My savory and soulful Ropa Vieja Recipe is a slow-cooked, richly seasoned masterpiece deeply rooted in Latin flavors. Tender steak, vegetables, olives, and capers simmer together for just under 3 hours for a meal that’s a feast for your eyes as much as your stomach!
Reimagine your regular meat and vegetable dinners with this colorful and bold ropa vieja recipe. With steak so tender it nearly falls apart in your hands, this is one meal that I promise you’ll come back to again and again.
So what is ropa vieja? It’s a delicious dish with an unappetizing name – it literally translates to “old clothes.” Spanish in origin, its palette of Latin seasonings is unmatched: salty, spicy, savory, and earthy… it’s all there!
This ropa vieja recipe uses two of my favorite spice blends: adobo and sazon. Making these mixes at home is less expensive and allows you to avoid excessive sodium and dyes. A win-win!
The shredded steak is perfect to throw into fajitas or onto a quick sandwich. Like to keep things simple? Serve with white or yellow rice and let the steak, veggies, and sauce take it from there.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients needed.
- Flank Steak – A great, lean cut that becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender after slow cooking.
- Adobo Seasoning – Buy from the store, or opt for my homemade, less expensive, lower sodium version!
- Yellow Onions & Bell Peppers – Any onion can be used as a substitute, as can any bell pepper – I like using a mix for a variety of color and flavor.
- Sliced Garlic – It becomes nutty, fragrant, and savory when cooked, and all of that flavor leaks right into the sauce.
- Sofrito – A viscous, spicy, and acidic Latin sauce. A salsa-like Latin cooking base made of tomato, onion, green peppers, cilantro and garlic. Watered-down tomato paste is a less flavorful alternative.
- Beef Broth & Tomato Sauce – To help season and tenderize the meat in the oven, then boiled down into a tangy sauce.
- Sazon Seasoning – Another blend that you can either buy pre-made or make at home without dyes, with less MSG, and with even more flavor.
- Spanish Green Olives Stuffed with Pimentos – It’s hard to beat these briny, oily olives. I don’t recommend substituting – they add a unique flavor that’s hard to replace.
- Red Pimentos – These can be replaced with other sweet red peppers, if desired.
- Capers – Very salty but also floral and lemony.
- Cilantro – For a refreshing garnish.
HOW TO MAKE MY ROPA VIEJA RECIPE
1. Prep the Vegetables. Chop the onions and peppers into thin pieces and mince the garlic.
2. Season the Steak. Cut the flank steak in half, so that it will fit into the pot, and pat down all sides with the adobo seasoning.
3. Sear. Heat a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven on medium high, adding your cooking oil of choice. Place the steak halves into the pot and rotate to sear on all sides.
4. Simmer Meat and Veggies. Remove the meat from the pot and lower the heat to medium. Throw in half of the garlic and peppers, then add all of the onions. Sweat the veggies for 10 minutes.
5. Continue Simmering. Add the sofrito and tomato sauces, sazon seasoning, pepper, and broth and bring to a boil. Put the steak back in the pot and cover with the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.
6. Add Final Ingredients. Throw in the olives, pimentos, capers, and the rest of the peppers. Simmer, covered, for another 90 minutes.
7. Shred the Meat. Remove the meat and carefully shred with two forks. Meanwhile, bring the pot’s contents to a boil, then add the shredded steak back in. Cook for 10 more minutes before serving.
What is ropa vieja sauce made of?
The sauce that coats our shredded meat and vegetables is a combination of sofrito, tomato sauce, and beef broth. It’s seasoned with sazon seasoning and black pepper.
It cooks with the meat, peppers, onions, and garlic, and so takes on all of those flavors, as well as the olives, pimentos, capers, and adobo seasoning. It’s a very full-bodied sauce that almost deserves a recipe of its own!
How do you make ropa vieja in a crockpot?
I haven’t tried it myself, but this ropa vieja recipe will work just as well in your slow cooker! Try it on High for 4 hours until the meat is cooked through and shreds easily.
What cut of meat is used for ropa vieja?
Flank steak is my go-to for preparing this ropa vieja recipe. If that cut isn’t available, skirt steak or a top round would also work. I have also seen other proteins used in alternative versions of this dish: chicken breast, for example, is easy to shred and works well with these seasonings.
If using a different kind of protein, be sure to adjust cooking time so that your meat reaches a safe internal temperature for eating.
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This post was originally published on Kevin is Cooking March 4, 2019, and was updated with new content, photos and/or video in April, 2022.
Ropa Vieja Recipe
- 3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 lbs flank steak (See Note 1)
- 2 tsp Adobo seasoning (store bought or my version)
- 2 yellow onions sliced
- 3 bell peppers (See Note 2)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 4 oz sofrito (See Note 3)
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 2 tsp Sazon seasoning (store bought or my version)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 32 oz beef broth
- 10 Spanish green olives sliced (stuffed with pimentos)
- 4 oz jar sliced red pimentos
- 3 tbsp capers drained
- cilantro for garnish
- Slice the onion thinly and cut the bell peppers into 1/4 inch strips. Mince the garlic.
