This Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja is comforting, hearty and a breeze to make thanks to the crock pot! Featuring tender shredded beef slow cooked in a tomato-based sauce with onions and sweet peppers, this classic Cuban dish is bursting with bold, rich flavors. Easy to make and even easier to devour, your family will love this recipe for Cuban beef!
Featured comment: I made this recipe and it was SO good. I am making it again for a friends dinner. It is very authentic. I would recommend this to anyone!” – Stephanie
Update: This post was originally published in February 2019. I made edits to the article below to include more information about making cuban ropa vieja in the slow cooker.
Hey, friends! I hope you are a fan of Cuban food, because today you are in for a delicious treat! This cuban recipe for ropa vieja is an epic, hearty classic with a convenient, crock pot twist that I know you are going to love.
Rich and full of bold flavors, this robust, stew-like Cuban shredded beef is 100% comforting and perfect when you need some cozy food love!
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About this slow cooker ropa vieja
This recipe for ropa vieja features melt-in-your-mouth-tender, succulent shredded flank steak swimming in a flavorful tomato-based sauce packed with pungent onions, sweet peppers, fragrant garlic and briny olives. Finished with a generous sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a healthy squeeze of acidic lime, this Cuban beef is packed with bold, comforting flavor!
However, this crock pot ropa vieja isn’t just ultimate in the taste department, it’s also an absolute cinch to make and requires minimal effort! Thanks to the trusty slow cooker this ropa vieja recipe is basically a dump and go meal/
Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe will be waiting for the crock pot to finish cooking the beef while the amazing aromas waft through your house! (It’s definitely a form of strange and unusual culinary torture. But, it’s totally worth it, because humbly, this is the best ropa vieja.)
Why you’ll love this recipe!
Aside from being hearty, easy, and undeniably delicious, this cuban ropa vieja recipe is also:
- Quick and Easy! Thanks to the magical powers of your slow cooker or crock pot, you only need 15 minutes of hands on preparation to get this recipe for cuban ropa vieja on the table.
- Restaurant-Quality Taste! While cuban beef is typically made in a pressure cooker, this recipe yields the same rich, comforting flavor.
- Versatile! Ropa vieja beef is incredibly multifaceted. Serve it over fluffy white rice on night one and stuff it in tacos the next. Then try it with salads, in burritos, on baked potatoes, and more. It’s ropa vieja cuban food that just keeps on giving.
- Crowd-Pleasing! Comforting, hearty and full of robust flavors, this is a beef dinner you’ll want to make again and again.
What is ropa vieja?
Ropa vieja is a classic Cuban shredded beef dish resembling stew; however, it’s also common in other areas such as Puerto Rico and Panama.
Ropa vieja, pronounced row-pa bie-ha, is a rustic dish consisting of shredded beef stewed in a tomato-based sauce with onions and peppers.
In Spanish, ropa vieja literally translates to “old clothes”; it is said that the dish got its name because it resembles a heap of old rags. However, I’ve also heard this beef stew got its name because an old, penniless man who couldn’t afford food for his family once shredded and cooked his own clothes. While praying over the bubbling clothes a miracle happened and the shredded clothing turned into a rich meat stew.
Whether you believe the first or the second explanation is up to you. However, ropa vieja beef is a classic dish. And it’s one of Cuba’s most popular and beloved national dishes for a very good reason – it’s absolutely delicious!
Ingredients for ropa vieja beef
This cuban dish requires a few easy to find ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Flank Steak – Make sure you trim and remove all excess fat from your steak before using in this recipe.
- Red Meat Substitution: If you can’t find flank, chuck roast, brisket and skirt steak are perfectly fine substitutes.
- Poultry Substitution: If you don’t eat red meat, you can substitute 3 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs for the beef.
- Spices – For the most flavorful ropa vieja flank steak, use a combination of sazon spice, kosher salt, black pepper, ground cumin. dry oregano and a bay leaf.
- Aromatics – A mix of yellow onions, bell peppers, and garlic cloves provide the base of flavor. I like to use a combination of red bell pepper and green bell pepper, but use what you love.
