My ropa Ropa Vieja recipe: A very easy Cuban style slow cooked beef stew with Spanish origins. You can make this in a slow cooker and shred the fork tender meat when done and serve with rice and beans. You can make the dish on the stove top or oven in a Dutch oven, slow cooker or instant pot. Simple and delicious!
What is Ropa Vieja?
Ropa vieja, literally translated into old clothes, is a traditional recipe for a tomato-based beef stew. The slow roasted beef is shredded and falls apart so it looks like old clothes in a washing tub or basin. The stew has a rich broth with tangy flavors of tomato, onion, celery, jalapeños, salt, cumin, paprika, oregano and garlic. The finished dish is typically served with Latin style black beans, rice and fried green plantain also known as tostones.
History of Ropa Vieja:
This is a Cuban dish of Spanish origin, namely the Canary Islands (located just off the northwestern coast of mainland Africa) –a first stop for Spanish galleons going to the Americas and the last stop on the return trip. This seaport then became a natural vehicle through which the Spanish culture was transmitted to the New World and vice versa. The original dish was prepared in much the same way, but with other vegetables added to it.
Ingredients for Ropa Vieja
Cuban Ropa vieja consists of a cut of meat (flank is the choice, but lesser cuts are adequate also like chuck roast) that has been beautifully seasoned with cumin, paprika , cilantro, oregano and mild peppers among other things and cooked for about 6-8 hours, in a tomato based sauce, in a crockpot or stovetop. Now, I don’t consider myself a regular crockpot user, but this dish lends itself perfectly to this form of cooking. What I find most amazing about Ropa Vieja in a slow cooker is that one can use an inexpensive cut of meat and it can turn out so tender and juicy that it just falls apart. Here is a list of what you will need.
- Flank steak: This cut has long strands that will fall apart when slow cooked and give look of "old clothes" but it holds the broth and flavor really well.
- Tomato, garlic, jalapeño, onion, cumin, celery, oregano and paprika: This is a basic sofrito or tomato based sauce that is found in many Latin American dishes.
- Recaito: This is the cilantro based ingredient used in many Latin soups, stews and black beans.
Like most Caribbean/Latin American food, ropa vieja is a humble, simple dish that is not only flavorful but also very nutritious. You can however improvise and make tacos, tostadas, or even a sandwich! Ropa vieja freezes well, so feel free to make a large batch and store the remainder (if there is any left) in your freezer for about 4-6 months.
I had some frozen homemade recaito ready to go that I added to the crock-pot. The sofrito, I usually toss in as it is slow cooking or you can use the sofrito ingredients as shown in the recipe and drop them in at the beginning. I usually have sofrito ready-to-go frozen into cubes also.
Step by step photos to make ropa vieja:
- Step 1: Get all your ingredients chopped, measured and ready to go. The ingredients are one easily found at most grocery stores: chuck roast, tomato, onion, celery, jalapeños, salt, cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic and recaito.
- Step 2: Place the beef in the slow cooker on high and add the water.
- Step 3: Immediately add the vegetables, salt and spices. (All the other ingredients.)
- Step 4: Stir all the ingredients around to combine really well then cover and cook for about 6 hours on high. Flip over the meat half way through.
- Step 5: After 6 hours take two forks and see if the meat separates easily. It should fall apart and if it does not cook for another half hour and recheck.
- Step 6: Once the meat is very tender and falls apart, shred the beef in the slow cooker and combine with all the juice. Add salt to taste and serve over rice.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Yes. A serving of ropa vieja has only one carb. Enjoy it on a keto eating plan.
Once the meat has cooled you can store it for 3-5 days in an airtight container.
Yes. You can use a roasting pan (covered) and make ropa vieja in the oven. You'll want to keep the heat low at 300°F and it will take about 3 to 5 hours. Follow the recipe for when the meat is fork tender then shred.
