Caribbean Cow Heel Soup

22.2.16 | Recipe by Renz

Cow heel soup is the original Saturday Soup. Full of yams, cassavas, potato, and split peas simmered down with cow heel. This hearty meal is definitely a belly full dish.

A blue bowl filled with Caribbean cow heel soup on a white counter top with some chives and a sweet potato in the background.

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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 oxtail soup, and my next favorite pigeon peas soup.

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


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 among other things. 

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" meats.

Ingredients for Caribbean cow heel (cow foot) soup.

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

  • 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.

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

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

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 chicken soup.

Pictures of different dumplings for soups. Spinners and balls.

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 needed.


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.

After 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.

These super freezer containers are ideal and portioned to size.


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.

If 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 overnight.

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 water.

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