Ropa Vieja

Dinner, Healthy (ish), Holiday

Ropa Vieja

Where do I start with this recipe? Oh man, you know those recipes you’ve wanted to make/share for a long time? This is one of them. 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. They’re always a great place to go with a large group of people; the food is affordable, comforting and just plain delicious.

I always, always order ropa vieja (direct translation: old man’s clothes). It’s shredded beef in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. I’ve always wanted to make it and for some reason never have.

Ropa Vieja

This recipe is in partnership with McCormick Gourmet. This recipe uses all sorts of spices, including the good ol’ dried Turkish Bay Leaves.

Turkish bay leaves are different than the California variety. To me they’re milder in flavor, less menthol-y (if that makes sense) and have a more pleasant aroma. Turkish bay leaves are also dried quickly which helps with retaining its flavor.

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja

The scent and aroma from bay leaves remind me of Sundays when I was a kid. Sundays were always dedicated to lots and lots of cooking and slow cooking, things that need a good amount of time, but not a whole lot of attention.

This is definitely a “Sunday recipe.”

The meat is first braised in spices, onion, carrots, cabbage and fresh herbs. After it’s braised, the meat is shredded.

This is when it comes together. The ropa vieja sauce is made and then the meat is added to it.

Ropa Vieja

This must be eaten with rice. In Cuban restaurants all of the things (beans, rice, meat) all come separate so nothing gets soggy. It’s one of the my favorite dishes in life EVERR.

When I was making this, I started thinking that you could make just the sauce and pour it over a bunch of cooked vegetables. I bet it would be delicious!

Veggie Ropa Vieja is next on my list.

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Serving Size: 6 TO 8


For the Braised Beef: 

  • 2 pounds flank steak or brisket or top round, cut into 4 chunks 
  • 1 large yellow onion, 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 McCormick Gourmet Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Black Peppercorns or 1 teaspoon Ground McCormick Gourmet Black Pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Whole or Ground Allspice Berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Whole or Ground Cloves
  • 2 whole dried McCormick Gourmet Turkish 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 McCormick Gourmet Sea Salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly Ground McCormick Gourmet black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Ground Allspice
  • 1 pinch McCormick Gourmet Ground Cloves
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Juice from 1 lime 
  • 1 dried McCormick Gourmet Turkish Bay Leaf
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish


  • To prepare 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 prepare 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. Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, salt, black pepper, allspice, and cloves to form a paste. If you don’t own one, you can combine these things in a small bowl. Add the garlic paste to the skillet and continue to cook until fragrant, an additional 2 minutes. 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. 
Did you make this recipe?Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen

Adapted from Cuban Table by Ana Sofia Perez (I love this cookbook!)

(This post is sponsored by McCormick Gourmet. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep A Cozy Kitchen cozy.)

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Leave a Reply

  • Avatar
    Reply Kristina October 23, 2015 at 1:41 am

    I only had ropa vieja once and it was delicious! Thanks for this recipe, it reminds me of it and how I loved it. Should make it one day.

  • Avatar
    Reply Sarah October 23, 2015 at 7:38 am

    That looks really delicious!

  • Avatar
    Reply Michelle @ Hummingbird High October 23, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Yum! This looks incredibly comforting and delicious. Can’t wait to try the recipe!

  • Avatar
    Reply Sydney | Modern Granola October 23, 2015 at 8:36 am

    How delicious! I’m always on the lookout for meals that can shake things up in the kitchen, and this sounds perfect. Can’t wait to give this a try!
    xx Sydney

  • Avatar
    Reply Ileana October 23, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Yes! Oh man, I love ropa vieja. Your version looks great. The recipe I’ve been sitting on sharing for years is gallopinto. I got around to a vaca frita post, but I need to sit down with my mom and get that gallopinto recipe! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply The Castejóns October 24, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Can’t wait to make this!

  • Avatar
    Reply Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry October 25, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I have been looking for a slow leisurely recipes to make on a Sunday and this one fits the bill perfectly!

  • Avatar
    Reply Jackie October 25, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Hey! Next time you come to San Francisco, there’s a place called Easy Creole in Oakland. It has a rotating menu, but one of the BEST things on the menu is ropa vieja. It’s made with a ton of olives – it’s SO olivey. It’s the only place I’ve ever had ropa vieja, and it’s delicious and i get it every time it’s there. I’ll have to try this recipe for sure!!!!

  • Avatar
    Reply Dena October 26, 2015 at 6:27 am

    I have never commented before and now I am commenting twice! I am a gringa from Hialeah so you are so spot on about Cuban food. I live in Jacksonville now and anytime my best friend comes to visit she has to bring me a variety of Cuban pastries and food! I mean if she doesn’t, there’s trouble to be had, 🙂 My favorite is Lechon Asado! This looks delicious, thanks!

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme October 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Hialeah in the house! Lechon asado is like the best thing ever. That and a side of maduros are SO GOOD.

  • Avatar
    Reply Holley October 26, 2015 at 10:50 am

    i worked at a cuban restaurant when i lived in asheville and straight up ate ropa vieja every. single. day. and well never, ever tire of it. yesss so excited to make this.

  • Avatar
    Reply RLT October 26, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    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!

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme October 26, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      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! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Cara October 29, 2015 at 11:36 am

    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.

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme October 29, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      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!

  • Reply Cuban-Inspired Brunch + Dark Rum Banana Upside Down Cake October 14, 2016 at 12:00 am

    […] all of my favorite Cuban dishes. I made vaca-frita; I made so many iterations of picadillo and ropa vieja and I tried (and failed) to make perfect Cuban bread (it’s VERY HARD)! And I hate so many things […]

  • Avatar
    Reply Richard H June 25, 2017 at 11:34 am

    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!

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme June 25, 2017 at 11:52 am

      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. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply J Sully April 26, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    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!

  • Avatar
    Reply Maddie June 11, 2018 at 9:42 am

    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?

    • Adrianna Adarme
      Reply Adrianna Adarme June 11, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      oh wonderful! hmm…you can pour it over a bowl of rice?

  • Avatar
    Reply Mike Blough October 7, 2019 at 4:50 am

    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.