A Deliciously Tasty Neckbone Soup Recipe

A frosty Minnesota winter night is worth a hearty soup like this lovely neckbone soup. After a long day of work or play out in the snow, the best thing is this amazing soup that’s been simmering all afternoon, filling the entire place with the smell of good things.

If you live in an apartment, this simple soup will make you the envy of all your neighbors for at least three doors in every direction. My grandparents, who lived on a farm in Northfield, MN, always swore that the neighbors would find an excuse to visit on the evenings when my Grandma made this soup, so it’s entirely possible that the smell travels further. Or maybe word just travels fast when you’ve got 10 kids, 5 of whom are still under 18.

By the time I was on the scene, all my uncles and aunts had grown up and had families on their own, and the neckbone soup recipe, or recipes like it, found all the family cookbooks for two generations, from this start in rural Minnesota just after World War II.

Neckbone soups are a staple, especially in areas where oxtail isn’t enough. As a kid growing up in rural Minnesota, my first experiences with soup were homemade. My grandparents on the farm in Northfield were always extremely busy between my mom and her many siblings and 100 head of cattle.

This gorgeous soup, made with beef oxtail or pork neckbone, depending on what Grandma had on hand, always made her house smell amazing, and with dozens of grandkids, there were always plenty of mouths to eat it, and very low chances of there being any such thing as leftovers.


  • 4-6 pounds of neckbones (beef or pork) or oxtail (beef)
  • 1 carton of beef broth + 8 to 16 cups of water
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch of green onions, minced
  • 1 sprig of thyme, tied at the stem end.
  • 1 tsp dried Marjoram
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 4 large potatoes, diced
  • 1 14-oz. can of fire-roasted tomatoes, including juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cloves garlic or more, up to a full head
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


Brown the Neckbones:

To start this soup, you’re going to take the neckbones and put them in a sizzling cast-iron pan over high heat and give them just enough time to let the meat undergo the Maillard reaction on the surface.

If we were eating a great steak, the brown crust would be what we’re after in and of itself, but since these are neckbones, some of the hardest-working muscles in the animal’s body, what we’re going to do next is stew them for anywhere up to four hours, letting the meat become fall-apart tender and that caramelized crust on the surface of the meat is going to just dissipate into the soup, making the whole thing richer.

Saute the Aromatics

To start making the soup, saute the carrot, celery and onions (both yellow and green) until they’re just softened and smelling heavenly. While your kitchen smells like good things, in either a large dutch oven or medium stock pot add the broth plus the mirepoix and all the garlic at once. Adding the herbs to the aromatics, put the stockpot over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil.

Meld The Ingredients Together

Once the aromatics reach a boil, add the neckbones and reduce to a simmer. The longer the better. The neckbones will just continue to release collagen and marrow into the water, making the broth unctuous and giving it a great mouthfeel.

The best soups have a great supporting cast of ingredients and that’s the case here. With the tomatoes and the potatoes added to the soup next, the rest is going to be to just continue to simmer the soup.

Remove The Bones And Shred The Meat

After 3-4 hours, the neckbones have given up all their collagen to the cause of your dinner and need to be fished out of the soup. Once the neckbones are out and cooled, they can be stripped of their relatively small amount of meat, and the meat can be returned to the pot and mixed in.

This is where the similarity of neckbone to oxtail really shows itself: Even though the muscles themselves are strong, they’re also relatively compact and a neckbone soup is more flavored with the essence of meat than it is a meat soup as such. Bone is very dense and heavy, and neckbone will make it difficult to get a good yield.

If you want a meatier soup, throw in meat that matches the meat of the bones that you’re using. A pork neckbone will want pork shoulder; a beef neckbone will want chuck roast. Either way, this dish is a winner whether you want to use simple ingredients or complicated ones.

A fantastic beef or pork soup is a staple of a chilly winter day. Served with a roasty beer or fruity wine and a loaf of crusty bread, this recipe is an all-time winner. Every time I prepare this, I think back to those days in Northfield and how fortunate I was, visitor from the Cities, to be part of these long winter nights out on the farm.

Serves 6-10


What Are Neckbones, Anyway?

Neckbones are a cousin to oxtails. Like the oxtail, a package of neckbones contains bones from the spine of an animal. Unlike oxtails, the neckbones are either of cattle or of pigs. This gives you more options to make a neckbone soup out of.  This is in opposition to an oxtail soup. But like oxtails, the neckbone contains several tightly packed muscles that work hard during the life of the animal. They need a slow and moist cooking method to bring their full potential out of them.

neckbone is maybe even harder working than an oxtail since the oxtail is only attached to the cow’s butt on one side and nothing but the air on the other side. The neckbone needs to hold up the head on the other end.

What’s the Maillard Reaction?

The Maillard Reaction is a complex chemical reaction that denatures proteins to create simple sugars on the surface of the meat, then browns those sugars the same way that any other sugars get browned. The result is a glistening brown crust of subtle savory and sweet.

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