Ropa Vieja

A Cuban staple of shredded beef and stewed peppers in a bright, flavorful sauce.

5-7 servings

Time: 3 hrs 15 mins

By Keith McBrayer

This recipe breakdown originally appeared in The Mouthful, our weekly food newsletter for the curious home cook.

Keith McBrayer

Keith McBrayer



  • 2 parts meat

    • flank, skirt, or flatiron steak
      900 g2 lbs
    • cooking oil
      a drizzle
    • salt
      as needed
  • 1 part aromatic base

    • onions
      , sliced
    • red bell peppers
      , sliced
    • yellow bell peppers
      , sliced
    • garlic
      , roughly chopped
      3-5 cloves
    • black pepper
      a sprinkle
    • cumin
      a sprinkle
    • dried oregano
      a sprinkle
  • 1 part braising liquid

    • tomato puree
      400 g1 14 oz can
    • broth
      as needed
    • white wine
      as needed
    • bay leaves
  • Garnishes

    • olives
      , chopped
    • cilantro
      , chopped


Step 1: Sear the meat

Preheat an oven to 300°F/148°C.

Generously sprinkle the meat with salt on all sides. Heat a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add enough oil to coat the bottom. In batches, the meat until on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Leave any fat in the pan.

Step 2: Sauté the aromatics

In the same pot, add in the bell pepper and onion slices along with a sprinkle of salt. and scrape any browned fond on the bottom of the pan for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the garlic and ground spices and continue sautéing for another minute or until fragrant.

Step 3: Add the meat & bring to a simmer

Add the can of pureed tomatoes, which should sputter as it hits the bottom of the pot. Use the tomato to the pan: scrape any remaining browned bits off the bottom with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Nestle the seared meat back into the pot. Add just enough broth and white wine (in about equal parts) to barely submerge everything. Add the bay leaves. Bring the pot to a , and then partially cover with a lid or foil.

Pop the dutch oven, partially covered, into the preheated oven for 1-3 hours or until the meat is tender pulls apart easily.

  • If using a steak cut like flank or skirt, it will likely pull apart in ~90 minutes.
  • If using a tougher cut like chuck for braising, expect it to go tender in 2-3 hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for around 30 mins to an hour before shredding.

  • This allows the meat fibers to reabsorb moisture, and also means you won’t burn your hands.

Step 4: Shred the meat & finish

Using your hands, or two forks, gently shred the meat into large strips or to your desired texture (ropa vieja usually isn’t shredded super fine).

Add in chopped olives (or jarred pimientos or jalapeños) and a handful of chopped cilantro, to preference. Taste and adjust seasoning: add salt if needed or even a splash of vinegar to brighten the dish up.



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