Caribbean Cow Heel Soup


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Saturdays in the Caribbean are the days when you make trips to the market, then come home with all the fresh goodies and make a pot of soup. That was lunch and it usually turned into dinner and sometimes into leftovers.

Our soups are heavy or hearty, ram-packed with meat and different provisions and dumplings.

This cow heel version is not much different. Full of provisions, root vegetables, cow foot, and dumplings, all cooked in a split peas base.

This is the OG of Soup Saturdays in my opinion. This is a
family favorite in my household growing up. I feel like this might have been the
first one our ancestors started.

Then we brought out others like 

This recipe is a simple one but provides such a deep layer of


What is cow heel?

It is exactly what it’s called. It’s the foot of the cow so you may see it
also being called cow foot soup. Well, it’s actually the cartilage around the
heel along with tendons and skin. There is not much meat.

It is high
in collagen and rich in magnesium and zinc. It helps to build healthy bones and
teeth and also boosts immune systems

It’s revered to be a good hangover fix much. Cow heel
provides nutrients just like chicken foot souse. It’s has a gelatinous
consistency that not everyone likes.

One thing for sure though, it
makes one delicious soup.


The trickiest part of this is probably sourcing the meat. We usually get
the meat at the Caribbean or Latin American supermarkets. Asian supermarkets
also have sometimes as well as those meat stores that deal with “specialty”


The list might seem long but remember we are building a hearty

  • yellow split peas
  • green seasoning
  • cow heel/cow foot
  • pumpkin – as always my first choice is calabaza pumpkin. You can
    also use squash.
  • onion
  • salted pigtail (optional)
  • garlic cloves
  • black pepper
  • sweet potatoes
  • Scotch bonnet pepper
  • carrot
  • corn on the cob (chopped)
  • dumplings
  • water
  • celery
  • chive
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chicken noodle soup packet (optional) – some people like to add some
    of this for additional flavor and for those skinny noodles.

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Large deep dutch pot
Pressure cooker (optional)

How to make cow heel soup

This is kind of a low bubble pot. Soup Saturday is not really a rush dish
kind of day. When my Dad was making it, it felt like it was taking hours. So
know it takes some time

We need to wash clean up the cow heel a bit.
Wash it off under running water to get rid of any debris, dirt that may have
come from the butcher. Then you can soak it in some water and a little vinegar
for about 10 minutes.

Cow heel is very tough meat so it needs to be
tenderized. So we can either boil it or put it in the pressure cooker to
tenderize it.

If you plan to boil it know that it can take sometimes
over 45 minutes to get tender. The cooking time can vary depending on the cut
and the quality you have.

While it’s boiling add some seasonings of
onion, cloves garlic, and some salt. Boil till the meat is tender.

tender, add in the split peas and continue to cook for about 20 minutes.

add in your provisions and pigtails (if using) and your sprigs thyme and

Dumplings are a must for me in soup. I make them as spinners
or small balls for this. I would also add some more cups of water to the soup at
this point if I find it might be looking too thick.

I don’t like the
liquid in this soup thick as I do for my


Add your scotch bonnet pepper to the water and give it a stir,
then leave the pot down on medium-low heat to bubble till the provision is done
and tender.

You can now season with salt and pepper as you think is


This soup can sit in the fridge for some two days. Know that it would get
thicker as it sits. Once it’s in an airtight container all is good.

that period, if you still have leftovers, you can put them to freeze. If there
are dumplings, I personally would not freeze those. Pack everything else in a
container, or portion out into freezer bags.



If reheating from the fridge, the microwave works. But the best way is to
put soup in a pot, add a little water, and simmer till warmed through.

reheating from frozen, remove from the freezer and place in the fridge to
defrost, overnight is best. Then reheat on stovetop.


How to soften cow heel without a pressure cooker: If you plan
ahead, you can add the heel to your slow cooker and let it cook overnight on
low. Add the meat and water to cover it along with the ingredients that would
have been used to boil it and a tablespoon of green seasoning and let it cook

Once it’s tender then continue on the stovetop

Soak the split peas overnight: This will help shorten the time for it to get tender while cooking.

A picture of a spoon of dumplings over a pot of Caribbean cow heel soup.

Other ways to cook cow heel soup:

Pressure cooking: 

If you have a regular pressure cooker, you can make the meat tender
this way (adding water, meat, and the other seasoning ingredients in
there). Once the meat is tender, add the split peas and additional cups of
water and continue the cooking process

Instant Pot: 

Add cow heel, onion, cloves garlic, and some salt to the instant pot.
And seal and select meat as the option. Set for 15 mins. Once done, release
and check how tender the meat is. Repeat this step if needed.

Then add pre-soaked split peas, and provisions to the pot along
with about three cups of water. Make sure it’s covering the contents of the
pot. Cover, seal and select soup for 20-25 minutes.

Release and
test for doneness of split peas, tenderness of meat and flavor
(salt/pepper), and how much liquid. Repeat if needed and add additional

Want more soups? Here are a few other Caribbean soups to try:

  • Butter bean soup
  • Corn soup
  • Fish soup
  • Seafood soup

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