VACA POLLO RECIPE: Seriously Delicious Low-Cal Snack or Meal

vaca fritaSince I’ve been craving salty snacks, I decided I’d make a salty, meaty protein snack similar to beef jerky. This is whey Vaca Frita came to mind. Vaca Frita, which literally means “Fried Cow”, is one of my favorite cuban dishes. Basically, it’s just shredded flank steak and onion cooked in lime juice and then seared with oil on a griddle until crispy – so it’s not so healthy, but super yummy.

So, I started brainstorming on ways to make a healthier version of this yummy Cuban dish. Since I LOVE grilled chicken (because I love the crispy charred flavor), I decided to make a grilled version of Vaca Frita with chicken. Here was what I cooked up.

Vaca Pollo Ingredientsvaca frita pollo

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 1/2 onion, finely slivered
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (Optional)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Cook 4 chicken breasts (I grilled them on the grill after marinading them in lime juice and olive oil).  While cooking the chicken, cut the onion up into really thin slivers and set it aside.

(Note: I didn’t use as much onion as I would like to because I wanted to make it as high-protein as possible while I’m dieting.)

lime-juiceNext, in a mixing bowl, mix lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves (and the optional olive oil, which I didn’t use). Once the chicken has been cooked all the way through (keeping it nice and juicy, but not worrying about it being browned or charred on the grill). Shred the chicken up into small pieces and combine with the onion and lime juice mixture until evenly mixed.

Finally, spread the shredded chicken out evenly on tinfoil. Mist with olive oil and dust with salt. Place it back on the grill (I turned my grill up really hot to quickly brown the chicken without over-drying it), occasionally stirring the chicken so it browns as many pieces as possible. Remove when you feel the chicken is crispy but not dehydrated, and let cool. Serve with wedge of lime.

3 Ways to Enjoy Vaca Pollo

Vaca Pollo Snack:
Let the meat cool. Measure out 2oz portions and put in ziplock bags for an easy-access high-protein snack.

Vaca Pollo Salad:
Top mixed greens with 3 – 4oz shredded chicken, 2 T goat cheese and 1/c cup finely sliced pear and top with a light balsamic vinaigrette.

Vaca Pollo Meal:
Top 1/2 cup jasmine rice with 3 – 4oz shredded chicken and serve with a healthy serving of grilled asparagus.

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on September 12, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I find it insulting that you can openly say that vaca frita is unhealthy. This is western “fitness” elitism at its finest. What is inherently unhealthy about the original dish? I believe saying that the original dish didn’t fit your diet is what your trying to say but you didn’t use those words. Throwing around the word unhealthy just because you deem it so means nothing, there are no good and bad foods (do you even context). Please tell us more about the unhealthy foods of other nations so you can cure everyone of their weight and health issues….

    • Gosh, I didn’t mean it that way at all – I just meant that it’s normally fried in oil (which I LOVE by the way, but I’m training for a show and can’t have that kind of calories). It would be no different than saying french fries are unhealthy. Potatoes are healthy, but they aren’t as healthy when they are deep fried. I think The Americans have the most “unhealthy” list of foods on the planet – french fries, fried okra, fried chicken, fried cheese…list goes on. This is not a racial issue or in any way supposed to be negative toward someone’s ethnicity, it’s a health issue and fried anything isn’t as healthy as baked or grilled. I really am sorry you were insulted. ….and with that said, when I’m off my diet, I ain’t afraid of scarfing some Vaca Frita occasionally – I just do it in moderation. 🙂 I hope you see my heart and intention.

      • “I believe saying that the original dish didn’t fit your diet is what your trying to say but you didn’t use those words”

        Like I said I thought that was what you where trying to say but again you should think about how you word things as thats not how it reads. Also I don’t think unhealthy means what you think it means, you can not take food out of context of a whole diet and lifestyle and call it unhealthy or healthy. I feel like your demonizing a food because it doesn’t fit in to your goals, this is where the problem is. So if I have a large order of french fries once a week am I then unhealthy? Like I said before, the words you chose matter and I believe you to have the somewhat right intention but again context of a food matters you can’t just say fried chicken and french fries are inherently unhealthy, if they are eaten so much that they take up most of the diet and limit other things like veggies and fruit then its not so much the food is unhealthy but the eating habits of the person may be unhealthy. I hope you think about how placing such harsh words on a food can have an impact on peoples psychology of a food.

        Example. People literally will exclude things like white rice and white potatoes because some people in the “fitness” realm deem those as unhealthy.

  2. I love reading your posts but never comment. I’m Latina and avoid a lot of Latin/Spanish foods because of similar reasons. I splurge once in a while, but I “pay” for it. I grew up on empanadas, fried steak, bandeja paisa, ropa vieja, yucca, plantains, etc….. Doesn’t fit so well into my healthier lifestyle. Thanks for the great recipe & congratulations girl!!

    • OMG! I LOOOOOVE plantains!!…well, I love it ALL!! It’s all about moderation. Splurging every once in a while is ok as long as you are staying balanced – and it sounds like you got that covered!! Thanks for commenting. Hope you like it. Today, I’m going to put the chicken in a slow cooker, shred a TON of it and then grill it. Trying new things everyday!!! ❤

  3. Bonnie, thank you for posting this recipe! I am going to bug Jeff all day until he decides to make this tonite! 🙂 I also love this dish, and I totally understood what you meant when you said HEALTHIER version: anything fried in oil is NOT AS healthy as grilling an item. So your HEALTHIER version is completely in line for us watching fats/carbs/etc. Cuban and Portuguese food is as a rule my favorite…..YUMMY

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