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    Ropa Vieja (Cuba’s National Dish)

    Ropa Vieja is a TRUE Cuban Classic!! Beloved throughout the generations, this rustic and humble Latin dish is very popular not only in Cuba, but many of its neighboring Spanish speaking countries.

    Tender and juicy beef in authentic tomato-wine sauce along with veggies is cooked slow and low for hours till it’s shredded easily by the mere touch of a fork. It’s finished with briny olives and capers to spike the flavors up a notch.

    You are in for one serious treat when eating a heapful of Ropa Vieja along with some rice, black beans and tostones. When in the mood for some Latin food, this Cuban favorite should be high on your list.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    By now you know our love for Latin food. We love to embrace different ethnic foods in all their glory and have a great time exploring new flavors. Our love affair with Latin food started with one of our oldest, and most popular, recipes on GypsyPlate, Puerto Rican Picadillo.

    From there it’s one dish after another like Dominican Pollo Guisado, Mexican Barbacoa Pork, Latin Famous Steak and Onions called Bistec Encebollado, Chilean Pastel de Choclo, and Pernil. Each and every dish is a flavor bomb.

    And this Ropa Vieja is no exception. In fact, this Cuban slow cooked beef can take the crowning glory when it comes to intense flavors resulting from adding multiple flavor enhancers. You are going to absolutely fall in love with our version of Ropa Vieja.

    You are going to make a huge batch like us and savor it with your friends and family. Make it for the next family gathering, game day parties or for potlucks, and see how everyone gets mesmerized by these new flavors.

    What is Ropa Vieja?

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    Ropa Vieja is simple and rustic at its soul. Somehow it magically gets transformed into a bowl of deliciousness when beef is braised low and slow with peppers and onions in a tomato based sauce. Of course, it gets a little help with all the Latin pantry staples like its seasonings and herbs, and in the end gets the flavor boost with briny capers and olives.

    Before coming to Latin America, Ropa Vieja started its life in Spain. The name literally translates to “old clothes” as it resembles a heap of tattered, torn rags after hours of cooking.

    There is a little story behind Ropa Vieja. A penniless old man once shredded and cooked his own clothes because he could not afford food for his family. He prayed over the bubbling concoction and a miracle happened! A tasty, rich meat stew out of his ragged clothes.

    The story is wonderful, as with many other legends in the world. No matter the origin of the name, Ropa Vieja remains a rich and flavorful meal that comforts the heart and soul.

    It is believed that Ropa Vieja is over 500 years old, and originated with Sephardic Jews in the Iberian peninsula of Spain. Because cooking was not allowed on Saath, the sephardi would slow cook a hearty stew the night before. Most often some kind of beans like garbanzo would find their way into the stew pot to stretch it for the families and leftovers.

    The dish then travelled to the Americas with the Spanish immigrants, where it became a staple dish across the Caribbean and Cuba. In fact, Ropa Vieja is so popular in Cuba that it’s considered one of the national dishes.

    Although the recipe gets tweaked over the years and from country to country, or even from one family to another, the base of Ropa Vieja remains the same as it always has been for centuries.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    What is the best cut of beef for Ropa Vieja?

    Cuban Ropa Vieja is traditionally made with flank steak, as in the past it was inexpensive and easily accessible to the masses. When cooked long, it does end up into that classic shredded look, though it’s not melt in your mouth tender and juicy, as it’s lean and low in fat.

    Many people still opt for flank steak, as it’s tradition, but we feel for that rich, melt in your mouth juicy tender meat, chuck is the perfect cut of beef. Chuck is a fattier cut of meat with rich marbling throughout. When you cook it slowly, like any other roast or stew, the marbling melts, keeping it moist and adding tons of flavor.

    We highly recommend using a large boneless chuck roast that is thick cut. Now it’s your choice, going by tradition and choosing flank steak or going for more flavor, more tender and juicy meat by opting for chuck.

    Ropa Vieja Ingredients

    • Beef – Chuck roast.
    • Seasonings and Herbs – Cumin, oregano, sazon, adobo, paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, cloves, all spice, bay leaves and pepper.
    • Veggies – Onions, bell peppers and tomatoes.
    • Flavor enhancers – Wine, chicken broth, garlic, tomato paste, olives and capers.

    How to make Ropa Vieja

    You will find detailed cooking instructions and exact amounts for three different cooking methods (stovetop, slow cooker and instant pot) in the recipe card down below. We will give you a generalized stove top cooking method here.

    Cut the chuck into a few large chunks. Mix cumin, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, sazon, adobo, salt and pepper in a bowl and season the chuck pieces with the mixture generously.

    Heat olive oil in a pan and sear the meat chunks all over till brown. Plate them out.

    Seared chunks of meat.

    In the same pan, sauté onion and bell peppers till soft. Add in garlic along with oregano, cumin, paprika, smoked paprika, clove and allspice powder and sauté for a few minutes.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    Pour in wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in crushed tomatoes and tomato paste along with chicken broth. Cook for 5 minutes.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    Add back in the beef chunks along with bay leaves and cook for 3-4 hours, covered, till the meat is fork tender. Stir it every 30-40 minutes.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    Remove the meat to a plate and shred with two forks, then stir back into the sauce.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    At the end, stir in olives and capers and cook for another 10 minutes. And there you go… Ropa Vieja ready to dig in to.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    Ropa Vieja variations

    1. Add in beans. It’s common to add garbanzo beans. Sometimes black beans and pinto beans can be found in the pot, too.
    2. Add in potatoes to bulk up the stew.
    3. You can add other veggies, which is not traditional but goes great. Think corn, roasted bell peppers instead of regular bell peppers, green beans or carrots.
    4. Add to the smoky factor by adding chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.

