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braising Cuban, Latin American
“Old Clothes” Recipe-3975

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Comments: 0


Ropa Vieja

This dish gets its name from the shredded texture of the beef, which resembles clothes so worn they’re falling apart. If you’re Cuban, please don’t come after me for using chuck steak instead of the more traditional flank steak. Both are delicious, but I prefer the texture of the shredded chuck to that of flank. Other than that, this is a traditional version of a Cuban standard, and it tastes even better the next day.

Serve with white rice or little boiled potatoes.

Yield: Makes 6 servings


  • One 2¼- to 2½ pound chuck roast or two 1¼-pound flank steaks
  • Fine sea or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ cup Sofrito
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Two 8-ounce cans Spanish-style tomato sauce
  • ½ cups water
  • 3 tablespoons alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives (see Notes)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 celery stalks, with leaves, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 3 medium carrots, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas


1. Pound the chuck roast or flank steaks with a heavy meat mallet until about ½ inch thick. Season both sides of the beef generously with salt, pepper, and onion powder.

2. Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet over high heat until rippling. Add the beef and cook it until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drain or spoon off most of the fat from the pan. Stir in the sofrito, 2 teaspoons salt, and the cumin, and bring to a boil. Depending on how much oil was left in the pan, you may have to add a little olive oil to give the mix a creamy texture. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, alcaparrado, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover the dish, put it in the oven, and bake until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork, about 2½ hours. Let stand in the sauce until cool enough to handle.

4. Shred the meat coarsely by hand or use two forks. Return it to the sauce and add the celery and carrots. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook a few minutes more. Watch the liquid as it cooks and add more broth or water as needed.


Alcaparrado, a mixture of olives, pimientos, and capers sold in bottles, is widely available. There are versions made with pitted and unpittled olives. Go for the pitted version. If you can't find it, substitute an equal amount of coarsely chopped olives suffed with pimientos. Throw in a teaspoon of capers if you like.

© 2005 Daisy Martinez

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, but does not include Sofrito. For nutritional information on Sofrito, please follow the link above.

434kcal (22%)
87mg (9%)
18mg (30%)
289mcg RAE (10%)
65mg (22%)
931mg (39%)
7g (33%)
24g (36%)
4mg (24%)

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