Crock Pot Ropa Vieja—Healthy Beef Vegetable Stew

Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja. Sarah Bossert/E+/Getty Images
Total Time 270 min
Prep 30 min, Cook 240 min
Yield 4 servings (542 calories each)

Ropa vieja is a treasured Cuban dish of meat and tomatoes. In Spanish, "ropa vieja" means "old clothes"—the finished dish of shredded beef with vegetables such as peppers and onions looks like a pile of torn clothes. Traditionally, the cut of meat used in ropa vieja is flank steak, which has not only become expensive but also doesn't have enough fat to slow cook properly without drying out. So this version calls for chuck beef—a cut that has a bit more fat (and is much more affordable) benefiting from a long braising time—and is left alone (versus shredding) to be more like a stew. When chock-full of organic vegetables and low-sodium tomatoes, ropa vieja is a nutritious meal offering protein as well as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, while cutting down on the salt.

One of the best things about this dish is that it "keeps on giving"—it is even better the next day, and the leftover meat can be shredded and added along with the vegetables to tortillas (a little avocado and cilantro complement nicely), or placed over spaghetti squash for an alternative "pasta" dish.

Ingredients

  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 pounds chuck roast, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes (a butcher can do this)
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped (red or yellow onion)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (or more)
  • One 15-ounce can chopped low-sodium tomatoes
  • 2 medium organic green peppers, chopped
  • 2 medium organic red peppers, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small (6-ounce) can low-sodium tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium beef broth or Herb-Ox Sodium-Free Bouillon, or 3 beef bouillon cubes

Preparation

  1. Salt and pepper the meat and brown it in a pan on the stovetop.
  2. Layer onion and celery on the bottom of a ​crock pot. Put the browned meat on top.
  3. Drain the tomatoes reserving the juice. Layer tomatoes and peppers over the meat, along with the bay leaves.
  4. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, mix the rest of the ingredients together (including the reserved tomato juice) and pour over the meat and vegetables.
  1. Cook 2 to 3 hours on high, or 5 to 7 hours on low.

Ingredient Substitutions and Additions

If you would like to make this dish similarly to the traditional shredded beef ropa vieja—but don't want to use flank steak—ask your butcher to cut a piece of chuck that is taller than it is wider, where the grains run vertically. Then once the dish is finished cooking, shred the meat with 2 forks (or wait for it to cool and use your hands).

Ropa vieja is one of those dishes where you can add almost any vegetable and it will taste delicious. Consider adding carrots along with the celery. Toward the end of cooking time toss in green olives, capers, and fresh parsley.

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