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.
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.
Let’s start with the basics!
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).
I’ve always wanted to make it and for some reason never have. Because it couldn’t be simpler! 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).
What is the Best Cut of Meat To Use for Ropa Vieja
I like to use flank steak the best but here are some other cuts of the meat that would work for this ropa vieja:
- Flank Steak
- Top Round
How to Make Ropa Vieja
- Braise the beef. This the first part of the recipe. You cook it slowly with spices, onion and cabbage. As a result, the beef gets cooked 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!
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.
If you make this Ropa Vieja, let me know on Instagram!