Cuban Ropa Vieja is an extremely popular Latin American dish that has an endless amount of variations. This recipe is packed with juicy meaty flavors and a ton of delicious herbs and spices.
It is relatively easy to make and goes well with many accompaniments. And, for a refreshing drink, serve it with my Agua De Pepino Y Limon or Strawberry Watermelon Margarita recipes. Both drinks will help break the rich and savory flavors of this dish.
Where Is Ropa Vieja From?
Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba and is globally known as a Cuban dish. However, it actually first originated in Spain.
This dish is made in almost every Latin American country, each with its own variation. For this reason, there are different recipes with completely different bases and flavors. Part of why there is confusion around what exactly Cuban Ropa Vieja is.
Today, we will explore the traditional authentic Cuban recipe for Ropa Vieja. You make this recipe using shredded slow-cooked beef, a mix of flavorful vegetables, and a delicious tomato-based sauce. Naturally, it also contains a mixture of spices and herbs to add a ton of additional flavor.
What Is The Main Ingredient Of The Ropa Vieja Recipe?
The hero ingredient for this recipe is stewing beef. Now, you can use any stewing beef cut that you like. But traditionally, you should use flank or chuck.
Chuck is very affordable and readily available. It comes from various parts of the beef shoulder. That area provides a ton of flavor and juicy textures. And, because the pieces are generally bigger, it makes shredding the meat easier.
Many people also use flank, but only if it’s thick. This cut is juice and pulls apart very nicely.
How To Shred Beef
Shredding meat for Cuban Ropa Vieja is easy, and there are many ways you can do this.
The easiest technique, and the one I always use, is with two forks. In a plate or bowl, start pulling apart the pieces with the tips of the forks.
The more you pull the meat apart, the more finely you will shred it. So, if you like chunky shredded Ropa Vieja meat, don’t overwork it.
But, if you like yours without any large pieces, then you can work on it for a while. It is a process that takes a lot of time, but it is well worth the effort.
What does Ropa Vieja mean?
In Spanish, “ropa vieja” means old clothes. Experts speculate that the name comes from the fact that this dish was originally made with leftover food. Only after many decades, it became a well-known delicacy.
How to make Ropa Vieja in a slow cooker?
I make my Cuban Ropa Vieja in a large pot. But, you can also make my recipe in a slow cooker or even an instant pot. The cooking time is the only part that is different.
If you use a low setting on the slow cooker, your meat could take up to 9 hours to fully cook. But, if you use a medium or high setting, this time will be shorter. The best way to test if your meat is cooked is to pull it apart with forks. If it doesn’t pull apart easily, then you can continue cooking it.
What meat do you use for Ropa Vieja?
The real question should be “What is the best meat for Ropa Vieja?” I highly recommend flank or chuck. Both of these give excellent flavor and texture, and they pull apart nicely.
Is this Cuban beef stew healthy?
The term “healthy” means something different to different people. Will you get more nutrients from Ropa Vieja than from a fast-food burger? Yes. But, is it lower in calories? Not necessarily. What I can say is that Roja Vieja is a fantastic home-cooked meal that you make with fresh ingredients. It is also full of protein from the stewing beef.
Depending on the ingredients used and the exact size of the portion, you can look at between 300-400 calories per serving. In my opinion, that isn’t bad at all considering the nutrients you ingest.
When do you eat Ropa Vieja?
There isn’t any specific time or occasion that you eat Cuban Ropa Vieja. But it definitely is a popular dish to serve on special occasions and national holidays.
However, considering it is seen as “a poor man’s dish,” many families have it as a staple recipe in their homes for weekly dinners.
More Flavorful Recipes
Cuban Ropa Vieja – A Delicious Authentic Shredded Beef Stew
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 pounds stewing beef (flank or chuck)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and quartered
- 1 large celery stalk, cleaned and halved
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1 can (8 ounces) chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup white wine
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- To start, you will need to brown your meat first. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, season your beef with some salt and pepper. Then, cook the meat over high heat until it is beautifully brown on all sides. You don't have to cook them. They only need to get some color and flavor. Set the browned meat aside for later.
- Next, in a large pot or directly into your slow cooker, heat some more oil and add your onions. Sautee them over medium heat for roughly 2 minutes, then add the carrots, celery, and red bell pepper. Give these ingredients a good stir and cook them for another 2 minutes.
- Once your vegetables have started to sweat, add the garlic and tomato paste. Allow them to cook for a minute while stirring constantly. It will help coat the vegetables nicely.
- Now, add all of your browned meat with your spices and dried herbs. You don't have to cook these for very long. But make sure to mix them properly.
- Finally, add the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, and white wine. Mix all the ingredients well and bring them to a boil.
- Once your liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cover the pot and allow the Cuban Ropa Vieja to cook for 3-4 hours. The meat has finished cooking when it falls off the fork.
- To shred your cooked meat, remove any large vegetable chunks from the saucy mixture. Then, transfer the cooked meat to a plate. Shred the meat pieces using two forks.
- Once shredded, return the meat to the sauce and simmer it over medium heat until you have a thicker consistency. Add the fresh cilantro and serve the Cuban Ropa Vieja while it's still hot.