Easy Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja Recipe (2024) (2024)

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Ropa Vieja. What? You’ve never heard of it before?

Well, you are in for a treat with this Crockpot Ropa Vieja (this recipe is part of an AMAZING slow cooker dump meal plan!).

It’s a traditional Cuban dish that’s perfect for slow cooking. It’s braised, slow-cooked shredded beef in a tomato-based sauce with mini sweet peppers (or bell peppers), onions, and peas and seasoned with cumin and other spices.

And let me tell you – this Cuban Ropa Vieja recipe is GREAT! Beefy, salty, spicy (if you add a jalapeno)… serve it over rice, and your family will treat you like a culinary genius.

After trying my Ropa Vieja recipe, people often express surprise at how a dish so simple can be packed with so much flavor.

Friends and family alike rave about the tender, shredded beef and the perfectly balanced sauce, declaring it a new household favorite.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Cook Time:Low – 8-10 hours
  • Main Ingredients:Skirt steak (or flank steak), onion, carrot, sweet peppers, minced garlic, and more
  • Servings:6-8
  • Extras: Add corn, peas, mixed veggies, green peppers, and more to add more flavor
  • Tip: Definitely don’t add peas or small veggies too early, then turn to mush, and it’s not the vibe!

Easy Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja Recipe

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Here’s the trick: This will only take you about 10 minutes to prepare! The ingredients that you will need are above.

Traditional Ropa Vieja uses a skirt or flank steak, but I’ve found that a top sirloin works just fine, too, and it’s a bit cheaper.

Note that I used mini sweet peppers. You can substitute one large red bell pepper instead (because red bell peppers are clearly the best!).

Oh… and never mind the olive oil in my picture- I didn’t end up using it, wasn’t needed at all though some recipes I reviewed used olive or vegetable oil.

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Add the beef to the bottom of your slow cooker, top with spices, and then top with the tomato sauce and water with the bullion in it (aka easy beef broth).

If you want the sauce to be a bit thicker, this is the time to add up to half a can of tomato paste.

Then, on top of that, add the sliced mini sweet peppers (or bell peppers) and onions (I typically use yellow onions, but white cooking onions would do, too).

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Set it to low for 8 – 10 hours, which will be great to make shredded beef after it’s cooked.

At this point, you will add the peas (they don’t do well with long cook times in the crockpot).

Boil 2/3 cup of frozen peas for about 3-4 minutes and then add to the crock pot. Stir them in and you’re ready to serve!

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja

Prep Time15 minutes mins

Cook Time8 hours hrs

Total Time8 hours hrs 15 minutes mins

Servings: 6 -8

Author: Brittany Kline


  • 1.5 lbs of skirt steak flank steak, or top sirloin
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 carrot sliced into chunks
  • 1/2 bag mini sweet peppers or 1 red or orange bell pepper sliced into strips
  • 6 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cans tomato sauce 8 oz. each
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 can tomato paste optional, for thickness


  • Place meat in the bottom of the slow cooker.

  • Add all spices on top (including salt and bullion)

  • Add vegetables (except for the peas).

  • Top with tomato sauce and water.

  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

  • Boil peas over medium heat for 4-5 minutes and add to the slow cooker.

  • Shred meat and serve over rice.

Quick Recipe Swaps

If you’re looking to spend less on groceries or adjust the Ropa Vieja recipe for dietary needs, there are a number of substitutions that can be both budget-friendly and accommodating.

Making these swaps not only caters to various dietary needs but also helps in managing grocery expenses without sacrificing taste.

The Meat

If skirt steak is outside your budget, chuck roast can be a more affordable option that still delivers tender, flavorful results after slow cooking.

But if you want a similar meat texture for a lower cost, flank steak is the perfect option. Flank steak offers a similar flavor and fat, so it’s perfect for this recipe.

Chuck roast would need to be trimmed and possibly cooked for more time, whereas flank steak cooks the same.

For those preferring an alternative to beef in Ropa Vieja, chicken thighs present an excellent substitute.

Rich in flavor and capable of remaining tender and juicy through long cooking periods, chicken thighs can be a hearty swap for beef and give the dish a new taste.

This substitution not only aligns with poultry dietary preferences but also keeps this delicious dish cost-effective.

For vegetarians or those reducing meat intake, jackfruit makes an excellent replacement for shredded beef. It mimics its texture while absorbing the rich flavors of the sauce.

The Veggies

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If you’re avoiding peas due to allergies or personal preference, green beans can offer a similar pop of color and nutritional value.

If sweet mini peppers aren’t available or a little more expensive at the store, sweet bell peppers of any color are an easy substitute and will still bring a vibrant splash of color and sweetness to the dish.

