What is Vaca Atolada?

June 21, 2024


Vaca Atolada is a traditional Brazilian dish that is popular in many regions of the country. This hearty and flavorful stew is made with beef ribs, cassava, and a variety of spices. The name “Vaca Atolada” translates to “stuck cow” in English, which refers to the thick and rich consistency of the stew. In this glossary, we will explore the origins of Vaca Atolada, its ingredients, and how it is prepared.

Origins of Vaca Atolada

Vaca Atolada has its roots in the rural regions of Brazil, where it was originally prepared by cowboys and farmers as a hearty and filling meal. The dish is believed to have originated in the state of Minas Gerais, which is known for its rich culinary traditions. Over time, Vaca Atolada has become a popular dish in many parts of Brazil, with each region adding its own unique twist to the recipe.


The key ingredients in Vaca Atolada include beef ribs, cassava (also known as yuca or manioc), tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and a variety of spices such as bay leaves, cumin, and paprika. The beef ribs are typically simmered in a flavorful broth until they are tender and fall off the bone, while the cassava adds a starchy texture to the stew. The combination of these ingredients creates a rich and savory flavor profile that is sure to satisfy any appetite.


To prepare Vaca Atolada, start by marinating the beef ribs in a mixture of garlic, onions, and spices for at least an hour. In a large pot, sauté the marinated beef ribs until they are browned on all sides. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, and cassava to the pot, along with enough water to cover the ingredients. Simmer the stew over low heat for several hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The longer the stew simmers, the more flavorful and tender the beef ribs will become.


Vaca Atolada is typically served hot, garnished with fresh cilantro and accompanied by rice, beans, and a side of farofa (toasted cassava flour). The stew is best enjoyed with a cold beer or a glass of caipirinha, a traditional Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça, lime, and sugar. The hearty and comforting flavors of Vaca Atolada make it a popular choice for family gatherings, celebrations, and special occasions.


While the traditional recipe for Vaca Atolada calls for beef ribs and cassava, there are many variations of the dish that incorporate different meats, vegetables, and spices. Some cooks add sausage, bacon, or chicken to the stew for added flavor, while others include ingredients such as okra, carrots, and peas. These variations allow for endless creativity and experimentation in the kitchen, making Vaca Atolada a versatile and customizable dish.

Health Benefits

Despite its rich and hearty nature, Vaca Atolada can be a nutritious and balanced meal when prepared with lean cuts of beef and plenty of vegetables. Cassava is a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins, while beef ribs provide protein, iron, and essential nutrients. The spices and herbs used in the stew offer antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory benefits, making Vaca Atolada a wholesome and satisfying dish for any occasion.


In conclusion, Vaca Atolada is a delicious and comforting Brazilian stew that is perfect for cold winter nights or festive gatherings. With its rich flavors, hearty ingredients, and simple preparation, this dish is sure to become a favorite in your household. Whether you stick to the traditional recipe or get creative with your own variations, Vaca Atolada is a versatile and satisfying meal that will delight your taste buds and warm your soul. So why not give it a try and experience the magic of Vaca Atolada for yourself? Bon appétit!

Tatiana Cesso

As a journalist, I've made it my mission to explore and share stories that inspire, inform, and entertain. You may have stumbled upon my work in esteemed publications such as InStyle, Marie Claire, Bazaar, L’Officiel, and Vogue, among others. Having called the U.S. home since 2010, I've lived in Chicago, LA, and currently, Miami. But my heart always beats to the rhythm of Brazil. It's where I was born and raised, and my love for its culture, people, and energy knows no bounds. To share this passion, I've founded Brazilcore, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between Brazil and English speakers worldwide.