- Tomatoes – You’ll need one can of crushed tomatoes.
- Substitution: If tomatoes are in season, feel free to use fresh tomatoes here!
- Beef Stock – I recommend using low sodium stock or no-sodium stock so you can control the amount of salt.
- Substitution: Feel free to swap in beef broth, chicken stock, or chicken broth. While it will alter the taste slightly, your ropa vieja will still be absolutely amazing.
- Tomato Paste – Tomato paste lends rich, deeply caramelized tomato flavor while also thickening the sauce.
- Vinegar – One tablespoon of red wine vinegar brightens up all the flavors.
- Olives – While completely optional, green olives add delicious briny flavor.
FAQs: ropa vieja recipe
What kind of meat for crockpot ropa vieja?
Ropa vieja is usually made with flank steak – an extremely flavorful cut of beef that requires low and slow cooking.
While flank steak is undeniably the best (and most used) cut of beef for this dish, I have seen recipes utilize different cuts of meat. If you are in a pinch and can’t find flank steak, you can also use skirt steak or brisket, since they have long muscle fibers similar to flank.
With that said, if you are looking to completely switch it up and turn this Cuban braised beef into something decidedly un-authentic, I have seen ropa vieja recipes use beef chuck roast, boneless short ribs and even chicken.
Is cuban beef healthy?
Vieja ropa recipes are relatively healthy. Traditionally this vieja cuban dish is made with one of the healthiest beef cuts – lean flank steak – a cut of beef from the cow’s abdominal muscle. Flank steak has fewer calories and more protein than a ribeye or porterhouse steak.
The recipe for this crockpot ropa vieja also uses low-sodium beef stock, which limits the amount of sodium yet still contains plenty of nutrients, collagen and minerals.
How to make ropa vieja in crockpot
- Season steak: Pat the flank steak dry with paper towels. Then, season the beef generously on both sides with Sazon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Optional – Brown steak: Heat oil in a large skillet and add the flank steak. Sear until brown and caramelized on the outside, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the steak from the skillet and set aside.
- Layer Ingredients in the Crock Pot: Add the crushed tomatoes, stock, tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf to the slow cooker. Season everything with salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Add the seared steak to the crockpot. Then, add the onions, bell peppers and garlic on top of the seared meat.
- Slow Cook: Cover the crockpot and slow cook on LOW for 7-8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours) or until meat is easy to shred. Remove the bay leaf and discard it.
- Shred the beef: Remove the top from the slow cooker and use 2 forks to pull the beef apart into long shreds.
- Optional – Add the olives and brine and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve warm: Garnish the ropa vieja with chopped cilantro. Transfer the cuban ropa beef to bowls or plates and serve with lime wedges, rice, and black beans on the side if you like. Enjoy immediately.
Tips for making ropa vieja in the slow cooker
- Sazon: If using homemade sazon seasoning mix, you can season the flank steak sparingly with salt and pepper.
- Searing beef: While not mandatory, I highly recommend searing the flank steak in a skillet until well browned before adding it to the slow cooker. Searing the steak will result in a more flavorful recipe for ropa vieja.
Serving cuban ropa vieja recipes
Traditionally, ropa vieja flank steak is served with rice. However there are some versions of this classic dish that serve potatoes, mixed and cooked right in, with the beef.
If you are looking to make this crockpot Cuban beef into a complete meal, below are some serving suggestions.
- Rice – white or yellow
- Cauliflower rice (if you are looking to keep things on the healthy side)
- Cuban black beans
- Fried plantains, baked plantains or plantain chips
- Charred tortillas
- Cuban Mojo Sauce
Storing leftover slow cooker ropa vieja
If you have any leftover shredded cuban beef allow it to cool completely to room temperature before storing in an airtight container. Cuban ropa vieja will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Alternatively, you can store the shredded beef in the freezer for up to 2 months.
To reheat, defrost the cuban style ropa vieja overnight in the refrigerator if frozen. Then, transfer the shredded beef in tomato sauce to a skillet and heat on the stovetop until warm throughout.
