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
- 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!!!
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.