    What to serve Ropa Vieja with

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!
    • Serve it with a bowlful of rice and black beans along with tostones or maduros.
    • Roasted or mashed potatoes are great with Ropa Vieja.
    • It’s very common to have leftovers the next day for breakfast or brunch, topping it with fried eggs.
    • In Venezuela and Columbia, it is served with their famous arepas.
    • Leftovers can be used for tacos, tostadas, nachos, burritos and burrito bowls, salad bowls, quesadillas, Cuban style sloppy joes, or to stuff peppers.

    Leftovers and storage

    Ropa Vieja, like any other stew, ages beautifully in the refrigerator. It also freezes well, making it suitable for meal prep.

    Make a giant batch like us and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

    Similarly, freeze it up to 3 months and you have a meal ready for some other time. Simply thaw and reheat on stove top, stirring till hot throughout, or microwave.

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    So, are you ready to dig in? This Ropa Vieja is sure to become a new favorite if you love flavor packed Latin food, like we do. Pin or bookmark this recipe so you always know where to find it.

    If you try our Rope Vieja, please leave a comment and review, I love hearing from you. Until next time…

    Ropa Vieja, on my Gypsy Plate… Enjoy!

    Ropa vieja with rice, beans and tostones atop the Gypsy Plate.
    Ropa vieja.

    Ropa Vieja (Cuba's National Dish)

    Yield: 8-10 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
    Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes

    This Ropa Vieja, Cuba's national dish, is slow cooked tender shredded beef in an amazingly flavorful sauce. So good!

    We have methods for stovetop, slow cooker and instant pot so you can cook it however you want!

    Ingredients

    To season the meat

    • 3.5lbs chuck roast (see note 1)
    • 1 tsp adobo
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1 packet sazon con culantro y achiote

    For Ropa Vieja

    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 2 onions, sliced
    • 4 small bell peppers (we used 1 each of green, red, yellow and orange), sliced
    • 8-9 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 3 tsp dried oregano
    • 3 tsp cumin
    • 3 tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 1/8 tsp allspice
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 2 15oz cans crushed tomatoes
    • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 3/4 cup pimento stuffed olives
    • 1/4 cup capers
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions


    Stovetop Method

    1. Cut the chuck roast into big 4-5 chunks. In a bowl, mix in all the seasonings. Season all the pieces generously with the seasoning mix.
    2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat and sear the meat to golden brown all over. Plate it out.
    3. In the same pan, add in sliced onions and bell peppers and sauté for 10-15 minutes.
    4. Mix in garlic along with oregano, cumin, paprika, smoked paprika, cloves and allspice powders. Mix well.
    5. Pour in wine and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and mix well.
    6. Add in chicken broth and cook for 5 minutes.
    7. Put beef chunks back into the mixture, along with bay leaves. Bring it to boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours, or until meat is fork tender. (Give it a stir evert 30-40 minutes)
    8. Once tender, remove the beef chunks to a plate and shred them using forks. Stir the shredded beef back into the sauce. (You can discard the excess fat if you wish, but we don't mind it)
    9. Stir in olives and capers and simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered until the sauce thickens up.
    10. Adjust salt and pepper to your liking and garnish it with parsley.
    11. Serve it with white rice, black beans and tostones, or see many other serving options in the body of the post.


    Slow Cooker Method


    1. Cut the chuck roast into big 4-5 chunks. In a bowl, mix in all the seasonings. Season all the pieces generously with the seasoning mix.
    2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat and sear the meat to golden brown all over. Plate it out.
    3. In the same pan, add in sliced onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, until soft and starting to brown up.
    4. Stir all ingredients, except olives and capers, together well in the slow cooker.
    5. Cover and cook 8-10 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high, or until meat is very tender.
    6. Once tender, remove the beef chunks to a plate and shred them using forks. Stir the shredded beef back into the sauce. (You can discard the excess fat if you wish, but we don't mind it)
    7. If there are excess juices, you can remove some to a bowl. Stir in olives and capers and cook for 15-20 additional minutes.
    8. Adjust salt and pepper to your liking and garnish it with parsley.
    9. Serve it with white rice, black beans and tostones, or see many other serving options in the body of the post.

    Instant Pot Directions

    1. Cut the chuck roast into big 4-5 chunks. In a bowl, mix in all the seasonings. Season all the pieces generously with the seasoning mix.
    2. Heat oil in instant pot set to SAUTE mode and sear the meat to golden brown all over. Plate it out.
    3. Add sliced onions and bell peppers and sauté for 10-15 minutes.
    4. Stir in beef chunks all remaining ingredients, except olives and capers.
    5. Seal lid and cook for 90 minutes on HIGH pressure. Allow pressure to naturally release.
    6. Remove lid and shred beef with two forks.
    7. Press SAUTE button, stir in olives and capers, and cook 10 minutes.
    8. Adjust salt and pepper to your liking and garnish it with parsley.
    9. Serve it with white rice, black beans and tostones, or see many other serving options in the body of the post.


    Notes

    1. Cuban Ropa Vieja is traditionally made with flank steak, as it used to be most economical cut of beef. You can make your Ropa Vieja with flank steak, although as it's low in fat it won't be as juicy, rich and tender as chuck. If you are using flank steak, you still want to sear it first before adding it to the sauce.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 10 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 473Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 132mgSodium 499mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 4gSugar 8gProtein 43g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

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