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Ropa Vieja + Rice

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
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Why we love it:

Ropa Vieja translates literally to “old clothes” and if that doesn’t sound appetizing, stick with us. The long cooked beef shreds apart into flavorful juicy strips. This is definitely a recipe to double (or triple!) and store in batches in the freezer. It’s incredible for a party spread and is a hit with kids and adults alike. Check substitutions for how to use an Instant Pot or slow cooker - main instructions are for the stovetop/oven!


  • 3 teaspoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 2 pounds Flank Steak
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 2 Bell Pepper (Orange, Yellow or Red)s
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 12 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • 14 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1 15-ounce can Crushed Tomatoes (or diced)
  • 312 cups Water (divided)
  • 1 cup Basmati Rice (White)
  • 1 bunch Broccolini
  • 1 Lime
  • 8 Corn Tortillas
  • 14 bunch Cilantro
  • 1 Avocado

Cooking Instructions


    Place a rack in the lower third of the oven with the other rack either below that, out of the way, or high enough above to accommodate the tall pot.


    For this, a dutch oven is ideal. That’s the ceramic kind with a fitted lid. Don’t have one? Use a tall sided, oven safe pasta style pot with a lid. Or a slightly smaller kind will be ok as well. You could use a tall sided pot without a lid and just cover it with foil instead.


    Slice the flank steak into about 6 pieces - once along the grain, down the center. Then slice each half into three pieces. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of salt.

  • 4. SAUTÉ

    Heat the oil in your pot of choice over high heat. Add the flank steak pieces and brown on both sides, about 5–7 minutes total, while you slice the veggies.

  • 5. VEGGIES

    Dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Slice the bell peppers into long strips that are about ⅓ inch wide.

    When they’re chopped, you will have already flipped the steak once to start browning the other side, so you can add these veggies on top of the steak.


    To the pot, add the spices: paprika, dried oregano, ground cumin, cayenne pepper (if using). Add another teaspoon of salt. Stir to coat.

    Then add the vinegar and it will help bring up the brown bits on the bottom. Let it bubble while you stir. Then add the tomatoes, and add about 2 cups of water (doesn’t have to be precise here). Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.

  • 7. BAKE

    Once simmering, give it a stir and make sure the steak is nestled under the veggies and fully submerged, then cover the pot. Transfer it into the oven and cook for 2-2.5 hours.

  • 8. RICE

    When you have about 20 minutes to go on the ropa, start the rice. Combine the rice and 1.5 cups water and another ½ teaspoon of salt (if you scaled this recipe away from 4 servings, these numbers will be incorrect - use this ratio for white basmati rice 4 servings = 1 cup rice + 1 ½ cup water + ½ teaspoon salt). Bring to a boil over high heat and stir well. Then reduce to low and cover. Simmer, untouched, for about 17 minutes. Turn off the heat and fluff it. Recover and let it sit until needed.


    Trim the very ends, just a ¼ inch, off of the broccolini bunch and place in a small casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in the oven for about 6 minutes or until tender.


    Remove from the oven and set on a burner over high heat. Skim excess fat from the surface of the sauce with a spoon or ladle. Using tongs, lift beef into a bowl and use 2 forks to shred the beef into strips, you want to make it finely shredded. Meanwhile, the sauce should be boiling, uncovered, to reduce the sauce a bit. Once shredded, add the meat and juices back into the sauce and stir to combine. Slice the lime and squeeze a little in, slice the remainder in wedges for plating.


    It’s nice to warm the tortillas either in the oven, over a gas burner on low, in the microwave for 10 seconds or in a toaster oven. Chop some clean cilantro, including stems, for plating.

  • 12. SERVING

    Serve a scoop of rice, topped with beef, peppers, and sauce. Broccolini on the side. Slice the avocado for plating and add the lime wedges and tortillas. Serve with chopped cilantro.

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    this dish can be made faster by adding everything to the Instant Pot. Do NOT add any water though, the steam will create enough. Power on high pressure for about 40 minutes. If you find the resulting sauce is thin, you can simmer it longer while shredding the beef to thicken it up
    add everything to a slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours until beef is tender
    another option is to grill the flank steak with salt and a portion of the spices as a rub. Slice. Use the rest of the spices, onion, garlic, and peppers, but sauté them over medium-high, then add the tomatoes and boil for about 8 minutes to make a sauce. Spoon this over the sliced, grilled steak (or chicken)
  • PALEO:
    omit rice and tortillas, consider serving with cauliflower rice or with more greens and cassava tortillas
    if you don’t eat beef or want to make this faster another way, use chicken. You can boil a whole chicken in the sauce, covered and slow cooked as described for the beef, it will take about 1 hour and the whole chicken will shred very nicely. Or, use chicken thighs or breast meat and don’t put it in the oven at all - keep simmering on the stove top over medium-low for about 35-40 minutes. Shred and return to the sauce as described
    consider omitting the cayenne. You can lift the beef out of the sauce and shred or for some kids, slice it into cubes and serve it out of the sauce so it’s drier. Place in between tortillas with cheese and make it quesadilla style
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