Ropa Vieja is a popular Cuban dish made with shredded beef in a flavorful tomato sauce. In this recipe, the tomato sauce is made with onions, garlic, and spices sautéed in olive oil. The beef is cooked in beef broth, shredded, and added to the tomato sauce.
We keep this recipe simple, so the saucy shredded beef really shines. The only addition to the sauce here is sliced onions and garlic, but popular additions to ropa vieja include bell peppers, sliced pimentos, pitted green olive, and capers.
Most Cuban food is made with simple, easy to find ingredients so you can easily bring tropical dishes to your table. Like ropa vieja, this Cuban style chicken fricassee, bistec en cazuela, and picadillo are great ways to shake up your dinner routine.
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- Beef – We use flank steak for this dish, but brisket can also be used.
- Broth – Use beef broth to cook the steak to add to the “beefy” flavor in the meat and the sauce.
- Oil – The sofrito is made with olive oil, but you can use your favorite oil that is suitable for sautéing.
- Produce – Use a yellow or white onion and garlic in the sauce.
- Spices – Salt, dried oregano, cumin, black pepper, and a bay leaf add flavor to the sauce.
- Wine – We use dry white wine to deglaze the pan after sautéing onions, garlic, and spices. Deglaze with broth if you do not use wine.
- Tomato sauce
- Flank steak usually comes in a large piece. It may be necessary to cut it in half so that it can be arranged in the pot without folding or overlapping.
- Slice the onion thin, but not too thin so that they don’t dissolve in the sauce.
- Keep the broth at a simmer when cooking the steak. If it is boiling vigorously too much of it will cook away. We need to keep some of the stock for the sauce.
- Don’t add too much salt because the beef broth and tomato sauce contain a good amount already. Adjust at the end if needed. Use reduced sodium broth and tomato sauce if you are sensitive to salt.
Arrange the flank steak in a large pot so that it’s not folded or overlapping.
Add the beef broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Turn the steaks and cook (simmering) another 30-35 minutes, turning again about halfway through the cooking time.
Remove the steak from the pot and let it cool. Use two forks to shred it into strings.
Keep the broth on low heat at barely a simmer. If the broth is boiling too vigorously too much of it will cook away and we want to keep some of it for the sauce.
Add the shredded beef back into the broth. Keep warm on low heat until the tomato sauce is ready.
Make the sauce
Heat the olive oil in a pot or large, deep skillet over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the onions. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Next, add the garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and black pepper to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, stir frequently.
Add the white wine and cook for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates.
Add the tomato sauce and the bay leaf to the pot and bring the sauce to a simmer.
Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Keep it at a gentle simmer, stir occasionally.
Add the shredded steak (along with any broth remaining in the pot) to the tomato sauce.
Stir well to combine. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, to let the flavors come together.
Remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste and add salt, if needed. As a reference, we did not add extra to ours.
Frequently asked questions
The literal translation of ropa vieja is “old clothes”. It’s called this because the shredded beef resembles tattered, old clothes.
Flank steak is traditionally used to make ropa vieja. It’s a flavorful cut with a chewy texture. Brisket can also be used but it is a little drier and missing the chewy texture of flank steak.
Serving and storing
Store leftover shredded beef in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To freeze the beef, cool it completely in the refrigerator, then transfer it to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
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Check out the Web Story for this Cuban shredded beef (ropa vieja) for a quick visual on making this delicious recipe.
- 1½ pounds Flank Steak
- 4 cups Beef Broth
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Large Onion sliced
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves minced
- ¼ teaspoon Dried Oregano
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- ½ cup White Wine
- 8 ounces Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Water
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Salt to taste, if needed at the end
- Arrange the flank steak in a large pot so that it’s not folded or overlapping. Add the beef broth. Set the pot over high heat. When the broth comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn the meat, lower the heat to medium-low and cook 30-35 minutes. Turn the flank steak again about halfway through the cooking time. Keep the broth at a simmer, if it’s boiling too vigorously lower the heat a bit.
- Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a cutting board or pan to cool. Keep the broth barely at a simmer over low heat.
- When the steak is cool enough to handle, shred it to resemble thin strings. Add the meat back to the broth. Keep on low heat until the tomato sauce is ready.
Make the tomato sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and black pepper to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Deglaze the skillet with the white wine, and cook for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates.
- Add the tomato sauce, water and the bay leaf. When the sauce comes to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Keep the sauce at a gentle simmer, raise or lower the heat as necessary. Stir occasionally.
- Add the shredded beef, along with any broth remaining in the pot, to the tomato sauce. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, to let the flavors come together, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste the ropa vieja, add salt, if needed. As a reference, we did not add additional salt to our dish.