- Season both sides of each flank steak with adobo seasoning. Cut each in half to fit in pot.
- Heat the oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the steaks to the pot and sear each side, working in batches, until browned, about 10 minutes.
- Place the seared meat to a plate and lower heat to medium on Dutch oven. Add the onions, half the bell peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Add the sofrito, tomato sauce, Sazon, pepper and beef broth. Stir and bring mixture to a boil. Return the beef to pot and push under the vegetables. Lower heat and simmer, covered for 45 minutes.
- Stir in remaining bell peppers, olives, pimentos, and capers. Cover pot and continue to simmer for 90 minutes. Meet should almost fall apart when you pick it up.
- Carefully transfer meat to bowl and shred meat with fingers or two forks. Bring the vegetables and sauce to a boil and add the meat, cook for another 10 minutes uncovered. Serve over white rice with cilantro sprigs for garnish (See Note 4).
- Cut each flank steak vertically in half, not lengthwise!
- I like to use different colored bell peppers like red, green, yellow. We eat with our eyes!
- Sofrito is a thick, salsa-like Latin cooking base made of tomato, onion, green peppers, cilantro and garlic, saves you prep time in the kitchen. Sofrito comes in a 8 oz tall jar, I use about half of it. Feel free to substitute with a 4 oz of tomato paste instead if you like and add a quarter cup of water.
- As another option to serve: Ropa Vieja can also be served with black beans and fried plantains with limes.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Trying to print the recipe but the link to print just takes you back to the main recipe. Glitch?
Not sure what the glitch could be but will have my web developer look into it. I’ll email it to you Debbie!
The Saxon seasoning- there are so many does it matter which one you use?
I prefer my version personally, but no Kara. Enjoy!
Kevin, I am not able to find a video link for the Ropa Vieja recipe. Not on You tube either. In fact it’s always a struggle to find a video link.
Rob, the videos are always in the recipe card. Also they are on Youtube, but are scheduled for 9am PST. I went ahead and published it early for you if you’re having issues viewing in recipe card. I think the issue could be you have an ad blocker on your browser? That could think the video is an ad? Not sure…
Add Blocker as usual. I use Brave Browser on my Mac and with the add blocker turned off for your website it will not work. It does work in Chrome and Safari. But this is not your concern. Thanks for answering.
I followed this recipe as written with the exception of the olives —didn’t have any. My family was surprised how much flavor there was and ask that I put it in the rotation of meals. I will add the olives next time but family said it was great as is. Thank you.
Oh I love the briney aspect the olives give, hope you do add them next time MeMe!
I tried this recipe and followed the instructions as written with the exceo
Hi Kevin: for you Sazon seasoning, our local store only had achiote paste. How much would you recommend if making this adjustment?
Achiote paste has other ingredient sin it Matt. I would order some achiote powder online.
Hi Kevin, so excited to try this recipe this weekend. I’d like to know your thoughts on using a brisket instead of the flank steak.
I prefer to use flank steak but if you try it with brisket let me know how it comes out!
Could you crockpot this??
While I have not, you certainly can. I would cook on high for 4 hours to be sure the meat shreds easily.
Just made this recipe and it taste delicious, I have tried ropa vieja in different restaurants, it’s one of my favorite things to eat ( I’m from Puerto Rico) but this one is by far my favorite one! Thank you ☺️
I am so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing!
Kevin, I swear I’ve eaten Ropa Vieja and found a raisin or two…? Any thoughts? I’ve scoured recipes to find just the right one and your recipe looks fantastic. What would you recommend?
That sounds really good. I would add a tablespoon or so in my next batch for that little touch of sweetness. Thanks Jennifer!
Yes us Cubans do put raisins in our Ropa Vieja and in our Picadillo!!! It’s adds just the right amount of sweetness. The raisins plump up and do not resemble a raisin once cooked!!! You won’t regret adding the raisins.
You are so right, i use currants. By the way, i use parsley instead of cilantro, it is the way i grew up with this. As for spicy, well never heard of this one being used in Cuban cuisine. Don’t suppose it would hurt.
I’m worried cuz I guess I seared my meat too much in the beginning so now that I added the meat back to broth , tomato sauce etc etc it turned the sauce kind brown from the char of the meat .. is there any way to fix this ?
Finally had a weekend afternoon to make this and I am so glad that did! It is absolutely delicious. The olives and capers add just enough of a sharp note but don’t overwhelm everything else. Yum!
Sop glad you enjoyed this one Tara! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
Tnhank you for your recepit l love it.
Oh ! MY ! Goodness ! the Ropa Veija was wonderful ! I dont have anything to compare it to, as this was my first time tasting. It tasted like a wonderful chili, until I added the olives and capers part of the process and oh my ! that kicked up the flavor 10 notches. I’m so glad i tried this. I made your Adobo and Sazon recipe so that I could get it as authentic as possible. I would love to have YOUR Sofrito recipe. I’ve looked at many, but I’d just like to do the way YOU would… Read more »
So glad you enjoyed this one Phyllis, it’s a favorite of mine, too. I love that briney flavor too. As for the sofrito, I need to add that to the site one day.