This dump-and-go crock pot Ropa Vieja is full of rich flavor and perfect for busy weeknight dinners or cozy weekend meals! Whether you serve it over rice, tortillas or eat it straight from the slow cooker, this shredded beef is sure to become a family favorite!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to comforting classics!
More easy International beef recipes!
- Barbacoa Beef (Mexican)
- Short Rib Pasta (Italian)
- Beef Stir Fry (Chinese)
- Short Ribs (Korean)
- Chimichurri Steaks (Argentinian)
- Barbecue Brisket (American BBQ)
- Round Beef Roast (Classic American)
- How to Cook a Tender Steak (American)
The best recipe for Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja👇
Cuban Ropa Vieja (Recipe for Crock Pot and Slow Cooker)
- 1 crockpot or slow cooker
- 2 – 2 ½ Pounds Flank Steak – trimmed of excess fat and cut in ½ if large (SEE NOTES)
- 1 ½ - 2 TBS Sazon Seasoning
- Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper - to taste
- 1 TBS Neutral Oil (such as canola or vegetable)
- 1 medium Yellow Onion – thinly sliced
- 2 large Bell Peppers – seeded and thinly sliced (I used one red and one green)
- 3 cloves Garlic – minced
- 1 large Bay Leaves
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 Cup low-sodium Beef Stock
- 2 TBS Tomato Paste
- 1 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 tsp EACH: Dried Cumin & Dried Oregano
- ½ Cup Pimento-stuffed Olives – halved + 1 TBS of olive brine (optional)
- Serving Suggestions: Chopped Cilantro, Lime Wedges, White Rice, Cuban Black Beans, Fried Plantains or Plantain Chips
- Season beef: Place the flank steak on a clean work surface and pat it dry with paper towels. Then, season the beef generously on both sides with Sazon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Sear steak (optional but recommended): Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches if necessary to prevent overcrowding the pan, add the flank steak to the hot pan. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side, or until the steak is browned and well caramelized on the outside. Remove steak from the pan and set aside. (Tip: If you had to cut the steak in half, repeat searing the other half of the steak in the hot pan, adding more oil as necessary.)
- Layer Ingredients in Crock Pot: Add the bay leaf, crushed tomatoes, stock, tomato paste, vinegar, cumin and oregano to the slow cooker. Stir to combine. Then, add the seared steak to the slow cooker, submerging it into the sauce. Finally, add the onions, bell peppers and garlic on top of the seared meat. Season everything with salt and pepper; then, stir to combine.
- Slow Cook: Cover the crockpot and slow cook on LOW for 7-8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours - SEE NOTES), or until meat can easily be shredded. Remove the bay leaf and discard it.
- Shred the beef: Remove the top from the slow cooker and use 2 forks to pull the beef apart into long shreds.
- Add the olives and brine (if using), and stir to combine. Taste the cuban beef and sauce; adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve: Garnish the ropa vieja with chopped cilantro. Transfer the cuban beef to bowls or plates and serve with lime wedges, rice, and black beans on the side if desired. Enjoy immediately.
- Sazon Spice: If using homemade sazon seasoning mix, you can season the flank steak sparingly with salt and pepper.
- Flank Steak Substitutes: If you are in a pinch and can’t find flank steak, you can also use skirt steak or brisket, since they have long muscle fibers similar to flank. If you do not eat red meat, you can substitute 3 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs for the beef.
- Browning the Beef: While not mandatory, I highly recommend searing the flank steak in a skillet until well browned before adding it to the slow cooker. Searing the steak will result in a more flavorful ropa vieja. If your flank steak is too large to fit in the skillet, cut it in half (crosswise) and brown the steak in 2 batches.
- Slow Cooking: While you can cook the flank steak on high in the slow cooker, I really recommend cooking it on LOW, as it will yield a more melt-in-your-mouth tender beef!
- Leftovers: Allow any leftover Cuban Ropa Vieja Beef to cool completely to room temperature before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to 2 months.
- Recipe serves: 8-10
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