Pepperpot is a rich meat stew that gets its signature dark color from cassareep, a thick "caramel" or reduction sauce made from cassava extract. Pepperpot is Guyana's national dish and is given to us by the Amerindians, indigenous people of Guyana. It is traditionally eaten with bread (preferably homemade plait bread) on Christmas morning.
My favorite childhood Christmas memory is waking up to the smell of pepperpot and bread on Christmas morning. Traditional pepperpot making is a real labor of love. The best tasting pepperpot simmers for hours, even days before being served. This recipe takes about 6 hours, but most of the time it's on the stove simmering away and you don't have much to do.
This recipe requires a large stock pot and a pressure cooker, but if you don't have a pressure cooker or feel comfortable using one, scroll to the notes section of the recipe card for tips on what to do if you don't have a pressure cooker.
For this recipe, you will:
- Beef (I used a chuck roast, then cut it into 1 inch cubes)
- Cow Heel (also be called cow/beef feet and beef trotters)
- Brown sugar
- Onions (many people avoid onions in cassareep but I love it in mine)
- Garlic (cloves and granulated)
- Cayenne pepper
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Wiri wiri peppers
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Dried Guyanese thyme
See recipe card for exact measurements
Step by Step Recipe Guide
Season and Marinate the Meat
First season the oxtail using ⅓ of the sugar and ⅓ of all the other ingredients, except the cinnamon and cloves. Use ⅓ of ½ of the cassareep and reserve the other ½ to use later. Do not add the onion and garlic. Mix everything together and let sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Follow the same steps above to marinate the beef and cow heel. Some people prefer to blanch their cowheel before cooking. You can blanch your cow heel by boiling it in some salted water for about 10 minutes then draining.
Once everything has been marinating for at least 30 minutes, we can start the long but wonderful pepperpot cooking process.
The thing I hate most about pepperpot is biting into a clove while eating. Since the pepperpot sauce is a rich dark color, the cloves blend right in. Putting the spices in a pouch keeps them in one place and you can fish the pouch out after cooking. Place the cloves in a 6 inch square of muslin fabric or cheese cloth. Gather up the edges of the fabric and make a knot. Now you have a nice little clove diffuser.
Brown the Meat
In a large stock pot saute ⅓ of the onion and garlic on high heat, in about 2 tablespoon of oil. Then add seasoned beef, cinnamon and cloves. Saute beef until all pieces are brown all over. Browned meat is delicious when slow cooked. Browning also seals in the flavors of the spices. Once meat is nice and brown, add about 6 cups of water to the beef, bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to low and let simmer. This will continue to cook slowly, while we are prepping all the other ingredients.
Now for the oxtail. Warm about 1 tablespoon oil in a traditional pressure cooker on high heat (this can also be done in an instant pot), then add oxtail and ⅓ of onion and garlic. Sauté oxtail until brown, then add 5 cups of water to the pressure cooker. Cover and pressure cook until oxtail is tender but not completely falling off the bone. Some meats take a very long time to cook, I use my pressure cooker to speed up the process.
Follow the same steps to pressure cook the cow heel, as you did with the oxtail. It took about 45 minutes to pressure cook each. You can do it together if your pressure pot is big enough. While they were pressure cooking, the beef was simmering on low.
Adding Everything Together
Now add the oxtail to the beef and mix together.
Then add the cow heel to the oxtail and beef combination and mix together.
After you combined all the meat add about 2 to 3 cups more water, just enough to cover the meat. It is also at this point that I add the ½ cup of cassareep we reserved in the beginning. Increase the heat to high and bring the pot to a roaring boiling. Let boil for 10 to 15 minutes.
Letting it Simmer
Then reduce the heat to medium low or low and let the pepperpot continue to simmer until all the meat is falling off the bone tender. This took about 2.5 hours for me. Along the way, I tasted the pepperpot and added about ¼ cup brown sugar and a pinch of salt. I also made sure the wiri peppers were cut open for additional heat.
Skimming the Fat from Pepperpot
At the end of the cooking process you will notice a layer of oil floating above the pepperpot. Use a ladle or pot soon to skim as much fat as possible from the pepperpot. You can also do this the next day after the fat coagulates and is easier to skim.
Storing and Reheating
The cassareep in pepperpot acts a preservative, therefore you do not need to refrigerate the pepperpot. Just leave it sitting on the stop top and reheat twice daily, until it is all gone. Once in the morning and once at night. To reheat, simply bring to a boil on high heat, then let boil for 5 to 10 minutes (until all of the meat come up to temperature. Then remove from the heat.
Different Ways to make Pepperpot
Over the years I've made pepperpot in the Instant Pot and in the slow cooker. You can find those recipes here:
With the instant pot it is a bit of a process but the results are worth it. You will need a large enough instant pot if you are hoping to make a large serving. I use my 10 quart instant pot for pepperpot.
