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Ropa Vieja is a zesty and delicious dish of beef with peppers, braised in a rich tomato-based sauce.

Ropa Vieja is a zesty and delicious dish of beef with peppers, braised in a rich tomato-based sauce. It’s considered one of the national dishes of Cuba, and the Spanish name “ropa vieja” translates to “old clothes” – a nod to the long shreds of beef in this delicious dish.

Ropa Vieja is traditionally made with flank steak – a very flavorful cut of beef. Flank steak is, however, a fairly tough cut of beef so it requires a long cooking process to make it tender enough to eat. (Many Ropa Vieja recipes online make this dish with brisket – and that certainly can be used as an alternative – but to keep with true Cuban tradition, flank steak should be used.)

Ropa Vieja is a zesty and delicious dish of beef with peppers, braised in a rich tomato-based sauce.

Our Ropa Vieja is oven-braised for four hours in a heavy, cast iron baking pan – and in the end, we were rewarded with tender shredded beef a wonderful tomato and roasted red pepper sauce with a gentle heat from the addition of jarred pimento peppers. (If you can find fresh pimento or cherry peppers at your local market – use those instead of the jarred pimentos. Char them over an open flame to remove skin and discard seeds and stem.)

The Ropa Vieja sauce is complemented by the addition of anchovies and green olives – giving the finished dish a briny zesty flavor that is wonderful with the rich beefy tomato sauce.

Ropa Vieja is a zesty and delicious dish of beef with peppers, braised in a rich tomato-based sauce.

Ropa Vieja is traditionally served with fried plantains and yellow rice – but we served it with our Saffron Cauliflower Rice recipe from earlier this week to keep this meal Whole30 compliant.

One last note: After cooking the flank steak, my husband Jack was so tempted to cut the beef ‘against the grain’ because that is a common trick to make a tougher cut of beef easier to chew. But – the beef in Ropa Vieja is traditionally shredded with the grain so it forms those distinctive long, torn shreds.

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Ropa Vieja - A Family Feast


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

5 pounds flank steak (we bought two pieces, each 2 ½ pounds)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large Spanish onion (yellow onion), at least one pound in weight, sliced thick

1 tablespoon anchovy paste or two anchovy fillets (should be just anchovies, oil and salt)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon dry cumin

1 tablespoon dry oregano

1 28-ounce can kitchen-ready ground tomatoes

1 quart beef stock or broth, see our recipe here

3 bay leaves

1 6.75-ounce jar green stuffed olives, drained and cut in half

1 cup diced jarred pimento peppers, drained (we found them in 4 ounce jars)

1 12-ounce jar red roasted peppers, drained and cut into thick strips (Or, make your own, see note* below.)

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Salt and pepper both sides of the beef.

Heat a wide heavy bottomed pot or roasting pan with two tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat and once hot, sear meat about four minutes on one side.

Add another tablespoon of oil as you flip and sear the other side then remove to a platter.

You may need to do this in two batches.

Add the remaining oil to the pot and add the onions and cook for three minutes.

Add the anchovy paste, garlic, cumin and oregano and cook for one minute.

Add tomatoes and beef stock and bring to low boil.

Add the beef and any juices that accumulated along with the bay leaf, cover and oven roast for 3 ½ hours, turning the meat half way through.

Remove the meat to a platter and shred with two forks keeping the meat stringy.

Using a strainer or spider, remove solids from pot and add to the beef platter.

Cook the liquid in the pan on the stove top to reduce to three cups. Ours took about 15 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaves and add the olives, pimento peppers, roasted red peppers and parsley.

Stir in the meat and solids from the platter, heat and serve with the saffron cauliflower rice.


*Note: You can roast your own peppers by buying one very large red bell pepper. Place it over an open flame on your stove or grill to char the skin black. Then place the hot charred pepper in a sealed plastic zip bag for about ten minutes. Remove from the bag and scrape off the skin, pull off the stem and remove the seeds. Additionally you could buy fresh pimento or cherry peppers and do the same if you preferred not to buy jarred.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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Ropa Vieja is a zesty and delicious dish of beef with peppers, braised in a rich tomato-based sauce.


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  • BJ wrote:

    Ropa Vieja is NOT made with flank steak—it’s made with SKIRT steak (inside or outside cut) which has superior flavor!

    • Jack wrote:

      Everything I researched on this dish points to flank steak. However, skirt can be used, is similar to flank and does have more intense flavor (to your point). So really, either is right and neither is wrong. Skirt steak tends to have tougher muscle fibers and typically takes longer to cook for this type of dish. Skirt steak is best cooked medium rare and sliced to get the full flavor and texture which is why I avoided using it in this recipe.
      I guess in the end, whichever meat gives you the best result is the right meat to use. Again, no right or wrong here.
      Thank you for your comment,

  • Jesus Rivera wrote:

    Love it! Thank you!

    • Martha wrote:

      Glad you enjoyed the recipe Jesus!

  • Jackie wrote:


    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you Jackie!

  • Shirley Massey wrote:

    Can flank steak be cooked in a crockpot to make it more tender?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Shirley – I haven’t cooked flank steak in the slow cooker myself, but I’ve seen several slow cooker versions of this recipe made with flank steak – so I think it’s doable.

  • elizabeth wrote:

    I made this today along with my Cuban mother-in-laws black bean recipe. They are both in the fridge ready to warm up for dinner tomorrow. Of course my sons had to test it and they said that it taste just as good as the Abuella’s. Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow. I have made other Ropa Vieja recipes before but none was as good as this one and also smelled as good. Thanks.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Elizabeth! We’re thrilled that you and your sons enjoyed the recipe (and we hope your mother-in-law loves it too!) Thank you for taking the time to write to us – we hope you have a great dinner!

  • Olivia Torre wrote:

    At last, a ropa veija recipe that maintains the flavors and texture of the original dish! Wonderful recipe -thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you Olivia! We’re so glad you enjoyed this recipe!

  • Rick wrote:

    I have to stop writing to you about your recipes, but they’re just so good. This Ropa Vieja was another delicious dish. We had it with rice and also made burritos with it. We put a couple of pounds into the freezer for a ready-to-go Mexican dinner down the road.
    Thanks again!

    • Martha wrote:

      Please don’t stop writing to us Rick! We love hearing from our readers! So glad you are enjoying the recipes! 🙂

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