Olive Magazine
A white enamel plate topped with rice and beef stew

Cuban ropa vieja

Published: December 22, 2021 at 10:35 am
  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Total time
    • + marinating
  • Easy
  • Serves 4

Literally meaning ‘old clothes’ due to its long, shredded fibres, this is the national dish of Cuba. With its fragrant, smoky, aromatic mixture of tender, melt-in-the-mouth pulled beef, olives and other rich flavours, it’s little surprise it's such a favourite


Try this recipe for Cuban ropa vieja, then check out our beef stew and dumplings, beef goulash, slow cooker beef stew and more comforting stew recipes. We also have our podcast episode where Luis shares the 10 things you need to know about Cuban food and cooking.

Recipe tip: Traditionally this dish is made the night before so the juices really seep into the beef. I usually cook this towards the end of the night, leaving it in its juices (don’t reduce the sauce and liquid at this stage, as you want the beef to keep its moisture). I cover the pan with foil and cover it with a lid. When you are ready to serve, remove the foil and lid, and put the pan on a low heat about an hour before you want to serve it. This is a slow process but well worth it. It’s a labour of love.


  • 1kg (skirt, flank, bavette or chuck) beef, cut into four even pieces
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • a few whole black peppercorns
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • a drizzle olive oil
  • 500g passata
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml red wine
  • 750ml beef stock (or the beef cooking liquid)
  • 100g green pitted olives, roughly chopped
  • a bunch coriander, chopped


  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced


  • STEP 1
    To marinate the beef, tip into a bowl and add the lime and orange juices, and the garlic. Chill overnight or for up to 24 hours.
  • STEP 2
    Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan or casserole. Drain the meat from the marinade and brown, in batches, for 1 minute on each side until caramelised. Add all of the beef back to the pan and then add enough water to completely cover the beef. Add the peppercorns, chilli, onions and garlic. Cook gently for 2 hours, topping up the water as necessary, until the beef is meltingly tender. Remove the beef from the liquid and use two forks to shred the meat. Strain the liquid and keep it aside for later.
  • STEP 3
    For the sofrito, put the olive oil in a large frying pan over a low heat with the onions, garlic, bay, paprika, cumin and oregano. Cook for 3 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn, then add the peppers and stir everything together. Season to taste and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
  • STEP 4
    Add the shredded beef to a drizzle of oil in a pan on a medium heat, and fry the beef until a few pieces go almost a little crispy. After 1-2 minutes, add the sofrito, along with the passata, tomatoes and wine. Let it simmer for a few minutes over a low heat, then add a ladleful or two of the stock every couple of minutes. After 20 minutes, add the olives and most of the coriander.
  • STEP 5
    Turn up the heat and cook for 35 minutes until cooked through and ready to serve – it should be juicy and bubbling. Serve with the remaining coriander sprinkled on top and a small wedge of lime for squeezing over.

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