Ropa vieja translates to “old clothes.” It is a Caribbean shredded beef stew with variants found in Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Ropa Vieja

Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean
Keyword stew
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 46 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 1 minute
Servings 6
Author Connie Veneracion


  • 1.5 kilograms stewing beef (I used a combination of knee caps and shank)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 6 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (reduce for less heat)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups bone broth
  • salt to taste
  • 4 bell peppers cut into thin strips
  • 10 pitted olives sliced into rings


  • Arrange the beef on a baking tray and roast in a preheated 400F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
  • Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pot.
  • Saute the garlic and onion with the cumin, cayenne, paprika, pepper and bay leaves.
  • Pour in the diced tomatoes and broth. Season with salt (the amount depends on how well-seasoned the broth is).
  • Drop the roasted beef into the pan. Cover and simmer for three to three-and-a-half hours. 
  • Scoop out the beef and transfer to a large plate or the chopping board.
  • Using two forks, shred the meat. Cut tendons and fat into small pieces.
  • Fish out the bay leaves from the cooking liquid and discard.
  • Return the beef (minus the bones, if any), to the cooking broth. Add the bell peppers and olives. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced considerably. Taste once in a while and add salt, if needed. I like my ropa vieja to be almost dry. If you prefer a saucy stew, stop cooking while there is still a generous amount of sauce.