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    Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe

    Published January 5, 2024. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This classic Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe is a simple dish of slow-cooked shredded beef with onions, peppers, and tomato sauce for the perfect comfort meal. You will love the big, bold flavors in this tasty dish.

    I don’t eat meat too often, but if I do, I want to make sure it’s loaded with flavor and easy to prepare. If you’re similar to me, then you must try my Steak Frites or Italian Beef Braciole.

    pan of ropa vieja


     

    Ropa Vieja

    Ropa Vieja is a classic Cuban dish of slow-cooked shredded beef that is simmered with onions, peppers, spices, and tomato sauce. The consistency is like a stew with less liquid, however it is extremely full-flavored. It’s commonly served with white rice and Cuban Black Beans.

    The word ropa vieja translates in Spanish as old clothes. Rumor around the name came from a man who was so poor he shredded his clothes and simmered them. While cooking, he prayed, and upon opening his eyes, there was meat and vegetables in his pot to feed his family with.

    Ropa vieja, however, was created over 500 years ago by Sephardic Jews in the Iberian Peninsula of Spain. Due to them not being allowed to cook on the Sabbath, the Jewish shepherds slow-cooked a hearty meat stew the night before. The dish eventually made its way to the Americas by the Spaniards, becoming a staple in Cuba and the Caribbean. It is one of Cuba’s national dishes.

    Ingredients and Substitutions

    ropa vieja ingredients
    • Beef – The two most classical cuts of beef to use are flank or skirt steak. However, you can also use brisket, Bavette, or chuck roast.
    • Onions – I used yellow onions and garlic cloves for the braising liquid and sauce. You can substitute the yellow onions for a white or sweet one.
    • Peppers – You will need a green and a red bell pepper. Substitute with yellow or orange bell peppers.
    • Stock – I used beef stock when braising the flank steak. However, you can use brodo or water.
    • Tomatoes – Fresh or canned tomatoes will work in this ropa vieja.
    • Olives – This is optional, but regular pimento-stuffed green olives would be the common olive to use.
    • Herbs – You will need some fresh cilantro and bay leaves.
    • Spices – I use a traditional combination of ground cumin and dry oregano in this. There are no substitutes for these.
    • Wine – You can use either a dry red or white wine. For red, use Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot; for white, use Chardonnay or pinto grigio.

    How to Make Ropa Vieja

    Slice the steak in half and then in half again.

    cutting beef

    Generously season all sides with salt and pepper.

    seasoning beef

    Pour the oil into a large rondeau or sauce pot and heat over high heat until it begins to smoke.

    adding oil to a pan

    Add in the beef and sear for 3 to 4 minutes per side.

    searing beef

    Set the steak to the side and in the same pan add diced yellow onion and sauté over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until well browned.

    cooking onions

    Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 to 45 seconds.

    caramelized oninons and garlic

    Deglaze with beef stock and add bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and seared beef and cook covered over low to medium heat for about 90 to 120.

    adding beef to a pot with beef stock

    Remove the beef from the pan and use two forks to shred into long thing shreds.

    shredding beef

    With about 30 to 40 minutes left in the cooking process add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive to a rondeau or sauce pot and low to medium heat and caramelize the 1 julienne yellow onion while occasionally stirring, which takes about 20 to 25 minutes.

    cooked onions

    Next, stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant which takes about 30 to 45 seconds.

    cooked onions and garlic

    Turn the heat up to medium high and add in the peppers and sauté for 4 to 6 minutes or until they start to get a little brown on them.

    peppers and onions in a pot

    Stir in the cumin and oregano, and then deglaze with the white wine and cook it until it is completely absorbed.

    herbs, peppers, and onions in a pot

    Stir the beef with thetomatoes, remaining braising liquid, and season with salt and pepper to the pan of peppers and onions and cook covered over low to medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

    seasoning ropa vieja

    Finish with cilantro and green olives.

    adding parsley and olives to ropa vieja

    Serve with the classic white rice, Cuban Black Beans, and Maduros.

    cuban ropa vieja with olives

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten once it is finished cooking. However, you can keep it warm over very low simmering heat for up to 1 hour before serving.

