

  • mahlookma

    the blissful baker:

    This reminds me of my mom’s oxtail soup as well. Of course, hers uses lemongrass rather than orange peel. :)

  • Irene

    Hi Elise, I often use dried orange peel. It is terrific in tomato recipes like ratatouille or chicken casseroles with tomato bases .

    To get a good supply peel an orange with a potato peeler to get thin strips. Place in oven , low heat , fan bake setting for about 30 mins or until slightly crisp.
    Do keep an eye on it as it can burn . I usually store it in a sealed plastic container in the freezer .
    Love your site here in New Zealand

    Thanks for the tip! ~Elise

  • the blissful baker

    mmm this is such a unique dish, and what an great combination of flavors! this reminds me of the korean version of oxtail soup that my mom makes all the time.it’s super simple – just oxtails, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. it’s delicious!