On the other hand the slow cooker was the easiest pepperpot I've ever made. I just set everything over night and woke up to delicious pepperpot the next morning.
- Beef: You can use lamb or goat as a substitute for the beef in this recipe, if you don't eat beef.
- Cow Heel: Some people also use pig trotters and pig tail in their pepperpot. It's the collagen in the cow heel or pig trotters that give pepperpot that thick and sticky consistency.
- Oxtail: In Guyana we don't typically use oxtail in pepperpot. We use any beef with bones. In the US it's hard to find beef bones so I use oxtail or beef neck bones if you can find that. The bones is need to add depth and richness to the pepperpot
- Cassareep: There is no substitution for cassareep in this recipe. Without it you are not making pepperpot. The Cassareep is what makes this dish unique.
- Guyanese Thyme (also called Portuguese thyme): You may use regular fresh thyme is you can't get Guyanese thyme or simply skip it
- Wiri Wiri Peppers: Wiri wiri peppers are a small round chili pepper found in Guyana. You can substitute the wiri wiri peppers in this recipe for a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper.
- Pepperpot is better when it sits for at least 12 hours in the gravy before serving. Most people make their pepperpot on Christmas eve, let it sit overnight, reheat it and then serve it on Christmas morning.
- There is no need to refrigerate your pepperpot, cassareep acts as a preservative and will prevent the pepperpot from going bad.
- Keep your pepperpot on the stove top and keep reheating it twice daily, once in the morning and then at night before you go to bed.
- If you add orange peel to your pepperpot, it must be dried orange peel or the natural oils in the fresh orange peel will over power the flavor of your pepperpot.
How to Serve Pepperpot
Pepperpot is best enjoyed with Guyanese plait bread. If you don't want to make Guyanese bread the best next thing is a brioche bread. Pepperpot and bread is a match made in heaven, but the unpopular combination is pepperpot and white rice. Some people enjoy their pepperpot over a bowl of steamed white rice. It is not my favorite combination but I don't judge anyone who likes it.
Printable Recipe Card
- 1.5 lbs Beef I used a chuck roast, cut it into 1 inch cubes
- 2 lbs Oxtail fat trimmed
- 3 lbs Cow Heel also called beef feet/trotters
- 1 cup cassareep divided into 2
- ½ cup brown sugar, plus ¼ cup for the end
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon dried Guyanese thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt or salt to taste
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 3 wiri wiri peppers may use 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- About 4 tablespoons of oil for cooking
- In a ziplock bag or small bowl combine the sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, granulated garlic, fresh ground black pepper and thyme and mix together well. Then divide this dry rub into 3 and set aside
- Next season the oxtail using ⅓ of the dry rub and 3 tablespoons of the cassareep. Mix together well then let marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- Repeat step two to season the beef and cow heel and also let it marinate for 30 minutes before cooking
- Then when ready to cook, bring a large stock pot up to temperature on high heat. When the pot I hot add about 2 tablespoons of oil, then sauté ⅓ of the onion and garlic on high heat, in about 2 tablespoon of oil
- Add the seasoned beef, cinnamon, cloves (if not putting the cloves in a pouch) and wiri wiri pepper and continue to sauté until all pieces of the beef are brown all over. You may brown the beef in batches if necessary.
- Once the meat is brown, add about 6 cups of water to the beef, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer
- While the beef if simmering, bring about 1 tablespoon oil up to temperature in a pressure cooker on high heat, then add the onion and garlic followed by the seasoned oxtail
- Sauté the oxtail until brown, then add 5 cups of water to the pressure cooker. Cover and pressure cook until oxtail is tender but not completely falling off the bone, this should take about 45 minutes depending on the size of the oxtails, but I recommend checking the tenderness of the meat after 30 minutes of pressure cooking. You are looking for fork tender but not fall off the bone tender
- Follow the same steps to pressure cook the cow heel, as you did with the oxtail. If you have a large enough pressure cooker you may cook the oxtail and cow heel together but start by pressure cooking the cow heel first for 45 minutes, then adding the oxtail and continuing for another 45 minutes.
- Then add the oxtail and cow heel to the beef and mix together well, then add 2 to three more cups of water, just enough to cover the meat
- Then add the remaining ½ cup of cassareep and ¼ cup of brown sugar, increase the heat to high and bring pot back up to a roaring boiling. Let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, reduce heat to low and simmer until all the meat is falling off the bone tender, about 2.5 hrs.
- Lastly, cut open the wiri wiri peppers for additional heat
- Serve and Enjoy
This recipe looks delicious. I want to make this for the first time but i want to know if i do not put in the cow heel will it still have the same flavor?...