You can eat it at all times of the day, really! Add it to rice for a lunch or dinner. There is also recalentada (in scrambled eggs) a Latin American way of eating leftovers. It translates literally to "reheated".
Yes, you must completely cool the ropa vieja before freezing. Store in airtight containers for up to 4-6 months. For single servings, freeze portions in a muffin tin and pop out the frozen rounds and store in freezer bags. If you freeze in a container to mold it then vacuum pack, this will keep for 1-2 years frozen.
Yes, cook on high for 90 minutes. Keep pressure valve in the seal position to release pressure naturally.
Popular stews from around the world:
Bo sot vang: Vietnamese beef stew with red wine.
Guinness beef stew: A Saint Patrick's day favorite at our house.
Rogan josh: Spicy Indian lamb stew.
Baeckeoffe: A French oven baked beef stew with potatoes and carrots.
Panamanian beef stew: Beef with celery, carrots, potato and onions with Latin seasonings.
Moroccan lamb tagine: Slow cooked lamb with a rich tomato broth, potato and dried apricots.
Cassoulet: A rustic French bean stew with pork, bacon and sausage.
Misir Wot: Ethiopian red lentil stew.
Jamaican brown stew chicken: Once of the hottest and spiciest chicken dishes I have ever eaten.
West African peanut stew: A vegetarian stew with peanut butter, sweet potatoes, black beans, spinach and corn.
Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja Recipe Card
Authentic Cuban ropa vieja literally translated it means "old clothes" due to its shredded appearance. This rather unappetizing moniker conjures up images of someone's old T-shirt or distressed jeans laying on a plate. Let me tell you, this dish is nothing short of delicious. The blend of spices and the way the meat falls apart will make your mouth water as it cooks and fills your entire house with a delicious aroma. Although the meat will cook down considerably, you will still end up with a fair amount of meat. This is a great slow cooker recipe.
Place the meat in the slow cooker and add water. Place all vegetables and the spices in the slow cooker and stir.
Cover and let it cook for about 6 hours. Flip the beef over half way through.
Also make sure to poke meat with a fork to check for tenderness.
When the meat falls apart and it is fork tender, it is done. Add salt to taste, serve with rice and a side of tostones. Enjoy!!!
Beef: Use flan steak for nice long strands of beef when shredded. You can also use chuck roast.
Oven: Use a Dutch oven or roasting pan. You can use a roasting pan (covered) and make ropa vieja in the oven. You'll want to keep the heat low at 300°F and it will take about 3 to 5 hours. Follow the recipe for when the meat is fork tender then shred.
Stove top: Place the ingredients in a Dutch oven then cover and cook on low for 3 to 5 hours until the meat is fall apart tender then shred.
Instant Pot: Cook on high for 90 minutes. Keep pressure valve in the seal position to release pressure naturally.
FAQ's about Ropa Vieja
- Is ropa vieja keto? Yes. A serving of ropa vieja has only one carb. Enjoy it on a keto eating plan.
- When is ropa vieja eaten? You can eat it at all times of the day, really! Add it to rice for a lunch or dinner. There is also recalentada (in scrambled eggs) a Latin American way of eating leftovers. It translates literally to "reheated".
- How long can I save this ropa vieja? You can store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Be sure to allow it to completely cool before refrigerating.
- Can I freeze ropa vieja? Yes, you must completely cool the ropa vieja before freezing. Store in airtight containers for up to 4-6 months. For single servings, freeze portions in a muffin tin and pop out the frozen rounds and store in freezer bags. Vacuum packing and freezing will extend the shelf life for 1-2 years.
I have a friend who lived in the Canary Islands for awhile- I'd love to visit and try all the food! I love the spices you used here!
Thanks Sarah! Yes, it would be cool to visit the Canary Islands.
This looks so delicious. I just bought an instapot and I'm looking for new recipes to try. And the plantains look awesome too.
Hi Cheryl! I've been toying with the idea of an Instapot. You'll have to let me know how you like it. Yes, this would be a great recipe for it!