I’d say a large bell pepper or two will be about the same amount, but you can add more or less depending on how many you want in the dish.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to introduce a bit more heat, diced jalapeños or serrano peppers would be excellent additions, tailored to your spice preference.

Green peppers would be a more savory taste compared to the sweet bell peppers or minis, but a mix of both would be great for Ropa Vieja!

For individuals who may not be fans of peas or are simply looking for a bit of variety, corn can serve as a delightful substitute (and sneak in more veggies!).

Frozen or fresh, corn adds a pleasant sweetness and crunch, harmoniously blending with the rich flavors of the Cuban Ropa Vieja.

The Sauce

The tomato sauce is the basis of Roja Vieja, but you can tweak these as you wish.

If you want a stronger tomato taste or a thicker sauce, tomato paste is a good addition.

I suggest adding maybe half a can of tomato paste to start with- if it’s too thick, you can add more tomato sauce or beef broth.

For those cutting down on sodium, consider using low-sodium tomato sauce and swapping canned peas for fresh or frozen to better control the salt content.

Those looking to reduce their sugar intake can opt for a no-sugar-added tomato sauce, ensuring the dish remains both hearty and health-conscious.

For a twist on the traditional recipe, consider adding a bit of sweetness and depth with a splash of red wine, suitable for those not avoiding alcohol.

Alternatively, for a robust, smoky flavor without the heat, smoked paprika can replace traditional cumin.

For an extra layer of flavor, a spoonful of capers or olives can add a briny contrast to the rich, meaty sauce, catering to those who enjoy a Mediterranean twist.

Other Slow Cooker Recipes

And if you like this one, you might be interested in 40 other slow cooker dump recipes that are AMAZING!

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Can I use a different type of meat for Ropa Vieja?

Absolutely! While the traditional cut is a skirt or flank steak, many have experimented successfully with cuts like chuck roast.

The key is shredded beef- when it’s done, slow cooking will make it fall apart tender.

How long can I store leftovers in the refrigerator?

Leftover Ropa Vieja can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. In fact, many find that the flavors deepen and improve with a bit of time.

Is Ropa Vieja freezer friendly?

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Yes, it freezes quite well! Make sure it cools down before transferring it to a freezer-safe container.

It can last for up to 3 months frozen. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

What are some serving suggestions for Ropa Vieja?

Traditionally, it is served over white rice, but it’s also delicious with black beans, on tacos, or with a side of fried plantains.

For rice, I’ll season it with freshly ground black pepper, garlic, and cumin to reflect the sauce- I always try to season my rice for extra flavor!

Feel free to get creative!

Can I make this recipe in an Instant Pot?

Certainly! While the recipe provided is for a crock pot, it can be adapted for the Instant Pot.

Generally, it’ll require about 90 minutes on the high-pressure setting. Remember to release the pressure naturally at the end for the best texture.

I also tend to sear the meat on medium-high heat before I add it to the Instant Pot to give it a deeper flavor.

Just be sure the skirt or flank steak is fully cooked!

Can I make Ropa Vieja in the Dutch oven instead?

Absolutely, Ropa Vieja can also be expertly prepared in a Dutch oven, offering a more traditional method to this classic dish for those who prefer not to use a slow cooker or Instant Pot.

The Dutch oven method is a fantastic way to achieve that slow-cooked tenderness and depth of flavor Ropa Vieja is renowned for right in your oven.

To begin, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). In the Dutch oven, heat a bit of oil over medium-high heat on the stove.

Brown the meat on all sides to develop a rich flavor. Once browned, add the spices and beef bouillon, tomato sauce, and water to the pot, just as you would for the slow-cooker method.

Cover with the Dutch oven’s lid and place in the preheated oven. Cook for about 3-4 hours, or until the meat is tender and shreds easily with a fork.

Halfway through the cooking time, check to make sure there is still enough liquid; add a bit more water if necessary to prevent drying out.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, and follow the same steps to add peas or any other additional vegetables as desired.

Final Thoughts

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Making Ropa Vieja in the crock pot is a fantastic option for anyone looking to enjoy a savory, flavorful meal without spending hours in the kitchen.

The combination of tender beef, rich tomato-based sauce, and vibrant spices brings a piece of Cuban culinary tradition into your home with minimal effort.

Whether you’re a busy parent, a student, or simply someone who loves to explore different cuisines, this recipe promises a delicious dinner that practically cooks itself.

By following the steps outlined above, you’ll be able to treat your family and friends to a quick, yet utterly satisfying meal that is sure to impress.

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Easy Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja Recipe (2024) (9)

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Easy Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja Recipe (2024) (2024)
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