Ropa Vieja Recipe

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Gabriel Published: June 4, 2021 Modified: June 4, 2021

Typically this dish is made with flank steak, which is lean and has long, shreddy fibers, and is how the dish earned the name “old clothes.” It’s the traditional choice, but we find it can be a bit tough, even after it’s braised for a long time. We prefer chuck roast for its fat, tenderness, and richness, but at the end of the day, this will be good with whatever you have on hand.

How To Make Ropa Vieja

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 4 hrs
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  • 3 lbs chuck roast brisket, or flank steak
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, or more if using flank steak
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Diamond Crystal , or 3½ tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried Mexican oregano, or Italian oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¾ cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, halved crosswise
  • 2 tsp distilled white vinegar

For Serving:

  • chopped cilantro
  • white rice
  • maduros
  • black beans


  1. Pat roast dry with paper towels.
  2. Heat oil in a large heatproof pot over high.
  3. Cook chuck roast, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, 5–7 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 250°.
  6. Cook onion, bell peppers, and salt (plus 2 Tbsp. oil if using flank steak), stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12–14 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pan, until vegetables are golden brown. Stir in wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated.

  8. Stir in paprika, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne until vegetables are coated; continue to cook for about 1 minute, stirring, until spices are fragrant.

  9. Add tomatoes and coarsely break up with a spoon (they’ll continue to break down as they cook).

  10. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half.

  11. Nestle roast into tomato mixture and tuck in bay leaves on either side.
  12. Cover and transfer to oven. Braise roast and vegetables for 2 ½ t0 3 hours, until meat is very tender and shreds easily.

  13. Let cool for 15 minutes.

  14. Skim excess fat from sauce; discard bay leaves.
  15. Using a potato masher or 2 forks, tear and smash beef into sauce until it’s shredded and incorporated into sauce.

  16. Stir in olives and vinegar.

  17. Divide ropa vieja among plates.

  18. Top with cilantro.

  19. Serve with rice, maduros, and beans alongside. Enjoy!

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