    How to Store: Cover and store the ropa vieja in the sauce in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can cover it and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.

    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of meat to a rondeau or saucepot along with some of the sauce and cover and heat over low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until warm. You may want to add ¼ to ½ cup of water or beef stock to help loosen up the mixture as it reheats.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    Chef Notes + Tips

    • Doing the additional sear to the beef and braising it in the beef stock will render a more flavorful ropa vieja.
    • Feel free to add 1 roughly chopped rib of celery and 2 peeled and roughly chopped carrots to the beef as it braises for more flavor.
    • Strain the braising liquid from the vegetables and use it as a sauce or in another recipe, as it is extremely flavorful.

    More Beef Recipes

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    Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe

    5 from 3 votes
    This Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe is a dish of slow-cooked shredded beef with onions, peppers, and tomato sauce for the perfect comfort meal.
    Servings: 8
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

    Ingredients 

    For the Beef:

    • 2 pounds flank steak
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 peeled large diced yellow onion
    • 6 smashed garlic cloves
    • 10 peppercorns
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 6 cups beef stock
    • coarse salt and cracked pepper to taste

    For the Sauce:

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 peeled julienne yellow onion
    • 6 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
    • 1 seeded julienne red bell pepper
    • 1 seeded julienne green bell pepper
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons dry oregano
    • 2 bay leaves
    • ½ cup dry white wine
    • 1 15 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
    • ½ cup sliced pimento stuffed green olives

    Instructions

    • Slice the steak in half and then in half again.
    • Place it on a plate or sheet tray and generously season all sides with salt and pepper.
    • Pour the 2 tablespoons of oil into a large rondeau or sauce pot and heat over high heat until it begins to smoke lightly.
    • Add in the seasoned beef and sear for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until well browned.
    • Set the steak to the side on a plate and in the same pan add in 1 large diced yellow onion and sauté over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until well browned. Be sure to scrape the fond off the pan while cooking these to release more flavor.
    • Stir in the garlic smashed cloves and cook for 30 to 45 seconds or just until fragrant.
    • Deglaze with beef stock and add in the 2 bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and seared beef and cook covered over low to medium heat for about 90 to 120 minutes or until very tender and shreds apart with ease.
    • Once the beef is done cooking, remove them from the pan and use two forks to shred into long thing shreds. Strain the braising liquid and set it to the side.
    • With about 30 to 40 minutes left in the cooking process add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive to a rondeau or sauce pot and low to medium heat and caramelize the 1 julienne yellow onion while occasionally stirring, which takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
    • Next, stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant which takes about 30 to 45 seconds.
    • Turn the heat up to medium high and add in the peppers and sauté for 4 to 6 minutes or until they start to get a little brown on them.
    • Stir in the cumin and oregano, and then deglaze with the white wine and cook it until it is completely absorbed, which takes 1 to 2 minutes.
    • Stir the shredded beef along with the pureed tomatoes, 1 ½ cups remaining braising liquid, and season with salt and pepper to the pan of peppers and onions and cook covered over low to medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes to infuse the flavors.
    • Finish with chopped cilantro and sliced green olives.
    • Serve by itself or with the classic white rice, Cuban Black Beans, and Maduros.

    Notes

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten once it is finished cooking. However, you can keep it warm over very low simmering heat for up to 1 hour before serving.
    How to Store: Cover and store the ropa vieja in the sauce in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can cover it and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of meat to a rondeau or saucepot along with some of the sauce and cover and heat over low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until warm. You may want to add ¼ to ½ cup of water or beef stock to help loosen up the mixture as it reheats.
    Doing the additional sear to the beef and braising it in the beef stock will render a more flavorful ropa vieja.
    Feel free to add 1 roughly chopped rib of celery and 2 peeled and roughly chopped carrots to the beef as it braises for more flavor.
    Strain the braising liquid from the vegetables and use it as a sauce or in another recipe, as it is extremely flavorful.
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: cuban