Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja: Cuba's famously delicious shredded beef stew with peppers!
I've lived way too long hearing about, being tempted by, but not cooking Cuba's national dish, ropa vieja: shredded beef stew.
Finally, last week I immersed myself in a week of research and recipe testing. The happy outcome is this scrumptious recipe for slow cooker Cuban ropa vieja.
Ropa Vieja means "old clothes" in Spanish.
Old clothes tend to be shredded and so is the beef in this stew, hence the name.
This kind of dish is perfect for the slow cooker. The long, slow braise tenderizes the meat and allows all the wonderful flavors to soak in.
How To Make Ropa Vieja in the Slow Cooker
My slow cooker lives deep in my pantry closet where it often stays for months. Occasionally I remember it's there, pull it out and fall back in love. It's great for those busy times when there just aren't enough hours in the day (my life lately). I love knowing the crock pot is chugging along for me all day long.
In a matter of hours, while you're off getting work done or (even better) enjoying the lazy days of summer, solid hunks of beef simmer with onions, garlic mild fruity peppers and a deliciously spiced tomato sauce. The meat is transformed to a beautiful tenderness, easily pulled into shreds using two forks.
After it's shredded, the meat goes back in the slow cooker for a half hour more, along with some sliced olives and a splash of vinegar, to build that final layer of flavor. The result is the most tender, succulent and irresistibly delicious shredded beef stew!
What to serve with Ropa Vieja
It's traditional to serve ropa vieja with rice and black beans. Fried plantains are often on the side as well.
Plain white rice will do just fine. There's plenty of flavor in the stew.
But if you're interested, here's what I did to take the rice up a notch: sauté a teaspoon of minced garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil for 30 seconds in a saucepan. Add 1½ cups of raw white rice and cooked it, tossing, for about a minute, in the garlicky oil. Add 3 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt, cover and cook on low, per the package directions, about 15 minutes.
Here's a great recipe for quick cuban black beans.
If you can get everything going in your crock pot in the morning, come dinner time, you're in for a treat - a delightful tender stew, ready to ladle over a bed of rice!
Other Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes to try
• Slow Cooker chicken tajine with apricots and chickpeas
• Slow Cooker Brazilian Feijoada
• Slow Cooker Chicken with Dried Cherries
Here's the recipe for slow cooker ropa vieja. If you make this I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print
Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja: Old Clothes
- Total Time: 6 hours 15 mins
- Yield: 6-7 1x
This delicious stew of tender shredded beef, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives and spices is Cuba's national dish and it's perfect for the slow cooker. Serve it with rice, black beans and/or fried plantains.
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 pounds London broil or boneless chuck roast (flank steak or brisket also work well)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 carrot, scraped and sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 Cubanelle pepper or green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped (10 cloves or 3 ½ tablespoons)
- ½ cup dry white wine (Vermouth works well)
- 2 cups good quality canned tomato puree (such as Muir Glenn organic)
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup sliced green olives
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 lime or two, cut into wedges
- Season meat on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Heat oil in a heavy (preferably cast iron) skillet. Brown meat over high heat for 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker. Toss in the sliced carrot.
- Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet along with the garlic, onions and peppers. Turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 6-7 minutes until the vegetables are softened and starting to caramelize, stirring constantly for the first minute, to make sure the garlic doesn't brown. Add wine and simmer for a minute, stirring and scraping the browned bits from the pan. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.
- In a medium bowl whisk tomato puree, tomato paste, broth, dried spices and 2 teaspoons salt. Pour over meat. Cook on high for 6 hours. After 5 ½ hours remove the meat. Shred it by pulling it apart using two forks. Return it to the slow cooker. Stir in olives and vinegar. Continue to cook for 30 minutes more.
- Serve ropa vieja with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and lime wedges on the side.
- Traditional accompaniments are white rice and black beans.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Category: Dinner Stew
- Method: slow Cooker
- Cuisine: Cuban
Keywords: Slow Cooker Cuban beef stew, Crock Pot beef stew, shredded beef stew
If you're in the mood for more great crock pot recipes, check out this roundup of delicious healthy summer slow cooker recipes from Cooking Light.
I normally do everything on low in my crockpot it’s OK to cook this on high it won’t get dry or over cooked?robin andisman
I normally do everything on low in my crockpot it’s OK to cook this on high it won’t get dry or over cooked?
I have always cooked this stew on high with great results and I haven't had any bad reviews so it definitely works on high. I'm sure it would work well on low but it would take a lot longer. I hope you enjoy!
I have made this recipe in the slow cooker many times and now I make it in the Instant Pot it's so much faster! It is delicious and gets rave reviews. I cooked it on Pressure Cook for 40 minutes and allowed it to NPR which took about 38 minutes. Make sure the meat is submerged in the liquid before cooking. There is a lot of liquid remaining after cooking but I like to eat it as a soup with sour cream and cilantro on top. The only changes I made - I added 1 T sugar at the end and used sliced pickled jalapenos in a jar instead of olives because my husband hates olives! Thank you for the recipe!
I had this in a restaurant on a cuban roll with goat cheese. So delicious. Glad I found this and can make my own!
Wonderful! I hope you enjoy the homemade version - keep me posted!
Excellent and so easy to make. I used a Chuck steak. Served it with yellow rice and plantains. Definitely a keeper!
I'm so happy you enjoyed the Ropa Vieja!
I just made it and it’s easy recipe and the flavors are amazing. However, I made a mistake and bought round roast so I added one extra hour to cooking and it was prefect, nobody noticed it. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful recipes.
Could you swap out the beef for pork shoulder? If so, could I follow the same cooking time?
Thank you so much!
Looking forward to trying this!!
Hi Julia, I bet pork shoulder would be delicious here! I would follow the same instructions - same timing. If you try it, I'd love to know how it turns out.
