Ropa Vieja, translating to “old clothes” in English, is a quintessential dish in Cuban cuisine, highly celebrated for its rich flavors and comfort-food qualities. This dish typically features tender, shredded flank steak, which has been stewed for hours with onions, bell peppers, garlic, and a tantalizing mix of spices such as cumin and oregano. This produces a tantalizing blend of flavors, creating a hearty, savory dish with a beautiful balance of sweetness and acidity.
Tomato sauce and tomato paste are added to the mix, contributing a vibrant, robust element to the stew. Some versions also include pitted green olives, which add a unique salty tang. This mouthwatering mixture is usually simmered until the flavors meld beautifully, and the meat becomes incredibly tender – almost mirroring the texture of frayed, ‘old clothes’.
Ropa Vieja is traditionally served over a bed of fluffy white rice and is often accompanied by black beans and maduros (plantains) lending it an additional layer of texture and taste. The dish is commonly garnished with fresh cilantro, enhancing the dish with a bright, herbaceous note. Ropa Vieja is a hearty, comforting, and deeply satisfying dish, embodying the essence of home-cooked Cuban cuisine.
Cuban Ropa Vieja
- 1 Pressure Cooker or Dutch Oven
- 2.5 lbs Flank Steak Cut in half
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1 Large Onion Cut in half then thinly sliced
- 1 Large Green Bell Pepper Seeded and cut into thing stripes
- 3 Garlic Cloves Finely chopped
- 2 cups drained and chopped canned whole tomatoes or substitute with tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup cooking sherry not needed if you can't find, but adds a kick of flavor if added
- 1/2 cup drained canned sweet peas for garnish
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pimientos for garnish
- pinch salt and pepper add to your liking
- Place the beef and 1 bay leaf in a large saucepan, cover with salted water, and cook over low heat, covered, until the meat is tender, 1 to 1.5 hours. You can also do this step in a crock pot or pressure cooker.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat until fragrant, then cook the onions, bell peppers, and garlic stirring, or until the onions are tender, 6-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sherry, and the remaining bay leaf, and cook, uncovered, and additional 15 minutes.
- When the meat is cool, shred it with your fingers or two large forks, season with salt and pepper, add it to the tomato mixture, cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the Bay leaves, garnish with the pimientos and peas, and serve with Arroz Blanco (white rice). The dish can be prepared a day or two in advance, cooled, and refrigerated, and then simmered, covered, over low heat for 30-35 minutes.
- Alternate way to cook
- Add all ingredients together into a slow cooker and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours until the point that you can shred the meat with two forks. You can remove the meat from the slow cooker shred and return back to the sauce in the slow cooker and stir. Let the shredded meat simmer in the slow cooker for 30 min to and hour and the enjoy.
Don’t forget to pair this delicious recipe with white rice, black beans and maduros. Enjoy!
Here is a great video on how to make Cuban Ropa Vieja in an Instapot.