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Island Bites: Ropa Vieja (Caribbean Shredded Beef Stew)

Updated on August 8, 2013
4.5 stars from 4 ratings of Island Bites' Ropa Vieja

What is Ropa Vieja?

Ropa Vieja is a popular dish of the Caribbean and the Canary Islands. The name "ropa vieja" means old clothes. It is a shredded beef stew in a tomato and peppers sauce.

Originally, the dish was made with leftover beef, that was shredded and reheated in sauce. Now is a stew made, mostly, with flank steak. Although skirt steak or even brisket is often used.

There is no official Ropa Vieja recipe. Every country, (and every family for that matter) has their own way of preparing the dish. Some people add olives or capers. In the Canary Islands, most people add chickpeas and potatoes.

In the Caribbean, this delicious stew is served with white rice and tostones or fried sweet plantains.


  1. (You could also use skirt steak, flank steak or brisket to make this dish.)
  2. Put all the ingredients in a large pot. Add water. Bring to a light boil, cover and reduce temperature. Let it simmer for about 3 or 4 hours, or until is fork tender.
  3. (You could use a pressure cooker if you want it to cook faster. You could also use a slow cooker, and make this step a day in advance.)
  4. Let it cool. Shred the meat. Reserve the broth.

To prepare the meat:

  • (aprox. 4lbs) 1 round eye roast, (cubed in 4 large chunks)
  • 1 onion, in half
  • 1/2 bell pepper, in half
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt
  • 1 sprig of cilantro, *You could use a culantro leaf

To make Ropa Vieja


  • 2 onions, julienne
  • 1 green bell pepper, julienne
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienne
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 ounces tomato sauce or tomato pure
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 or 3 cups reserved broth
  • 1/4 cup oil


  • Heat oil in a large skillet. Sauté onions and peppers at medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the wine and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Stir in the shredded beef and 2 cups of broth. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  • Lower the temperature and let it simmer cover for 25 to 30 minutes. You could add more broth if is to dry.


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