Ropa vieja, a juicy and tender shredded beef stew, is braised in the most flavorful, umami-rich tomato based sauce.
This recipe for ropa vieja couldn’t be easier to make – it’s a dump and go recipe, which is basically the best kind of recipe there is. There’s minimal prep too. The hardest part about this recipe is waiting for it to finish cooking. If you use a slow cooker, that’ll take all day, but if you cook it in an Instant Pot then you’ll only have to wait a couple hours. Good food takes time, y’all.
Ropa Vieja literally means “old clothes.” Kind of an odd name for a dish but if you squint, this big juicy pile of meat and colorful bell peppers does kind of look like a pile of laundry, right? I mean… if your wardrobe happens to include a lot of brown. I guess that’s probably not the imagery I should encourage here? Don’t worry y’all, this dish tastes nothing like laundry (and that’s something I never thought I’d write…).
While this Cuban dish typically calls for flank steak, I suggest using beef chuck roast instead because it has more fat, more flavor and most importantly it results in tender, juicy meat when cooked for a long period of time. I’d rather have melt-in-your-mouth shredded beef vs. tough and chewy shredded beef so if you agree, get the chuck roast please.
Want to keep things authentic? Then serve this savory stew with white rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains. And don’t forget to top the ropa with something briney. I suggest pimento-stuffed green olives but if olives aren’t your thing, you can always use capers for a hit of briney tang.
Another tasty way to use all this meat: in tacos, a burrito bowl or enchiladas. Those are just a few ideas, of course.
My personal favorite way to eat ropa vieja is in a bowl, like stew, but with all the toppings! I top it with plenty of diced onion, diced jalapeños, avocado, chopped cilantro and a big squeeze of lime. I know that’s Mexican-style, but the flavors go so well together. Plus it keeps me from eating too much rice.
Also, this is sort of important but not crucial to the dish – do use different colored bell peppers if possible. Not only do they look great in the dish but yellow and red bell peppers are sweeter than green and that sweetness really compliments the whole stew.
Alright, go make this! While the stew simmers, go ahead and fold that laundry that’s lying around 😉