Ropa Vieja



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Ropa Vieja translates to “old clothes” in Spanish. This authentic Cuban recipe consists of tender braised beef that’s cooked slowly in tomatoes and spices. Serve it over rice with a side of plantain chips with mojo sauce.

Rope Vieja in a bowl over rice.

While my parents aren’t Cuban, I grew up eating at Cuban restaurants. It’s like a staple in South Florida. Everybody eats at them. I love Cuban food; everything from Picadillo to Pollo Frito a la Criolla. It’s so good!

Let’s start with the basics!

Rope Vieja in a bowl over rice.

What is Ropa Vieja?

Whenever I go to a Cuban restaurant, I always, always order ropa vieja (direct translation: old clothes). It’s shredded beef in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. They usually serve it with white rice, beans and maduros. (And if you’re me, I always order a Jupiña to drink).

The first step is braising the beef and then you make the sauce. This recipe is incredible for leftovers. And can be frozen (see below for freezing instructions)

Bay leaf which is essential for Ropa Vieja.

Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Ropa Vieja

  1. Meat – See the options above.
  2. Spices – We need lots of spices like black pepper, allspice, cloves and bay leaf.
  3. Tomatoes – This is key because this gives us the rich and savory sauce.

For the rest of the ingredients, please see the recipe index card below!

Beef about to get braised with mint and cabbage.

How to Make Ropa Vieja

  • Braise the beef. This the first part of the recipe. You cook it slowly with spices, onion and cabbage. The beef cooks to the point where it’s fall-a-part delicious.
  • Make the sauce. This is made up of spices, tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, garlic and more. As a result, this is a delicious sauce that compliments the shredded beef SO WELL.
  • Shred the beef. When the beef is done braising, you remove it from the broth and pot and shred it up! There will be some reserved broth that we’re going to save for the sauce.
  • Mix in the shredded beef. And then you also add the reserved beef broth.
    Simmer for about 20 minutes. We want all the flavors to combine.
  • And then serve over a bed or rice!
Beef shredded on the side with onions and bell pepper.

Recipe Tip

To Serve: Serve this ropa vieja with rice, black beans and maduros (sautéed plantains). 

To Freeze: This dish freezes really well. Allow it to cool completely to room temperature. Place in a freezer-safe container and freeze up to 3 months. 

Ropa Vieja all braised in a pot.

Recipe FAQs

What is the Best Cut of Meat To Use for Ropa Vieja?

I used flank steak and I find it to be the best meat for this dish. Other alternatives are as follows:
1. Chunk (this is the most affordable option)
2. Top Round
3. Brisket

Can I make Ropa Vieja in the Instant Pot?

Absolutely! Sauté everything using the sauté function and then seal it on cook it on *high* for 45 minutes. You can use the rapid release or the natural release.

Ropa Vieja in a bowl with a fork.

More Latin Recipes You’ll Love

If you tried this Ropa Vieja Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below. Thanks for visiting!

5 from 1 vote

Ropa Vieja Recipe

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 6
Ropa Vieja translates to “old clothes.” This Cuban recipe is shredded beef dish that is braised in a tomatoes and spices. Serve it over rice with a side of maduros.


  • 1 Dutch oven


For the Braised Beef: 

  • 2 pounds flank steak or brisket or top round, cut into 4 chunks 
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 small red or purple cabbage, quartered 
  • 1/2 small bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 dried bay leaves

For the Ropa Vieja: 

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced 
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Juice from 1 lime 
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish


To Make the Braised Beef:

  • Place the ingredients for the beef in a Dutch oven with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, covered, until the beef is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If you’re using top round, it’ll take about 2 1/2 hours to be tender. 
  • Remove the pot from the heat and allow the beef to cool in the broth, so it will stay moist and juicy. Reserve about 3/4 cups of broth. Drain the beef and transfer to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the beef apart. Set the shredded beef aside. 

To Make the Ropa Vieja:

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (you can use the one you used to cook the beef, no need to rinse it out either). Add the onion and red bell pepper and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the minced garlic, salt and spices.
  • Add the reserved broth, crushed tomato, lime juice, and bay leaf and return to a simmer. Stir in the shredded beef, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Give it a taste and adjust the salt according to your liking. Serve over rice and top with a sprinkling of parsley. 


To Serve: 
Serve this ropa vieja with rice, black beans and maduros (sautéed plantains). 
To Freeze: 
This dish freezes really well. To freeze this ropa vieja, allow it to cool completely to room temperature. Place in a freezer-safe container and freeze up to 3 months. 
Dutch Oven | Tongs | Rice Cooker


Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 778mg | Potassium: 113mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1251IU | Vitamin C: 52mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Cuban
Like this Recipe? Please Rate & comment below!

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Hi! I'm Adrianna and this is my cozy space on the internet that is super-charged by butter, flour and copious amounts of pasta. Stay awhile, will you!

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  1. 5 stars
    Thank you for this post. I have made the original of this but really like this adaptation, especially as it relates to the braise ingredients and the use of fresh peppers when making the final dish. Maybe a dumb question, but I always assumed that the vegetables used in the initial braise are discarded, correct? Is this what you do?

    Thank you for your post.

  2. I made this last night and it was amazing!! My first foray into cooking beef and it wasn’t too scary haha! I’m wondering- are there any uses for the leftover broth?

  3. What do you do with all the veggies and stuff from the braise? Are they just tossed? I don’t any of them in your final picture. Thanks for your help!

  4. This looks like a great recipe, but it does not copy well into a document because of horrifically bad highlighting! I’ll have to find in somewhere else to get my own copy!

    1. there is a “print” button right next to the title of the recipe. if you click on that, only the recipe will pop-up ready for you to print. 🙂

  5. Oh man, foodgasm.

    What meat did you use when you cooked yours? You give us 3 options but don’t point out which one you used.

    I want to make this perfection this weekend. Also, would this be good with cilantro-lime rice??

    Thanks Adrianna, you’re da best.

    1. I used the top round because I couldn’t find the brisket or the flank steak. It definitely took longer with the top round but it was still really good! And yes to cilantro lime rice. Sounds awesome!

  6. Successfully made it this weekend and received a “put it in the definitely make again, mom” from my ten-year old boy. Just had leftovers for lunch, thank you very much!

    1. Awesome! I definitely reheated it and ate it for two lunches in a row. It’s a really good make-ahead meal! So glad you and your boy loved it! 🙂