Ropa Vieja

ropa vieja-dutch oven

This is another one of my family’s great Cuban recipes. Ropa Vieja is considered one of the national dishes of Cuba and it’s easy to see why. Who wouldn’t love a Latin inspired beef stew? If you speak a little Spanish you’ll notice the name translates directly to “old clothes”. I realize that may scare you away from this being delicious, but there’s a reason for the name, sort of. The story I have heard is that a man shredded his clothes and stewed them to feed his family because they were so poor. He prayed over the clothes and God granted him the miracle of beef stew! Works for me.

I have only made this for myself a handful of times because it tastes best with skirt steak and that is not going to do my budget any favors. This time around I used a London broil cut and it turned out pretty good! Definitely not as tender or easy to shred as skirt steak, but still delicious (I’m easily happy with most steaks).

Ropa Vieja-brown meat

When I cooked my Ropa Vieja this time I used two recipes that I had on hand; one from the family cookbook and my Aunt Patsy’s own recipe. The recipe I’m putting up for the page is my family recipe so I’ll share some of the differences. After browning the meat, Patsy simmered her steak in beef broth instead of only water. She also used both green and red pepper. Instead of red wine, her recipe called for dry vermouth or sherry wine which I think could really add a lovely flavor. I am not so much the chef that I have sherry wine on hand so I used red in this one which added to the pretty bright color of the dish.

ropa vieja-brown bits

I used my dutch oven to brown my meat and then removed it and placed it in a separate pot to simmer in water with onion, garlic, and bay leaves. This brown stuff is what you want on the bottom of your pan to help start your sauce. Once you start sauteeing your veggies the bits will start to come off the bottom and you’ll get a great depth of flavor. If most of it is still there after the vegetables are soft, do not worry. The wine will take care of the rest.

ropa vieja-peppers and onions

I chose to use only green peppers and sweet onion which I sliced julienne. That’s a fancy way of saying sliced longways so you get something that looks like this. This is another one of those Cuban recipes with manzanilla olives. I explained here how they are easy to pick out if you leave them whole or easy to ignore of you mince them up.

ropa vieja-recipe

My Aunt Terri was kind enough to copy all of Aunt Patsy’s recipes for me. Now when I’m cooking a family dish I can pull out a card to see if she made changes. There are even a few I’ve never seen or tried! I’m thinking her chicken and vegetable soup will be wonderful when winter rolls around.

ropa vieja-shredded meat

Like I said, the London broil was tougher to shred, but tasted good at the end. Patsy mentions flank steak as another option or beef brisket. But all the sisters agree that skirt steak is the best. I’m good with skirt steak for dinner every night honestly.

Ropa Vieja is great for Sunday meal prep. You can simmer the meat while you get some other chores done and then the meal is ready in 30 minutes after that. I used 1 pound of steak and that made enough for 3 meals including cauliflower rice + a side vegetable. The main recipe is bigger and better for a family.

ropa vieja-plated

Ropa Vieja

Cuban Beef Stew

Course Main Course
Cuisine Latin American/Caribbean
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 380 kcal


  • 2 lbs skirt steak
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, sliced julienne
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced julienne
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup manzanilla olives
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups reserved cooking liquid


Preparing the Meat

  1. On medium-high heat, brown the steak on both sides before removing it and placing it in another pot.

  2. Cover the steak with water and add in the quartered onion, smashed garlic clove, and bay leaves

  3. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until beef is tender - about 1 1/2 hours

  4. Shred the beef 

  5. Reserve all the cooking liquid so that you have as much as you may need to obtain the consistency you'd like.

Preparing the Sauce

  1. In the same pot in which you browned your meat, saute the sliced onion, pepper, garlic, and oregano in olive oil until peppers are soft

  2. Add tomato paste, olives, paprika, reserved cooking liquid, red wine, and bay leaves

  3. Add shredded beef and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Serve over cooked white rice or cauliflower rice. Garnish with peas and pimientos if desired.

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