My favorite part in making ropa vieja? That moment when you get to twirl the beef around a fork for that first bite of meltingly tender beef that’s all sopping wet with tomato broth.
Have you tried ropa vieja? It’s essentially shredded beef only juicier. Here’s the deal: you cook the beef chuck at a low temperature for 8 hours in a crock pot or dutch oven. What you get is the most tantalizing pull-apart texture.
Pulled beef is every bit as tender and juicy as slow cooked Cuban pork, only with even more flavor thanks to the combination of savory beef and acidic tomato. All that rendered beef, plus green olives, onion, and bone broth mingle together for a broth that you can’t help but drink.
With the holidays right around the corner, there’s no better time to fire up the crock pot and make life easier. If you love the simplicity of the slow cooker, try this green chile chicken or the pork green chile, which are both rich, flavorful and completely comforting.
What is the best cut of meat for ropa vieja?
I recommend beef chuck steak for 2 important reasons: flavor and juiciness. Many recipes recommend flank steak, which is quite flavorful but on the leaner end of the spectrum. When it comes to low and slow ropa vieja – the kind made in the crock pot – choose the cut with more connective tissue and collagen.
How to Make Cuban Ropa Vieja in the Slow Cooker – Step by Step
You can add all the ingredients into the crock pot at once and set the timer for 8 hours on the lowest setting (photo 1). After 8 hours, you can easily pull the beef apart with a fork (photo 3 & 4).
Transfer shredded beef with the sauce to a serving bowl or store leftovers in the fridge until ready to reheat.
Assemble the Cuban beef by serving with the broth next to rice or beans. Garnish with some fresh cilantro sprinkled over the top then serve!
I serve this shredded beef in a bowl with sautéed plantain for a gluten free, keto, and paleo meal. When I was in Costa Rica, they served it on a plate next to a salad, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and caramelized plantain.
Top Tips for Slow Cooking Ropa Vieja
- Choose a cut with a lot of collagen and connective tissue for a moist texture and rich flavor.
- Braise meat in a flavorful liquid or broth to keep the outer layer moist. Be mindful that opening the lid releases a lot of steam and heat.
- The fork test is the best way to determine when the beef is done – it should shred easily when pulled with the tongs of a fork.
- For easier time management, start the crock pot in the morning for dinner or right before bed for meal prep. If it goes into the “warm” cycle, that’s totally fine.
- There’s no need to cut the beef, just put it in whole.
- You can also braise the beef in a dutch oven on the stovetop or oven at low temperature until fork tender.
Need a faster Cuban beef?
When pressed for time, capture the essence of this dish with ground beef instead. Simply brown in a pan over medium heat, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer with lid on for 15 minutes.
More Convenient Crock Pot Recipes You Might Like
Cuban Ropa Vieja – Slow Cooker Shredded Beef
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless chuck steak beef or bison
- 1 onion sliced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
- 1/4 cup pitted green olives such as Greek olives
- 1 cup bone broth or beef stock
- fresh cilantro for garnish
Crock Pot Ropa Vieja
- Add all the ingredients to the crock pot (save the cilantro for garnish). Set to "low" for 8 hours and close the lid. The beef is ready when you can easily shred with a fork. You can easily do this inside the crock pot (no need to take the beef out).
- Serve the shredded beef with the broth while hot with chopped cilantro. Leftovers can be transferred to containers and stored in the fridge.
Optional Vegetable AdditionsRopa vieja means “old clothes” which refers to the idea of colorful rags. For more color and more vegetables, you can add sliced bell pepper or diced tomato.
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Is it ok if it’s done in 4hrs on high?
To make this recipe in 4 hours on high, cut the beef into cubes, about 1-2 inches thick. Cutting the beef will hopefully get you the shreddable texture. If after 4 hours, the beef is tough in any way, of course, you can add an extra hour of cook time on high.