Cuban Ropa Vieja (which translates to old clothes in Spanish) is the National dish of Cuba and it consists of shredded meat, peppers, onions and spices that are cooked until tender and so full of flavor. You can make this ropa vieja recipe on the stovetop or slow cooker and both will produce really tender shredded beef. Once this Cuban beef stew is all cooked up and full of flavor, it is served with fluffy basmati rice for the ultimate meal. It makes great leftovers too!
What is Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja, the national dish of Cuba came about because it was affordable for everyday people since it used a tougher cut of meat, flank steak. Now, flank steak is very popular and not as affordable but the dish is worth making nonetheless.
Growing up in South Florida, one of the things that I always knew I could count on with my Cuban friends is knowing that at least once a week there would be Ropa Vieja cooking in their home. This is where I learned to make this ropa vieja recipe and I have been making ever since.
I have seen many recipes out there that add capers and olives but to me this is not traditional. All of the the homes of Cuban friends (and restaurants) where I have eaten this Cuban shredded beef recipe in make it very simple with flank steak, peppers, onions and spices and no olives and no capers.
This is the traditional Cuban method of making this shredded beef recipe and it is so good this way. This to me is the ultimate ropa vieja and the only recipe we use.
Now, making this cuban ropa vieja recipe is really easy. It just requires some time for the cooking of the meat but you do not need to stand over it.
You can just pop in to the kitchen from time to time to check on it.
- Flank steak. This is the traditional cut of meat used to make Ropa Vieja .
- Red bell pepper and green bell peppers
- Yellow Onions
- Bay leaf
- Ground Cumin
- Diced tomatoes (canned)
- Salt and pepper
- Garlic Cloves
Best cut of beef for Ropa Vieja
If you are making Cuban ropa vieja, you want to use flank steak which is the traditional cut of meat used in making this dish. The flank steak, while tough at first, will breakdown with slow cooking and can easily be shredded which is what you want in this recipe.
If you are looking for alternatives to flank steak when making ropa vieja, skirt steak or brisket can also be used and will produce that shreddable beef that you want with ropa vieja.
You will need to adjust the cooking times a bit if you do decide to use one of these alternative cuts of beef.
How to make this Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe
Making ropa vieja is very easy. You are just cooking the meat and veggies in water for a few hours until the meat is tender and you can easily shred it with two forks.
Here are the steps:
- Add flank steak, water and ½ of your veggies to a large pot of water.
- Cook for about 3-4 hours until testing the meat shows it will fall apart easily.
- Begin to shred your meat by using 2 forks to create strings with the meat.
- Cook peppers and onion: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook up bell peppers and onions.
- Add diced tomatoes, spices and liquid from the pot the meat cooked in along with the shredded meat.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Once the meat is fall apart tender and shredded, you just saute the peppers and onions then add the tomatoes with a little of the cooking liquid from the beef. This makes that delicious ropa vieja sauce!
This cuban ropa vieja recipe is a great dish to make on the weekend when you are home. I love starting it in the afternoon on Sundays and having the whole house smell amazing from the scent of the meat cooking for hours.
You know dinner is going to be good when there is a meal cooking away throughout the day! I recommend doubling this Ropa Vieja recipe and making 2 meals worth for leftovers the next day.
How to make Ropa Vieja In The Slow Cooker
The whole method of making Ropa Vieja is to cook the meat for a long time so you can eventually shred it and then cook it a second time with vegetables and seasoning.
If you would prefer to not have to be home watching a boiling pot of meat, you could definitely add the ropa vieja meat and liquid into a slow cooker. Just set the cooker to high and cook the meat for about 5 hours until the meat is tender and able to be shredded easily.
From there, you just follow the recipe below for shredding the meat and cooking it a second time which takes only about 30 minutes.
What to serve with ropa vieja
There are so many wonderful things to serve with this ropa vieja. I like to buy crisped up plantains from the store for an easy side. If you are looking for more ideas of what to serve with this Cuban ropa vieja, here are some of our favorites:
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If you love this recipe, you will also love these other slow cooked beef recipes:
Ropa Vieja Recipe Faqs
Ropa vieja in English means old clothes. Not exactly an exciting name for a food dish but Cubans called it this because this recipe used up inexpensive meat to make this dish
Ropa vieja is the national dish of Cuba.
Cuban ropa vieja is a Cuban shredded meat dish made up of shredded flank steak, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and spices.
More Recipe Ideas:
- Amazing Fajitas from Leftovers
- Italian baked Zucchini
- Sausage Jambalaya
- Chicken Saltimbocca
- Lemon Butter Chicken
- Venezuelan Arepas
- Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
- Chacarero Chilean Chicken Sandwich
- Pulled Pork Bowl
Cuban Ropa Vieja
Tried the Recipe? We Would Love To Hear From You In The Comments Below!
- 1 Flank Steak I get a cut the about the length of my elbow to hand approx. 2 lbs. It shrinks up in the cooking process
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 large red pepper
- 1 large green pepper
- 1 large spanish onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoon cumin (divided)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
- water enough to fill a pot ¾ full.
- In a large stock pot (with a lid), add the flank steak and fill with water about ¾ full. If you would prefer to use a slow cooker, see notes above.1 Flank Steak, water
- Next, cut the red and green peppers in half then remove and discard the seeds.1 large red pepper, 1 large green pepper
- Add one of the green pepper and red pepper halves to the stock pot. Reserve the remaining halves of the peppers for later.
- Next, cut off about ¼ of the onion and throw that into the stock pot as well. Remember to reserve the remaining peppers and onion for later.1 large spanish onion
- Add the bay leaf, black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of the cumin to the stock pot and cover.1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 2 teaspoon cumin (divided)
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to low to keep a steady simmer going but not boiling over. Cook for about 3-4 hours until testing the meat shows it will fall apart easily.
- You may need to top off your pot with more water if too much of the cooking liquid evaporates during cooking.
- Once the meat is ready (easy to pull apart) take it out of the pot and place it on a plate to rest.
- Scoop up 3 cups or so of the water that the meat cooked in and set aside for later (I use my large measuring cup). You can now discard the rest of the water in the stock pot.
- After the meat has cooled, begin shredding it by using 2 forks to create strings with the meat.
- After that is done, get out the peppers and onion from earlier and thinly slice them along with the garlic.2 cloves of garlic
- With a deep saute pan, saute the peppers, onion and garlic for about 3-4 minutes and add a pinch of salt to get them to release their juices.
- Next add the can of diced tomatoes and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin and stir together.1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, 2 teaspoon cumin (divided)
- Add the shredded meat to the pan along with about 1 cup of the cooking liquid (or more if needed to surround the meat well with the broth). Mix well so that the meat is sitting in all of the yummy broth.
- Let this simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve over a bed of rice that will soak up all of the yummy juices.1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here