How long would you cook it if made in the pressure cooker?
Hi Elisa, I have never tried this in the pressure cooker. Here's an article that tells you how to convert a slow cooker recipe to the instant pot. https://www.thespruceeats.com/slow-cooker-to-instant-pot-recipe-conversion-4171621 I hope it helps!
I dont see any use for the chicken broth in the instructions? When is it supposed to go in?
Hi Isabel - the "broth" is added in step 3 of the instructions. It doesn't say "chicken broth" it just says "broth." Perhaps I should change that to make it more clear. I hope you enjoy the stew!
Today is my hubby’s 69th birthday and guess what he requested for his birthday dinner?!
We love your recipes and your version Ropa Vieja is on regular rotation in our house. Only changes I make are adding 2 tbsps mustard and 1/2 cup golden raisins. Thank you for so many great mealtimes!
This meal sounds amazing and I plan on making it very soon. Out of curiousty, what can I substitue for the wine? My husband and I do not care for the flavor of wine in food and rarely have any on hand. What else could be used to deglaze the pan with, but have the same effect/flavor? Thank you!
There are so many various recipes for Ropa Vieja online, it’s a bit overwhelming. I’ve never made or even tried it before now. I started looking up famous Cuban dishes after falling in love with carne con papas. Omg this recipe is SO good. I have made sure to bookmark it. I followed it to a t, but I did leave out bell peppers and olives, my husband is just not a fan of them. I think this is one of the best dishes I’ve ever had and my husband says he’s fallen in love with me all over again. Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂 I’m looking forward to trying your other recipes.
Hi! What side is best served with other than rice?
I just read about you and I’m so glad I came upon your Ropa Vieja recipe to try for our Cuban themed dinner tomorrow. Your around the globe recipes will be great for assisting me in my Saturday night themed dinners. I’ve started going all out with a big dinner and all the decorations for my husband and 2 boys, 16 & 11, (and my oldest son’s bf) on theme dinners from different cultures. Since we can’t go out and eat it’s been a fun night we look forward to. To my surprise my family will also try and dress the theme🥳. I love it! Looking forward to exploring more of your recipes!
I love the idea of Saturday night theme dinner. What a fun thing to do with your family! I hope you find some delicious recipe on Panning The Globe. Keep me posted!
I very much enjoyed this recipe. Being from Florida, I have had some really good Ropa and this stacks up with The beat of them.. The key for me was getting a really good char on the meat before adding to the croc pot. Those black, crispied bits carry over lots of flavor.
This recipe is spectacular! It is so delicious. My entire family loves it! I have had a lot of Ropa Vieja at restaurants and found this recipe to make it at home and it is better than any Ropa I’ve ever had. Fam agrees. The amount of times we have made this in a short period just shows how amazing it is! Thank you for putting out this incredible recipe!
Your note has made my day Kristina. I'm so happy you and your family are enjoying the Ropa Vieja. Thank you for coming back to leave a comment.
Yo, I'm a kitchen novice and this dish was a slight challenge for me. But I felt like a sorcerer after seeing the meat fall apart after five hours in the pot. I served this at a small social-distancing picnic, over 18-minute rice and simmered black beans (I simmered them with a dollop of chili-garlic paste and wow.) I omitted the cilantro lime and instead garnished with a fatty blop of sour cream, and rather than plantains on the side, I served hemp-seed banana bread as dessert. Thank you so much for the all-killer, no-filler recipe.
I love this comment! I'm really glad the Ropa Vieja worked out well for you. You sound like a more talented cook than you give yourself credit for - what a delicious sounding picnic!! Thank you for taking the time to report back!
This looks great! Putting the ingredients on my grocery list. Question, for the nutrition info is that for I just the stew or the added rice, beans, etc?
Hi Kayla, The nutrition calculation is for the beef stew. It doesn't include rice or beans. I hope you enjoy!
I’m making this today and keep coming back to 6 hours on high. That seems like a lot, so can you ease my mind and confirm that it’s not to be cooked on low for 6? Thank you!
Hi Jamie, the directions are correct. It's always worked well for me and it's gotten great reviews so I wouldn't worry! Hope you enjoy!!
What is the best choice of beef for this dish? I am planning to make this dish for Super Bowl Sunday party tomorrow. My wife bought the boneless chuck roast, but many other websites seem to insist on flank steak. This recipe recommends London broil or boneless chuck first. Thanks!
Hi Vince, This is such a great dish for a Super Bowl Party. Boneless chuck will work well for this dish. It's a flavorful cut of meat with good marbling, and it will tenderize beautifully when cooked low and slow. I've been very happy with the results when I use it. I hope you have a great party!
Can you substitute chicken broth with beef broth? Trying to improvise with what I have in hand. Thank you.
Hi Jessica. Yes, you can use beef broth! It will be delicious! The one thing I suggest is that if you're not using low-salt beef broth, hold back on seasoning with salt until the end so your stew is not over salty. Enjoy!
It worked with the beef broth, it was super delicious and even my youngest ate it and he isn’t a fan of red meat. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
That's so great to hear Jessica!
I am making this for a party this weekend. I loved it but thought maybe it needed a little spice. What do you suggest?
Hi Lauren, If you want more spice I suggest that you increase the amounts of the spices in the recipe - oregano, cumin and black pepper. If you're looking for some heat, a pinch or two of cayenne will do the trick. I hope you have a great party!
Elizabeth @ Bowl of Delicious
I LOVE this recipe! It's packed full of flavor and my house smelled amazing while it cooked. My husband made it, and he's a "novice" cook, and it was SO easy for him to make! I thought there was going to be too much garlic, since I usually only like a little bit, but I was totally wrong. Thanks, Lisa, for a delicious easy meal!