This Instant Pot Ropa Vieja is a twist on a traditional Cuban dish. Tender steak and veggies are simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce then topped with olives, pimento peppers, capers, and raisins. Serve with rice, beans, and plantain chips!
Trevor and I went nuts for this Instant Pot Ropa Vieja. I loved it, because it was so quick and easy. Trevor loved it, because it’s loaded with fork-tender steak, a flavorful sauce, brine-y olives, and sweet golden raisins. What’s not to love?!
What is ropa vieja?
Ropa Vieja is one of the national dishes of Cuba. This traditional Cuban dish is made up of tender flank steak that’s been cooked and shredded with spices, onions, peppers, pimentos, olives, capers, and raisins then typically served with rice and beans.
Why is it called ropa vieja?
Ropa Vieja translates into English as “old clothes.” Legend has it that Ropa Vieja came to be after a poor man, who could not afford food for his family, shredded and cooked his own clothes.
As he did this, he prayed. The clothing mixture then turned into a rich and savory meat stew. The colorful mixture of shredded meat and veggies resembled the old, shredded clothes.
This unique combination of ingredients come together to create a dish that’s loaded with ultra tender meat and a sauce that ticks all the boxes: sweet, salty, rich, and tangy!
- Vegetable Oil – used to brown the steak before cooking.
- Beef Flank Steak – the classic Ropa Vieja cut of meat. Flank steak is a more expensive cut, but will yield the best, fork-tender texture.
- Beef Broth – gives the steak so much moisture and flavor as it cooks in the instant pot.
- Yellow Onion and Green Bell Pepper – sliced into strips to incorporate in with the shredded beef.
- Garlic – adds a subtle nuttiness.
- Tomato Sauce and Tomato Paste – cooked with the steak to give the Ropa Vieja that thick stew-like texture and rich, tomato flavor.
- Ground Cumin, Dried Oregano, Salt, and Pepper – a simple, earthy, slightly sweet seasoning blend to add another layer of flavor to the Ropa Vieja.
- Roasted Pimento Peppers and Pimento Stuffed Green Olives – pimento peppers add a slightly sweet, yet smoky flavor while the olives add a salty brininess to balance it out.
- Golden Raisins – gives the dish a chewy texture and slight sweetness to offset the salty tang from the other ingredients.
- Capers – gives the Ropa Vieja a pop of texture and additional salty flavor.
- White Vinegar – adds a bit of acidity for a nice kick in each bite.
- Rice, Black Beans, Cilantro, Lime, and Plantain Chips – for serving, if desired!
How to make
The instant pot allows this traditionally slow cooked dish to be cooked very quickly!
- Hit SAUTE on your instant pot then, once hot, add in oil and half the steak. Sauté until both sides are browned. Remove, set aside, repeat with remaining steak, then set all cooked steak aside.
- Hit CANCEL on your instant pot and pour in beef broth, scraping any bits stuck to the bottom.
- Add steak back in and top with onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and seasonings. Close and lock the lid then cook on HIGH pressure for 40 minutes.
- Allow a natural release for 20 minutes then transfer the steak to a cutting board and shred with two forks.
- Place the meat back into the pot with olives, roasted peppers, raisins, capers, and vinegar then serve and enjoy!
What meat to use
The traditional meat to use for Ropa Vieja is flank steak since its long, shredded fibers are what earned it its name. However, other cuts of beef such as chuck roast or sirloin tip will work as well. Different cuts will yield different textures.
Can you make ropa vieja on the stove?
You sure can, it will just take a bit longer to cook. To make your Ropa Vieja on the stove, follow these simple steps:
- Heat oil in a large stockpot then brown your beef.
- Remove the beef and add in sliced veggies. Cook until caramelized.
- Mix in the garlic, seasonings, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.
- Add the steak back in, cover, and simmer for 3-4 hours or until the beef is tender.
- Shred the beef then top with olives, pimento peppers, raisins, capers, and vinegar.
How to serve ropa vieja
Traditionally, Ropa Vieja is served over rice and beans, topped with cilantro and lime, then eaten with fried plantains… or in my case, plantain chips (we’re keeping it easy over here)!
You can also serve it on a salad, in a burrito with rice and beans, in tacos, over toasted bread, with tortilla chips, over mashed potatoes, or just straight out of the pot with a fork! 😉
How to store
Leftover Ropa Vieja will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 4-6 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen then microwave or warm on the stovetop.
Instant Pot Ropa Vieja
Equipment for this recipe
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds boneless beef flank steak cut into 6 chunks
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 yellow onion sliced
- 1 green bell pepper sliced into strips
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 (6.7 oz) jar pimento stuffed green olives plus more to taste, if desired
- 1 (12 oz) jar roasted pimento peppers drained and chopped
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Rice, black beans, cilantro, lime, plantain chips for serving
- Hit SAUTE on your 6 quart Instant Pot.
- Once it reads HOT, add in oil and half the steak.
- Sauté until both sides are browned, remove, set aside, and repeat with remaining steak.
- Remove steak, then hit CANCEL on the Instant Pot.
- Carefully pour in beef broth, scraping up anything that may have stuck to the bottom. This will help you avoid a BURN notice.
- Add the steak back in, then top with onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. (It’s important to do this in the order listed, so the tomato paste and spices don’t get stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot which will cause a BURN notice).
- Close and lock the lid - make sure the pressure valve is pointed toward SEALING.
- Cook on HIGH pressure for 40 minutes, then allow to naturally release for 20 minutes.
- Remove the lid, transfer the steak to a cutting board, and shred with two forks.
- Return the meat to the pot along with the olives, roasted peppers, raisins, capers, and vinegar.
- Taste and re-season, if necessary, then serve over rice and beans with cilantro, lime, chips, and enjoy!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.