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Slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja recipe {gluten-free}

Cuban-style ropa vieja

There's no one recipe for ropa vieja, the shredded beef dish that originated in the Canary Islands and migrated to the Americas with Spanish traders, but flank steak, tomato, onion and cumin are common denominators. Sometimes ropa vieja contains potatoes, or olives, or beans, but I stick with a basic Cuban-inspired version: beef, flavored with chopped tomatoes and green chile peppers (a.k.a. Ro*Tel), spices, and a cilantro kick from store-bought salsa. Ropa vieja means "old clothes", a nod to the resemblance of the cooked meat to tattered rags. This recipe starts and ends in the slow cooker (crockpot), and it couldn't be easier. The "rags" practically melt in your mouth.

Cuban-style ropa vieja

Slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja

From the pantry, you'll need: Ro*Tel, chili powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, onions, salsa.

Serves 6-8, depending on whether you use it as a filling for burritos or quesadillas, or serve it over rice and beans.


1-1/2 lbs flank steak (frozen or defrosted), cut in half if necessary to fit into the cooker
1 14-oz can Ro*Tel
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
3/4 cup of your favorite salsa, homemade or store-bought (I use Trader Joe's Habanero-Lime salsa)


In a 4-quart slow cooker, place the meat, Ro*Tel, onion, chili powder, cumin and Mexican oregano. Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or on LOW for 6 hours, until the meat practically falls apart when you lift it.

Remove the meat and, when it's cool enough to handle, cut across the grain into 3-inch chunks. With a fork (or with your impeccably clean hands, as Julia Child would have said), shred the meat, and return it to the slow cooker. Stir in the salsa.

Leave the lid ajar, and turn the heat to HIGH. Cook for 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked out.

Remove ropa vieja from the slow cooker and use for quesadillas, burritos, or a topping with rice or beans. As with many stews, ropa tastes better on the second day, and it freezes well.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Cuban shrimp in savory sauce
Moros y cristianos
Mexicali meatloaf
Green chile turkey meatballs
Turkey and white bean chili

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
King Ranch chicken, from Homesick Texan
Linguine with red clam sauce, from Blue Kitchen
Chicken pozole, from Simply Recipes
Mexican beef, hominy and green chile soup, from Soup Chick
Mexican menudo, from No Recipes

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Oh my yes. I did a pressure cooker version a while ago. Having recently been to that part if the world (ish... Puerto Rico) makes me want to revisit. Yum!

yum! And I love the presentation in on the tortilla!

Gosh that looks good!

This looks amazing. Question: my girlfriend hates cumin but loves mexican/cuban food... What are your thoughts on leaving it out --Or replacing with a different spice? Would it be blasphemy?

I love ropa vieja, but never had a chance to make at home...would love to try this recipe...easy and so so tasty :-)

Hedonia, 2011 is going to be the year of the pressure cooker for me. I have a long-standing fear of it! And isn't Puerto Rico wonderful? I love it there: food, people, culture, art, beaches.

Carol, thanks so much. Ropa vieja is so versatile -- I'm going to have some tonight on a baked potato.

Candy, oh it is, it is.

Perennial, I'm not sure how someone can love Mexican/Cuban food but hate cumin, as it permeates almost everything. Still, try smoked paprika as a substitute. Not the same, but it will give you the musty quality of cumin.

Juliana, the slow cooker makes this a snap to make.

I should be ashamed to admit it, but this is a dish that I have never made. I really have to remedy that. Yours sounds wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Mary, this is so easy and delicious, I do hope you'll try it.

Mmmm...I love ropa vieja...I can't wait to give this a try! :)

I immediately added the ingredients that I don't have onto my shopping list. I hope one of our local grocers carries habanero lime salsa. Can't wait to try this.

Actually, Caribbean Latinos don't use tortillas or Salsa -we usually serve it over white rice.

I made this today and used the Trader Joe's habanero salsa. It was excellent! Thanks for this great recipe, we will make it a regular at our house!

The version I had was sweet - with raisins. I prefer savory, but the raisins would be an interesting addition, for sure.

I've been making this regularly, it's a favorite recipe in or house. I bought Penzey's Chili 3000 after reading about it on your website. I used just under 1 T place of the chili powder, cumin, and Mexican oregano. It turned out great.

this looks like it might be good, but as a Cuban, we rarely use cheese on anything, and never use tortillas.

I made this last night and it was SO GOOD! I had to use chuck because I couldn't find flank steak and I used a small can of Herdez salsa casera (my fave). This will definitely be on heavy rotation at my house! SO EASY!

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