Slow Cooker

Ropa Vieja

June 22, 2021
9 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

There are few dishes as quintessentially Cuban as ropa vieja, which translates to “old clothes” in Spanish. While I grew up being told the tatters of shredded beef are what got the island staple its name, legend has it that a penniless man once tore and cooked his own clothes because he couldn’t afford food. After the man prayed over the brew, it miraculously turned into the meaty stew we know today. If you want to go all-out Cuban, pair it with yuca hervida con mojo (boiled cassava in a garlicky citrus oil sauce) and arroz congri (white rice and black beans cooked together, a process that gives the rice a signature gray shade). My dad cooked this for every guy I brought home for dinner in high school. While the boys came and went, this dish remained a constant for us. —Taryn Pire

Test Kitchen Notes

This is the type of dish that you make a double batch of so you can enjoy all of the leftovers throughout the week. This ropa vieja recipe utilizes mostly pantry ingredients and gets a briny kick thanks to the addition of olives, though they're entirely optional if you don't have any on hand. And it couldn't be simpler to make, since you only need to use one big pot for convenient cleanup, and you can make it ahead of time since it has to simmer on the stove for 2 to 3 hours. You'll see many variations of this recipe that uses flank steak, which shreds very easily and gives you that distinctive appearance, but we found using beef chuck roast has much more flavor and is better for slow cooking (and yes, you can throw everything into your slow cooker if you'd like as well). You could also use brisket—whatever suits your taste and budget.

To mix things up a little, try making this recipe with chicken or pork instead. Add some turmeric, vinegar, or tomato paste if you have some to use up. Serve refried black beans and plantains along the side with the rice, or even tortillas for rolling up. A crisp white wine or cold beer will help balance out the heavier flavors. After one bite, you'll soon discover why this is the national dish of Cuba and that you can't go wrong serving this hearty, satisfying stew to guests, family, and kids alike. —The Editors

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds beef chuck roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 16 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup pimiento or manzanilla Spanish olives, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • White rice, for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Generously season the beef with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot over high heat, warm the oil. Cook the beef, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
  3. In the same pot over medium heat, cook the onion and peppers, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until caramelized. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, and oregano. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with the flat edge of a spatula to deglaze.
  4. Stir in the broth and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Return the beef to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until the beef is fork-tender.
  6. Transfer the beef to a plate and shred. Return the shredded beef to the sauce.
  7. Stir in the olives (if using). Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes to thicken.
  8. Stir in the parsley; season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Maria Wright
    Maria Wright
  • Kaite
    Kaite
  • Kim Steffen
    Kim Steffen
  • Taryn Pire
    Taryn Pire
Taryn Pire is the associate food editor at PureWow. A graduate of Ithaca College, she's covered all things food at New Jersey Family, GOOD, Taste Talks, and ANNA Magazine. Tacos are the way to her heart and she makes a mean Old Fashioned. Follow her food adventures on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

16 Reviews

nevflo October 21, 2020
I stumbled upon this recipe. My chosen family is Cuban. This dish is in their blood. I just made this recipe today. It turned out amazing! I did not have beef stock so I used dry red wine instead. My housemates loved it. I had 2 servings! Next I am going to try the congri recipe. Thank you for sharing these.
 
Maggie May 14, 2020
This was one of the worst recipes I’ve ever tried. It was greasy and flavorless. I followed the recipe to the letter and spent a lot of time on it. It went down the disposal.
 
back T. May 15, 2020
Surprised to hear! I had cooked it twice in the last two weeks because it was THAT good. Wonder if something had gone wrong with your ingredients.
 
Kim S. May 15, 2020
I'm surprised as well. I actually made it last...for probably the tenth time. It's never been greasy. My family inhales it...even the ten year old.
 
Nycr October 18, 2020
Maybe refrigerate a little when done to skim off the fat? It’s a good recipe.
 
Maria W. April 25, 2020
Hi Taryn,
I was born in Cuba, but, we left when I was 5. My family is from camaguey. I grew up eating my grandma’s ropa vieja. However, I am not a great cook and it’s hard to follow abuela’s no measurement cooking. I’ve tried SO many ropa vieja recipes hoping they would taste like my grandma’s. THIS ONE finally did. Thank you so much! Ps- if you have a congri recipe please send it my way! :)
 
back T. April 23, 2020
My first Cuban recipe, and it was very good. Easy to put together. Added a tsp of Worcester sauce and ketchup towards end and was perfect for my taste. Thanks.
 
Author Comment
Taryn P. May 1, 2020
Glad you liked, thanks for trying!
 
Kaite January 2, 2020
This is one of my favorite recipes! I made it for my Venezuelan husband and he adores it. I have made some additions after a few times cooking this. I add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, some balsamic vinegar for a tinge of sweetness and acid, and lastly I throw in a handful of raisins with the olives. So good!
 
Author Comment
Taryn P. May 1, 2020
So happy to hear that! Thank you. I’ll have to try that, my grandma used raisins in her picadillo
 
MsJoanie September 16, 2019
This is great! Now, where's your family recipe for black beans and rice?
 
Author Comment
Taryn P. May 1, 2020
Thank you! Stay tuned for that one :)
 
ekuhlman July 15, 2019
Loved! Even better on the second day. Very easy to "customize" at the table with the olives and spice (red pepper flakes and hot sauce).
 
Author Comment
Taryn P. May 1, 2020
Yes they make great leftovers! Glad you liked it.
 
Kim S. July 7, 2019
Made this for the fam tonight. The nine year old was saying “I’m not hungry” over and over. We made her make a plate....she HOOVERED it. This was a WIN!!! Balanced, complex, and deep flavors. Will make again and again.
 
Author Comment
Taryn P. July 8, 2019
Yay! So happy to hear it's kid-approved!