Cuban ropa vieja (which translates to old clothes in Spanish) is a delicious dish of shredded meat that is tender and full of flavor. The meat is cooked on the stovetop for hours to get the meat really tender and easy to shred. Peppers, onions and seasoning are then added to the shredded meat and served with rice.
This dish 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, I made friends with people from so many different countries. South Florida is a melting pot of so many different cultures and each has its own amazing food that I got to enjoy. 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.
It seems to be a regular dish that the families would eat and they would always have enough to offer guests and they were always so generous (so thankful for this!) As I got older, I did stop showing up for dinner unannounced (I was just a kid who knew where the good food was..) and began to order out ropa vieja from some of the many Cuban restaurants in the area.
But when I moved out of Florida I realized not many places have this dish so I set out to learn how to make this on my own. This recipe is as close as I can remember eating and I have been cooking it for many years for family and friends and it brings smiles to everyone who has tried it- success!
Now, making this dish 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.
Here are the ingredients you need to make this Ropa Vieja recipe:
- Flank steak
- Red and green peppers
- Bay leaf
- Diced tomatoes (canned)
- Salt and pepper
This dish is great 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 the recipe and making 2 meals worth for leftovers the next day.
Cuban Style Ropa Vieja
- 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 large red pepper
- 1 large green pepper
- 1 large spanish onion
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- In a large stock pot (with a lid), add the flank steak and fill with water about 3/4 full.
- Next, cut off the tops of the red and green peppers and throw those in to the stock pot.
- Next, cut off about 1/4 of the onion and throw that into the stock pot as well. Reserve the remaining peppers and onion for later. Don’t worry about the stems and skin as that will all be discarded later.
- Add the bay leaf, black peppercorns and 1 tsp of the cumin to the stock pot and cover.
- 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.
- 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 tsp of cumin and stir together.
- 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.