Ropa Vieja is a classic Cuban dish that is bursting with bold flavor! Flank steak is slow cooked all day and shredded in a rich and flavorful sauce with onions, peppers and garlic.
AN AUTHENTIC CUBAN ROPA VIEJA RECIPE
It can be so hard to find authentic cuban food that really hits the spot. This easy Ropa Vieja recipe is packed with flavor that makes it so satisfying to eat. Once you have that first bite you won’t be able to stop!
I was given this recipe from a family friend who is from Cuba. He shared this recipe with me and told me that it was not traditionally made in the slow cooker, but over the years he has modified it to let the slow cooker do the hard work for him. I’m so glad he did because it’s so much easier.
I have been making this recipe for years and it’s one of those perfect meals my family always begs me to make when we get together. I love that I can throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning and then have a satisfying meal waiting for me at the end of the day!
WHAT IS ROPA VIEJA?
Ropa Vieja is flank steak slow cooked with vegetables and spices in a tomato based sauce. It is served with rice to soak up every last drop of flavor. It isn’t very fancy, but it’s definitely hearty, flavorful and filling. Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba and it happens to date back all the way to the Middle Ages of Spain!
WHY IS IT CALLED ROPA VIEJA?
Ropa Vieja is Spanish for “old clothes.” That’s an odd name for food, but there’s a story behind it! There’s an old Spanish tale about someone being so poor, they had to shred and cook their own clothes in order to feed their family because they couldn’t afford anything else to eat. And I suppose that if you put your imagination cap on, shredded steak could look like clothes!
Don’t let the translation fool you! It might be called Old Clothes in Spanish, but consider this the best old clothes ever.
WHAT IS THE BEST CUT OF MEAT FOR ROPA VIEJA?
Flank steak is the best cut of meat for ropa vieja because it has long fibers that easily shred. Flank steak also used to be one of the cheapest cuts of meat you could buy, which is probably why it is traditionally used in this dish, going along with the old Spanish tale of the poor family eating this meal.
Over the years, flank steak has become more expensive as people have discovered how delicious it is. So if you can’t get your hands on flank steak, you can use beef chuck roast. Or, if beef isn’t your thing, you can also use pork shoulder, too.
All of these cuts of meat will easily shred after they’ve been slow cooked, which is what we want for this dish. Keep in mind, if you don’t use flank steak, your dish may turn out a little greasier than intended because the other cuts of meat have a higher fat content.
INGREDIENTS FOR CLASSIC ROPA VIEJA
This recipe uses simple, flavorful ingredients. I also use a pre-made mojo marinade to help keep the prep work easy. The marinated meat and sautéed veggies will bring the taste of Cuba right to your table.
To make this recipe you will need:
- Flank steak
- Mojo marinade – I prefer Badia brand mojo
- Olive oil
- Jalapeno pepper
- Garlic cloves
- Tomato sauce
HOW TO MAKE CUBAN ROPA VIEJA
Cuban Ropa Vieja can be made mostly with a slow cooker which makes both cooking and cleaning super easy. After it’s finished in the slow cooker, you’ll use a skillet to combine the meat, sauce, onions, peppers and garlic before serving.
Here are the steps:
- Place the flank steak in the slow cooker and cover flank steak with the Mojo marinade. Cook on low for 8 hours.
- When ready to serve, sauté the onion and jalapeños until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes.
- Remove the flank steak from your crock pot and shred with two forks. Toss any leftover marinade.
- Once the onion mixture is ready, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
- Then add the shredded flank steak, tomato sauce, and salt. Incorporate all the ingredients together. I do this with two forks, similar to shredding the flank steak.
- Allow the mixture to cook for 5 more minutes and then serve!
SIDES FOR ROPA VIEJA
You can serve it as is or with rice (white or yellow) and beans. I also like to serve it with these yummy pan fried plantains! The leftovers are also delicious on sandwich bread.
HOW TO STORE, FREEZE AND REHEAT ROPA VIEJA
If you have any leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to five days. Some people even say their Ropa Vieja tastes better the next day because the spices and flavors have had even more time to soak into the meat!
You can also freeze leftovers in an airtight container — I like to use freezer friendly ziplocks — for up to 3 months. To reheat Ropa Vieja, you can use the microwave or stove top. Just heat until warm!
I am very excited for you to try this Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja recipe! Even if you have traditionally made it in the oven or stove top, you really should try this version.
The meat is so incredibly tender it just falls apart and the flavors are so deep from slow cooking all day. Add in the onions, jalapeños, garlic and sauce and I promise you are going to fall in love at first bite!
Please leave a review or comment below letting me know how this recipe turns out for you!
Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
- 1.5 pound Flank Steak
- 20 oz Mojo Marinade, I prefer the Badia brand
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 jalapeños, seeds removed and minced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 20 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Place flank steak in slow cooker and cover flank steak with Mojo marinade and cook on low for 8 hours.
- When ready to serve, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil, onion and jalapeños. Allow to saute until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes.
- While onion mixture is cooking, remove flank steak from crock pot and shred (toss any leftover marinade).
- Once the onion mixture is ready, add garlic and saute for 30 seocnds.
- Then add the shredded flank steak, tomato sauce, and salt and incorporate all the ingredients together. (I do this with two forks and just do the same motions I use to shred the flank steak).
- Allow to cook for 5 more minutes and then serve!
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