My husband would love this. It looks very tasty - and what a gorgeous, appetizing meal!
Thanks Alicia! I hope you can make this meal for your husband. 🙂
Monica | Nourish & Fete
I'm with you, I have a slow cooker but don't use it all that much. That said, I think they are perfect for recipes like this! I can only imagine how wonderful it smells to walk into your house when this has been simmering away all day long!
Yes! the house smells heavenly! I might have to start using my slow cooker more; just in the last few weeks my life got busier.
Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago
This looks so tasty. The perfect addition to a weekly Taco Tuesday!
Absolutely!!! Perfect for Taco Tuesday.
I can't wait to try this recipe, it looks amazing!
Thank you Carolyn!!! 🙂
I have always wanted to try Ropa Vieja so I'm super excited to make this. Love that you can use a slow cooker. Pinning this recipe for sure!
Christine, it is so easy and so delicious. I am so glad you want to try it. Yes, the slow cooker is a definite plus. 🙂
This is perfect for an easy weeknight dinner! Pinned!
Abby @ WinsteadWandering
My mouth is watering thinking of all the different ways to enjoy this beef. What a great slow cooker recipe!
Thanks Abby! Yes, you can make so many different things with Ropa Vieja.
I just love this recipe and its super easy to prepare ,yum
Thanks Eileen! Yes, it is so easy.
This looks delicious! I love all the colors! You've done a great job of making a brown food look so tasty!
Thanks so much Renee! I must admit it was hard to make brown food look yummy. My husband had a keen eye for photography; he helped a lot.
CLARISA PRENDES MILLER
Analida this for me it's the perfect dish, I make it often, however we Cubans do not cook with jalapeños, neither do the Canary islands, my great granfather was from there and never used it. Of course if you enjoy them you can add it to your ropa vieja.
That's a great recipe! I'm cuban and my mother still makes us this once a week! Delicious and nutritious indeed! Well, I also wanted to add that it's great in tamales too! My girlfriend is Mexican and it's a tradition to make tamales for new years Xmas etc and she asked mom for the ropa vieja and she made the maza and it came out... to die for! Her mexican family was asking what type of meat that was! Lol... amazingly delicious! Enjoy everyone!
Hi Raul! I agree this would be great in tamales too! You can check my pork tamales recipe here: https://ethnicspoon.com/tamales-recipe-and-food-history/
Everything about this recipe looks delicious. I've never heard of Ropa Vieja before, but I need it in my life.
Thank Ben! This dish is so versatile as you can serve it with rice and beans, make into tacos. I had one reader who is Cuban tell me his Mexican girlfriend used it to fill tamales! ¡Buen Provecho!
This ropa vieja recipe is the perfect slow cooker Sunday meal that the whole family will love.
I haven't heard of this before, but it looks gorgeous! I would love this with rice and beans.
Perfection! I might have to whip out the slow cooker just for this recipe. I bet the house will smell amazing!
Make a big batch and freeze it too Bernice! Enjoy!
I've never tried anything like this before but I love the flavors of this dish. This is a perfect recipe for my slow cooker which I've been dying to use this season. Delish!
This looks amazing! The texture looks incredible, and I can almost smell it from here! Love all the spices you've used, especially the jalapenos for some extra heat!
Fantastic stew recipe to keep handy for colder weekends. I guess it is time to explore more of the Cuban cuisine 🙂 It was great to find out you could store it frozen for so long!
One those tostones - makes me happy. Also very excited about this ropa vieja. One of my favorite dishes!
Lori | The Kitchen Whisperer
Oh wow this looks so delicious! I love crock pot recipes especially when they are easy like this one! And I never knew it meant “old clothes”.
Pinning for next week’s dinner!
I have always wanted to try Ropa Vieja and this sounds perfect cooked in the slow cooker. With two Jalapenos and plenty of spices this sounds so rich and flavorful. I can't wait to try this yummy shredded beef.