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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!
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, culantro 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.
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, culantro 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 use the entire 8 oz if you prefer a more punch of flavor and or 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.