Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja is a classic Latin dish made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spices with perfectly tender beef.
This crockpot Ropa Vieja is packed with flavor and couldn't be easier to make. The beef comes out fork tender with delicious Latin flavors. Take it in a Cuban direction with lots of green olives or go Mexican with some spicy chipotle salsa and tortillas.
I am a sucker for a good food story. Stone soup and similar stories get me pretty much every time. So when I began researching where the name Ropa Vieja came from (which literally means “old clothes” in Spanish), my heart melted when I read this story. According to the folklore I came across, the story goes something like this:
"There was once a very poor man who wanted to plan a special meal for his family who was coming home from a long journey. With no food to be found in his home and no money to purchase food, he went to his closet and gathered some old clothes. He then began to cook these old clothes in a stew, pouring his love into the stew as he stirred and prepared for his family to return. When his family finally arrived, the old clothes had magically transformed into a wonderful beef stew.
I mean c’mon. How much sweeter could a story get? Nowadays, though, instead of hoping your old clothes turn into food for your Ropa Vieja, cooks use a mixture of beef and vegetables. It's also sometimes served a bit sweet, depending on which Hispanic recipe you are using.
Whether Cuban or Spanish, you're sure to find some version of Ropa Vieja on the menu or in the cookbook. And today I am happy to share my love with all of you with this simple, homey recipe.
How do you make Ropa Vieja in the Slow Cooker?
This dish really couldn't be easier to put together, especially if you use the slow cooker. And the way your kitchen will smell while it's cooking? Well, that's just a double bonus.
I like to prep all my veggies first, so I can just dump everything into the slow cooker at once. So that's the first thing I do — chop up my red peppers and onions and mince the garlic.
Next, I like to spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray or sometimes I use a liner for easier cleanup. Then, I add the tomatoes in juice, broth, vinegar, garlic, and other spices and give it a good stir, and then layer on half of the peppers and onions, add the steak, then add the rest of the peppers and onions.
From there, it's all a matter of waiting! Cook on low for about 8 hours. Shred the flank steak or slice it and serve it all up as a hearty stew. I like to top mine with green olives, but that is optional.
How do you serve Ropa Vieja?
There are so many different options for serving Ropa Vieja from rice bowls to sandwiches and more.
- You can serve this dish over white, brown, or even cauliflower rice for a little extra texture.
- If you want a different grain in your Ropa Vieja, consider serving this over quinoa, millet, or even polenta.
- I also will serve this soupy stew with some crusty French bread or pieces of baguette for dipping. Yum!
- If you are channeling your inner Cuban, you can serve this with a side of plantain chips or baked plantains.
- Drain the meat and veggies from their juices and add the meat of the mixture to a bun or hoagy roll for a tasty Cuban-type sandwich.
- This Ropa Vieja would be delicious as a Columbian style arepa (here is a great Arepas recipe to make them at home.)
How do I make Ropa Vieja without a Slow Cooker?
If you want to make this dish without the slow cooker, that's not a problem.
I'd use all the same ingredients, except that I'd cook them separately at first. The flank steak needs a lot of time to cook to get to that nice, shreddable consistency. Cook the steak in about 8 cups of water in a large soup pot. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer and add the onions, garlic, and other spices. Let this mixture simmer, covered, for about two hours, skimming off any foam as you go.
Remove the meat from the soup pot and shred with your fingers or two forks. Return the meat to the broth and add in the peppers and the rest of the other ingredients and let it cook again at about medium-low heat for an additional hour, seasoning additionally to taste.
Don't you just love recipes like this that have been handed down for generations? How will you tweak this recipe, if at all?
Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
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- 2 lb lean flank steak, trimmed of fat
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced thinly
- 14 oz canned fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup nonfat beef broth
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
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* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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