Los Angeles

Just Like Ma: Mom’s Black Bean and Oxtail Soup


My mother is notorious for her complete and utter avoidance of the kitchen. While she can whip up a handful of yummy meals, she would rather order out or coax someone else in the family to cook. But despite her aversion to cooking, the one meal that brings me the most joy is my mother’s Sopa de Frijoles (or Black Bean and Oxtail Soup).

Jokingly named Rent Day Soup by my sister and me, due to it appearance around our dinner table during tight times of our youth, this dish is inexpensive to make and truly filling. Like many dishes whose roots can be traced back to Central America, this Sopa de Frijoles truly knows how to highlight the humble bean. Made with only a few fresh ingredients, this soup nuzzles you from the inside out and remains a winter staple in my own family. And like most of my takes on family favorites, I’ve added a few of my own twists to take the recipe up a notch.




1lb – Dried Black Beans

1 – Dried Chile de Arbol

1 – Yellow Onion (Whole)

1 – Handful of mint leaves (whole, off the stem)

1.5 lbs. – Oxtail meat (cut thick)

3 – Cloves of Garlic (whole)

4 tbsp. –Salt


How To:

Begin by taking your beans and rinsing them off of anything they might have come into contact with while in your grocery store’s bulk bins or while in their packaging. Make sure to pick off any beans that float, as they’re probably hollow from insect bites.


Once rinsed, drain your beans and transfer them over to a large soup pot (I tend to use a stock pot between 6 and 8 Qt.) with the oxtail, whole yellow onion, three whole garlic cloves, whole dried chile de arbol, and ¾ of your mint leaves.


Fill the pot of ingredients with water three fourths of the way up with enough space for everything to boil.


Add your salt. I begin with four tablespoons and add a little more as the soup continues to percolate. Beans tend to soak up flavor so I encourage vigorous seasoning.


Set uncovered on medium heat.

At the 30 to 45-minute mark, you will need to skim the soup for extra fat and impurities that rise up to the surface of the soup.


Remove the whole chile de arbol, whole onion, and any garlic cloves that have already infused their flavor into the broth.


Let the soup heat to a rolling boil and continue to skim the top as needed.


Once the soup has boiled for five minutes, turn heat down to low for another 30 minutes.


Skim any last fat you may have missed.


Serve hot.



Optional Garnish:

While you can enjoy the soup as is, there are several ways you can garnish this dish. If enjoying it at my parents’ place, there will always be a dollop of Crema Salvadoreña (Salvadorian Sour Cream) and slice of Queso Fresco atop. I, on the other hand, like the sharp and smooth addition of homemade crème fraiche and a teeny chiffonade of mint and cilantro. If you’d like to make your own crème fraiche, follow the directions below for a yummy addition to your meals and snacks that will make you feel like you’re at a four star restaurant.



-1 cup Heavy Cream

-3tbsp Buttermilk


Bust out a clean mason jar or non-reactive container.

Pour the heavy cream and slowly incorporate the buttermilk.

Make sure both ingredients are mixed in well.

Dampen a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and loosely fasten.

Let sit in your kitchen between 12 and 24 hours (ideal temperature is ~72 degrees, but don’t’ worry that if your kitchen is a little cooler, it can remain in room temperature for longer)

Once your crème fraiche is at your desired consistency, cover and place in fridge.

Your crème fraiche will remain fresh (ha!) for up to a week and a half.


Just Like Ma is a series of posts dedicated to praising and updating family recipes. Have a family recipe you’ve wanted to revamp or reinvent? Share it with the Fat Girl Food Squad! We’d love to learn a little more about you and your favorite family dishes.


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