Cuban Comfort Food: Ropa Vieja

Cuban Comfort Food: Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja can always make you feel better. Especially if you scoop it straight from the pot with a crisp soda cracker or crusty piece of Cuban bread while no one is looking. It’s warm and meaty and you can sop it up with bread, breast which places it firmly in the Comfort Food category. Just like her Arroz con Pollo, thumb my mom’s Ropa Vieja is the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s still the dish she makes for my brother when he’s home, and the dish for which I’ll forever steal the leftovers.

Ropa Vieja literally translates out to “Old Clothes”. Doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? But nothing is better than shredded flank steak stewed with peppers, garlic, tomato, tons of onions and ladled over white rice. Some people add all kinds of spices and seasonings, but I like to err on the side of simplicity. The result is bold, tangy, beefy and super delicious.

Ropa Vieja is perfect for a homey Sunday Supper during the Fall or Winter. But be warned that post-meal naps are pretty much required.

Ropa Vieja: Shredded Beef Stewed with Peppers, Onions and Tomato
To save time, you can prep the vegetables and cook and shred the beef up to 2 days before you make the Ropa Vieja.

Also, this is one of those meals where the leftovers taste better and better!

2 lbs. Flank steak, cubed
4 medium yellow onions (1 halved, 3 thinly sliced)
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. can finely diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Fire-Roasted)
1 tbsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp. ketchup
juice of 1 lime

Place the beef, halved onion and a bay leaf in a large pot and cover with water. Cook over high heat until the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Remove the beef cubes to a bowl with a slotted spoon and let cool to the touch. (Save the beef water and use as a base for soups, or wherever you’d use beef stock.) Use your hands to “shred” the beef. You want to pull the pieces apart until it looks like pulled pork. Set aside.

Set a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it’s hot, add the onions and bell peppers. Sautee for 7 – 10 minutes, or until they begin to get very soft. Add the garlic, beef, tomatoes, ketchup, salt and 2 bay leaves and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve over white rice.

Makes 6 – 8 servings.

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  1. Ropa Vieja….Que Rico!! Ahhhh.. I miss home… This indeed requires a post meal nap..;) I have never made my own but will def. try it out using this recipe. ;)

  2. mimi – This and Arroz con Pollo are my top 2 favorite Cuban meals. And a Cuban Sandwich…And Pan con Bistec :)

  3. This reminds me of beef bowls available in Japan.

  4. HI! I am cooking this dish right now. It smells so good. I followed your directions but when I shredded the meat it was pretty tough. I think maybe cooking it longer might have been good. I’m going to add some of the broth and cook it longer with the onions. That can’t hurt. I’m with you, herbing it up would not be necessary. When you eat this at home, is it a stand alone meal? Bread? Salad? Just curious. It’s going to be IT tonight. Can’t wait. Thanks for your blog!!


  5. Once again an awesome recipe! Just reading about it makes me remember Cuba and the food I had there.

    This will be added on to the list of what to cook for the coming week or so.

    Great job!

    // Mike

  6. Marsha – I usually eat this with white rice and soda crackers or saltines. Sometimes I put it on top of salad. Sometimes I stuff it into a baguette – depends on your mood!

    About the toughness of the meat – cooking it longer will help soften it. Sometimes the meat is tough, sometimes not. I guess it just depends :)

    So, How’d it turn out?

  7. I love flank steak and I love something bubbling on the stove.
    This sounds delicious. As always Mel, your flavor combos knock my socks off.

  8. Thanks Erinn! Love something bubbling on the stove too :)

  9. This is my first visit to your blog… and as a native Miami-an (??) and Cuban, I have to say you hit the nail on the head here!

    Look forward to your recipes… I have to recreate as much of Miami as I can since I’m far from home (ok, not that far… just Gainesville, FL).

    You’ve got a new fan!!!

  10. Thank YOU!!!!!! Finally a quicker (and easier) version of Ropa Vieja. It was delicious.

  11. Have to make this one of these days: looks delish! And old clothes are the best.

  12. Making this tonight! I’m excited (:
    I just found your website through tastespotting yesterday and I am so glad that I did. Me and my dad love healthy and REAL foods.. I envy you. Maybe one day I can make up my own recipes as good as yours look.. of course I have a while being only 15.. :D

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  15. The flank steak needs to be cooked on low boil 1.5 to 2 hours to make it tender. Other than that, the recipe looks great.

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