Althea Brown says
It will. Cow heel doesn’t impact the flavor. It impacts the texture of the sauce. The sauce will be less fatty or gummy but the flavor will be the same.
Guyana Butterfish says
Greetings! This is a good recipe, especially for foodies like me. And looking so yummy mouth-watering dish. Can we make this recipe with butterfish? Appreciate your sharing this one. Take care! By the way, we're selling Guyana Butterfish at a reasonable price. Please check it out, and also visit our website for further details.
Althea Rowe says
Just did this yesterday because my kids were craving pepperpot. Yummy.
Andrew M. says
I've consistently used this recipe for the past three years every Christmas and it's the closest thing to how my grandpa (an avid cattle farmer) used to make it in Guyana. Definitely worth the 6 hours of preparation.
Althea Brown says
I agree it’s worth the time. Thanks for sharing
Linda Du says
Can we pressure cook the cow heel and oxtail together?
Althea Brown says
The reason I don’t do this is because the cow heel sometimes takes longer to get soft then you’ll have mushy oxtail
Shemaia C says
I came across your other recipe for making pepper pot with a slow cooker. If I follow that recipe instead, will there be a major difference in taste, texture, or anything else?
Althea Brown says
What do you mean if you use those ingredients to make it on the stove top? That recipe doesn’t have the right amount of liquid or cooking times for stove top cooking. It’s specifically for making it in the slow cooker. But if you make it in the slower cooker. It tastes exactly like this recipe.
My dad is the Pepper Pot cooker in the family. He passed away in 2019, so the task was left to me & my children are ruthless! I used stew beef, pig tail & pork shoulder because Oxtail expensive!! Well my children made me feel so good because the pepper pot came out good!!
Thank you so much for this recipe!!
Althea Brown says
Awww Merry Christmas
Well I’m Guyanese and how I love to cook. I just paid 17$ for oxtail. Crazy but it’s not my fav. However my husband loves it. So my go to meat is pork hock. Any cheap steak. And pork shoulder and little oxtail. It sweet bad. So easy and you can just dr it till it taste right. After I cook and it goes outside on my deck. Before I warm again I skim the fat off the top
Well I’m Guyanese and how I love to cook. I just paid 17$ for oxtail. Crazy but it’s not my fav. However my husband loves it. So my go to meat is pork hock. Any cheap steak. And pork shoulder and little oxtail. It sweet bad. So easy and you can just dr it till it taste right. After I cook and it goes outside on my deck. Before I warm again I skim the fat off the top. Now time to fry up my garlic pork.
Collin White says
My granny used to make pepperpot with the same recipe, for like 15 years. God rest her soul.
Antoinette Griffith says
Oh, The Layers Of Flava. I added corned beef brisket, and ran into a problem. But overall it came out fantastic! Thank You.
I understand the value of words, so I don’t use them frivolously.
Hear me when I say Althea is a treasure!
I’ve been following her since 2014, and in my opinion, whether you’ve grown up eating these traditional Guyanese staples and have some small measure of how to put a meal together or are from another country looking to broaden your home menu; Althea gives you fail proof recipes to get it done.
Although I am not Guyanese, I was taught to cook by a much beloved Guyanese woman in my life. However, the truth is I rarely had to actually “knock pots!” Unfortunately, as often happens in life, Mater’s passing showed me how much I didn’t know or remember. Talk about depressed.
Until I found Metemgee on YouTube.
I’ve since cooked bakes, bread, pepperpot, and of course her “metemgee 😘, amongst many other recipes. To the pleasure and joy of my Guyanese husband.
Althea, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:
“I know how challenging it can be to incorporate a blog into the already busy life of being a daughter, wife, mother and all the other many hats our gender wears on any given day; so I had to take a moment to say thank you.
Thank you, for your detailed Youtube videos and the informative information on your blog. Your explicit steps show your compassion (for those of us navigating new recipes) and your love and passion for GOOD food. Each recipe and post is nourishment not only for our bodies but our souls as well. Helping us to reconnect to the feel good food of old and thereby ministering to the child in each of us yearning for a taste of “home.”
Please know that both your sites are a blessing to those of us who no longer have (or never had) a Mater, or Auntie to guide our hands in the kitchen.
I hope you realize the value and impact of what you do.
Again, I say Thank You and May God Continue to Bless You as you have blessed your readers!
OCTOBER 17, 2014 AT 7:30 AM”
Is there a particular brand of casareep that you would recommend?
Althea Brown says
I get mine directly from Guyana. I would just say look at the ingredients list and choose one that just cassava extract or cassava extract is listed as the first ingredients and just a few ingredients after that
Hi there! I’m looking to make this for my mama and grandmother this year - but I cannot find any casareep that they would like. What brand do you use? I’d love to order it so that I can make this for them special!