In case you’re new here… hi, I’m Jamie and I love comfort food. Growing up Hispanic pretty much means you eat comfort foods not only on Sunday but every day of the week.
Cuban ropa vieja is no exception. Some say this dish is the national dish of Cuba!
It’s beyond flavorful and always reminds me of my childhood.
What is ropa vieja?
Ropa Vieja is similar to a beef stew made with shredded beef that’s then added to a homemade tomato sauce, spices, and slow-cooked to perfection.
What does ropa vieja mean in English?
The word Ropa vieja literally translates to ‘old clothes’ which I always found hilarious. The idea behind this crazy name is that the shredded meat resembles a pile of old clothes.
In case you’re curious, this definitely does NOT smell like old clothes. It smells delicious and cozy and, the flavor is DELICIOUS. I love ropa vieja on top of white rice. The rice soaks up all the sauce and it’s just so OMG YUM.
Ropa Vieja vs Vaca Frita
I get this question a lot because of the similarities in the recipes. Both ropa vieja and vaca frita are like close cousins. They are both beef dishes and marinated with similar ingredients.
They are also cooked in a similar fashion initially however once the meat is tender and shredded, the meat is cooked in a tomato-based sauce to make ropa vieja while the beef is fried instead to make vaca frita.
This Cuban ropa vieja recipe is straight from the OG herself – my mom.
I was literally on the phone with her for 45 minutes trying to figure out measurements. See, Cuban kitchen legends, like my mom, don’t know measurements.
They’ve been cooking with “un poquito” (a little bit) for years. How her food manages to always taste exactly the same when she never uses measurements is beyond me! Alas, we figured it out, ingredient by ingredient.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Flank steak. I like using flank steak for ropa vieja since it’s so flavorful however you can also use beef chuck roast (pot roast).
- Salted water. Enough to cover the meat in the pot for cooking/softening the meat.
- Olive oil. For sautéing the aromatics and veggies.
- Thinly sliced onions, green bell peppers, red bell peppers. These are the only vegetables you need for ropa vieja. No carrots, celery, olives, capers, cilantro, or black beans.
- Minced garlic.
- Dry cooking wine.
- Tomato sauce.
- Ground cumin, oregano, bay leaf, salt + pepper to taste.
How to Make Cuban Ropa Vieja
Ok, I know at first glance it seems like this recipe appears super tedious to make however I can assure you most of the recipe is hands-off!
Here’s how you can make ropa vieja at home.
- Cook until meat is tender. In a Dutch oven, boil flank steak with water and salt at medium-low until the meat is tender, about 2 hours. The slow cooking process is the best for this recipe however you can also use a pressure cooker instead which takes about 30-40 minutes. I’m sure the Instant Pot may work here too but I don’t own one so I can’t really say.
- Shred the meat. Once the meat has cooked through, shred it with two forks and set aside.
- Sauté aromatics and veggies. Now, you’re going to heat olive oil at medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add green pepper, red pepper, onion, garlic, and dry cooking wine. Sauté for a few minutes.
- Make the sauce. Add tomato sauce, ground cumin, oregano, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veggies have softened.
- Simmer the meat with the veggies and sauce. Add the shredded meat to the skillet. Stir to combine with sauce. Cover and cook on low for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, without letting it dry out.
The result is a flavorful, saucy meal that will smell AMAZING. I love to serve ropa vieja over white rice with sweet plantains but you can enjoy it in sliders, tortillas (ropa vieja tacos!), congri/moros.
My mom’s recipe will forever be my favorite and I hope it becomes your fave too!
By the way, you can buy pastry rounds and make ropa vieja empanadas!
You may also like:
- Classic Cuban-Style Arroz Con Pollo
- Cuban-Style Shrimp Creole (The BEST Shrimp Recipe!)
- Homemade Cuban Complete Seasoning
- Cuban-Style Crispy Shredded Chicken (Vaca Frita de Pollo)
Cuban Ropa Vieja
- 2 lbs flank steak cut in pieces
- 2 cups water (enough to cover the meat in the pot)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 small onion thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced lengthwise
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup dry cooking wine (vino seco)
- 4 ounces tomato sauce (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt + pepper to taste
- In a Dutch oven, add meat with water and salt. Cook at medium-low until the meat is tender, about 2 hours (In a pressure cooker, this takes about 30 minutes). Transfer to a plate. Shred meat and set aside.
- In a skillet, heat olive oil at medium heat. Add green pepper, red pepper, onion, garlic and dry cooking wine. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, ground cumin, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.
- Add shredded meat to skillet. Stir to combine with sauce. Cover and cook on low for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, without letting it dry out. Remove bay leaf and serve over rice and sweet plantains.