This Cuban Ropa Vieja recipe is a savory Latin dish made from braised flank steak that gets shredded. It’s cooked low and slow with tomatoes, pimentos, onions and peppers then gets a briny kick from olives and capers. Serve it over white rice to soak up the delicious sauce!
Ropa Vieja is known as the national dish of Cuba, but all I know is this is one of my favorites when it comes to how easy it is to make and the amount of flavors you get with minimal effort.
What is in Cuban Ropa Vieja?
The savory flavors you develop from searing the flank steak with Adobo seasoning, before layering it with a sofrito (a tomato based sauce), onions and peppers, sazon seasoning and slow cooking it is amazing.
The house aroma only adds to the excitement of digging in after a 2 1/2 hour braise. Pimento stuffed green olives, capers are added half way through the braise and give a wonderful briny flavor.
What is the best cut of meat for Ropa Vieja?
Beef chuck pot roast or even pork shoulder work, but the best for me has always been flank steak.
Why is it called Ropa Vieja?
Basically it comes from an old Spanish tale about a penniless old man who once shredded and cooked his own clothes because he could not afford food for his family.
The sofrito I mentioned is a thick tomato based sauce made from tomatoes, onions and peppers. Feel free to substitute with a quarter cup of tomato paste instead if you like.
You can find different sofritos in most markets in the ethnic food aisle or a market that specializes in Cuban and Latin cooking or online.
The flank steak easily shreds and goes back in the braising liquid and vegetables to reduce and thicken.
Served the savory shredded beef over steamed white rice or with beans and fried plantains, it’s a winner.
This melt in your mouth Cuban meal is a nice change from your typical stew, too.
I love how different spices and condiments can transport you to another country with every mouthful. Enjoy!
Cuban 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.