Easy Ropa Vieja Recipe | Taste of Havana!

Havana, ooh na-na (ay)
Half of my heart is in Havana, ooh-na-na (ay, ay)....

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja means 'old clothes' in Spanish. What a strange name for a dish! But if you take a closer look and let your imagination wander just a little bit, you'll see colorful shreds of meat and bell peppers that resemble motley rags floating in a bucket! This dish is just as rich and colorful as the sights and sounds you'd experience in the streets of Havana.


While it may not have the most appealing name, Ropa Vieja is a delicious, traditional Cuban stew made with shredded braised beef, slow cooked with tomatoes, white wine, and an array of aromatic spices. The result is a thick, hearty stew brimming with robust flavors and filled with tender shredded beef and bell-peppers. Because of the Spanish influence in Cuba, olives and capers are used in a lot of Cuban cuisine and just like in this dish, add a touch of saltiness to the stew. 

There really is a laundry list (pun intended!) of ingredients to make Ropa Vieja . However, once you have all your ingredients, the actual process is fairly simple. To make it easier to follow, I've chunked the ingredients into wet and dry spices, ingredients required for the gravy and ingredients required on the serving day. 

The cut of beef is really important. To get long shreds of beef, use flank steak. Flank steak is a fairly lean cut of beef and has lots of juicy, beefy flavor. When cooked slowly, as this recipe calls for, the flank steak becomes really tender and practically melts in your mouth.

Ropa Vieja should be prepared the day before you plan to serve it to allow the cooked meat to stew in its juices for maximum flavor. 

Serve it with rice, black beans and fried plantains... perhaps some rum and coca-cola and a cigar on the side... and you'll be back in Havana, ooh na-na (ay).

Bottle of Cuban rum

Let's go fiesta!


Ropa Vieja Recipe



☐     1 (1 1/4 pound) Flank steak
☐   1 teaspoon of Tenderizer (or enough to sprinkle on both sides)
☐   1 teaspoon black pepper
☐   ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the Gravy:

☐   2-4 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (Canola preferred)
☐   1 large red onion, sliced
☐   3 teaspoons of Minced Garlic

Whole & Dry Spices:

☐   1 teaspoon of whole Peppercorns (lightly crushed)
☐   1 piece of Mace
☐   4-5 whole Cloves
☐   3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or more/less to taste
☐   1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper powder
☐   2 teaspoons of Cumin powder
☐   1 teaspoon of Coriander Powder
☐   1 teaspoon of Red Chili Powder
☐   2 teaspoons Paprika Power (smoked is ok)
☐   1 teaspoon dried Oregano leaves
☐   ⅛ teaspoon ground Cloves
☐   ⅛ teaspoon ground Allspice

Wet Ingredients:

☐   ½ cup white wine (Pinot Grigio works)
☐   2 - 16 Oz Cans of Crushed Tomatoes
☐   1 Liter of chicken broth

Serving Day Ingredients:

☐   2 bay leaves
☐   2 medium red and yellow bell peppers, sliced
☐   1 poblano pepper, sliced
☐  2 tablespoons capers, drained
☐  1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced



Meat Phase:

  1. Rinse meat with water and pat dry with a paper towel
  2. Cut flank steak in half across the grain. 
  3. Sprinkle tenderizer liberally on both sides.
  4. Sprinkle black pepper, and cayenne and pat meat so that it sticks set aside for a few minutes.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a dutch oven on high, add meat and cook until outsides are well browned on both sides, 2-4 minutes. Remove steaks to a plate and set aside.

Gravy Phase:

  1. Reduce heat to medium, add additional 2 tablespoons oil.
  2. Add sliced red onion and fry till softened.
  3. Add garlic and fry till softened.
  4. Add all "Whole & Dry Spices" and stir for 1 minute. To prevent the spices from smoking/ burning, add tiny quantities of the chicken broth while frying the spices.
  5. Pour in white wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  6. Stir in tomato and the remaining chicken broth.
  7. Return beef and accumulated juices to the pot.
  8. Cover and let cook for 2 hours (do not open the lid!).
  9. Cool and then refrigerate for 24 hours.

Serving Day:

  1. Remove beef to a plate, tear beef along the grain into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-wide shreds.
  2. Return meat back to the stew on medium heat.
  3. Add "Serving Day" ingredients. (bay leaves, sliced bell peppers sliced, poblano pepper, capers and olives).
  4. Simmer until the peppers are soft-  10 to 12 minutes. 
  5. Serve with Rice, Black beans, and fried plantain!

Streets of Havana

Inspired by:


Enjoyed your visit?

Contact Me


Email *

Message *