This slow cooker ropa vieja with tender shredded flank steak is immersed in a flavorful broth with bell peppers, onion, manzanilla olives, and more. Serve this ropa vieja with yellow rice, black beans, crispy tostones, and you have one amazing dinner!
Ropa vieja is a dish originally from the Canary Islands, but is widely known in Cuban cuisine. Although the countries have different vegetable ingredients, they both have the shredded meat that depicts it’s translation of “old clothes”.
Meat for ropa vieja
For shredding purposes, I prefer to use flank steak, but you can also use a chuck roast or skirt steak. Flank steak can be tough, but cooking it for a long duration at a low temperature in the slow cooker, gives you juicy tender meat. Before putting in the slow cooker, we are going to sear the steak.
Searing the meat in a hot skillet allows a crust to develop. This will not only flavor the meat, but the other ingredients will benefit too when it slowly cooks all together. I seasoned the flank steak with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a hot cast iron skillet, I placed the seasoned side down, and allowed it to brown for about 4 minutes. As it is searing, season the other side prior to flipping it over and repeating the searing. Place in the slow cooker.
Bell pepper hack
One of my favorite hacks is how to easily deseed a bell pepper. Taking a pairing knife, insert it at an angle on the crown of the bell pepper, carefully cut around the top. Twist and pull the stem off and all the seeds should follow. Next, cut in half and shave the white membranes out and discard (they are bitter).
In the same cast iron skillet, we are going to sauté the peppers and onions. Raw onions can be overpowering and giving them a slight char will give the dish extra flavor. Once they begin to slightly char, I added the garlic and white wine. Adding the white wine allows the pan to deglaze and you can scrape up all the delicious browned bits the steak left behind.
Creating the sauce
In the slow cooker, you’re going to add a can of crushed tomatoes. I don’t like leaving any sauce behind, so add the stock into the tomato can to get the remnants of the sauce, and then pour into the pot.
For the spices, I used: sweet paprika, smoked paprika, oregano, ground cumin, cayenne, and bay leaves. I whisked the spices into the tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef broth, apple cider vinegar, and better than bouillon beef paste. I placed the seared flank steak, peppers, onions, and stirred it all to combine.
As I mentioned before flank steak can be tough, but slow cooking it on low for many hours makes it juicy and tender. I slow cooked the flank steak for 7 hours, then I pulled it out and shredded it with two forks. The meat should easily shred. I do not recommend speeding up the cooking time or cooking on high heat, it can make the meat tough and dry.
After shredded the flank steak, I place it back in the slow cooker and add sliced manzanilla olives. Mix it all together and allow to cook for 30 more minutes. At this time you can also taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
After cooking for 7 ½ hours on low, this ropa vieja is tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
How to serve ropa vieja
After you put the shredded flank stead back into the slow cooker for 30 more minutes, I utilize that time to make my favorite sides. I like to serve my ropa vieja with white or yellow rice, black beans, and homemade crispy tostones. You can also serve them with sweet plantains. Garnish with fresh parsley.
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Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
- 2 ½ pounds flank steak see note #1
- 4 tablespoons avocado oil, divided or high smoke point oil of choice
- 2 red bell peppers seeded and sliced
- 1 large yellow onion sliced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 125 milliliters white wine
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes (1 large can)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon beef paste
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup sliced manzanilla olives
- Fresh parsley
- White or yellow rice
- Black beans
- Crispy tostones or sweet plantains [see note #2]
- In a slow cooker, add the can of crushed tomatoes. Pour the beef stock into the empty can of tomato sauce to get the remnants of the sauce, then pour into the slow cooker. Add in: paprika, cumin, cayenne, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, better than bouillon beef paste, and pinch kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper. Whisk all the ingredients together to combine.
- In a large cast iron skillet over high heat (8 out of 10 on my stove), add 2 tbsp cooking oil. Season one side of the flank steak with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once the skillet is hot, add the flank steak season side down, and sear for 3-4 minutes until a brown crust forms. While it’s searing, season the other side with kosher salt and black pepper. Flip and sear the other side. Once both sides are seared, remove from heat and using tongs, carefully add seared flank steak to slow cooker into sauce.
- In the same cast iron pan, over medium heat, add 2 tbsp oil and add the bell peppers and onions. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions begin to char and soften. Add in the minced garlic, sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan, scrape the bottom of the pan with wooden spoon to loosen up the delicious browned bits left behind by the steak. Once liquid has reduced by half (about 4 minutes) carefully add to the slow cooker.
- Mix all the ingredients in the slow cooker, add bay leaves, cover, and set on low for 7 hours.
- Once the 7 hours are up, using tongs, remove the flank steak only and place on a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the flank steak. Add the shredded flank steak back into the sauce, add the manzanilla olives, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and then allow it to cook for 30 minutes longer.
- While the ropa vieja cooks for it’s final 30 minutes, you can use this time to prepare sides. I like to serve with white or yellow rice, black beans, and homemade tostones. All of these are optional. Top ropa vieja with fresh parsley once done cooking.
- You can substitute skirt steak or chuck roast
- Recipe for homemade crispy tostones
- Flank steak should be cooked on low for at least 6 hours. I do not recommend cooking on high or lessening cook time or the meat will be tough and dry.
- Store in refrigerator for 3-5 days in airtight container or can freeze in a flat freezer bag for up to 6 months.
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